They weren’t the first stoner rock band to come from the UK, but with their third album, 2000’s The Big Black, London outfit Orange Goblin more or less perfected the form. Produced by Billy Anderson and released through Rise Above and The Music Cartel, it produced a couple of classics for the Orange Goblin canon, the band — who were then a five-piece with guitarist Pete O’Malley alongside the steady-to-this-day lineup of vocalist Ben Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner — still regularly featuring “Scorpionica” and “Quincy the Pigboy” at, well, certainly at every show I’ve seen them play. These songs are quintessential Orange Goblin, and as a one-two punch at the start of The Big Black, the album sets itself a high standard to meet, but to ignore “Cozmo Bozo,” “Alcofuel” and “The Big Black” itself is to ignore the axe swinging down on the back of your neck. Front to back, Orange Goblin‘s third is all the whisky stomp and riffly righteousness that has come to define them in the years since, and a record that, at 15 years old, sounds more vital today than when it was released.
It closes the week with Desertfest in mind, the festivals in London and Berlin held this weekend. Orange Goblin played The Big Black in full last night in Berlin, and they’ll do the same tonight in London before a hometown crowd that’s the center from which their influence has spread out worldwide. I can only imagine the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town going off to “Hot Magic, Red Planet” as the band storms through the album, and yeah, I’ll cop to a bit of jealousy for those who are there or were in Berlin to see it. I haven’t been to Desertfest in two years, and the festival has grown substantially in that time in terms of the names they bring in, but to have Orange Goblin nail down The Big Black for all to see shows their roots are strong in heavy, and however they may have expanded — geographically or stylistically — that continues to be an essential part of what they do. And The Big Black is nothing if not essential heavy. Seems like a good fit to me. Wish I was there.
Hope you enjoy.
Had that job interview Wednesday, and I have no problem admitting it has utterly consumed my consciousness since. Sleep’s a respite, and I’ve been working hard to keep working hard both because there’s stuff to do (already behind for Monday, thanks) and because I’ve needed the distraction from waiting to find out if I got the gig or not. I don’t know, incidentally. Another phone interview Tuesday and then hopefully some word. Apparently it’s down to me and one other person. I want the job. I mean, I need a job. I want this one. I can do this one. Fingers crossed for the next 90 hours or so, and then probably a while afterwards as well.
Next week kind of depends on how that turns out, but I’ve got an EP stream slated for Sinister Haze and reviews due for Lamp of the Universe, Samurai and Cigale, and golly it would be nice to get through all of them. Tuesday’s actually kind of a special deal as well because I’ve got an interview going up with the guys from Death Alley that was really cool. Whole-band interviews are kind of a crapshoot, could go either way, but this was one of the best interviews of any sort I’ve done in a long time. I’ll be transcribing it this weekend and it should go live with a stream of the title-track to their upcoming debut LP, Black Magick Boogieland, which is also awesome.
That’ll be up in the afternoon, probably, so keep an eye out, and if you’re interested (or if you’re not), I’ll probably give some update on my professional situation when I have an update to give. The last couple days have been full-on hurry-up-and-wait, and I expect this weekend will be more of the same. At least baseball’s on.
I put a thing out on Thee Facebooks earlier today, but worth noting here as well that The Obelisk Radio hit a new high for the amount of people listening at once this week, more or less blowing the last one out of the water, and that is thoroughly appreciated. If you’ve listened at all, thanks.
Have a great and safe weekend. Enjoy and we’ll see you back here Monday. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Further proof of how deeply the adage of never-say-never applies to rock and roll. Loop, classic logo and all, have a new EP coming this summer. Array 1 will see release through ATP Recordings, the label arm of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, and will be the first new stuff to come from the Robert Hampson-led outfit since 1990, which if you’ve lost count, was 25 years ago. Twenty-five.
Loop have been doing live shows for over a year now — they killed in 2014 at Roadburn and Hampson did likewise this year sitting in with Hugo Morgan, Wayne Maskell and Simon Poole (all also of The Heads) for a Kandodo set — but new studio material is something different entirely. Morgan and Maskell and guitarist Dan Boyd join Hampson in Loop, and Array 1 promises to be the first in a series of outings from the revived underground legends.
Info follows, courtesy the PR wire:
Loop Announces First New Material in 25 Years, Upcoming Shows
New ‘Array 1′ EP Available 6.22 Digital, 7.24 Physical on ATP
Towards the end of 2013 saw the reformation of one of the most revered and respected late 80’s UK alternative bands, LOOP. The group, founded by Robert Hampson, hadn’t played together since the early 90’s but got together to curate a night at the legendary All Tomorrow’s Parties at Camber Sands. US dates followed in 2014 and they then got back in the studio to start recording. The result is three brand new releases coming over the next year which see the band return to their hugely unique and era defining sound whilst sounding fresh and exciting.
The first release is ‘Array 1’, four tracks and 32 mins of haunting, aggressive, beautiful noise. ‘Precession’, ‘Aphelion’, ‘Coma’ and ‘Radial’ are the first songs to be heard from their recording session done in Sub Station Studios in Rosyth in Scotland with the current line up of Robert Hampson (vocals/guitar), Hugo Morgan (bass), Wayne Maskell (drums) and Dan Boyd (guitar). With only an early version of ‘Precession’ having had any previous outing (at a show at the Garage in London at the end of 2014), this is the very first new music from the band since their third album, 1990’s lost classic ‘A Gilded Eternity’.
The next tracks will be released in the Autumn in keeping with Loop’s previous habit of putting out music in batches, Hampson describes it as “one project, with the same concept, delivered in bulletins”.
With the music out on 22nd June 2015, this ties in with a show at the Roundhouse in London on 28th June where they are part of the line-up of ATP’s Season at the Roundhouse. The event, curated by post rock band Mogwai to celebrate their 20th Anniversary, will be spread over six nights and see performances from the likes of Public Enemy, GZA, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Tracklisting A1. Precession A1. Aphelion A3. Coma B1. Radial
Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here we are, the final day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review. I won’t lie and say it’s been easy this whole time, but the challenge has been worth it. Will I do another one? I guess that depends on how backed up records get. Even with all of this, I haven’t managed to fit in everything, so yeah, it doesn’t seem unlikely I’ll wind up with fodder for more of this kind of thing. Once again, not at all a hardship to have people interested enough in having me write about their music to send it to me. Not at all something I’m going to complain about.
Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read or share the link or whatnot, and of course to bands and labels for caring enough to send the music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Bubonic Bear, Shaved Heat
In and out of their three-song Shaved Heat tape in under 10 minutes, one could hardly accuse Philly guitar/drum duo Bubonic Bear of being overly elaborate in their approach, but the tracks, particularly closer “Clean,” drive home their post-hardcore rawness with suitable intensity. No frills, just impact. Vocals are raw shouts and the blue tape, which is limited to 50 copies through Bastard Sloth Records, has a kind of avant garde charm, underground in the house-show sense and mean, mean, mean, but probably nice enough to talk to. “Chlorine,” “Witch Pyle” and “Clean” are arranged shortest to longest, but all three hover around three minutes and tear into frenetic turns and let’s-call-it-spirited pummel. Andrew and Dustin, the pair involved, have a slew of EPs and splits and one full-length under their belt, and their six-plus years together are evident in the sheer fact that they can execute material so chaotic without having it fall apart under their stamping feet.
From its biker chug to its unabashed confrontationalism and attitude-laced approach to songs like “Who Crowned You King” and “Axe to Grind,” The F.T.W.’s Vendetta Kind of Mood just screams oldschool New York. Not the New York that’s the family-friendly (as long as you’re rich) center of the fashion world, but the New York that was really eager to tell you about how it was going to kick your ass, if not actually do so. The 10-track vinyl self-release is clean in its production and straightforward structurally, but has a gritty undercurrent anyway, showing some thrash (or is that NYHC? So hard to tell sometimes) influence in “Bleed Out” and a bit of rawer punk in “Billy Bats,” though they wait till the closer to actually extract a “Pound of Flesh,” which they slice with a choice solo and some Judas Priest riffing from guitarist TheMajor Nelson, joined in the trio by bassist/vocalist Michael Dolan and drummer Jason Meraz. Something tells me they’re not abbreviating “for the win.”
Kristalliarkki is the third offering from Finland’s Seremonia on Svart Records, and while all of their albums have thrilled in that quiet, warm-toned, psych-proto-ritual kind of way, the crystal ark is where it’s at. The record lands big with penultimate 14-minute sprawler jam “Kristalliarkki I,” open enough to set down a blanket and have a picnic next to the tree line, but before they get there, the five-piece of vocalist Noora Federley, guitarists Teemu Markkula and Ville Pirinen drummer/flautist Erno Taipale and bassist Ilkka Vekka vibe out fuzzy hypnosis on eight shorter native-language tracks, otherworldly from the word “go” and held together with a glue of ‘70s-style shufflebuzz on “Lusiferin Lapset” and the quick bouncer “Kuolema Voittaa” that beg to be dug on repeat visits. At just 1:14, “Kristalliarkki II” taps punker soul to close out with a sudden finish that leaves one wondering what the hell just happened, and no doubt that’s exactly what Seremonia had in mind.
JPT Scare Band, Acid Acetate Excursion & Rape of the Titan’s Sirens
A twofer! Kansas City acid rockers JPT Scare Band – Jeff Littrell (“J”), Paul Grigsby (“P”) and Terry Swope (“T”) – dig into their archival material to couple their first two records, Acid Acetate Excursion and Rape of the Titan’s Sirens, for Ripple Music. Both were recorded in the ‘70s but not released until 1994 and 1998, respectively, and the trio’s blown-out heavy continues to wear its years well, the bluesy fire in Swope’s guitar work leading the way through 81 minutes of long-range jams and classic vibes, still underrated after all these years. The second record has more bite tonally than the first, the recording is rougher, but I won’t take anything away from the force behind the 13-minute “King Rat” from the debut either. Think of it as an archival release more than a reissue, and if you haven’t yet been introduced to JPT Scare Band, think of the vinyl as an educational expense.
Bordeaux trio Libido Fuzz trip out pretty hard on heavy ‘70s influences, but I feel like their Kaleido Lumo Age debut LP (on Pink Tank Records) is all the more praiseworthy for the simple fact that it doesn’t sound like Graveyard. Casting off much of the blues that seems to have afflicted so many the world over, Thibault Guezennec, Pierre-Alexis Mengual and Rory O’Callaghan dip back maybe a couple years before ’71, let’s call it ’68, but filter the Hendrix and The Who influences through modern tonality, which means that a boogier like “Raw Animal” and the proto-stoner shuffle of “Enter the Occult” satisfy in concept and execution. Each of the evident two sides caps with a cut past the eight-minute mark, and both “Redemption of the Bison” and album closer “Haight Ashbury” offer significant heavy psych immersion, though it’s the side B finale that ultimately wins out thanks to its second half journey into noise wash, lysergic swirl, last-minute nod and epilogue of birdsong-esque feedback.
Filth-caked Montreal trio Dopethrone eat crust and shit riffs on their Totem Cat-released fourth record, Hochelaga, coating themselves in backpatch-worthy tone and throat-searing screams that would do Bongzilla proud. Weedian scummery through and through. Save for “Dry Hitter,” each of Hochelaga’s seven tracks starts with a sample, as if to emphasize the utter stoner fuckall with which Dopethrone – guitarist/vocalist Vincent, bassist Vyk and drummer Borman – execute their rolling grooves and lumbering viciousness once it kicks in. “Sludgekicker,” “Vagabong” and “Riff Dealer” tell the tale, and the record’s 40 minutes play out in largely unipolar but universally righteous fashion, “Scum Fuck Blues” summing up the ethic nicely with the line, “Smoke, drink, die.” Dopethrone make a show of their rawness, but Hochelaga’s fullness of tone and clarity of aesthetic speak to an underlying sense of knowing what they’re doing, and a record this cohesive doesn’t happen by accident, much as it might be telling you otherwise. That doesn’t mean they’re not also high as hell, just that they can keep it together.
A presumed sequel to their 2013 debut, They Fall, Hamburg trio The Moth‘s sophomore full-length, And Then Rise, pulls off heavy rock ethics with a heavy metal sense of purpose and basks in an overarching tension throughout its nine tracks. Fast or slow, doomed or thrashing, cuts like “Battle is Over” and “Travel Light” carry a progressive feel to match their hooks, later doomers like “Slowly to Die” and closer “Fire” – which hides a bonus track in its span – holding onto the tightness even as the relinquish in terms of pacing. Dark atmospherically but brazenly intricate, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Freden, bassist/vocalist Cécile and drummer Tiffy are never showy or putting on a technical clinic, but everything seems to be geared toward the purpose of enhancing the songs, which of course is the ideal. Because the sound is so condensed, it might take a couple listens for And Then Rise to sink in – not saying the chug of “Last Times” doesn’t also have immediate appeal – but The Moth’s genre-bending compositions prove worth the active engagement.
I’m pretty sure War Iron could play fast and it would still sound slow. They don’t really try it. Deep, deep low end is cut through by indecipherable-but-get-their-point-across-anyway screams on the Northern Irish four-piece’s third album, Precession of the Equinoxes, which plods out a grueling extremity of doom across its four included tracks, the shortest of which is the 7:37 “Summon Demon Scream the Abyss,” a harsh ritual of sonic heft and disaffection well met by its compatriots, from the churning opener “Bludgeon Lord,” to the title-track – which actually does up the pace somewhat, relatively speaking (and yes, it still sounds slow), and only temporarily – which crushes hopes and eardrums alike leading into the closer “From Napalm Altar,” a final affirmation of the deathly miseries at heart in War Iron’s approach, vocalist Baggy going high-low with screams and growls over the Ross’ guitar, Dave’s bass and Marty’s drums. It is a fearsome and challenging listen.
Guitarist/vocalist Owen Carty, formerly of underappreciated, coulda-been-contender sludge rockers Dopefight, lends his riffy services to the cumbersomely-named trio Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters (also stylized all-lowercase), who make their debut with the self-released five-song Earth Hog EP. Bassist Will Hart and drummer Mark Buckwell swing heavy and land hard on the opening title-track, and there’s not much letup from there, wah bass and cowbell leading to some fervent stomp in the second half of “Chopsticks and Bad Meatballs,” which starts out as a punk song, and “Devil’s Buttermilk” brazenly tackling Southern riffing without the chestbeating that way, way too often accompanies. More cowbell there too, because if you’re going to do something, overdo it. “Mother Chub” and “Riff Richard” close out, the latter with a slowdown that emphasizes the point: the kush may be bad, but the riffs are primo. Silly name or not, I’ll take this shit any day of the week, and considering Earth Hog was recorded in a living room, I have the feeling it’s only going to get louder from here. Right on.
With a sense that they’re continuing to feel out where they want to be sonically, Brazilian three-piece Red Mess follow-up last year’s Crimson EP (review here) with the newly-issued two-tracker Drowning in Red – apparently working on a theme chromatically – the cuts “Daybreak’s Dope” and “Ready to Go” impressive in performance and tone as guitarist/vocalist Thiago Franzim shreds out on the latter atop Lucas Klepa’s bass and Douglas Villa’s speaker-popping kick. Each song has a markedly different approach, with “Daybreak’s Dope” topping seven minutes via a Sleep-style rollout while, true to its title, “Ready to Go” seems to have no interest in holding its shuffle still. Pairing them shows sonic breadth, and in the case of the second, a bit of ‘70s influence to coincide with what they showed on Crimson, though the results will still ultimately be familiar. They’re making progress, though, and their cohesiveness and catchiness through stylistic shifts is encouraging.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Since no day is complete without a reminder of one’s getting old — beyond the fatigue, aches, malaise, etc., I mean — UK doomers Alunah will oversee a reissue of their 2010 album, Call of Avernus. Why does that make me feel old? Because I remember reviewing it when it first came out. Their full-length debut, it set the tone for the gorgeous and increasing lushness that would follow on their two subsequent outings, 2012’s White Hoarhound (review here) and last year’s righteous third, Awakening the Forest (review here), and while I guess it’s not unreasonable to put the record out there again — they, things get reissued after months, let alone years — it just doesn’t seem like that long ago that Call of Avernus showed up the first time.
HeviSike Records has made the LP — limited to 300 copies — available to preorder with new art and fancy one-per-customer limited-edition goodness. Orders went live yesterday and if they’re not already gone, no doubt they soon will be. PRC Music will have a new CD version of it out this year as well.
To the PR wire:
ALUNAH – CALL OF AVERNUS (LP) HVSK-1206
Birmingham based Alunah are not part of any scene; instead they carve their own path merging elements of doom, psych and classic heavy rock with earthy hypnotic vocal melodies. HeviSike Records are proud to present this deluxe issue of their debut album, Call of Avernus, for the first time on vinyl.
Through the band’s relentless touring schedule, which has seen them tour with the likes of Saint Vitus, Fu Manchu & The Sword, Alunah have gained a dedicated following. With this and the success of ‘White Hoarhound’ (2012) and ‘Awakening The Forest’ (2014) interest has grown in their 2010 opus ‘Call Of Avernus’ along with demand for a vinyl release.
Recorded by esteemed producer Greg Chandler (Esoteric) and specifically mastered for the vinyl format by the legendary Tony Reed (Mos Generator), ‘Call of Avernus’ is offered in a limited run of 300.
Specifications: – All new album artwork – Deluxe Gatefold Sleeve – High Performance Coloured Vinyl (Ultra Clear or Olive Green) – Strictly Limited (100 Die Hard, 200 Limited Edition)
Pressing breakdown: Die Hard Edition – 100 Copies – UltraClear Vinyl – Exclusive to HeviSike.com Limited Edition – 200 Copies – Olive Green Vinyl – Band and Distribution edition A CD issue is being handled by PRC Music.
Pre-order date: Thursday 2nd April 2015 Release date: Monday 11th May 2015
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Oh, America. You’re not even going to know what hit you, and before I get put on (another) government watch list, I’m talking about Conan‘s tone. I could tell you how long I’ve been waiting to write the words “Conan Announce US Tour Dates,” but suffice it to say, it’s been a long fucking time. The UK trio arrive on US shores a powerhouse, frontman Jon Davis running his own studio and label — Skyhammer and Black Bow Records, respectively — with new material in the works for their second album on Napalm behind last year’s destructive Blood Eagle (review here) to be recorded, presumably, later this year if they haven’t already started, longtime producer Chris Fielding now also playing bass in a revamped rhythm section that also includes drummer Rich Lewis, also of Cardiff’s Intensive Square.
And yeah, to answer your next question, I did put up these same tour dates yesterday when Samothrace announced them, but let it stand as an example of just how fucking important I think it is that Conan are coming to the States to tour that I’m using their announcement as well. They’ll be out with Samothrace and Mantar, and in addition to venerated East Coast rooms like the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn and Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia, they’ll also appear at Psycho California and Maryland Deathfest.
CONAN Announce North American Tour
The English CONAN follows the ideals of their namesake and continue their path without compromises. The second album Blood Eagle is a Doom Drone Metal monument filled with monolithic riffs, hypnotic melodies, brutal drumming and an archaic atmosphere. Blood Eagle was released last March in North America via Napalm Records. The album can be ordered iTunes and Amazon.
CONAN will be heading to North America this May on a headline tour. The tour kicks off May 6th in Atlanta, GA and is currently scheduled to run through May 23rd in Philadelphia, PA. Support on the tour will come from Samothrace and Mantar. Additional dates are expected to be added soon.
CONAN 5/6: Atlanta GA @ The Earl # 5/7: New Orleans LA @ Siberia # 5/8: Austin TX @ The Lost Well # 5/11: Denver CO @ Marquis Theater % # 5/14: Oakland CA @ Oakland Opera House % # 5/15: Santa Ana CA @ Psycho CA, The Observatory 5/16: Tempe AZ @ 51 West % # 5/18: Oklahoma City OK @ The Conservatory % # 5/21: Baltimore MD @ Maryland Deathfest # 5/22: Brooklyn NY @ Saint Vitus Bar # 5/23: Philadelphia PA @ Kung Fu Necktie % #
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors
Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record — and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.
A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.
Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.
With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.
Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014
Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.
Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.
Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos
With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.
Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost
Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.
Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.
Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I must be out of my damned mind. After wrapping up last year with a special feature comprising 50 reviews spread over five days, I’ve somehow decided that it’s not a bad way to do things. So here we are. It’s been three months, that’s a quarter of a year, so it seems only fair to have a Quarterly Review to catch up on some things that might otherwise have gone missed.
And that’s precisely what we’ll do. Between now and Friday, it’ll be 10 reviews per day, rounding up releases from the last couple months. Some are out now, some aren’t out yet, but it’s all recent one way or another. Like with the Last Licks 2014, I’ll be checking in each day as well. Should be fun to see how my mental status deteriorates over the course of the next few days, until my brains are little more than a stinky jelly dripping from out my ears on Friday. At least that’s how I remember it going last time.
So let’s go:
King Hitter, King Hitter
A North Carolina five-piece fronted by vocalist Karl Agell, best known as the frontman of Corrosion of Conformity for their 1991 Blind album – he’s also currently reviving that album live on stage with drummer Reed Mullin in C.O.C. Blind – the new outfit King Hitter reunites the singer with his former Leadfoot bandmate, guitarist Scott Little, and they test the waters with a five-track self-titled EP delivered via Candlelight Records. Crisply-produced, songs like “King Hitter” and “Feel No Pain” hit hard and gruff with just a touch of Southern heavy rock flair. The power of Agell’s voice is undiminished, but production is maybe too evident at times, and when they get down to the chugging “Suicide (Is the Retirement Plan,” politics meet personal perspective in a way that strikes deeper than might’ve been intended. Little and fellow guitarist Mike Brown, bassist Chuck Manning and drummer Jon Chambliss turn in worthy performances, but Agell’s command captures a good deal of the attention on this satisfying showcase of a songwriting process getting underway.
Because one invariably measures British anything in “waves,” we’ll put Oxford double-guitar five-some at the crest of the New Wave of British Burl. Omniscient is their third full-length behind 2013’s Horizontal Life and their 2010 debut, Forked Tongues (review here), and it arrives through Blindsight Records with all the brash Southern metal riffing and dudely bellow one might expect. Orange Goblin are an immediate name to drop in comparison to opener “Outlander,” but “Queen Reefer”’s quiet solo section adds breadth and the acoustic “Home,” the Clutchy “Night Bus Blues” and the stomping, subtle djentery of closer “Collapse of the Bison Lung” continue to reveal an extended palette. A richer listen than it might appear the first time through, Omniscient still revels in its heaviness on “Blue Snake Moan” and “Sway of the Tides,” etc., but changes like the tempo downshift in “Horizon” give fodder for repeat visits to Desert Storm’s howling third offering.
Welsh space rockers Sendelica feel out some pretty peaceful vibes on songs like “The Pillar of Delhi,” “Azoic” or the sweet-washing closer “The Hedge Witch” from their self-released cosmos-tripper Anima Mundi, but there’s no shortage of spaced-out push either in songs like the 12-minute jam “Master Benjamin Warned Young Albert Not to Step on the Uninsulated Air” and electronic-pulsing “Baalbek Stones.” An experimental spirit underlies each of the eight included instrumental cuts, elements like sax, synth, keyboards, theremin, flute and various effects intertwining throughout Anima Muni’s 54-minute sprawl. Quiet moments like “Azoic” work well, but I won’t take away from the buzzsaw tone or swing behind “The Breyr, the Taeogion and the Caethion” either. The truly fortunate aspect of Sendelica’s latest is that it flows between its individual pieces, putting the listener in a position of open-minded experience while working around and through various psychedelic impulses, carefully woven and balanced in the mix, but vibrant and exciting and loose-feeling just the same.
Of the 13 songs on Melbourne trio Drifter’s Desert Highways debut LP, Violent at Altitude, only four reach past the three-minute mark, and even most of those play off a fuzz-punk intensity, shades of Melvins weirdness and Nick Oliveri heavy punker charge showing up in cuts like “Cool Breeze” or the raw, open “Another Life.” Closer “So Long” is given another look from Drifter’s 2013 debut EP, Head (review here), which it also capped, but the feel across Violent at Altitude is that guitarist/vocalist Dan King, bassist/vocalist Troy Dawson and drummer/vocalist Dave Payne is exploring the place where grunge and punk met on pieces like “Bi Polar,” the relatively spacey “Devil Digger” and quick-blasting 1:45 rush of “Russian Roulette,” their tones mean and their attack primal in its overall affect in a way that belies the stylistic nuance at work throughout. You can listen on an analytical level or you can be steamrolled by “Drugs.” Your call. Either way, Drifter are gonna tear it up in accordance with the altitude they’ve apparently hit.
Sula Bassana’s performance at Roadburn 2014 was their first as a full band. The experimental psychedelic project of guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (see also Electric Moon, Krautzone, Zone Six, Weltraumstaunen, etc.) came to life with his Electric Moon bandmates Komet Lulu on bass and Marcus Schnitzler on drums, as well as Zone Six’s Rainer Neeff on guitar, and the four jams of the live recording Live at Roadburn 2014 tell the tale brilliantly. Schmidt, who is quite simply among the foremost heavy psych jammers in the world, leads the four-piece through cascading movements, immersive and clear on record as they were in person, rich with a sense of improvised creation even if based on prior parts. Anything went, as the 18-minute “Dark Days” showcases here, with synth and guitar and heavy bass intertwining to a brilliant cosmic whole, Schnitzler’s drums holding the proceedings together wonderfully. Short at 50 minutes, it’s every bit as switched on as one might expect in a studio album from these players, blurring yet another line as they expand psych-rock consciousness.
To listen to opener “Still Alone” from Strange Here’s Minotauro Records raw second LP, II, one might expect that Alexander Scardavian (ex-Paul Chain) and Domenico “Dom” Lotito (ex-Hand of God) are presenting some loosely-swung classic doom, shades of Candlemass and Death SS filtered through heavy riffing and Scardavian’s gruff vocals, but that’s barely half the story. More is told by putting eight-minute tracks “Born to Lose” and “Black, Grey and White” next to each other, as they appear here. Following the opening duo of “Still Alone” and the echoing “Kiss of Worms,” the two longer cuts unveil a sound alternately diving into morose doomed march and spacious psychedelic flourish. That blend continues as the marching “Acid Rain” gives way to the acoustic/drone interplay of “Only If…”and comes to a head on closer “Shiftless,” a contrast of back-and-forth impulses played off each other throughout the 47-minute offering. There’s work to do bringing the sides together should Strange Here choose to go that route, though the lines drawn between make it that much easier to catch the listener off guard, which II just might.
Marked out by the jazzy noodling of “The Douche Bag Guru” and the funky bassline on “Drift,” the new self-titled EP from Dayton, Ohio, four-piece Once-Ler dates back a decade in some of its material, the track “Law Dog” having appeared on the band’s 2005 full-length, Entropy. It’s an unassuming rumble, sort of humbly produced for a garage-heavy feel, but the clarity of purpose in centerpiece “Swing the Leg”’s crashing progression is plain enough to hear, and opener “The Victim” is the longest cut at 6:43, earning immediate points. A prog-metal undertone in that track sets up some expectation that the EP veers quickly away from with “Drift,” but guitarist Burns, bassist Deininger, vocalist Reif and drummer Minarcek make a solid case despite the rough sonic edges in the recording. At 25 minutes, Once-Ler’s Once-Ler is enough to give an impression of where the band is headed and a demo-style look at what their progressive heavy rock has to offer.
Pummel, pummel, pummel. Vancouver trio Waingro debut at full-sprint with their 11-track/31-minute self-titled, which wastes little time shaking hands and goes immediately for the jugular on “Firebird.” About 10 seconds in, and the ride is underway with little letup to come as Waingro shove heavy tones along at breakneck speed on cuts like “Tailwind,” “Force Fed” and “Bathed in Tongues.” A remarkable sense of control lies beneath, the trio blending hardcore punk, heavy tones and modern metal twists fluidly as interludes like “Matador,” “St. Regis” and “Arboria” add complexity of method and “Rekall,” “Ride” and most especially side B cappers “Black Dawn” and “True North” brazenly craft something of Waingro’s own from familiar components. This album is self-released, but particularly if Waingro are able to tour at any length, it’s hard to imagine some imprint wouldn’t want to stand behind their brash but engaging thrust, professional already in its assured sensibility and rhythmic impact. The real question is whether they’ll wait around for anyone to notice or push ahead with the momentum they build here.
There’s little room left for frills amid the sludge-punk sneer of Motorgoat’s The Iron Hoof of Oppression, which makes no bones about its affinity for booze, metal and fuckall on songs like “Satanic Slacker,” which boasts the lines, “Trippin’ balls is total bliss/He don’t know what day it is,” and so on. Obviously there’s a humor element to “Revenge of the Towndrunk” and “No Pants – No Problems,” but the German four-piece have a sincere vibe as well as they recount loser tales in a viciously-toned punk-metal spirit, less tune-in-drop-out than tune-out-drop-tune, but it turns out heavy either way. Cohesive in spite of its stated penchant for chaos, The Iron Hoof of Oppression offers partytime disaffection that’s so prevalent it might as well be post-modern. After the world has ended, there’s nothing left to do but dance, and Motorgoat seem (mal)content to let their own hooves stomp the floor. An album that gets better when you read the lyrics. Don’t be fooled by how dumb they seem to be calling themselves.
The tell? The tell is the scream just before North Carolina foursome The Seduction move into the bouncing bridge on “Volga,” which launches their Mechanical Pig Records debut, You Catch Fire. From there, it’s pretty easy to hear the metallic vibe beneath their stoner-punk aesthetic. It comes up again in the breakdown for the later “Hell on Two Wheels,” but it’s there anyway, adding an aggressive edge to the record, which at 53 minutes has plenty of room for the breadth of the rocking highlight centerpiece “Flavor of the Weak” or the depth-charge of the penultimate “Starmageddon” – a few more screams there amid spit-out hardcore shouts – but it’s the meld of these with the party-pit vibe of “Daughter of a Holy Man” and “Irish Flu” that makes You Catch Fire effective in taking cues from some of the West Coast’s heavy methods – some Red Fang, some Queens of the Stone Age — and presenting them with a definitively East Coast punch.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
UK acid folkers Galley Beggar will release their third album, Silence and Tears, on May 19. It’s their label debut on Rise Above, which in itself is notable, but even more so is the six-piece’s warm, melodic approach to classic folk ideals and how subtly they work in just a hint of modern revivalist psychedelia — not quite tonally weighted, but hinting in that direction and giving a sense of spontaneity and a broader stylistic reach to the material on the record. In short, it’s a release worth keeping an eye on. A logical pick-up for Rise Above given some of the imprint’s ’60s fascinations of the last couple years, and it should be interesting to see how Silence and Tears is received by their audience. For what it’s worth, I’m digging it so far.
Details follow, off the PR wire:
GALLEY BEGGAR to Release Silence & Tears May 19th via Rise Above Records
Unbelievably, it’s almost 50 years since Fairport Convention and their followers – Steeleye Span, Trees, Dando Shaft, Mellow Candle and others – fashioned British folk-rock. Kent-based sextet GALLEY BEGGAR – who take their name from a mischievous spirit in English folklore – describe their mission as ‘to imagine the next phase of English folk-rock’ on their third album, Silence & Tears. “We’ve always loved English folk, but when we formed in 2009 it felt like nothing much was happening to carry the style forward,” says guitarist Mat Fowler, “so we thought, we love listening to folk-rock and we love playing it – why not try to write something in that vein?”
The results can be heard on their earlier albums, Reformation House and Galley Beggar, and now on Silence & Tears. “Our first record was very folky,” reflects Mat, “but since then we’ve moved towards a more electric rock feel.” Indeed, the eight tracks on the new album span traditional song, Gothic balladry and peculiarly British acid rock, the mood alternately fragile and robust, with sweet vocal harmonies (led by Maria O’Donnell), lyrical guitar playing from Mat and his cohort David Ellis, and added texture from the violin of Celine Marshall (calling to mind Mr. Fox’s Carolanne Pegg), all anchored by Bill Lynn’s steady bass and Paul Dadswell’s deft drumming. The material spans reworkings of the ancient classics Geordie and Jack Orion, brooding ballads like Adam & Eve and the otherworldy Empty Sky, and the intense 9-minute epic Pay My Body Home, which triumphantly recalls folk-rock’s early 70s glory days.
Silence & Tears may echo centuries of folk tradition, but its crisp, punchy sound is resolutely modern, despite calling on retro flourishes such as phasing, wah-wah and backwards guitar. Much of that is down to the fact that it was recorded at the profoundly analogue Toe Rag studios, where White Stripes, Tame Impala, the Zutons and many others have also worked with renowned producer-engineer Liam Watson. “We made our first two albums ourselves,” says Mat, “so this was the first time someone else has produced us. Recording at Toe Rag was just wonderful – to see all that incredible gear at work, and to have a tangible recording experience rather than staring at a screen, was amazing. And watching Liam at work is mesmerizing – the sounds he gets onto tape are better than they are in real life!”
In an era when bands such as Trembling Bells, Circulus and Wolf People have brought folk-rock to the fore again, the hypnotic interplay and inspired jamming on Silence & Tears is sure to find an enthusiastic audience. “We’ve already got a few festivals lined up this summer, including Leigh Folk Festival and Wessex Festival, and several other shows are still being arranged,” says Mat. “It’s an honour to be compared to other folk-rock bands – but we like to think we’ve got something of our own to offer too.”