Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Since pretty much nothing is known about Ufomammut‘s new album at this point other than it’s done, you’ll pardon me if my eye wanders down in the press release to the part where it mentions their “first major tour of the continent,” meaning North America, which will take place in 2015 around their appearance at Maryland Deathfest. A US run for Ufomammut is probably overdue at this point, but better late than never. I’ll look forward to finding out with whom they’re hitting the road. I suppose it’s too much to think they could join forces with Conan and lay waste to everything in their path. Ah, to dream of that bill.
And while I’m looking forward, here’s that word about the album, snagged hastily from the PR wire:
UFOMAMMUT Completes Seventh Studio Full-Length For Spring Release Via Neurot Recordings
Italian power trio, UFOMAMMUT, is putting the final details on the band’s anticipated seventh studio full-length in order for the album to see an early Spring 2015 worldwide release, once again through Neurot Recordings. While virtually no specific details on the album are yet to be revealed to the public, the album is fully mixed, mastered and going into production now. The record’s title, release date and much more will be unveiled at the dawn of 2015, and mass album and tour updates will ensue through the rest of the year.
In October, UFOMAMMUT proudly released XV, a DVD documenting the band’s intense fifteen year lifespan to date, through their own Supernatural Cat label with support from Neurot. For nearly two years UFOMAMMUT has been working on this special video project delivered through XV’s more than three hours of footage documenting their vast discography and live accomplishments. The DVD features Magickal Mastery Live, a twelve-song live act, as well as interviews, outtakes, and extras, captured over the past decade and a half.
Orders for the XV DVD can be placed in the USHEREand internationallyHERE, and the digital audio version of Magickal Mastery Live only can be orderedHERE.
Additional info on the upcoming album will be released in the coming weeks as UFOMAMMUT prepares to return to North America for their first major tour of the continent in 2015, including a performance at Maryland Deathfest 2015.
UFOMAMMUT Tour Dates: 5/21/2015 Maryland Deathfest – Baltimore, MD
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Prior to checking out for the holidays, Desertfest London 2015 has decided to give its public something to chew on over the next couple weeks. Six bands have joined the lineup for the UK festival. American acts Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band and Acid King, Italy’s Ufomammut, Iceland’s The Vintage Caravan, Sweden’s Galvano and Australia’s Don Fernando broaden an already international assemblage to be headlined by Sleep and Red Fang, and featuring Floor, My SleepingKarma, Black Pyramid, Lo-Panand an impressive host of others listed below.
A lot of festival news around here lately, I know — and more still to come. It’s the season for it. As we move into the New Year and these lineups start to really solidify, it seems like the culture for heavy rock fests just keeps growing. Certainly it’s Desertfest‘s biggest year yet.
Here’s their latest announcement:
Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, Acid King, The Vintage Caravan, Galvano and Don Fernando to play DESERTFEST LONDON in 2015
On the eve of Christmas holidays, the DESERTFEST LONDON promoters wanted to leave you with a sweet stoner rock taste, by adding a new batch of high-end outfits to the 2015 edition of the festival. Desert rock standard-bearer BRANT BJORK will take the stage this April along with Italy’s heaviest trio UFOMAMMUT, the legendary ACID KING, Iceland’s cosmos travellers THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, Swedish sludge mongers GALVANO and Australia’s DON FERNANDO.
Bands already confirmed are:
SLEEP RED FANG BRANT BJORK’S LOW DESERT PUNK ORANGE GOBLIN FLOOR MINSK UFOMAMMUT ACID KING KARMA TO BURN THE VINTAGE CARAVAN MY SLEEPING KARMA BLACK PYRAMID NOOTHGRUSH LO-PAN THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX BLACK COBRA DOPETHRONE DESERT STORM THE WOUNDED KINGS DON FERNANDO GALVANO AGRIMONIA AMULET WALK THROUGH FIRE
DESERTFEST LONDON 24-26th April 2015 in Camden Town Koko Electric Ballroom The Underworld The Black Heart
Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The concert DVD is about as dead as dead gets. They still make them, and they’ll continue to for some time, but with streaming on demand, YouTube, festivals live-streaming their events and so on, bands might as well put out VHS tapes and at least get some retro novelty points out of the deal. All the same, every now and again there’s a worthy occasion — in the case of Italian cosmic doomers Ufomammut, it was their 15th anniversary — and it seems prudent that some band-sanctioned document of it exist into perpetuity. Thus arrives XV: 15 Years of Ufomammut on the band’s own Supernatural Cat imprint with minimalist artwork courtesy of their visual-arts alter-ego, Malleus; a rare moment of backward reflection from an otherwise relentlessly forward-thinking trio, who have become — and I say this with as much impartiality as I can muster — one of the worldwide heavy underground’s most pivotal acts. Their two-part 2012 full-length, Oro (reviews here and here) on Neurot was really just the latest step in a groundbreaking psychedelic progression that’s been underway since they started in 1999, their releases — 2000’s Godlike Snake, 2004’s Snailking, 2005’s Lucifer Songs, 2007’s Supernaturals Record One collaboration with Lento, 2008’s Idolum, 2010’s Eve (review here) and the aforementioned Oro – serving as landmarks of each stage of their development, their continued will for experimentation and outdoing themselves unwavering across each outing. So after a decade and a half, Ufomammut wanted to take a step back and see how far they’ve come before moving ahead again with their next record? Well, that seems fair.
Ufomammut‘s late-2013/early-2014 “Magickal Mastery Tour” was something special because where the trio of guitarist/keyboardist Poia, bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Urlo and drummer Vita generally keep their focus more recent when it comes to live shows, this time they dipped all the way back to Godlike Snake and the preceding 1999 Satan demo for “Superjunkhead” and covered a little taste of everything between that and “Sulphurdew” from Oro: Opus Alter. A single set spanning a seven-album run isn’t easy to put together, particularly when Ufomammut have grown a tendency to write long-form material, but they did it and for fans, it was something apart from their own version of the “ordinary.” If you’re an ardent disbeliever in the form of concert videos, XV isn’t likely to change your mind, but it’s something the band have clearly put thought and effort into, where so many are slapped together from three-camera shoots and just sort of plopped out there like an unbaited fishhook to see which fans will bite. The feel over the course of Ufomammut‘s 80-minute set is more like a music video. They run the performance footage, captured live at SOMS “Il Progresso” in Sarezzano, Italy, by longtime engineer Lorenzo Stecconi, through a range of psychedelic effects and intersperse strange still images, all the while bouncing between more cameras than I can count, GoPros, hand-helds, and stationary. It’s a feature-length, live music video more than a concert recording. If there was an audience that night in Sarezzano, they’re never showed. Possible the band rented out the space so they, as Malleus, and Barbra Baader Meinhof could have freer access with cameras, but I don’t know that.
They bounce gloriously around their catalog and unsurprisingly are planetary in their heaviness throughout, but again, if you’re absolutely unable to get on board with a concert DVD, their switches between color, black and white, blurs and visual swirls are probably going to leave you cold. Wisely, and I’ll admit more intriguing to me as well, is the documentary portion of XV. in which the band (with subtitles) tell their own story and check in with those who knew or helped them at some stage or another in their career. Their story isn’t one filled with drama — Poia and Urlo played together in a band called Judy Corda that broke up, they started Ufomammut, found a killer drummer in Vita, were well received and set about growing their sound — but there is a lot of humor and charm throughout. Of particular note is when The Flyeater, who apparently handled Korg for them for two shows, makes an appearance in the same luchador mask he wore on stage, and we get to see Stecconi, who has become a big part of Ufomammut‘s sound since making his debut behind the board for them with Idolum, which the band describes as their darkest album. If this is to be their moment of reflection, they make the most of it, and it’s fascinating to hear them putting their work in context with itself, moving from one record to the next while conscious of the creativity at play. They wind up discussing Oro and then move into some of the theory behind where they are as a band, playing live — there’s some Roadburn footage in there — and developing the visual side of their approach. At the very end, we even get to hear from Lu, who contributes to Malleus but not Ufomammut proper. She speaks over psychedelic visuals and backed by airy guitars, and they finish out by thanking everyone who’s helped them along the way and showing fan footage during the credits, people from around the world extolling the virtues of the band.
Honestly, I could probably do the same, if you wanted or if I haven’t already in this review. It’s hard not to think XV as closing a chapter in Ufomammut‘s career, but the truth of the matter is each record they do does the same thing: They make an album and then move on. With a new full-length due out next year as a follow-up to this and Oro, that evolution seems to be continuing unabated, and hearing the band talk about their processes and what goes into making them who they are, I look forward even more to finding out what the next stage might hold. And as for the concert DVD being dead? Well, sometimes these dead formats have a tendency to come back to life, and just in case, having a copy of XV on hand might not be the worst idea.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I guess with San Francisco’s Wild Eyes rolling through town, Rome’s Heavy Psych Sounds imprint decided to make an event of it. Label head Gabriele Fiori has done so in style, with a two-night showcase bringing in Ufomammut – fresh off the recording of their new album — to headline one night with his own band, Black Rainbows, as well as Isaak on the bill, while Wild Eyes themselves will headline the second night, with Ape Skull and The Wisdoom supporting. Kind of a mini-fest, but a solid showing of Heavy Psych Sounds‘ acts, plus Ufomammut, and if nothing else, it’s bound to make Wild Eyes‘ trip through Rome a memorable one.
Wild Eyes kicks off their European tour tomorrow. All the dates can be found under the label showcase info, as well as the stream of their new release, Above Becomes Below. Rock and roll:
Heavy Psych Sounds Records is proud to present the first Showcase ever with all the bands of the label Wild Eyes from San Francisco, with their last show of the European tour, Isaak introducing the upcoming split record with Mos Generator, the mighty UFOMAMMUT will headline as guests the 4 december day, and last but not least, Black Rainbows, The Wisdoom and Ape Skull
INIT CLUB, Rome, Italy INIT CLUB – ROMA Via della stazione tuscolana 133 00182 – ROMA (IT)
04/12/2014: UFOMAMMUT Black Rainbows Isaak
h 10:00 – 10 euro
05/12/2014: WILD EYES The Wisdoom Ape Skull
h 10:00 – 7 euro
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records&Booking is proud to present the European Tour of Great Cali Acid Rock n’ Roll Band:
***WILD EYES*** 14/11/2014 IT Milano-Lo Fi 15/11/2014 IT Piacenza-Sound Bonico 16/11/2014 IT Erba-Centrale Rock 17/11/2014 CH La Chaux de Fonds-Café al Entre Deux 18/11/2014 CH Ins-Shuxenhaus 19/11/2014 CH Whinthertur-Gaswerk
20/11/2014 CH Luzern-Bruch Bros
21/11/2014 CH Olten-Coq D’or
22/11/2014 DE Augsburg-Ballonfabrik
23/11/2014 AU Graz-club wakuum
24/11/2014 AU Wien-Arena
25/11/2014 D Erfurt-Cafè Tiko
26/11/2014 D Leipzieg-Liwi
27/11/2014 D Berlin-Cortina Bob
28/11/2014 D Siegen-Vortex Club
29/11/2014 N Schoonhoven-De Bastille
30/11/2014 N Den Haag-Dystopia
02/12/2014 F Nancy-Le Quai’Son
03/12/2014 CH St Gallen-Rumpeltum
04/12/2014 D Freiburg-White Rabbit
05/12/2014 IT Rome-Init Club “HPS Showcase”
06/12/2014 IT Pescara-Orange Rock
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Cosmic doom conjurers Ufomammut celebrated their 15th anniversary last fall by embarking on what they called the “Magickal Mastery Tour,” picking out material from across their catalog and giving a career-spanning set to mark the passing of time. Next month, they’ll release a new DVD, XV: 15 Years of Ufomammut, that captures that live show and includes a documentary about the trio as well. Preorders for that are up now via the band’s own Supernatural Cat in Europe and Earsplit Compound in the US (links below), but I also like the part where the PR wire informs that Ufomammut will hit the studio this month for a new album to be released next spring on Neurot.
Hugely interested to hear what Ufomammut might come up with for a new record after the two-part Oroin 2012 seemed to expand beyond any boundaries they’d previously known. Do they somehow continue to get bigger-sounding and reach farther, or somehow contract, and perhaps inspired by playing earlier material, move toward a more stripped down approach. It’s foolish to speculate one way or another, but Orois one hell of an act to follow either way.
Info and whatnot:
UFOMAMMUT Announces Details Of Fifteen Year Anniversary DVD
Studio Time Booked For September; North American Tour Plans On The Horizon
UFOMAMMUT, Italian sorcerers of supernatural and obliterating doom, have been very busy behind the scenes following the release of their widely acclaimed ORO collection on Neurot Recordings and the Magickal Mastery Tour of 2013 and 2014, which saw them performing music from across their canon. A band constantly pushing and looking forward, while simultaneously keeping a firm eye on their history, as they continue to celebrate their fifteen years in existence, they still have much in store for their fanbase.
Since 2013, UFOMAMMUT has been working on a video project which will be released on DVD via the band’s Supernatural Cat Records this October, after all, the visual element of the band is of equal importance to their music. The DVD features over three hours of live footage — including Magickal Mastery Live, a 12 song live act — interviews, outtakes, and extras all documenting these first fifteen years of the band. Titled XV, this audiovisual experience will also be available as a special wooden 8GB USB drive.
On the subject of reaching this milestone the band commented…”ORO was a particularly ambitious album for us, and the Magickal Mastery Tour was a great chance to revisit all of our favorite songs in front of really great crowds. When we took some time to reflect on what we had accomplished we knew that the best ways to celebrate our first fifteen years, was a DVD release, something for our fans to contribute towards and to treasure. We’re excited about what the next fifteen years has in store…”
Preorders for the XV DVD have been posted. International orders can be placed via Supernatural CatHEREand US fans can order exclusively via Earsplit DistroHERE.
In addition to this DVD release, UFOMAMMUT has confirmed that they will be heading into the studio to record their seventh studio collection this September. The new album should see the light of day in Spring 2015 via Neurot Recordings. They’ve also revealed plans to return to the USA to tour the entire country for the first time, as well as a promise of more European performances. Stay tuned for more details on all developments in the coming weeks.
The Magickal Mastery Live Running Order: Superjunkhead Hellcore Oroborus Stigma Zerosette Destroyer Sublime Eve (Pt. III & IV) Sulphurdew Odio Stardog God
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The inaugural Totem Psych Fest will take place July 25-27, 2014, at a castle located about an hour outside of Rome. Yup, a castle, and yup, Ufomammut are playing. So are Church of Misery. At a castle. They’re playing a castle. On the same bill. At a castle. Nik Turner from Hawkwind will be there too.
Euro fest culture, you’ve done it again. Kudos to Gabriele Fiori from Black Rainbows and Heavy Psych Sounds, which will present the festival. In addition to the aforementioned and Blues Pills, the lineup also includes a host of Italy’s best in heavy rock, from Isaak to Void Generator, Morkobot, OJM and The Wisdoom.
There you have it. For anyone lucky enough to have even the faintest chance of going, tickets are on sale now:
***TOTEM PSYCH FEST***
Heavy Psych Sounds, present the first edition of the TOTEM PSYCH FEST.
This exclusive festival is located one hour north-east of Rome, in the small village of Roccasinibalda. It takes place in the courtyard, gardens and underground cellar of a large, scorpion-shaped castle dating back to the 10th century.
About 25 bands – ranging from heavy psychedelic to space rock, sludge doom, stoner, acid rock, hard blues and one-man bands – will be playing live.
Given the capacity of the location, tickets are very limited: it is possible to purchase 3-day passes or single day tickets. Along the castle there will be shows, food stands and many other events. There will also be free camping, and over the next days a list of all the hotels and holiday-farms located close to the castle will be published on the website.
NIK TURNER SPACE GIPSY (EX Hawkwind) BLUES PILLS ZU BALLETTO DI BRONZO UFOMAMMUT CHURCH OF MISERY BLACK RAINBOWS LENTO OJM OVO MORKOBOT TONS SONIC JESUS ISAAK SMALL JACKETS GIOBIA IN ZAIRE THE BLUES AGAINST YOUTH DA CAPTAIN TRIPS APE SKULL THE WISDOOM SPOOKY MAN VOID GENERATOR L’IRA DEL BACCANO
Posted in Features on September 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
As they begin to celebrate 15 years together, Italian cosmic doom trio Ufomammut find themselves working under two coinciding principles: They always surprise and they’re consistently voraciously forward thinking. Perhaps it’s somewhat less surprising than it might initially seem that eventually these impulses would run into each other. Their Magickal Mastery Tour began this week in Europe, with the band — bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Urlo, guitarist/keyboardist Poia and drummer Vita – putting together a setlist that spans their career from 2000’s Godlike Snakedebut all the way up to last year’s mind-expanding Neurot Recordings two-parter, Oro(reviews here and here). The impulse to surprise remains strong.
Ufomammut have had no shortage of triumphs throughout their career to date, whether it’s their landmark 2004 second outing, Snailking, or the growth of their visual-arts enterprise, Malleus as helping bring to life the vivid color and classic form of the European heavy psychedelic underground. From forming their own label, Supernatural Cat, to never failing to refine and develop their sound across 2005’s Lucifer Songs, their 2006 collaboration with Lento, as well as 2008’s Idolum and 2010’s masterpiece, Eve(review here), Ufomammut have continued to go bigger and deeper, creating a psychedelia that’s as crushing tonally as it is atmospheric and influencing countless others in their wake. Their style has never been anything but their own, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re one of the most pivotal and essential acts in heavy music today.
That being the case, as Ufomammut embark on the Magickal Mastery Tour, it seemed reasonable to hit them up for a few brief reflections on their time together these last 15 years, how things have changed for the band and where they might go following Oro. Having interviewed the band before, I know they’re men of brevity and the Q&A certainly follows that course, but two days into the run, here are the remaining Magickal Mastery Tour dates should you be fortunate enough to be someplace in the world that also happens to be in their path:
MAGIKAL MASTERY TOUR DATES:
27 sept – Kulturpalast – Wiesbaden (D)*
28 sept – Het Depot – Leuven (B)*
29 sept – Vera – Groningen (NL)*
01 oct – The Fleece – Bristol (UK)*
02 oct – Brudenell social club – Leeds (UK)*
03 oct – The Underworld – London (UK)*
04 oct – 4AD – Diksmuide (BE)*
05 oct – Römer – Bremen (D)*
06 oct – KB18 – Copenhagen (DK)
07 oct – Blitz – Oslo (NOR) (w/ Tombstones)
09 oct – Luttako – Jväskyla (FIN)
10 oct – Kuudes Linja – Helsinki (FIN) (w/ Suma)
11 oct – Yo Talo – Tampere (FIN)
12 oct – Nuclear Nightclub – Oulu (FIN)
17 oct – Progresja – Warsaw (PL)
18 oct – Bii Nu – Berlin (D)
19 oct – Keep it Low Festival – Munich (D)
*all dates with Zolle in support
The complete Q&A with Ufomammut follows after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just because you’ve released a series of outstanding cosmic doom albums doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to have a little fun. That would at least seem to be the mentality Italian trio Ufomammut are marking their arrival at 15 years as a band. The psychedelic megacrushers have announced that their next European run will be dubbed the Magickal Mastery Tour and will find them spanning their catalog from 2000’s Godlike Snake all the way up to last year’s brilliant two-parter, Oro (review here and here).
The PR wire offers the following Beatles-referential glimpse:
UFOMAMMUT UNVEIL, THE MAGICKAL MASTERY TOUR
Like a snake biting its own tail, time is circular, and with their upcoming tour, Ufomammut further corroborate ouroboric tendencies…
This autumn, Ufomammut will excavate items from their pliocenic past, keeping their third eye pointed at the future – the ‘Magickal Mastery Tour’ is a journey through fifteen years of Ufomammut music, performing under a new light songs from Godlike Snake to ORO, as thanksgiving to people for their support and devotion.
The band commented…”We are very excited to come out and play material from across our album catalogue, whereas recent focus has been on ORO, an album which we are most proud of, we are looking forward to playing older material also, it’s been a while! This marks the last tour we shall do for a period, whilst we concentrate on writing a new album”
MAGICKAL MASTERY TOUR DATES: 25 sept – Arena – Vienna (A) 26 sept – Stattwerkstatt – Linz (A) 27 sept – Kulturpalast – Wiesbaden (D) 28 sept – Het Depot – Leuven (B) 29 sept – Vera – Groningen (NL) 01 oct – The Fleece – Bristol (UK) 02 oct – Brudenell social club – Leeds (UK) 03 oct – The Underworld – London (UK) 04 oct – 4AD – Diksmuide (BE) 05 oct – Römer – Bremen (D) 06 oct – KB18 – Copenhagen (DK) 07 oct – Blitz – Oslo (NOR) 09 oct – Luttako – Jväskyla (FIN)* 10 oct – Kuudes Linja – Helsinki (FIN)* 11 oct – Yo Talo – Tampere (FIN)* 12 oct – Nuclear Nightclub – Oulu (FIN)* 17 oct – Progresja – Warsaw (PL) 18 oct – Bii Nu – Berlin (D) 19 oct – Keep it Low Festival – Munich (D) * Thanks to BLOW UP THAT GRAMOPHONE
With more dates to be announced, and support acts also, stay tuned because this is only the tip of the iceberg!
Posted in Features on June 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
They always say you there’s no going back. I don’t know who they are, but they’re right. As I searched back through posts to find the Top 20 of 2012, I realized it had been way too long since I heard some of these records. It’s so easy to get caught up with what’s current and what’s coming next that sometimes I forget to actually listen to albums I already enjoyed. That happened a couple times along the way.
When a year ends and the lists start coming out, it’s like records as numbered, stocked and then forgotten. I guess I’m guilty of it too. With that in mind, here’s a quick revisit to what I had as my favorites of 2012:
The Top 20 of 2012 Revisited
20. Mos Generator, Nomads
I can’t even look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “Lonely One Kenobi” play in my head. Still a sentimental favorite.
19. Golden Void, Golden Void
Haven’t put it on in a while, but probably should.
18. Wight, Through the Woods into Deep Water
Ditto. This record was great and if I made the list today, it would probably be higher than it is here.
16. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction
I’ve seen them three times so far this year and they’ve delivered each time, but haven’t put on the album itself in a while. Still looking forward to new stuff though.
15. Kadavar, Kadavar
I think I’ve had more fascinating conversations about Kadavar than any other band in the last year. So many opinions, so widely varied. I dig the self-titled, will probably have the follow-up on my list at the end of 2013. Nuclear Blast needs to bring them over to tour, maybe opening for Witchcraft?
14. Stubb, Stubb
Yay fuzz! Catchy songs, easy formula, well structured and impeccably performed.My favorite straight-up heavy rock record of 2012.
13. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned
Hard to fuck with these dudes. The production here was a presence, but the songs still hold up.
12. Ararat, II
No shit, I live in terror of having Ararat release their third album and missing it. Like all of a sudden the album will have been out for three months and I’d have no idea.
11. Ufomammut, Oro
Haven’t listened to Opus Primumor Opus Altersince. Can’t help but think if Oro was released as one record, I’d put it on from time to time.
10. Conan, Monnos
I put this in the top 10 for a reason. Because it’s fucking ridiculously heavy. I stand by my reasoning. Looking forward to their new one.
9. My Sleeping Karma, Soma
An album I couldn’t manage to put down even when I wanted to, and one I still pick up from time to time. Glad I finally gave in an bought a copy to get away from the shitty digital promo version.
8.Graveyard, Lights Out
Maybe I burnt myself out on this? I went on a binge after their show in January for a bit and then put Lights Outaway and that was that.
7. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65
Every time I’m in a record store, flip through the Vitus selectionand see my quote on the sticker on the front of the jewel case of Lillie: F-65, I feel like an entire decade of shitty career decisions is justified. No bullshit.
6. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time
Brilliant. Mostly brilliant for closer “First Light,” but that song was brilliant enough to get this spot on the list anyway.
5. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis
Hard to argue with its intensity. Not much staying power as I would’ve thought, but god damn that’s a heavy record.
4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
An overwhelming listen. I have to prepare my head for putting it on, but I continue to find it worth the effort.
3. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers
It was the highlight of my year last year to see this material live. Greenleaf have a new lineup now and another album in the works, but if Nest of Vipersis how the last one was going out, they killed it.
2. Om, Advaitic Songs
Sometimes I fantasize about living in a temple where I wake up and Advaitic Songsis playing every day. That is 100 percent true.
1. Colour Haze, She Said
I’d probably listen to it even more if it was on one CD, but god damn, this record is amazing. Another one that’s kind of overwhelming, but it gets regular play as I expect it will continue to do into perpetuity.
All in all, pretty great year. Some stuff that’s fallen by the wayside, but a few landmarks as well that have carried over, and more importantly, some that seem like they’ll continue to carry over and grow in appeal as more time passes. Wight should’ve been higher on the list, but other than that, I’ll take it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Crossing genre lines over a course of three days in Wroclaw, Poland, the fifth annual Asymmetry Festival is set to take place at the Centennial Hall from May 2 to May 4. The lineup includes native Polish acts — even Vader get a slot — alongside a host of others from around Europe and the US, from Ufomammut to Melvins Lite, Agalloch to razor-happy Norwegian black metallers Shining. I don’t know how many people reading this are going to make it to Wroclaw for the fest when it kicks off, but sometimes I just like to post about stuff happening in other places to remind myself it’s a big world and awesomeness isn’t relegated to any one geographic region or other.
Dig the Malleus poster and fest info below:
Asymmetry Festival 5.0
The 5th edition of Asymmetry festival will run from Thursday May 2 to Saturday May 4 2013, at the Centennial Hall in Wroclaw, Poland, marking 3 days with some of the bravest and most influential artists in heavy music.
Legendary and genre-defyning acts like MELVINS, MAYHEM and CULT OF LUNA are only some of the highlights of the diverse main stage program, also featuring oppressive sludge/noisecore of Belgian cult AMENRA, hypnotic gloomy cinematic excursions of THE KILIMANJARO DARKJAZZ ENSEMBLE, black metal undertones of SHINING and the almighty death metal of Polish fame VADER, just to name a few. 2 other stages will present bands that are highlights of the modern European scene. Above all it’s the music quality that is at the heart of the festival philosophy.
Taking place in an incredible venue – monstrous monument of modernism – Asymmetry Festival provides fans of alternative music with one-of-a-kind music and visual experience and amazing atmosphere. This is where fans and connoisseurs of heavy/experimental/noise music from east and west meet to enjoy unpretentious and relaxed vibe of real underground.
We aim to keep the spirit of alternative way of thinking alive by encouraging an open dialogue about art, music and its role in modern culture. Wroclaw itself is a beautiful city full of attractions, bars clubs and great parks to get some rest after the hyper loud concerts. It also offers countless possibilities of reasonably priced accommodation. All these makes Asymmetry and ideal gate away destination. It’s a chance to discover different, less commercial and more focused festival experience. This festival is organized be people who above all love music and want to create an event that brings music and fans together on a new, more experiential level.
02.05.2013 | main stage: Nevesis, Balázs Pándi , Agalloch, Mayhem, Matadorem, Vader.
03.05.2013 | main stage: IconAclass, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Shining, Cult of Luna, Astronautalis.
04.05.2013 | main stage: Von Magnet, Matallic Taste of Blood, Amenra, Melvins Lite, Ufomammut.
Festival pass (3 days) ticket – 50 euro Single-day ticket, 1st day (02.05.2013) – 24 euro Single-day ticket, 2nd day (03.05.2013) – 24 euro Single-day ticket 3rd day (04.05.2013) – 17 euro
Festival Pass and Single-day tickets are available atwww.asymmetryfestival.pland at Ticketpro, Eventim, eBilet oraz Ticketportal sale points. The prices will change after May 1st, check our website for actual prices.
The purchase of a ticket will grant the attendants various discounts around Wroclaw, including selected hotels and other accommodations, museums, art galleries, cafeterias, restaurants and other recreational spots.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bit of a roundup here of adds to the 2013 London Desertfest lineup. Since the New Year hit, Desertfest has announced a slew of bands for its second incarnation, among them American acts Cough and Witch Mountain, Greek rockers Planet of Zeus, Italian cosmic doomers Ufomammut and local slingers Whoremoan. Info follows culled from the Desertfest website:
Taking their cues from the Jedi knights of Sleep, Electric Wizard, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and King Crimson, the ‘Mammut are heavier than a thousand Hubble telescopes, each lined with the mass of its own internal black hole. They’re also the masters of the long-player format; recent voyage Oro opus was so vast that it could not be confined to a single LP, and its two disks bolt together to form one glorious 94-minute riff labyrinth. Past conquests ‘Eve’, ‘Idolum’, ‘Lucifer’s Songs’, ‘Godlike Snake’ and ‘Snailking’ all spawned marauding, psychedelic orgies of aggressive, yet graceful and pace-varied prog-doom which set these Tortona natives up as one of Europe’s premier heavy music acts. Backed by the Malleus Rock Lab, their one-of-a-kind art-visuals project, Signors Vito, Urlo and Poia have set the controls for the heart of Camden and are preparing their battery of equipment to hurl you into another dimension this coming April at DesertFest 2013.
Cough smashed into worldwide acclaim within doom / sludge circles with the crushing 2008 début album Sigillum Luciferi, followed in 2010 with the fully engulfing psyche-sludge of Ritual Abuse (available on Relapse Records) and a split with the UK’s own doom titans The Wounded Kings. Encompassing monolithically pounding, horror-raising, weed-tuned riffs and vocals stylings ranging from classic occult doom to downright demonic, blackened screams of desperation, the band have proven they are a force to be reckoned with both in this realm and beyond. Having played across the U.S. in the last few years with the likes of Buzzov-en / Weedeater / Eyehategod, as well as even reaching to play a 2011 tour in Australia, Cough will most definitely be a must for any devotees of the heaviest tone with their appearance at The Underworld at DesertFest 2013″
The time is upon us for the arrival on our shores of the magnificent Doom beasts that are ‘Witch Mountain’. Hailing form Portland Oregon, these masters of their art blend crushing sludge riffs with the female classic rock vocal stylings of Uta Plotkin. Its a match made in heaven and one that should not be missed as they have been very hard at work producing not 1 but 2 EPs last year that have been amazingly received and its their first visit to the UK so expect walls to shake and foundations to crumble at the h_d_p/WPC stage!
Parisians set to romance Desertfesters with riffs, licks and pounding grooves. Abrahma was formed in Paris, back in 2005 under the original moniker Alchosonic. The French 4-piece are made up by Seb Bismuth:on Guitar/Vox, Nicolas Heller on Guitar and they are joined by the Colin brothers Guillaume on Bass and Benjamin on Drums. Signed to Small Stone Records, the Psych Rockers have recently released ‘Through the dusty paths of our lives’ which features a guest appearance by the legend that is Ed Mundell (Monster Magnet/Atomic Bitchwax). Very Heavy Rock is very much on the menu, with large amounts of psychdelia running throughout their music, so don’t miss out on the French invasion at Desertfest 2013.
Planet of Zeus
The Greek Stoners were formed way back in the year of 2000 in Athens, and are made up by four demigods, Babis/Vox & Guitars, Yog/Guitars, JayVee/Bass and Syke/Drums. It was 8 years until the they released their debut album ‘Eleven the Hard Way’ this was followed up in 2011 with ‘Macho Libre’. If you haven’t already experienced Planet of Zeus then expect plenty of stoner fuzz riding heavy on plenty of riff. They have shared the stage with many of the biggest bands on the scene like Monster Magnet, Karma to Burn, Hermano and not forgetting their apperance at Stoned from The Underground in Germany. By the power of Zeus do not miss your chance to see these heavy rock gods!
Veterans of 20 years by now, Canvey Island’s Whoremoan have been kicking out the jams since 1992 and working hard at it ever since. Having released a series of EPs and LPs, they keep the DIY punk ethic alive and stick it to the man by recording, producing and selling it all themselves. If you dig the relentless concrete-block barrage of bands like Helmet, a side-order of stoner groove and even a shot of Clutch-lovin’ southern rock, these guys will be just the ticket to a sore neck, a few whoremoans no doubt, and a delierously good time at Desertfest 2013!
Posted in Features on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Happy New Year to everyone around the world. It’s January 1, 2013, and to celebrate the New Year the best way I know how, I got right to work on tabulating the results of the 2012 Readers Poll. I’ve been tracking the results as they’ve come in over the course of December, and as you can see in the list below, it was a tight race for the top spot right up to the end.
Before we run down the finished list, I want to extend gratitude to each and every one of the 296 people who contributed their top 12 so this list could be put together. It’s an amazing response and I was super stoked that so many of you were able to take part. Thank you for that. Right from the first day the form went up, I knew this was going to be awesome, and it wound up exceeding my every expectation. It was a great sendoff to the year. Much appreciated.
Here are the results of the Top 20 of 2012 Readers Poll:
1. Om, Advaitic Songs – 108 votes
2. High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis – 106
3. Graveyard, Lights Out – 86
4. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay – 65
5. Ufomammut, Oro – 63
5. Witchcraft, Legend – 63
6. Colour Haze, She Said – 56
6. Saint Vitus, Lillie: F-65 – 56
7. Kadavar, Kadavar – 49
7. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction – 49
8. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned – 46
9. Baroness, Yellow and Green – 39
10. Conan, Monnos – 38
11. Swans, The Seer – 35
12. Astra, The Black Chord – 31
13. Greenleaf, Nest of Vipers – 31
13. The Sword, Apocryphon – 31
14. Royal Thunder, CVI – 26
14. Wo Fat, The Black Code – 26
15. Ancestors, In Dreams and Time – 25
16. Torche, Harmonicraft – 23
17. Corrosion of Conformity, Corrosion of Conformity – 22
18. Enslaved, Riitiir – 19
19. Goat, World Music – 18
19. Melvins Lite, Freak Puke – 18
19. Soundgarden, King Animal – 18
20. Amenra, Mass V – 17
20. Samothrace, Reverence to Stone – 17
Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild Rush, Clockwork Angels Stoned Jesus, Seven Thunders Roar Troubled Horse, Step Inside
Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind – 15 Mighty High, Legalize Tre Bags – 15 My Sleeping Karma, Soma – 15
Pretty wild to have Om and High on Fire so close, and they were tied for a long, long time, but Om retained an early lead and managed to pull it out in the end. As you can see, there were a number of releases that tied with others for their position. Seemed only fair to me to include all of them, and I also threw in those with 16 and 15 votes as well, just because it was close. In total, there were an astounding 1,200+ albums entered into consideration.
Once again, thanks to everyone for making this Readers Poll happen and for taking the time to be a part of it. Already looking forward to some fantastic things to come in 2013, so please stay tuned and keep your lists handy.
Posted in Features on December 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is my personal picks, not the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
As ever, I’ve kept a Post-It note on my wall all year long, and as the weeks and months have ticked away, I’ve added names of bands to it in preparation for putting together my Top 20 of 2012. There was a glut of excellent material this year, and I know for a fact I didn’t hear everything, but from bold forays into new sonic territory to triumphant returns to startling debuts, 2012 simply astounded. Even as I type this, I’m getting emails about new, exciting releases. It’s enough to make you lose your breath.
Before we get down to it and start in with the numbers, the hyperbole, etc., I want to underscore the point that this list is mine. I made it. It’s not the Readers Poll results, which will be out early in January. It’s based on how I hear things, how much I listened to each of these records, the impressions they left on me — critical opinion enters into it, because whether or not I want to I can’t help but consider things on that level when I listen to a new album these days — but it’s just as much about what I put on when I wanted to hear a band kick ass as it is about which records carried the most critical significance or import within their respective genres.
Over the last couple years, I’ve come to think of the #20 spot as where I put my sentimental favorite. That was the case with Suplecs last year, and in 2012, the return of Mos Generator earns the spot. The band being led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, Nomadsmarked a rehifting of Reed‘s priorities from Stone Axe, with whom he’d proffered ’70s worship for several years prior, and wound up as a collection of some of my favorite heavy rock songs of 2012 — tracks like “Cosmic Ark,” “Torches” and “Lonely One Kenobi” were as strong in their hooks as they were thorough in their lack of pretense. But the bottom line is I’m a nerd for Reed‘s songwriting, playing and production (more on that to come), and at this point it’s not really something I can even pretend to judge impartially. Still, the record’s friggin’ awesome and you should hear it as soon as you can.
Seems like it would make sense to say Golden Void would be higher on the list if I’d spent more time with it — written up just a month ago, it’s the most recent review here — but the fact is I’ve sat with Golden Void‘s self-titled debut a lot over the course of the last month-plus, and I’ve been digging the hell out of it. Really, the only reason it’s not further up is because I don’t feel like I have distance enough from it to judge how it holds up over a longer haul, but either way, the Isaiah Mitchell-led outfit’s blend of heavy psych, driving classic rock and retro style gave some hope for beefing up the US’ take on ’70s swagger — usually left to indie bands who, well, suck at it — and also showed Mitchell as a more than capable vocalist where those who knew him from his work in Earthless may only have experienced his instrumental side. A stellar debut, a wonderful surprise, and a band I can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come.
This was basically the soundtrack to my summer. From the catch-you-off-guard aggression in opener “I Spit on Your Grave” to the extended stoneralia of “Master of Nuggets” and the jammy “Southern Comfort and Northern Lights,” the follow-up to Wight‘s self-produced debut Wight Weedy Wight(review here) showed an astonishing amount of growth, and though it had the laid back, loose feel that distinguishes the best of current European heavy psych, Through the Woods into Deep Waterwas also coherent, cohesive and impeccably structured. I thought it was one of the year’s strongest albums when it was released, and its appeal has only endured — as much as I listened to it when it was warm over the summer, now in December I put it on wishing the temperature would change to match. The songs showed remarkable potential from the German three-piece and cast them in an entirely different light than did their first out. Really looking forward to where they might go from here, but in the meantime, I’m nowhere near done with Through the Woods into Deep Wateryet.
“Oh, Moon Queen! Flyin’ down the world on a moonbeam!” Somehow the first lines of the opening title-track to Lord Fowl‘s Moon Queen always seem to wind up stuck in my head. The Connecticut foursome made their debut on Small Stone with the loosely thematic full-length, and touched on a sense of unabashedly grandiose ’70s heavy rock in the process. That said, Moon Queenwasn’t shooting for retro in the slightest — rather, guitarist/vocalists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino fronted the band’s classic sensibilities with a wholly modern edge, like something out of an alternate dimension where rock never started to suck. The classic metal guitar in “Streets of Evermore” and the swaying groove from bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman under the wandering leads of “Hollow Horn” made Moon Queenmore stylistically diverse than it might otherwise have been, but at its core, it was a collection of stellar heavy rock songs, unashamed of its hooks and unafraid to put its passions front and center. They packed a lot into a 47-minute runtime, but I’ve yet to dig into Moon Queen and regret having pressed play. Another band to watch out for.
It was impossible not to be swept up in the hype surrounding Pallbearer‘s Profound Lore debut, but one listen to Sorrow and Extinctionand it was clear that its resounding praise was well earned. By blending thickened psychedelic tonality and emotionally resonant melodies, the Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece concocted the single most important American doom release of the year. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, and as they supported the album on tour, the swell of the crowds spoke to the right-idea-right-time moment they were able to capture in songs like the stunning “An Offering of Grief” and “The Legend.” There’s room for growth — I wouldn’t be surprised to find guitarist Brett Campbell‘s vocal range greatly developed next time out — but Pallbearer have already left a mark on doom, and if they can keep the momentum going into wherever they go from here, it won’t be long before they’re being cited as having a significant impact on the genre and influencing others in their wake.
I already singled out Kadavar‘s Kadavaras the 2012 Debut of the Year, so if you need any sense of the reverence I think the German trio earned, take whatever you will from that. There really isn’t much to add — though I could nerd out about Kadavar‘s ultra-effective retroisms all day if you’re up for it — but something I haven’t really touched on yet about the record: When I was out in Philly last weekend, the DJ cleverly mixed Kadavar into a set of early ’70s jams, and it was all but indistinguishable in sound from the actual classics. That in itself is an achievement, but Kadavar‘s level of craft also stands them out among their modern peers, and it was drummer Tiger‘s snare sound that I first recognized in “All Our Thoughts,” so right down to the most intricate details, Kadavar‘s Kadavarwas a gripping and enticing affair that proved there’s still ground to cover in proto-heavy worship.
The fuzz was great — don’t get me wrong, I loved the fuzz — but with Stubb‘s Stubb, it was even more about the songs themselves. Whether it was the interplay between guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Peter Holland (also of Trippy Wicked) on vocals for the chorus of “Scale the Mountain” or the thickened shuffle in “Soul Mover” punctuated by drummer Chris West‘s (also Trippy Wicked and Groan) ever-ready fills, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, and though it’s an album I’ve basically been hearing since the beginning of the year, its appeal has endured throughout and I still find myself going back to it where many others have already been forgotten. With the acoustic “Crosses You Bear” and more laid-bare emotionality of “Crying River,” Stubb showed there was more them than excellence of tone and with the seven-minute finale “Galloping Horses,” they showed they were ready to jam with the best. Truly memorable songs — and also one of the live highlights of my year.
Orange Goblin‘s purpose seemed reborn on their seventh album and Candlelight Records debut, A Eulogy for the Damned. Culling the best elements from their last couple albums, 2007’s Healing Through Fire and 2004’s Thieving from the House of God, the long-running London troublemakers upped the production value and seemed bent from the start on taking hold of the day’s sympathy toward their brand of heavy. With tales of alcoholic regret, classic horrors and a bit of cosmic exploration for good measure, they marked their ascent to the top of the British scene and took well to the role of statesmen, headlining Desertfest and proceeding to smash audiences to pieces around the continent at fests and on tours. Look for them to do the same when they bring the show Stateside in 2013 with Clutch. Their plunder is well earned, and I still rarely go 48 hours without hearing the bridge of “The Fog” in my head. Can’t wait to see them again.
While I still miss Los Natas, my grief for their passing has been much eased over the last two years by frontman Sergio Chotsourian‘s doomier explorations in Ararat. The first album, 2009’sMusica de la Resistencia(review here), ran concurrent to Los Natas‘ swansong, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad, but with II, the new three-piece came into their own, setting space rock synth against low-end sprawl, thick drumming and Chotsourian‘s penchant for experimenting with structure. Extended tracks “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” were positively encompassing, and showed Ararat not only as a distinct entity from Los Natas, but a turn stylistically for Chotsourian into elephantine plod, wide-open atmospherics and a likewise expansive creative sensibility. The acoustic “El Inmigrante” and piano-led “Atenas” offered sonic diversity while enriching the mood, and closer “Tres de Mayo” hinted at some of the melding of the various sides that might be in store in Ararat‘s future. If the jump from the first record to the second is any indicator, expect something expansive and huge to come.
Italian cosmic doom meganauts Ufomammut outdid themselves yet again with Oro, breaking up a single full-length into two separate releases, Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter. But the album — which I’ve decided to list as the single entity Oro rather than its two component parts basically to save myself some brain space — was more than just big in terms of its runtime. More importantly, Ufomammut were able to hold firm to their commitment to stylistic growth, drawing on their greatest triumph yet, 2010’s Eve (review here), the trio pushed themselves even further on their Neurot Recordings debut, resulting in an album worthy of the legacy of those releasing it. I don’t know if Oro will come to define Ufomammut as Eve already seems to have — dividing it as they did may have made it harder for listeners to grasp it as a single piece — but it shows that there’s simply no scaring the band out of themselves. Brilliantly tied together around a central progression that showed up in “Empireum” from Opus Primumand “Sublime” on Opus Alter, I have the feeling Ufomammut will probably have another album out before Oro‘s breadth has fully set in.
Behold the standard bearers of heavy. It wasn’t long after hearing UK trio Conan for the first time that I began using them as a touchstone to see how other bands stacked up, and to be honest, almost no one has. Led by the inimitable lumber provided by the tone of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis (interview here), Conan stripped down their approach for Monnos, returning to Foel Studio in Wales to work with producer Chris Fielding — who’d also helmed their 2010 Horseback Battle HammerEP — and the resulting effort was both trim and humongous. Early tracks like “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” (an old demo given new life) and “Grim Tormentor” actually managed to be catchy as well as sonically looming, and the more extended closing duo of “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne” showed that Conan could both use their tone to build forward momentum and plod their way into ultra-slow, ultra-grim despairing nothingness. Monnos affirmed Conan as one of the most pivotal acts in doom, and with new material and a home studio reportedly in the works, as well as further European touring on the docket for early 2013, their onslaught shows no signs of letting up. Right fucking on.
In some ways, it seems like the easiest thing in the world, but with My Sleeping Karma‘s fourth full-length, Soma, it really was just a question of a band taking their sound to a completely new level. The German heavy psych instrumentalists brought forth the sweetness of tone their guitars have harnessed over the course of their three prior offerings, but the progressive keyboard flourishes, the warmth in the bass, the tight pop of the drums — it all clicked on Somain a way that the other records hinted was possible and made the album the payoff to the four-piece’s long-established potential. Wrapped around the titular theme of a drink of the gods and with its tracks spaced out by varying ambient interludes, no moment on the album felt like it wasn’t serving the greater purpose of the whole, and the whole proved to be a worthy purpose indeed. Hands down my favorite instrumental release of the year and an effort that pushed My Sleeping Karma to the front of the pack in the crowded European heavy psych scene.
The damnedest thing happens every time I turn on Graveyard‘s third album, Lights Out, in that before I’m halfway through opener “An Industry of Murder,” I have to turn it up. The reigning kings of Swedish retro heavy wasted no time following up 2011’s stunning sophomore outing, Hisingen Blues(review here), and with the four-year gap between their self-titled debut and the second record, it was a surprise from the moment it was announced, but more than that, Lights Outshowed remarkable development in Graveyard‘s sound, offering elements of classic soul on songs like “Slow Motion Coundown” and “Hard Times Lovin'” to stand alongside the brash rock and roll of “Seven Seven” or the irresistible hook provided by “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms” or the single “Goliath.” A landmark vocal performance from guitarist Joakim Nilsson and newly surfaced political bent to the lyrics hinted that Graveyard were nowhere near done growing, but seriously, if they put out four or five more records in the vein of Lights Out, I doubt there’d be too many complaints. Already one can hear the influence they’ve had on European heavy rock, and Lights Outisn’t likely to slow that process in the slightest.
Three drum hits and then the lurching “Let Them Fall” — the leadoff track on the first Saint Vitus studio album since 1995 — is underway, and it’s exactly that lack of pomp, that lack of pretense, that makes Lillie: F-65so righteous. Admittedly, it’s a reunion album. They toured for a couple years playing old material, then finally decided to settle in and let guitarist Dave Chandler (interview here) start coming up with a batch of songs, but you can’t argue with the results. They nailed it. With Tony Reed‘s perfect production (discussed here), Vitus captured the classic tonality in Chandler‘s guitar and Mark Adams‘ bass and kept to their sans-bullshit ethic: A short, 33-minute album that leaves their audience wondering where the hell that assault of noise just came from. Scott “Wino” Weinrich‘s presence up front was unmistakable with Chandler‘s punkish, no-frills lyrics (as well as his own on “Blessed Night,” the first song they wrote for the album), and drummer Henry Vasquez not only filled the shoes of the late Armando Acosta but established his own persona behind the kit. I hope it’s not their last record, but if it is, Saint Vitus came into and left Lillie: F-65as doom legends, and their work remains timeless.
Talk about a band who shirked expectation. Guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga and I discussed that aspect of Ancestors a bit in an interview over the summer, but it’s worth underscoring. There was next to nothing in either of Ancestors‘ first two albums to hint at where they’d go with the third. Both Neptune with Fire and Of Sound Mind(review here) were rousing, riff-led efforts that headed toward a particular heavy sensibility, but it was with last year’s Invisible WhiteEP (review here) that the L.A. outfit began to show the progressive direction they were heading. And In Dreams and Timeis even a departure from that! It’s kind of a departure from reality as well, with the Moog/organ/synth mesh from Matt Barks and Jason Watkins (also vocals), dreamy basslines from Nick Long and hold-it-all-together drumming of Jamie Miller — since out of the band. Closer “First Light” was my pick for song of the year, and had the album been comprised of that track along, it’d probably still be on this list somewhere, but with the complement given to it by the piano sprawl of “On the Wind” and driving riffs and vocal interplay of “Correyvreckan” (if you haven’t heard Long‘s bass on the latter as well, you should), there was little left to question that this was the strongest Ancestors release of their career to date and hopefully the beginning of a new era in their sound. They’ve never been what people wanted them to be, but I for one like not knowing what to expect before it shows up, at least where these guys are concerned.
After what I saw as a lackluster production for 2010’s Snakes for the Divine, Oakland, CA, trio High on Fire aligned themselves with producer Kurt Ballou (Converge) for De Vermis Mysteriis and completely renewed the vitality in their attack. Built on the insistence of “Bloody Knuckles,” furious fuckall of “Fertile Green,” unmitigated piracy of “Serums of Laio” and eerie crawl in “King of Days,” De Vermis Mysteriis was both aggressive in High on Fire‘s raid-your-brain-for-THC tradition and extreme in ways they’ve never been before. Groovers like the instrumental “Samsara” and earlier “Madness of an Architect” offered bombast where the thrash may have relented, while “Spiritual Rites” proved that guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (also Sleep; interview here), bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell had arrived at a new threshold of speed and intensity. Whatever personal issues may have been in play at the time, High on Fire delivered a blistering full-length that stands up to and in many ways surpasses any prior viciousness in their catalog, and their level of performance on their current tour makes it plain to see that the band is ready for ascendency to the heights of metal. They are conquerors to the last, and if De Vermis Mysteriisis what I get for wavering, then I’ll consider my lesson hammered home in every second of feedback, tom thud and grueling second of distortion topped with Pike‘s signature growl.
When I interviewed interviewed Steve Von Till about Honor Found in Decay, the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist called the band “a chaos process” in reference to their songwriting. I have no trouble believing that, because while Neurosis stand among the most influential heavy metal bands of their generation — having had as much of an effect on what’s come after them as, say, Meshuggah or Sleep, while also having little sonically in common with either of them — it’s also nearly impossible to pinpoint one aspect of their sound that defines them. The churning rhythms in the riffing of Von Till and his fellow frontman, guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (interview here), Dave Edwardson‘s intensity on bass and periodic vocal, the assured percussive creativity of Jason Roeder and theexperimental edge brought to bear in Noah Landis‘ synth and sampling all prove to be essential elements of the whole. On Honor Found in Decay — and this isn’t to take away anything from any other particular member’s songwriting contributions — it would be Landis standing out with his greatest contributions yet, becoming as much a defining element in songs like “At the Well,” “Bleeding the Pigs” and “Casting of the Ages” as either Kelly or Von Till‘s guitars. Had I never seen the band before, I’d have a hard time believing Honor Found in Decay could possibly be representative of their live sound, but they are every bit as crushing, as oppressive and as emotionally visceral on stage — if not more so — as they are on the album, and while their legacy has long since been set among the most important heavy acts ever, period, as they climb closer to the 30-year mark (they’ll get there in 2015), Neurosis continue to refuse to bow to what’s expected of them or write material that doesn’t further their decades-long progression. They are worthy of every homage paid them, and more.
It’s hard for me to properly convey just how happy listening to Greenleaf‘s Nest of Vipersmakes me, and I’ve got several false starts already deleted to prove it. The Swedish supergroup of vocalist Oskar Cedermalm (Truckfighters), guitarists Tommi Holappa and Johan Rockner (both Dozer), bassist Bengt Bäcke (engineer for Dozer, Demon Cleaner, etc.) and drummer Olle Mårthans (Dozer) last released an album in 2007. That was Agents of Ahriman, which was one of my favorite albums of the last decade. No shit. Not year, decade. With a slightly revamped lineup and Dozer‘s maybe-final album, 2008’s Beyond Colossal, and the never-got-off-the-ground side-project Dahli between, Nest of Viperslanded this past winter and with the shared membership, Karl Daniel Lidén production and consistency of songwriting from Holappa (interview here), I immediately saw it as a sequel to the last Dozer, but really it goes well beyond that. Tracks like “Dreamcatcher,” “Case of Fidelity,” “The Timeline’s History” and soaring opener “Jack Staff” show that although they’d never really toured to that point and been through various lineups over the years, Greenleaf was nonetheless an entity unto its own. Cedermalm‘s vocals were a triumph, Mårthans‘ drumming unhinged and yet grounded, and guest appearances from organist Per Wiberg and vocalists Peder Bergstrand (Lowrider/I are Droid) and Fredrik Nordin (Dozer) only enriched the album for repeat listens, which I’m thrilled to say it gets to this very day. If I called it a worthy successor both to Dozer and to Agents of Ahriman, those words alone would probably fall short of conveying quite how much that means on a personal level, so let its placement stand as testimony instead. This is one I’ll be enjoying for years to come, and when I’m done writing this feature, this is the one I’m gonna put back on to listen through again. It has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a constant.
Go figure that the Om record two albums after the one called Pilgrimagewould feel so much like a journey. Further including multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Robert A. A. Lowe (also of experimental one-man outfit Lichens) alongside the established core duo of drummer Emil Amos (also of Grails) and bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also of Sleep), as well as incorporating a range of guest appearances from the likes of Grayceon‘s Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and Worm Ouroboros‘ Lorraine Rath (who appeared on 2010’s God is Goodas well) on flute, Om fleshed out what was once a signature minimalism to the point of being a lush, constantly moving and markedly fluid entity. Cisneros, as the remaining founder and lead vocalist, served as a unifying presence in the material — his bass still was still very much as the center of “Gethsemane” or the more straightforward and distorted “State of Non-Return” — but those songs and “Addis,” “Sinai” and gloriously melodic closer “Haqq al-Yaqin” amounted to more than any single performance, and where prior Om outings had dug themselves deep into a kind of solitary contemplation, Advaitic Songslooked outward with a palpable sense of musical joy and a richness of experience that could only be called spiritual, however physically or emotionally arresting it might also prove. I’ve found it works best in the morning, as a way to transition from that state of early half-there into the waking world — which no doubt has more harshness in mind than the sweet acoustics and tabla at the end of “Haqq al-Yaqin” — so that some of that sweetness can remain and help me face whatever might come throughout the day. A morning ceremony and a bit of meditation to reorder the consciousness.
Didn’t it have to be Colour Haze? Didn’t it? Two discs of the finest heavy psychedelic rock the world has to offer — yes I mean that — plus all they went through to get it out, the drama of building and rebuilding a studio, recording and re-recording, pressing and repressing, what else could it have been but She Said? After two-plus years of waiting, I was just so glad when it actually existed. Late in 2008, the Munich trio released All, and that was my album of the year that year as well (kudos to anyone who has that issue of Metal Maniacs), but I feel like even if you strip all that away and take away all the drama and the band’s influence, their standing in the European scene, guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek (interview here) fostering next-gen talent on Elektrohasch and whatever else you want or need to remove, She Said still holds up. Just the songs themselves. The extra percussion layered in with Manfred Merwald‘s drums on “She Said,” the horns and Duna Jam-ambience on “Transformation,” the unpretentious boogie of “This” on disc one, or the rush of “Slowdown” on disc two and the culmination the whole album gets when the strings kick in on “Grace.” Those strings. God damn. Suddenly a 2CD release makes sense, when each is given its own progression, its own destination at which to arrive, and tired as I am I still tear up like clockwork when I put on “Grace” just to hear it while I type about it. Beautifully arranged, wonderfully executed, She Saidcouldn’t be anywhere but at the top spot on this list. The warmth in Koglek‘s guitar and Philipp Rasthofer‘s bass on “Breath” and the way their jams always seem to have someplace to go, I feel like I’m listening to a moment exquisitely captured. There isn’t a doubt in my mind Colour Haze are the most potent heavy rock power trio in the world, and that their chemistry has already and will continue to inspire others around them, but most importantly, She Saidmet the true album-of-the-year criteria in not seeming at all limited to the confines of 2012 — as though it had some kind of expiration date. Not so. Even though I’ve already been through them more times than I know or would care to share had I counted, I look forward to getting to know the songs on She Saidover the years to come, and as I have with Colour Haze‘s works in the past, seeing their appeal change over time the way the best of friends do. It couldn’t have been anything but Colour Haze. Whatever hype other albums or bands have, for me, it’s this, and that’s it.
If this list went to 25, the next five would be:
21. Snail, Terminus
22. Revelation, Inner Harbor
23. Wo Fat, The Black Code
24. Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
25. Caltrop, Ten Million Years and Eight Minutes
Honorable mention goes to: Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (another one about whom I have a hard time being impartial), Mighty High, At Devil Dirt, Bell Witch, Samothrace, Enslaved, Viaje a 800, and Larman Clamor.
Also worth noting some conspicuous absences: Witchcraft, Swans, Baroness, Royal Thunder, The Sword, Torche. These albums garnered a strong response and have done well in the Readers Poll looking at the results so far, but please keep in mind, this is my list, I took a night to sleep on it, I stand by it and I’ve got my reasons for selecting what I did. You’ll find about 5,000 words of them above.
Thank you as always for reading. If you disagree with any picks, want to add your own take on any of the above, or anything else — really, whatever’s cool — please leave a comment below.
Whatever medium you enjoy music through, LPs, CDs, digital, tapes, reel-to-reel, Edison cylinders, the fact of the matter is that artwork — the visual representation of the album — makes a huge difference in the overall impression a record makes. There are bands who slave away for months negotiating fine details with artists and there are bands who snap a picture of themselves and throw it out front on their way to grab their next beer. Both methods have yielded classic results.
As 2012 winds down, I thought it might be fun to go back to the start of the year and take a look at some of the best album art that accompanied some killer albums. This isn’t the Best Albums list, just some of what I think is the Best Art. I’ll try my best to keep my reasons short as we go along alphabetically:
Alcest, Les Voyages de l’Âme
The sort of gloomy lushness that artist Fursy Teyssier brought to the cover for Alcest‘s Les Voyages de l’Âme was breathtaking from the first glance. Teyssier (also of Les Discrets; interview here) wonderfully captured the morose beauty in Alcest‘s music and painted a masterpiece that transcended “rock art” as much as the album itself transcended black metal or any other genre in which one might try to pigeonhole it.
The sentinel that has now graced the cover of the last couple Conan releases has mirrored the British act’s ascent in joining the ranks of great heavy metal mascots. Tony Roberts, who drew the piece on the cover of Monnos, has become an essential part of the band’s mythology, meeting their ultra-crushing tonality with visuals that seem to work in atmospheres no less oppressively brutal. If art was ever heavy, it was heavy here.
A pretty simple idea, but wonderfully executed, the front of Portland neo-traditionalists Doomsower‘s debut EP, 1974, came from an EPA photo documentary project that took place the same year. I picked it for this list not because it was so intricate or anything like that, but proof that sometimes something that seems basic can also be just right for the songs — the rails parallel, but joining, seeming to indicate Doomsower‘s journey undertaken.
Electric Moon, The Doomsday Machine
The question wasn’t so much would there be an Electric Moon cover on this list, but which one? The prolific German heavy psych jammers have a cache of treasure in the work of bassist Komet Lulu, and when it came time to choose from among the several recordings the band released in 2012, The Doomsday Machine stood out as a departure from the bright colors and classic psychedelia, being a painting by Lulu‘s father, Ulla Papel. Here’s to genetics.
Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
Having also handled Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, W. Ralph Walters outdid himself with Groan‘s full-length follow-up, The Divine Right of Kings. With strong References to Hieronymus Bosch‘s vision of hell, Walters visualized the band’s move into classic metal and mixed it with manic get-stoned-and-stare kitchen-sinkery much as Groan continued to consort with brash heavy rock and doom. Walters‘ work on Blue Aside‘s The Moles of a Dying Race was no less distinct an achievement.
Larman Clamor, Frogs
Aside from thinking frogs are awesome in general, I was stoked to see how incredibly well Alexander von Wieding‘s art for his band Larman Clamor‘s 2012 offering fit the music. Otherworldly, darkly psychedelic and caked in haze, the dead stare of the frankenfrog on the front of Frogs perfectly matched von Wieding‘s swampy, bluesy style and looked even better on vinyl. Having also contributed to records by Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Cortez and others this year, von Wieding has made himself one of the most essential heavy rock artists the world over.
Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
Were it not for the discussion about the process of putting it together in the interview I did with Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the end of October, Josh Graham‘s cover for Honor Found in Decay — especially being so similar in idea to his work on Soundgarden‘s King Animal — probably wouldn’t have made this list, but knowing the level of construction that went into making the piece, from painting the jawbones to using artifact arrowheads from Slovakia, I couldn’t help but see it in a different light. Graham‘s ended his association with Neurosis, but if this is how he went out, they couldn’t have asked for more.
I had spent some serious time with Summoner‘s Phoenix by then, had been in talks with the band about releasing it on The Maple Forum, but it wasn’t until I held the LP in my hands at SHoD and really saw the Alyssa Maucere cover in-person that I realized what I was looking at. And once you see it, it’s not really subtle at all. Get it yet? There’s a cock and balls on the right side. I gotta give it to the Boston outfit and to Maucere for sneaking and yet not at all sneaking that one in there. Hey, if you don’t appreciate some phallic humor every now and again, you’re probably not going to start a website called The Obelisk.
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum & Oro: Opus Alter
Is it cheating to include both covers from Ufomammut‘s Oro two-album series? Probably. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest, because the Italian collective — who for visual purposes go by the name Malleus — tapped into new territory of psych art with the pieces for Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, manifesting the idea of “psychedelic metal” in the actual style and inks used, while also contrasting dark and light and conveying the permanent nature of gold itself and the notions of hypnotic ritual that show up in their music. These covers were proof that Ufomammut are more than just the masters of their sound.
Another Tony Roberts creation, but in a completely different style from Conan‘s Monnos above, the bleak cover of UK nautical doomers Undersmile‘s 80-minute debut LP Narwhal seemed to embody everything the band had to offer on the album. It was dark, with hard drawn structural lines, but also sprawling, encompassing every panel of the digipak and running into the liner much as Undersmile‘s oceanic themes ran into every minute of the music, crushingly heavy or minimalist and ambient. Less about the titular creature within and more about the sea itself, it conveyed an utter hopelessness and the smallness of humanity when set against something so massive as the sea.
There were plenty more I could’ve included here — records from High on Fire, Om, Graveyard, Wight, Caltrop, Ancestors, Samothrace, Vulture and several others all are worthy of honorable mention, but for one reason or another, these were the standouts to me and I hope you agree that even in this go-ahead-and-download-it age of immediate convenience, the visual art remains pivotal to an album experience.
Someone you think got left out? If you’ve got any suggestions to add, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to get a discussion going in the comments, so please, have at it.
I’m not sure how much there is left to say about the magnitude of the work Italian space doom trio Ufomammut has done. The sense I get now in listening to the two full-length albums that comprise the whole of Oro, their Neurot Recordings debut, is that they’ll probably have another record out before this one is fully comprehended. One might have said the same thing about 2010’s Eve as well, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Broken into the two parts Oro – Opus Primum(review here) and Oro – Opus Alter(review here), Ufomammut‘s latest outing has them continuing to plunder the reaches of tonal space. Their sounds are far-out psychedelic even as they seem to bear a tectonic crunch, like plates moving continents. Bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Urlo, guitarist/keyboardist Poia and drummer Vita have persistent as a set trio since 1999, and have never failed to outdo their prior work on the subsequent outing.
The strata that’s put them into, however, is entirely their own. Eve– which was preceded by 2008’s Idolum, also one of that year’s best — was one long composition broken into individual pieces. Orois one album broken into two releases. Do you see where this is going? In a few years, Ufomammut will be issuing 10LP box sets each time out. Maybe not, but what matters most of all is that as the scale of their work has expanded, so has their creative scope, and Orois the most vibrant Ufomammut release to date. One would have to expect no less.
I waited to interview the band until Oro – Opus Alterwas released so that the full project could be discussed, and today I have the sincere pleasure of hosting both that Q&A and a video premiere for Ufomammut‘s self-made clip for the track “Sulphurdew.” Similar to how opening track “Empireum” from Oro – Opus Primum made its way to the public, “Sulphurdew” arrives as a YouTube clip constructed by the Malleus Rock Art Lab, of which Urlo — who fielded these questions — and Poia are a part.
You’ll find both the “Sulphurdew” video and the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.