Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I really, really don’t have a spare grand-plus lying around at this point, but golly that’s a cool lineup posted for Stoned from the Underground this year in Erfurt, Germany. It seems Lowrider‘s reunion — they were a highlight of the London Desertfest in a one-two punch of Swedish awesomeness completed by a set from Dozer immediately following — continues, which is unmistakably good news, and along with the likes of Earthless, Acid King, Troubled Horse, The Gates ofSlumber, Pelicanand the many others listed below, it seems like it’s going to be a killer weekend July 11-13. The kind of weekend I’d like very much to see, let’s say with a camera and laptop in tow. One of these years, maybe.
Indulge a bit of escapism with me, won’t you?
Welcome to the Mother of all German Stoner Rock Meetings
July 11th , 12th & 13th – Alperstedter Lake near ERFURT
Festival founded in 2001 and located in the very geographical center of Germany, in the area of Erfurt (Thuringen): Stoned From The Underground grew from a one day indoor event with 400 visitors in 2001 to a 3 days outdoor event with 3000 visitors last year !
Located a few kilometers away from the city, in a nest of nature bordered by the Alperstedter Lake, the festival is the perfect location for a very first relaxing summer weekend !
Whether you want to sit in the grass, puffing up clouds of smoke, sipping a beer while checking out the best Rock & Stoner acts of the moment,
Or whether you want to chill out laying on your belly on the sand of the beach with your toes cooling down in Lake’s water…..
STONED FROM THE UNDERGROUND is the place where all your dreams will come true.
LINE- UP 2013: EARTHLESS ( Usa) MUSTASCH (Swe) POTHEAD (Ger)
TRUCKFIGHTERS (Swe) THE GATES OF SLUMBER (Usa) BEEN OBSCENE (At) LOWRIDER (Swe) HORISONT(Swe) TROUBLED HORSE (Swe) ISOPTERA (Ger) LORD VICAR (Fin) MIRROR QUEEN (Usa) ACID KING (Usa) PELICAN (Usa) THE OPERATORS (Ger) THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (Usa) FIVE HORSE JOHNSON (Usa) SARDONIS (Bel) HYNE (Ger) DEVILLE (Swe) BLACK BOMBAIM (Por) HERKULES PROPAGANDA (Ger) TRECKER (Ger)
The photo above is of my wristband for this year’s Desertfest. You’ll note it’s not attached to my wrist. I got back just a little bit ago from the Electric Ballroom and had meant to ask at the front desk of the hotel for them to cut it off with scissors, since it’s pretty sturdy material — it’s had to be to last these several days — but forgot on my way up and wound up just pulling it off around my hand. I feel like I should have it framed.
Late nights beget later nights, so I’m not gonna waste time here. Day three was no less righteous than one would have to expect after the first two. Here’s how it went down for me:
The other day I received a vehement recommendation to check out Throne, to which I responded, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they played last year and were cool.” Turns out they did play Desertfest 2012, at The Underworld, but this year the trio moved over to The Black Heart, which was where my day began with their unpretentious Sleep riffing and nodding rhythms. They still didn’t have an album for sale downstairs that I could find, but The Black Heart was, as it has been this whole weekend, packed out. On my way through, I watched a couple seconds through the doorway in the spirit of Roadburn and found myself still persuaded by their languid pacing and largely-unfrilled stonery. I had finished my cup of coffee about two minutes before they started playing, so it was a cool way to wake up.
Meanwhile, at The Underworld, Brighton/Manchester-based Blackstorm were dishing out a pounding the likes of which I’d not yet seen here. They were a band about whom I knew next to nothing, but their double-guitar uptempo crushcore was a longer way away from what Throne were doing at The Black Heart than the street that divided the two acts physically. I arrived part of the way through their set, which the five-piece delivered in lively fashion, with lots of movement, a swinging mic stand and big, chunky riffs set to breakdown beats. “Then You’ll Drown” was a burly basher, and I caught “Run with the Wolves” from their late-2012 EP, The Darkness is Getting Closer, which was distinguished by the dual vocals of guitarist Neil Kingsbury and frontman Karl Middleton. They were tight and had it together on stage, though my head was already preparing itself for the cleaving it would no doubt receive from who followed them.
Suddenly I had to wonder why I bothered bringing earplugs in the first place. British trio Conan weren’t through the second verse of “Hawk as Weapon” from last year’s low-end raging Monnos(review here) before I felt like they’d melted in my ear canal. Guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil just released their set from last year’s Roadburn as the new Mount WrathCD and vinyl, and while that’s definitely a satisfying listen, I was glad to see them in-person again, because no matter how loud you turn up a record, I don’t know if there’s any way to do justice to what Conan are live. Beastly heavy. Heavy to whatever degree hyperbole you might want to put to it, and while that heaviness and Davis and Coumbe‘s tones are still the star of the show, the three-piece also have grown as a stage act since I last had the good fortune to see them. Coumbe‘s low growls and Davis‘ shouting worked especially well together, and in addition to “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” and “Grim Tormentor” from Monnos, Conan also played two new songs, “Foehammer” and “Gravity Chasm,” which continued the warmongering gallop of the earlier album tracks that set up an excruciatingly slow finale, all the while keeping their fury front and center and proving there’s more to their heaviness than what comes through their amps.The other day, when I got stopped by that customs agent, he accused me of trying to illegally emigrate to the UK. I’m still not planning on it, but Conan make a solid argument in favor of doing so.
Kudos to whoever handled scheduling the bands’ timeslots for putting Conan and Toner Low right next to each other. I’d never seen the Dutch three-piece before — they’re now in their 15th year and have just released their third album — but they actually share a lot in common with Conan in terms of their general ethic. They are unreasonably loud, unremittingly heavy in tone and seem like they’re ready to follow a riff anywhere it might lead them. The difference is aggression. Where Conan are all beheadings and mayhem, Toner Low are purely stoned. Toner Low played in the dark but for a psychedelic lightshow setup they placed in front of their drummer and a sheet with projected falling pot leaves on the guitarist/vocalist, but yeah, they’re about as stoner as stoner gets, working in elements of more primal drone here and there, but keeping a solid foundation of riffs at hand at almost all times. They brought their own rigs, which made sense for the bassist since her gear was different from what seemed to be on hand, but the guitar — which seemed to be actually coated in resin from the look of it — ran through an Orange half-stack and amp they brought, and there’s been so much Orange around Desertfest I can practically taste it. I can’t argue with their having done it, though, since Toner Low sounded unbelievably good. I bought their new record and am looking forward to checking it out.
Naam beckoned. I won’t lie, there was a part of me that was like, “Why the hell would you go to London and see a band you can see in New York?” The other part of me was all, “No way dude, this is gonna be awesome. Naam have a new record coming out,” and that part of me won. Once a trio, now a foursome and tonight playing as a five-piece with the addition of a second guitar — not that they were lacking texture before, but more never hurts – Naam‘s universe seems to be in permanent expansion, both in terms of their lineup and their sound. Tonight was the best I’ve seen them play, and I’ve seen them play a few really killer shows. The integration of John Weingarten‘s keys along with Ryan Lugar‘s guitar/vocals, John Bundy‘s bass/vocals and Eli Pizzuto‘s drums is complete, and to show that, “Starchild” from last year’s The Ballad of the StarchildEP was the highlight of their whole set, though “Beyond” from their forthcoming sophomore full-length, Vow, came pretty close. They’ve nearly perfected a balance between stoner riffing and Hawkwindian space rush, and not surprisingly, their heavy psych went over huge at the Electric Ballroom. Naam are just starting a two-month European and UK tour that will have them in this part of the world for a while — perhaps it’s telling of their relative receptions that they’ll be in Europe when Vow releases — so I imagine they’ll only further solidify, but already they played a headliner’s set, closing as always with “Kingdom” from the EP of the same name (it also appeared on their 2009 debut LP), the layers of which shimmered with psychedelic vibes prior to a full-on freakout at the end of pushed-over drums and guitar destruction. Awesome.
Here’s a direct quote from my notes on Truckfigters‘ set: “Everyone in the world who’s never seen Truckfighters live is a jive sucker and that’s that.” More or less, that covers my feelings on the matter. The Örebro trio — Ozo on vocals/bass, Dango on guitar and now Poncho on drums — are easily the most energetic and engaging fuzz rock acts I’ve ever seen, and before they were through perpetual opener “Desert Cruiser,” both Ozo and Dango had gone past the monitors at the front of the stage to be closer to the crowd, who were singing along loud enough to be heard over the instruments. But Truckfighters – who are fresh off a tour with Norwegian blackened punkers Kvelertak and shortly headed to Australia and New Zealand for a run of shows — aren’t just getting their cardio in, they’re also nailing the material and delivering it with a genuine sense of spontaneity and the impression that anything can happen at any given moment, such as Ozo jumping into the crowd during closer “In Search of The” or the band launching into “Chameleon” after someone in the crowd requested it, jamming on “Desert Cruiser” or unveiling two new songs, the first which fit (“fett?”) well with the bounce of “Monte Gargano,” which came later, and the second which had a fuller, fuzzier shuffle in the beginning and wound up thicker but still moving, with a quick bass and drum break to set up a return to what seemed on first impression to be a solid hook. “Majestic” was welcome, and from their audience interaction to the tightness of their performance — at one point Dango fell on stage after jumping off the drum riser and didn’t even stop playing as he got up — there are few records supposedly coming out before the end of this year that I’m looking forward to as much as the new Truckfighters.
An hour hardly seemed like enough time for a proper Colour Haze set. Back in September 2012, the ultra-influential Munich heavy psych trio rolled through London and did a full three hours, complete with guest appearances, keys, and so on. Still, I’ll take what I can get, and when it came to “Transformation” from She Said (review here) — my album of the year last year — I still heard the horn parts in my head even though no one was playing them live, so I’m not about to bitch that the experience was somehow lacking. It wasn’t. Colour Haze were a complete 180 in terms of presence from Truckfighters, mostly subdued, no jumping, no running around, plenty of grooving, but less about getting the heart rate up than giving the audience something to shut its eyes and get lost in. As guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philip Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald jammed past “Moon” from 2008′s Alland into “Love” from their ’04 self-titled, they were so locked into what they were doing that the real miracle of it seemed to be they didn’t lose the crowd in the slightest. An extended take only gave everyone watching more to dig on, so that by the time “Peace, Brothers and Sisters” and “Tempel” came around, the Electric Ballroom was suitably hypnotized. Seriously, I just wanted to give them money. Like, “Here, Colour Haze, I have 50 Euro left over from last weekend. Please take it.” I’ve seen them before — their set at Emissions from the Monolith in 2006 changed my life (ask me about it sometime), and at one or two Roadburn fests along the way — but even though this felt like a sampling, it was ultra-satisfying to watch these godfathers of the modern European scene do what quite simply nobody does better. As I already knew I wouldn’t be staying for the entire Pentagram set, Colour Haze were sort of my closeout for Desertfest, and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer farewell than that. They were masterful.
I got a press release earlier this week that oft-imitated doom pioneers Pentagram had a new guitarist in the form of Philly-based Matt Goldborough, but that the lineup was otherwise the same as when Victor Griffin was still slinging axe, with Sean Saley on drums and Greg Turley on bass with frontman/defining presence Bobby Liebling on vocals. Of course, lineup changes are nothing new for Liebling‘s band — their legacy is as much about tumult as it is about the riff to “Forever My Queen” — but Griffin‘s presence brought a certain legitimacy to Pentagram‘s recent run and their 2011 Last Rites comeback album (review here), and his departure, whatever the circumstances may have been, changes the context of the band, Griffin – who also played today with his new outfit In~Graved – being one of very few others who’ve done time in Pentagram who can lay reasonable claim to the material. He may well have come out to guest on guitar (I recall seeing the band in 2009 when he wasn’t with them and that happened), but if he did, I wasn’t there to see it. I stayed for about four songs and then had to split to come back to the hotel, write and pack for my flight out tomorrow. For the portion I did catch, however — “Day of Reckoning,” “Forever My Queen,” “Treat Me Right” and “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” — Pentagram were tight and Liebling was Liebling. There are few things as much fun to watch in a concert setting as Bobby Liebling flipping out to a guitar solo. Like he hasn’t been staring at them for 40 years now. Awesome. Turley and Saley have the material on lockdown, and as the new guy, Goldborough more than held his own on guitar, a younger presence giving some freshness to what might just as easily have come across stale otherwise. I’ve seen worse from Pentagram, and though one can dream of this or that reunion lineup, the simple fact that they exist and persist is to be… respected? Maybe. Probably. Definitely gazed at in astonishment. And so they were.
I have work to do. As in, for my job. And so I know that Desertfest, as blissful as it has been, must be over. My plan is to write up some concluding thoughts for this whole trip tomorrow on the plane, and I’ll include a thanks list with that, but before I switch off to picture-sorting mode, I just want to say it’s been an absolute pleasure and an honor to be back here in Camden this weekend, to see the bands I’ve been lucky enough to be here to see and to meet the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. This place is awesome (but for the weather), the music is great and I feel like even more than last year, Desertfest is developing a genuine vibe all its own. I was beat today, t-i-r-e-d, but at the same time, I knew I wanted to take as much of the proceedings in as possible, because when I’m back home slogging away in the office, I’m going to miss it.
More to come tomorrow, and more pics after the jump. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.
Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.
Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.
Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:
Acid King, TBA
We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.
Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II(review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.
Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.
Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Eracould prove to be aptly-titled indeed.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.
Black Sabbath, 13
There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.
Clutch, Earth Rocker
It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!
Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse
Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009′s Heavily Ever After.
Egypt, Become the Sun
Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun– which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.
The Flying Eyes, TBA
Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011′s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.
Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man
The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”
Halfway to Gone, TBA
What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone – who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.
Kings Destroy, TBA
Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.
The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV
I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.
Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011′s Salvador(review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.
Queens of the Stone Age, TBA
It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007′s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Sungrazer & The Machine, Split
With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.
The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009′s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.
Valley of the Sun, TBA
All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011′s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.
Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.
Vista Chino, TBA
After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.
Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for Yourelease (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.
Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.
So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, Eggnogg, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red Sky, Asteroid, Apostle of Solitude, Windhand, Phantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.
If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.
Posted in Features on July 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
For more than a decade, Greenleaf has existed in its own place within the sphere of Swedish heavy rock. Begun as a side-project for Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa and drummer Karl Daniel Lidén with bassist Bengt Bäcke (who also engineered Dozer‘s earliest demos), Greenleaf released their first EP in 2000, working with the simple ethic of paying homage to ’70s rock. Then fronted by Peder Bergstrand of the still-underrated Lowrider, it would be Dozer‘s own Fredrik Nordin in the vocal role for 2001′s Revolution Rock full-length debut, and that lineup would be joined by Demon Cleaner guitarist Daniel Jansson for their Small Stone Records sophomore outing, 2003′s Secret Alphabets.
Four years pass, and in the meantime, Demon Cleaner has broken up, Lowrider has broken up, Dozer has put out an excellent album on Small Stone in the form of 2005′s Through the Eyes of Heathens, and subsequently toured on it. Time has gone quickly, but when Greenleaf is picked up again with 2007′s Agents of Ahriman, the result is one of the decade’s best records, and I’ll say that flat out, no hesitation. Bringing in former Dozer drummer Erik Bäckwell in place of Lidén — also by now a noted recording engineer — the reinvigorated unit now boasts vocals from Oskar Cedermalm of burgeoning fuzz mavens Truckfighters, as well as a slew of guest spots, including from Bergstrand and The Awesome Machine‘s John Hermanssen, and songs like “Alishan Mountain,” “Black Tar” and “Ride Another Highway” make it an absolute classic in its genre, giving a sincere modern edge to what many of their countrymen and others around the world were just starting to discover within heavy ’70s rock.
Five more years pass. Dozer too seems to have been at least mostly put to rest following the Lidén-produced Beyond Colossal and Nordin, an essential piece of that collective, is back in school. Holappa — having tried to get a new band going with Lidén called Dahli (an apparently premature interview about the project was conducted early in 2010) that didn’t materialize owing to the drummer’s busy schedule and the lack of a vocalist — decides it’s time to once again reform Greenleaf. He calls Bäcke and they begin writing. Young drummer Olle Mårthans, who played on the last Dozer record, is brought in for that position, and Dozer bassist Johan Rockner is brought in on second guitar. Cedermalm, fresh off the success of Truckfighters‘ European release for Mania, returns on vocals, and Nest of Vipers starts to take shape.
And in the 12-year-plus semi-tenure of Greenleaf, it might just be Nest of Vipers that stands as their crowning achievement. Holappa, who seems to play the role of organizer as much as that of guitarist, has assembled a terrifyingly rich collection of songs that, set to tape by Lidén, not only provide an answer to Dozer‘s (allegedly) final statement, but push their classic heavy rock influence into bombastic new territory, a five-minute track like “Tree of Life” sounding positively epic for the space in the recording while cuts like “Jack Staff,” “Case of Fidelity” and “The Timeline’s History” refine the ultra-memorability that first showed itself on Agents of Ahriman into something wholly Greenleaf‘s at the same time guest appearances from Bergstrand, Nordin and former Opeth/Spiritual Beggars organist Per Wiberg make it plain that Nest of Vipers is bigger than the band itself. A to-date career performance from Cedermalm doesn’t hurt either.
Let me not mince words: This shit is about as close as I’d come to ever calling anything “my jam.” However important I think a release like Nest of Vipers might be to the scope of Swedish underground heavy, foremost, I think it fucking rocks. When I had the chance to see Greenleaf play at this year’s Desertfest in London, I jumped on it immediately, and it proved to be one of the many highlights of that trip. Being fortunate enough to have some time to chat with Holappa there (as well as to see Truckfighters again, which makes any day a good day), I knew I wanted to get an interview going, if only to give myself another chance to nerd out about the record. The guitarist agreed, and at the beginning of June, the following discussion was conducted over Skype about Nest of Vipers, the scheduling complications that go into making Greenleaf happen at this point, the status of Dozer, the status of Dahli, recording with Lidén and much more.
Q&A in progress and photos from Desertfest London (click any to enlarge) can be found after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Features on April 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/07/12 — 23.00 — Saturday — Hotel
Today was the day I decided to have it all. Maybe it was walking up High Street circa noon to hit Music and Video Exchange and buying a ham and cheese crepe for breakfast to go with my cup of coffee. Maybe it was the simple fact that for all the drinking I did yesterday, I wasn’t hungover in the slightest. Maybe it was just the entire galaxy of good music playing out the middle day of this fest. Whatever it was, I was on board today. All the way. Let’s go.
And go I did — or, I guess I went. Whatever. The schedule was packed today. Really. From the time I rolled into The Black Heart to the time I left The Black Heart — digging a certain symmetry in starting and ending each day at Desertfest‘s smallest venue, definitely — it was basically nonstop. Whereas yesterday I got to basically park myself at The Purple Turtle, at the expense of seeing Ancestors, but still, there was none of that happening this afternoon and evening. As the day wore on, in fact, it only got busier.
My major question was how the hell I was going to see everything I wanted to see. Orange Goblin, Black Pyramid, and Grifter all went on in 25-minute succession of each other, in that order. All three bands — and after a full day of rock. It wasn’t going to be easy.
As far as starts to the day go, however, I couldn’t have asked for something more mellow than an acoustic set from Deville. Frontman Andreas Bengtsson took the stage on his own, just him and a guitar. He was plugged in — Desertfest: “Where Even the Acoustic Guitars Run through Orange Stacks” — and he ran through a charming set of reworked Deville tracks, including “Lava,” which I recalled from their recently posted video for the song. Roadsaw frontman Craig Riggs and I would have an interesting conversation later about how much videos matter again now, but watching Bengtsson perform, there was clearly more to his songwriting than a funny video could convey. I don’t know the name of the last song he played, but it was a classic Kyuss riff, and hearing it through an acoustic was like finding a copy of Paranoid in a museum. Read: just right.
There was a 40-minute break between Bengtsson and the next band at The Black Heart, which was Steak, so I made use of the time and went across the street to The Underworld to check out some of Shrine ’69‘s set. They were young, but heavy, and no one told me, but apparently giant embroidered v-necks are the new t-shirt and jeans. Fair enough. I was more into the UK natives than I thought I’d be just going by their name, and I picked up their CD to give it a listen later on, figuring no time like the present, and contrary to what I told the French lady who sold me my breakfast, it’s not every weekend I’m in London. Shrine ’69‘s crowd knew them better than I did, and I was glad to default to the judgment of the masses on this one. Helped, I suppose, that I agreed with them. Another quality UK band to add to the seemingly endless list.
Also local, Steak drew a large crowd back at The Black Heart. I had bought their EP yesterday without knowing who they were, and only later found out that the band includes Dan and Reece from DesertScene, who organized the fest. They were solid heavy rock, self-aware stoner, and they proved yet again one of the things I’ve always most enjoyed about this kind of music — the people who are into it, do it. Seeing these dudes made me wish I didn’t live in the asshole of the world, considering the raw passion for what they do and the time and effort they were willing to put into putting Desertfest together across three venues in busy Camden Town, 50-plus bands over three nights. They’ve made it really easy for someone outside of this geographic scene (like I am, despite having people in it I consider friends), to be jealous of it, and they rocked besides. Can’t ask for more than that.
I’d seen the Roadsaw dudes around, shot the shit for a while with drummer Jeremy Hemond, bassist (and Obelisk columnist) Tim Catz, the aforementioned Mr. Riggs and guitarist Ian Ross, and I was looking forward to their set at The Underworld. Not because I’ve never seen them before, but because I knew this was a special show. It was special for me just being here, so I figured being that dudes from basically the same region I’m from (at least relative to London), who flew out just for this show and then were set to fly back home, they’d be really into it, and Roadsaw did not disappoint. Awesome to look by the side of the stage and see the Orange Goblin guys showing respect, and awesome to see Roadsaw throw down. They played a couple tracks off their Desertfest EP, which they were also giving away on CD free of charge — I took two — and “Thinking of Me” and “Long in the Tooth” off the self-titled (review here) were highlights. I’ll have to see if they’re playing at all in Boston come June or July, because as I stood and watched them tear through these songs, it occurred to me that I’ve never seen them on their home turf, and that’s something I should probably get on remedying. They did New England proud.
Sungrazer was on next, so I stayed put at The Underworld. This was my second time seeing the Dutch natives, who were a highlight of Roadburn last year and who I really consider to be the future of fuzz. Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker rules all. If Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker was running for US president as a republican, I would go against my beliefs and vote for it, because it’s just that awesome. But you know what? Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker wouldn’t run as a republican, because it’s warm and inviting and progressive and doesn’t give a shit if gay people want to get married. It’s fucking great, is what I’m trying to say. His and guitarist Rutger Smeets‘ tones were dead on. They opened with “If” from their 2010 self-titled (review here) and went directly from there into “Octo” from last year’s fabulous Mirador (review here), but what I was really hoping for came later, with the new song “Dopo.” When I saw them last, they played a couple Mirador tracks, and with the acknowledgement that one live listen is no real basis for judgment, I’ll say it seems like they’re going even further into their meandering heavy psych, leaving behind some of the Colour Haze-type influence and doing more of their own thing. Maybe that’s me reading into it, but that was the impression I got, anyway, and it made me excited to hear what they do on their next record. They finished with the Fu Manchu-worthy fuzz of “Common Believer,” which of all the songs I heard today from all the bands I saw, is the one still stuck in my head.
There was a little time before Alunah were set to go on at The Black Heart, but I made my way over there early to get a spot up front. Grabbed a beer and bought a copy of Alunah‘s Call of Avernus before they took the stage, which they did following some technical difficulties with bassist Gaz Imber‘s amp. The troubles were short-lived, though, which I suppose is one of the benefits of having your fest sponsored by Orange — an awesome-sounding replacement for whatever’s broken is never far off. They were cool, unpretentious riffy doom. Vocalist/guitarist Soph Day had the crowd eating out of her hand, and the whole band seemed right at home both with the audience and in the venue. I’m still reminded of Acid King by Day‘s echoing vocals, but that’s hardly a complaint in my mind. Their next record, which will be their first for PsycheDOOMelic — apparently titled White Hoarhound — is one to look forward to. Like Grifter who would play later, Alunah seem to be coming of age as a band and it was exciting to watch. Valient Thorr was on at The Underworld, and I heard later they were great, but seeing Alunah play under their psychedelic lighting effects, I felt like I was right where I needed to be.
This is where things got really tricky. I’d worked out the rest of the evening so that the order of bands was going to be as follows:
Truckfighters at The Underworld (18.30-19.15) Dopefight at The Purple Turtle (19.15-19.45) Church of Misery at The Underworld (19.45-20.30) Orange Goblin at The Underworld (21.00-22.15) Black Pyramid at The Purple Turtle (21.25-22.25)
and Grifter at The Black Heart (21.50-22.50)
I wouldn’t get to see Serpent Venom or Slabdragger, but this way I felt like I was maximizing the amount of bands I’d see, catching the headliners where last night I didn’t, and still getting back to the hotel in decent time to write about this massive fucking day. Obviously I didn’t see everyone’s set front-to-back, and there was one point where I left The Underworld after Church of Misery thinking Black Pyramid was going on immediately only to find I wasn’t that far into the schedule yet, but basically this plan worked, which I guess is why I felt so victorious as I started this review.
Though I guess it would be hard not to be stoked on any night watching Truckfighters. Yes, it was my third Truckfighters show in a month’s time (see here and here), but as soon as Dango started up the “Desert Cruiser” riff, The Underworld went off. Heads were banged, fists were pumped, fuzz was thick, and where they had been relatively subdued in Manhattan, the Swedish trio pulled no punches for Desertfest. It was intense, heavy desert rock. They followed “Desert Cruiser” with “Monte Gargano,” and at that point, there was no turning back. Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm showed no wear for the set he did last night fronting Greenleaf at The Purple Turtle, and as ever, their energy was infectious and they brought the crowd along with them via killer grooves and some of the finest stoner riffing to be found the world over. Desertfest was perfect for them and they were perfect for Desertfest.
It killed me to leave, but Dopefight awaited. The British trio were one of the native bands I was most excited to see (seems like I say that for every native band, but it’s true), especially after their debut, Buds, found such favor late in 2010. Knowing their modus of “slow riffs first, then punk out with vocals,” I assumed it would take them a little while to get going, and it did. They played an instrumental intro before unleashing a few cuts off Buds and a new song from their upcoming split with Gurt. Good times were had. Much like Alunah and Steak earlier in the day, the crowd knew Dopefight and had pretty clearly seen them before. I hadn’t, and they killed. “Specimen” and “Nob. Nod. Noi.” made sure I didn’t go anywhere for the duration of their time on stage, though I’ll admit to getting a Newcastle and moving to the back of The Purple Turtle, as the day was beginning to wear on me. Nonetheless, Dopefight were every bit worth sticking through. I hope this isn’t the last time I see them.
Rumors were around that Japan’s Church of Misery had a new singer and guitarist, the latter coming on as a replacement for Tom Sutton, but lo, when I got back to The Underworld for the start of their set, there was Sutton himself. They did have a new vocalist since the last time I caught them, but as ever, Church of Misery delivered, Tatsu Mikami wearing his bass characteristically low-slung as he stood on the stage monitors. I don’t know who the new singer was — or, come to think of it, if it wasn’t in fact Hideki Fukasawa. He had the noisemakers going and the songs they played off 2009′s Houses of the Unholy (review here) sounded right on, but the stage presence was different, less manic and frantic. Less fake-shotgunning the crowd. It didn’t matter to the crowd, who were dead into it from the outset. It seemed like they didn’t play long, but I guess it just went quick. Either way, they’re touring Europe this month, playing Roadburn next week, and then heading to the States for a cross-country run that includes a stop at Maryland Deathfest at the end of May. Whoever’s in the band, they seemed ready.
Hometown heroes, Orange Goblin made for an especially cool headliner for the first Desertfest Saturday night because in no small way they’re responsible for influencing the current British scene. From Grifter, with whom they’re touring, to the likes of Desert Storm who play tomorrow, Orange Goblin — on the road supporting this year’s excellent A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) — are the statesmen of this scene, and though they’re as raucous as ever, they play the role well. The setlist was amazing. “The Fog” and “Stand for Something” off the new one, plus “Scorpionica” for an opener, “Some You Win, Some You Lose” and a rendition of the anthemic “The Filthy and the Few” that they brought out Craig Riggs from Roadsaw to join Ben Ward on vocals. I know it hasn’t been that long since they were last on my home shores, but I really hope Orange Goblin get to do a US tour for this album. The songs are so tight and crisp, but still rougher live than they are on the record. I’d love another shot at checking them out. You’ll note the headline for this post comes from “The Ballad of Solomon Eagle.” No coincidence there. Orange Goblin were a high point of the weekend.
In fact, I probably stayed at The Underworld longer than I should have, because by the time I got back down the road to The Purple Turtle — a 10-minute walk, basically — Black Pyramid was already well into “Mercy’s Bane” and the room was full. I’d heard a lot of people say they specifically wanted to see them, and I guess since the whole of Desertfest was running a little early, I just mistimed it. I stayed for a little while and grooved out for a couple minutes, and was glad for their success here as I was last year seeing a different incarnation of the band kill it at Roadburn, but soon enough I was back out the door and on my way north (was it north? Felt like north, but it was uphill, and I’m no judge, so take that for what it’s worth) to round out the night at The Black Heart, not before buying a copy of Serpent Venom‘s Carnal Altar album from their merch table in its awesome weirdo packaging. My camera bag was starting to weigh down my shoulder from the heft of the day’s acquisitions, but if the worst that comes of it is my arm falling off, I can’t really say I lost out.
Though by the time Grifter were getting ready to roll, I was tired and I could feel myself being tired. For a soundcheck, the three-piece jammed out a bouncy, low-key riff — it reminded me of something Asteroid might have extended for another six or seven minutes the night before in the same room — and inadvertently hooked the crowd, so that when they stopped, the room erupted in cheers. It was awesome, though kind of a bummer they didn’t just pick up from there and keep going. There were still a couple minutes before their set actually began, but when it did, it was worth the wait. Like last year’s Ripple Music self-titled full-length (review here), the live show showed them as a no bullshit heavy classic rock band. They played a couple older songs off their first EPs, which were well received, and were a cool way to finish up the night. I think a lot of people had gone off to the pub or decided to call it quits on the evening, but those who stayed for Grifter were definitely rewarded for the effort. I did, anyhow. Their set was like the destination I’d been running to all day, and I suppose it was. I’ll be honest: I didn’t make it through the whole thing, with time wearing on and knowing this was going to be the giant slab of probably typo-laden copy it has turned into. As as been the case many times so far this weekend, though, I was glad I saw what I did.
Tomorrow’s Easter — Happy Easter, if that’s your thing — and I think the whole town has the day off, but Desertfest rolls on. It’s the last day, and way more relaxed than was today (no doubt in my mind that was a purposeful move on the part of the DesertScene crew), but I’m still looking forward to seeing the likes of Wiht‘s last show ever, Leaf Hound and Samsara Blues Experiment, so as soon as I can, I’m going to crash out. It’ll probably be another hour or two of putting together the photos for this post [NOTE: No such luck. Post went up at 04.58), but whatever. I got takeout Indian food for dinner and am feeling strong as a result. Days like today, if they happen once, you’re lucky. I’m exhausted, and sore, and I don’t know if I’d call myself “lucky” — something about doing so just makes me think a piano will immediately fall out of the sky and land on my head — but “fortunate” definitely applies.
Posted in Reviews on March 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Seems a bit excessive to do a second full live review for The Midnight Ghost Train and Truckfighters in two days, though I’ll admit to wavering back and forth on the idea before finally settling on this as a compromise. The show, held at Piano’s in one of Manhattan’s several no-one-can-afford-it playground neighborhoods, SoHo, was an afterthought to the tour — a secret Tee Pee Records-sponsored gig featuring the two touring acts and NYC’s Mirror Queen opening up. I’d heard about it Friday and, the familial obligations that kept me from Brooklyn having been gladly and dutifully fulfilled, knew it wasn’t something I wanted to miss.
A few general observations before we get into the band-by-band: Everyone was tired. Apparently Brooklyn had been a bit of a to-do. End of the tour, that’s to be expected. Nevertheless, there was a plague, and it was called “hangover.” Not even La Otracina‘s Adam Kriney, who was in attendance having played the night before, was spared.
Also, the crowd was minimal. To me, that’s ideal. It was a free show, a secret show, and to my estimation, it was likely happening because Mirror Queen guitarist Kenny Sehgal wanted it to happen. Sehgal‘s involved with Tee Pee and Mirror Queen grew out of his former band, Kreisor (formerly Aytobach Kreisor, if you’re up on your NYC heavy lore; I still can’t pass by without missing going to shows at The Continental), so it’s not unreasonable to assume he put it together.
In any case, I was glad I had the chance to see Truckfighters and The Midnight Ghost Train again, and I’d yet to catch Mirror Queen since their debut, From Earth Below came out last year — on Tee Pee, of course — so they seem a good place to start:
There had been an earlier show in the Piano’s back room, and the start time was listed as 10PM at the door, but the “last” band went long and Mirror Queen didn’t get to start on time. No one seemed especially put off by it, and I wasn’t nearly as perturbed by that as I was by the fact that I’d been hit up for cash at the door for a free show. When I went back to talk to the guy sitting at the desk at the door after confirming that, indeed, there was no cover, he was gone. Welcome to Manhattan. Anyway, Sehgal (above) led the charge in Mirror Queen, joined on guitar by recent NYC transplant Thomas Bellier of Blaak Heat Shujaa and Ehécatl, and also serving as the vocalist for a surprisingly subdued set of classic-style heavy rock. It was a similar vibe to watching John Brenner and Against Nature on stage, where it rocks, but it also kind of calms you down. Sehgal laughed at one point that he was going to play really quietly — perhaps he’d been taken by the aforementioned plague — and indeed his guitar was somewhat out of balance with Bellier‘s, but the songs carried warm, laid back vibes and were familiar enough to get their point across. Bassist Roman and drummer Jeremy O’Brien (also formerly of Kreisor) made for a solid rhythm section, and they finished off with a cover of Captain Beyond‘s “Mesmerization Eclipse,” so I had no complaints whatsoever.
The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Steve Moss had his mother and fiancée in attendance (you could tell who they were because they were ladies, and though I didn’t say hi to either of them, they seemed lovely; Moss could be seen dancing with his betrothed after the band’s set), so what already was perhaps a special night for the circumstances that brought it about had another level of emotional involvement for the singer/guitarist. They were the only band of the three not confirmed to yet be working with Tee Pee in some capacity, but it wouldn’t really surprise me if the label was convinced by their performance to bring them on board for their next album. They were tight and crisp, but still really open sounding, and bassist David Kimmell (above) locked down thick grooves with drummer Brandon Burghart just as they’d done in Philly Friday night while Moss went off on raving bluesman rants, barely decipherable through the substantial Piano’s P.A., but no less entertaining for that. His energy level was probably closest of anyone’s to what it was at The Station, and the set once again made me hopeful for what they might be able to accomplish on their next album. I don’t think I was the only one they impressed, either.
Understand that when I say “everyone was tired,” that doesn’t necessarily mean Sweden’s Truckfighters didn’t still put on one of the most energetic sets of desert rock I’ve ever seen. They started off with guitarist Niklas Källgren (above) running to the front bar of Piano’s in an effort to push people to the back, all the while playing the opening riff to “Desert Cruiser” through his wireless setup. That was a fair bit of brilliance, and somewhat effective, but while they may have started out in similar fashion in Philly, the setlist took a different turn, setting crowd interaction off more atmospherics with “Kickdown” and extending the jam in “Monte Gargano” in a way that seemed to surprise even bassist/vocalist Oskar Cedermalm, who nonetheless had no trouble giving Källgren the necessary room to roam, physically or musically. Heavy-smoking drummer Oscar Johansson, once more in his skivvies, sounded especially good, and though the recent documentary about the band paints him as somewhat unreliable and perhaps less dedicated to Truckfighters than Cedermalm or Källgren, it was plain to see why they remain dedicated to him, and though they didn’t jump around as much — they still jumped around plenty — as they had two nights earlier, I relished the chance to watch them play what was at times a more subdued set and see the adrenaline overtake them near the end of “Helium 28″ from their 2003 split with Firestone and even more so “Chameleon” from 2007′s Phi, which made for a super-thick closer. As it would be the last song they played in America this go around, its build and payoff were utterly engrossing to the point that, even after all the Truckfighters I’ve been hearing lately, I still broke out the track to listen as I wrote this.
There was a point after they finished at which I looked up at the clock, saw it was 1:30 in the morning, and said “holy shit” out loud. I was talking to Bellier about some of his upcoming projects, etc., and the full weight of the work week that would ensue whether or not I was ready hit me — hard. Not five minutes later, I was out of Piano’s, back around the corner to the car and en route to sit in Holland Tunnel traffic. Gotta wash that tunnel every night or it might not sparkle.
Hey, at least it creates jobs. The Patient Mrs. was long since asleep when I got in, about 90 minutes later, and I commenced staying up until five for no good reason, trying to blind myself to the notion of needing to be up for work at eight, and ultimately failing. But seriously: Truckfighters. I’m proud to say I’ve seen them three times now and it’s been worth the loss of sleep for each show. This one was the same story as the last one — no regrets whatsoever.
Posted in Reviews on March 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The decision to hit Philadelphia instead of Brooklyn — which had been the plan all along — was made the night before. There was the looming prospect of family in from out of town (who would arrive Saturday afternoon) and inevitable obligations stemming from that which skipping out on would almost certainly result in my being seen as a complete jerk. “Here’s your seven-week-old baby back, I gotta head to Williamsburg.” Shit just doesn’t fly.
So, instead of that, Philly on Friday. It was two hours in the car each way, but Brooklyn probably would’ve been that too — especially if they were giving the Holland Tunnel its nightly power-washing — and there was the added advantage of not having to park in, or be in, Brooklyn on a Saturday night. I left work early — the excuse was another bonus — and headed south on the Turnpike like a man on a mission.
Perhaps that mission was a little too successful, because I was early as hell. The enthusiastic dude at the door of The Station, which was playing host to touring acts Truckfighters and The Midnight Ghost Train as well as local support Skeleton Hands and The Company Corvette, recommended hitting the South Philly Tap Room down the block for dinner and pre-show boozing, and even unadvertised mustard on my hamburger didn’t stop it from ruling. The place was packed, and it was chilly eating outside, but several Kenzingers helped me pretend it was summer and not, you know, still the middle of March.
Reports that The Station allowed smoking inside turned out to be true, but when I got back to the two-level venue — one bar a few steps up from another where a stage-less performance space was cleared out — that didn’t stop me from saying “fuck yeah” out loud. It was going to be close quarters and a late night, but that’s exactly what I was looking for. In short order, The Company Corvette got going and the night was under way.
I knew literally nothing about the Philly natives going into their set, but they were a good start to the show, proffering straight-up, still developing stonerisms in good working order. They seemed to be still finding their path, musically, but I like that in bands, so I was into their riff-led Sleep-y grooves. Curious that later, someone (obviously drunk, and it wasn’t someone actually from the three-piece) took it on themselves to try to put a logo sticker on Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm from Truckfighters‘ bass while he was playing it, but it was that kind of night. Smoky, drunk, riffy. Philly is a rock and roll town. That kind of shit happens there.
Between The Company Corvette and Skeleton Hands, who were more directly derived from the Southern heavy tradition, the City of Brotherly Love gave a pretty decent showing of its stoner scene. There were probably bigger bands who could’ve been on the bill — Sadgiqacea come immediately to mind, though they’re less directly in the genre; and I think Clamfight only played five shows last week, so they could’ve hacked another — but it seemed like both of the openers had, at one point or another, legitimately taken a cue on some level from Truckfighters, and that’s always encouraging. Skeleton Hands, for what it’s worth, also had probably the biggest crowd of the night.
Vocalist Pete Hagen laid it on thick with the post-Alabama Thunderpussy inflection, and like The Company Corvette, Skeleton Hands seemed to be in their formative stages, but they’ve obviously already made an impression if their draw is anything to go by. Being an out-of-towner (everywhere), I wondered a bit at times if there wasn’t something I was missing, but as Skeleton Hands hit the dense hook of their eponymous song, it was hard not to be consumed by the groove of it. They had CDs for sale with a “donation,” and I’d already gotten one before they played, but when they were done, I didn’t regret it.
How many years it had been since the last time I saw The Midnight Ghost Train play, I’m not entirely sure. I remember, vaguely, the show was in Bayonne, in Jersey, and I remember digging them a lot, but if you told me it was any date between 2006 and 2008, I’d have no choice but to believe you. In any case, guitarist/vocalist/madman Steve Moss got on the mic in Philly like a forgotten Ellwood, talking all kinds of indecipherable throaty jive about being on tour with Truckfighters and this and that. Hard to pick up what he was putting down, at least until the songs started. Then the mystery disappeared.
Not sure how to say it other than to say it, but they were killer. I know The Midnight Ghost Train‘s 2009 self-titled full-length (review here) was right on, but that was a different band entirely. In Philly, their sound was full, and exciting, and delivered with an energy that stood up to Truckfighters — which, if you’ve ever seen the headliners, you know is saying something — and their set, which was mostly comprised of new material according to the conversation I had with Moss afterward, was a stunner. Legitimately. I already knew I liked the band and they still caught me off guard.
Even when Moss busted a string on his guitar and had to get out a second one in the middle of the song — the name “Sophia” was stenciled on road case a bit to the left of the band’s logo — I don’t think bassist David Kimmell even stopped headbanging to look and see what was going on. They build up righteous momentum, Moss flailed his preacher’s hands as he ranted and raved, and the rock went epic. Drummer Brandon Burghart had his work cut out for him holding the songs to ground, but they never got out of control when they didn’t want to, and as a rhythm section, Kimmell and Burghart stood up to Moss‘ considerable barrage of riffs, leads and well-spit verses.
They reportedly start recording their new album tomorrow, March 20, in Georgia with one of the dudes from Harvey Milk putting them to 2″ tape. I’ll look forward to that, but in the meantime, I learned before Truckfighters went on that the two bands would be playing what was billed as a secret Tee Pee Records showcase in Manhattan on Sunday with NYC natives Mirror Queen opening, and was suddenly way less bummed out about missing the Brooklyn show the next night. The room had settled some during The Midnight Ghost Train‘s set as some of those who were only showing up for the locals had split and others had come for the touring acts, but if it wasn’t sold out, it’s only because they kept letting people into The Station. I grabbed a spot in front of the P.A. to stage right and waited.
You know, I had been a little bummed out seeing the reports and video coming out of this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, last week. Lots of good bands, lots of good showcases, and for me, some pretty positive memories of years past, hazy though they are. With the first cycling through of the riff to “Desert Cruiser,” all that went right out the window. Drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson dropped trow — literally, he played in his boxers — and recently-interviewed guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren took off his shirt, and off they went.
Truckfighters are rock at the speed of go. It was only a few months ago I saw them rip a hole through Cake Shop in Manhattan, but seeing that only made this show all the more necessary. On a tour that in terms neither of routing nor personnel involved was what they thought it would be, Truckfighters flourished and hit with an astonishing level of energy. It was like they were pushing the material to see how far it could go, how hard it could hit, how fuzzed it could get. Where I stood, Cedermalm‘s vocals were coming through so loud at times they hurt, even with the sock he put over the mic (which, incidentally, is where that The Company Corvette sticker ended up) but it was worth it to be that close to rock that visceral.
“Desert Cruiser” wasn’t over before Källgren was rolling on the ground kicking his legs in the air, and their whole set pretty much looked like riffy calisthenics, though they’re probably also the most audience-minded act I’ve seen in this genre — in people’s faces the whole time, taking advantage of their wireless setups (which also adds some compression to their tonal crunch that they seem to use to their advantage) to walk through the crowd, and, in Cedermalm‘s case, jumping on the bar before the encore to ask everyone if they wanted to hear another song — so they made it work and the audience had no choice but to go along with them. Not that there was much resistance, but it would’ve been pointless if there had been, is what I’m saying.
The set was pretty well balanced, with three songs from 2005′s Gravity X debut, two from 2007′s Phi, and three from 2009′s Mania, which is set for North American reissue in May as Truckfighters‘ debut on Tee Pee, but though it was killer to hear “Last Curfew” and “Traffic,” and “Monte Gargano” was a crowd favorite, I was even more stoked on “Majestic,” the 13-minute Mania masterpiece the payoff of which was so huge as to serve as the high point of an already excellent set. I’d been hoping for “Con of Man,” which they didn’t play, but they hit “Analougus” from the 2004 Fuzzorama compilation, The Ultimate Fuzz Collection, as the first part of a two-song encore that finished out with “In Search Of,” which seems to be the permanent closer. Hard to argue with its position.
I don’t remember what time it was exactly when they finished, but I know I got back to my humble river valley at about four in the morning, so I’d put it somewhere close to two. If you’ve never had the pleasure, the middle of the night is the best time to drive on the New Jersey Turnpike, or any major highway for that matter, barring accidents or construction — neither of which was hit on the way back north — and though I didn’t sleep nearly as late Saturday morning as I’d have liked, I did have plenty to look forward to going into Sunday night’s secret show.
Posted in Features on March 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a big world out there, and no one in it rocks quite like Truckfighters rock. Their fuzz is just a little warmer, their deserts a little sandier, and where so much of capital ‘h’ Heavy the underground comes up with arrives sluggishly at the sacrifice of energy, the trio from Örebro carry across their material — especially on stage — with apparent ease and an upbeat pulse that only subsides when they direct it elsewhere.
Now embroiled in their second-ever US tour and also their second in less than a year’s time, Truckfighters have seen a boost in profile since their last album, 2009′s Mania, thanks in part to a feature-length documentary from filmmakers Joerg Steineck and Christian Maciejewski (review here), that has led to Tee Pee Records picking up the band for a digipak reissue of Mania that’s due out May 8.
Although their 2005 debut, Gravity X, saw North American release in conjunction with MeteorCity, this new issue of Mania (original review here) will be the first time Truckfighters are really entrusting a label with the distribution and promotion of one of their records, and it’s a bolder step considering the record in question has already been out for going on three years. Still, with the run of US shows they did last summer and the current follow-up, the timing couldn’t be better to bring Mania back into listeners’ consciousness, and considering they’re in the States and I didn’t even have to dial international to get guitarist Niklas ”Dango” Källgren on the phone for the following interview, the timing couldn’t have been better for that either.
They were in Chicago when we spoke, having played what he characterized as a good set the night before in Dayton, Ohio, alongside tour and travelmates The Midnight Ghost Train, who came aboard last minute as a replacement for Karma to Burn. In our relatively brief conversation, Källgren discussed how that switch was made as well as the tumultuous booking of these shows, how he and bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedarmalm feel about the end result of the documentary, the revolving door tenure of drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson (which is chronicled in one of the most entertaining sections of Steineck and Maciejewski‘s movie and who now also plays in Witchcraft), signing with Tee Pee, progress on their next album, and — as the headline above hints — much more.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a while since we last heard from pita-loving Kansas heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train. The band self-released their self-titled debut late in 2009 (review here) and were just getting ready to record the follow-up, Buffalo, named for their former hometown, but after Karma to Burn dropped off the Truckfighters tour, they’ve been selected to fill the position.
So congratulations to the band. If you have to delay recording, at least it’s for a good cause. The tour is set to start this week, and as you can see below, the run with Truckfighters is just a fraction of the dates confirmed for Spring.
Hey y’all, we’ve got quite the exciting news for you. I know we recently posted that we were taking the month off to get ready for our new record, but we just can’t stay off the road. We are very honored to announce that we were chosen to go on tour with one of the world’s biggest stoner rock bands of all time: Truckfighters from Sweden.
This is huge for us, and will be a big step in the right direction for our band. It’s a very last-minute tour, we leave this Monday and the tour starts in Charlotte, NC, on March 1. So I know its very last-minute but let’s pull together and show Truckfighters and the world that TMGT has not only got the greatest fans in the world, but also let’s show them how much TMGT kicks ass. So let’s pull together and tell your friends, and blog about it, and do whatever y’all do.
The day after the tour ends we will be going into the studio to record our new record. So we will be rip roarin’ and ready to record. Can’t wait to see you guys at the shows, we love you and we wouldn’t be here without you. The tour dates with Truckfighters are posted below. See you at the show, get ready to rock the fuck out.
The Midnight Ghost Train and Truckfighters: 03/01 Tremont Music Hall Charlotte, NC 03/02 31st Street Pub Pittsburgh, PA 03/03 Blind Bob’s Dayton, OH 03/04 Pyramid Scheme Grand Rapids, MI 03/05 Ultra Lounge Chicago, IL 03/06 Hi-Tone Memphis, TN 03/07 Siberia New Orleans, LA 03/08 ND Austin, TX 03/09 Jake’s DowntownLounge Tulsa, OK 03/10 The Roadmap Texarkana, AR 03/11 Downtown Music Little Rock, AR 03/13 The Get Down Asheville, NC 03/14 Pour House Raleigh, NC 03/15 Jewish Mother Backstage Norfolk, VA 03/16 The Station Philadelphia, PA 03/17 Public Assembly Brooklyn, NY
The Midnight Ghost Train Spring US tour dates: 04/13 GreenLantern Lexington, KY 04/14 Neptune on Pine Warrensburg, MO 04/20 Indys Jukebox Indianapolis, IN 04/26 Filling Station Boozeman, MT 04/27 Jesters Bar Helena, MT 04/28 Jesters Bar Helena, MT 04/29 Dante’s Portland, OR 05/04 Redwood Los Angeles, CA 05/05 Bar 11 San Diego, CA 05/10 Lions Lair Denver, CO 05/14 Soundpony Tulsa, OK 05/17 JD’sGlass Sheffield, AL 05/18 WildSalmon Lafayette, LA 05/19 TsunamiBar Monroe, LA
Posted in Reviews on January 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The basic assumption on the part of filmmakers Joerg Steineck and Christian Maciejewski going into their rock-doc Truckfighters is that, if you’re watching it, you already know who Truckfighters are. Honestly, that’s probably the best approach, since if you’ve tracked the feature-length movie down, you’ve probably done so on account of your fandom of the Swedish outfit, but I’d imagine that even if your interest was based elsewhere – even if you were just watching it for the story or because you have a documentary fetish or whatever else – Truckfighters would still satisfy on that level. Billed as a “fuzzomentary,” it’s a human story rather than rock and roll glorification, and that is bound to expand the reach of its appeal, and apart from the humor and sadness, and yes, the fuzz, it’s also incredibly visually stylized and holds the attention that way as well. Shot on Mini-DV and Super 8, its look is a big part of what ties everything together – along with spectacular editing and a few cartoonish or otherwise humorous montages – and though the retro visual feel doesn’t necessarily mesh with Truckfighters’ actual sound, which however influenced by ‘70s rock it might be is more modern, it still works. Narrated by original Kyuss bassist Chris Cockrell, who also shows up late into the film under his alias Vic du Monte, the story is broken into nine increasingly loosely presented chapters that wind up intertwining to tell the tale in a manner not nearly as fractured or disorganized as life actually is when dealing with a group of people working together toward a common end.
Steineck and Maciejewski (also responsible for the documentary Lo Sound Desert) don’t insert themselves into the actual film, instead leaving it to the band to talk about their lives in and out of Truckfighters, touring, recording, family, etc., with additional setup from Cockrell’s narration at the start of each chapter and at various points in between. Live footage features heavily, as one might expect, and since Truckfighters put on such an energetic show, it adds to the classic rock feel of the movie. At home, though, it’s quiet, and that’s where we start. Following an opening narration from Cockrell – who seemed to have in mind what Sam Elliott brought to The Big Lebowski as The Stranger in his reading voice — the film first shows us vocalist/bassist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm going to work at a ski shop in what looks like a cold Swedish winter. Chapter one is called “Common,” and it’s not long before guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren is seen in the studio recording a local hardcore band from Örebro, also Truckfighters’ hometown backdrop, which they discuss as boring and Ozo compares to The Matrix even as they splice in footage from a show with Witchcraft and Graveyard. It’s not until chapter two, “How to Get Things Done,” that drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson is introduced as being perpetually late, and the band’s shaky relationship with him is made apparent for the first time. He winds up being sympathetic and likeable, as do both Ozo and Dango over the ensuing two contradictory chapters, “Road” and “Home.” Stylized live footage and discussion of the hardships of van travel for touring should be pretty familiar to anyone who’s seen this kind of band-based documentary before, but a timeline montage takes us quickly through the history of Truckfighters and the past members of the band, Fredo and Paco – the latter who came in as a replacement for Pezo, whose drug problem, leaving the band and subsequent return and conversion to Christianity is touched on but never really explored deeply; although later we do see him discuss prayer as the band warms up for a show – and proves necessary for anyone who might not have followed them over the course of their years together and their three albums, Gravity X (2005), Phi (2007) and Mania (2009).
It turns out to be the making of the latter that Truckfighters is chronicling in part. We see the band in their Studio Bombshelter at various points recording, later on dealing with Pezo’s lack of dedication to the project and the band as a whole. Some of the most compelling footage, however is in the “Home” chapter. We meet Ozo’sand Dango’s sons and find out Ozo is a single dad. Dango’s son is an infant he calls “Mini-Dango,” and as we watch them cooking, doing dishes, cleaning up holiday wrapping paper – there’s even a shot of Pezo vacuuming spliced in to drive the point home – it’s clear the interest of Truckfighters is in portraying the band as human beings rather than rockstars. That said, they do admit to partying some, and a pretty funny semi-psychedelic montage of drunk antics ensues, leading to chapter five, “Issues,” which discusses van breakdowns, missed flights and tells the story of Ozo throwing a loaf of bread during a playful “bread fight” with the guitarist of Valient Thorr and hitting his eye, causing some apparently temporary damage. Both bands were on tour with Fu Manchu, which is also discussed later as the movie begins to veer away from the chapter narrative to take in the whole picture. In the midst of that bread-fight story, chapter six, “Family Fights” – which Cockrell can’t finish introducing without laughing – begins, and over the course of that and “The Body Burden,” which follows with a look at the wear and tear of Truckfighters’ high-impact gigging (already in the film we’ve seen Dango jump up and down on stage a number of times) and how they prepare for shows, stay fit, eat well, etc., the Pezo story really begins to develop. In the midst of watching Dango warming up and a funny scene of he and Ozo jogging while eating fruit (soon contradicted by footage of them drunk), we shift to the band in the studio and as Pezo records drum parts, it becomes clear all isn’t well within the band.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
While we’re doing super-news day, I read this a couple minutes ago in an update from Ghost Road Touring on Thee Facebooks. Obviously still kind of vague, but even if this is rumor at this point, it’s the kind I’m happy to help spread:
Legendary Viral Fuzz Lords, Truckfighters (Sweden) and Very Special Guests, Instrumental Mountain Rock Pioneers Karma to Burn (US), have announced plans for a full American tour for March 2012.
Please don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the best US club shows of 2012!
I guess I never got the email or whatever — or else I’ve posted the clip three times by now and just forgotten — but at some point Örebro fuzz heroes Truckfighters put out a video for “Con of Man” from Mania, and it’s hitting the spot perfectly tonight. What I like best about it is it’s not their most accessible track, not their most immediate single, but I dare you to not have it stuck in your head after even one listen. The underlying political implications of the video I consider a bonus.
Thanks to everyone who downloaded the podcast this week and who entered the contest to win the Moth Eater/Black Thai split. The running for that is over, and I fully plan on selecting names out of a hat to get the winners list this coming Monday, so that should be fun. For the time being, it’s been a tiring week in terms of work and class, and I’m glad to see it come to an end.
It was also my birthday this week (please don’t say “happy birthday”) and I always have trouble with that, but that really was only one factor to add to the overall stress. It was a relief tonight to come back to the valley after work, go to dinner with The Patient Mrs., drink some wine and enjoy the evening. I know it was something, but I honestly don’t even remember what was happening this evening in Brooklyn, and I’m just fine with that. Sometimes life turns out to be what we most need it to be at that moment. I’ll take it.
Again, appreciation to everyone who checked in this week. Starting Monday, I’ll be taking a look at records from Generation of Vipers, Morbid Wizard, The House of Capricorn and Ogressa. I’ll also hopefully have my interview with Black Cobra posted by the end of the week, and barring disaster, on Tuesday we’ll have a new track premiere from Rue as well, so stay tuned for that. It’s interesting to see the hierarchy of blog prominence come into play with that kind of thing — at some point, I’d like to write an essay about it, but I probably won’t — but I’ll continue to have new audio as often as possible to the best of my dictated ability. I guess some sites’ hipster cred has to pay off somewhere. Ha.
But anyhoo, this curious fuckall corner of the interwebs wishes you the best and safest of weekends. I hope if you choose to alter your consciousness, you do so in a wholesome and friendly environment, with appropriate aural accompaniment. See you in the Dingerhaus and back here on Monday for more silliness.
Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a tricky proposition, playing in NYC on a Friday night. On the one hand, it’s pretty much the ideal, right? Get a bunch of people trapped in a small room on a small island — there’s really nowhere to go but to a show. On the other hand, there’s at least three shows for each of the eight million people on that small island, so it’s easy for a band to get lost in the mix. Truckfighters, on their first American run, made a landmark out of the Cake Shop on Ludlow St. Though I’ll certainly have other associations with it as well, it’s going to be a while before something comes to my mind when I think of the venue faster than, “Oh yeah, that’s the place Truckfighters played.”
A full 41 people took advantage of the “say The Obelisk and get in free” thing by the last tally I heard — which was about 38 more than I expected — and the vibe was insane. Like YOB/Dark Castle earlier in the week, it seemed like the people who were there were really glad to be there. And there were a lot of them. By the time Borracho were done, I turned around and the room was packed out. Weirdos, button-down yuppies and in-between-types came and went, but for most of the night, it was consistently hard to get to the bar for all the people standing around.
That has its ups and downs, which I probably don’t need to explain, but good for all the bands having heads to play to. The running order was Borracho, Blue Aside, Kings Destroy and Truckfighters headlining, and the show got going a bit before 9PM, allowing extra time for a crowd to arrive for Borracho, who were up from Washington D.C. solely for this one gig. Seemed like a haul, but if the bonus is you get to play with Truckfighters, I can’t imagine it wasn’t worth their time. They got a good response from the crowd too, played (unless I’m mistaken) four songs from their recently-reviewed Splitting Sky album, and were a fitting start to the evening.
I stand by the critiques I made of Borracho in that review, but it’s worth noting that as each song in their set began, I recognized it immediately. Sure, the record’s still relatively fresh in my mind, but I found myself anticipating the chorus of “Grab the Reins” and looking forward to what was coming next — even hoping for “Never Get it Right” — which I took as evidence of a certain level of quality in their songwriting. They have some growing to do yet, some smoothing out of their processes, but there’s something there. It’s not hollow stoner repetition, and while some of their parts wander, their potential as a unit is plain to see in the live setting. I bought a copy of Splitting Sky, and I think it’s going to be really interesting to hear how they develop with their next batch of material.
Their energy was infectious, in the meantime, which actually wound up not doing any favors for Blue Aside, who were decidedly more laid back and stoic in their on-stage presence. The Boston space doom trio started late following some technical problems with their bass head (an Ampeg SVT that they then put front and center on the stage), and shared vocal duties with an incongruence of atmosphere. Drummer Matt Netto had an almost frantic anxiousness in his playing that was contrasted by guitarist Adam Abrams and sandal’ed bassist Joe Twomey, both calmer and more methodical. Nonetheless, they gave a decent showing of material from their The Orange Tree EP, even if they were the odd men out on the bill.
Blue Aside also managed to separate the yuppie chaff, which was fine by me. It’s not that the band was bad, just out of place, and most of the crowd, which was anticipating a rock show, probably wasn’t ready for the spaced-out excursions they had on offer. That, combined with the conflict between energies as noted, didn’t do them any favors. Still, taken on their own level, they did well with what they had. Would be hard for anyone to play those songs bouncing off the walls.
At this point, I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen Kings Destroy, but it was awesome to catch them as a part of this lineup. I missed them with Sourvein in Brooklyn, so this was my follow-up to their Santos Party House gig with Orange Goblin, and as ever, they did not disappoint. They locked in a groove with “The Whittler” from …And the Rest Will Surely Perish and held it down across their whole set. “The Mountie” was especially tight, and the same new song they played last time around — now graced with the title “Holy Dice” — fit right in with the rest of the selections: “Planet XXY,” “Medusa,” “Dusty Mummy” and “Old Yeller” to close out. Good times.
And I mean that. In talking to guitarist Chris Skowronski after they were done, he said he didn’t think they’d ever felt so on point, and having attended as many of their shows as I have, I can’t help but agree. Each time I see them, they’re better than the last, and whether it’s the raised stage of Santos or the declining floor in the Cake Shop basement, they bring it, plain and simple. They’ve reportedly got more new stuff in the works, so here’s looking forward.
It had already been a good night before Truckfighters took the stage. If it had been just Borracho, Blue Aside and Kings Destroy for the show, it would have more than justified the search for SoHo parking. But Truckfighters made it something different entirely. There was no irony to what they did, no cheeky self-awareness masking insecurity. They took the stage, the crowd and the whole damn place. It was theirs. No worries. They gave it back after an hour or so.
I can’t remember the last time I saw people dance at a show. Not even just rocking out — legitimately dancing. Of course, it might have helped that guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren only stopped jumping up and down to take the occasional stroll through the crowd. It might have been the best use of a wireless rig I’ve ever seen. As he made his way toward the back of the venue, soloing all the while, the fuzz in his tone was epic, and the set played out like the stoner rock ideal. You could have filmed it and used it as a promo video, people were so excited.
It was kind of odd timing for Truckfighters to come to the States, since their last album, Mania, was released in 2009, but if this is just how the timing worked out and this was when they could all do it, fine. They killed. They managed to keep their intensity up for nearly the entire set, and it was easy to understand what prompted Josh Homme to say they’re the greatest band he’s ever seen, since they showed much of the same fluidity in their songs as does the Queens of the Stone Age guitarist/vocalist when playing live.
That is, though the songs had their given structures, there was an element of freedom in the trio’s handling of them. Bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm had his parts to sing and obviously he, Dango and drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson weren’t getting up there and improvising for an hour, but each stop was held out longer for crowd interplay, and where most bands set a clear divide between themselves and their audience — “I’m here and you’re there” — Truckfighters engaged completely. You wanted to be a part of it, to go along with it, and they wanted to bring you. And in the case of Dango and someone’s girlfriend in the audience, they also wanted to make out a little bit toward the end of the set.
They had fun. It seems like such an easy thing, but it wasn’t about mocking something, or being rockstar assholes, or performing in some theatrical sense. They delivered a slew of material and closed with “Desert Cruiser” from 2005′s Gravity X debut, and they sounded like desert rock kings doing it. It was dangerous, out of control and completely fucking awesome. Motion was constant. For the second time in a week, I feel like everything I have to say about a show is hyperbole, but it’s absolutely true. Truckfighters paid off in full every bit of the anticipation I’d had to see them, and I have no idea when I’ll see a rock show that’s that good again.
I was handed a tray of drinks as their set wound down from the bar next to which I was standing, and I placed them on the stage next to Dango, like an offering. Of course, they got off stage preceding an encore and in that time some spoiled yuppie scumbag girls stoke their beers, but the sentiment of appreciation was there, anyway. The room cleared out on the quick after that encore, and I too was splittsville, not imagining any way the evening could possibly get better.
Who knows when they’ll have another album out, and who knows when and if they’ll ever come back. While they played, none of it mattered. All there was was fuzz and glory.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The much-awaited Truckfighters American tour kicked off last night in Providence (Anyone go? How were they?), and though I’m dying for tomorrow night to get here so I can head down to the Cake Shop in NYC, I’m also a little nervous that I’m going to be the only one who goes, “Uh, The Obelisk…?” at the door and gets in without paying. If you’re coming out for it, don’t forget! And if you could post this on Thee Facebooks or spread it around, tell two friends, etc., that would be greatly appreciated.
Here’s the flier for the show again:
It’s a great night, front to back. Thanks again to Steve Murphy and Kings Destroy, to Truckfighters, Blue Aside, Borracho and the Cake Shop.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you want to prove it, you can print the flier below, but I think pretty much all you have to say at the door is “I read The Obelisk,” and you get in for free.
The show is July 15 at the Cake Shop in Manhattan, and hands down, it’s going to be one of the year’s best gigs, with Swedish fuzz mavens Truckfighters making their Stateside debut, and receiving welcome from Maple Forum alums Kings Destroy, Massachusetts space doomers Blue Aside and Doom Capitol-ists Borracho (whose new and soon-to-be-reviewed album, Splitting Sky, is available now). My temptation here is to launch into hyperbole about how these bands are saving rock or this or that, but the simple truth is it’s going to be a really special night and I’m thrilled to be able to take part in it in this small way.
So yeah, say “The Obelisk” at the door and you won’t have to pay to get in. Here’s the flier for the show:
Special thanks to Steve Murphy and Kings Destroy, to Truckfighters, Blue Aside, Borracho and the Cake Shop.