Posted in audiObelisk on October 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
London heavy rockers Stubb will release their second album, Cry of the Ocean, on Nov. 14. Their first for Ripple Music, it was recorded in Skyhammer Studios, mastered by Tony Reed, and pushes further into the classic-rock-inspired vibes of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which came across as a fuzzer’s delight with the memorable songwriting of guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson at the fore. Dickinson, who’s joined once again by bassist/backing vocalist Peter Holland (Trippy Wicked, Elephant Tree) and new drummer Tom Fyfe, continues to refine his approach on the new album, branching ambitiously into bolder elements of soul and heavy psychedelia.
Cry of the Ocean is a more complex offering, as the sweet acoustics of “Heartbreaker” and the handclap-inclusive apex of the two-part opening title-track demonstrate, but ultimately no less satisfying. Dickinson, Holland and Fyfe have been able to expand the palette of the first record while still maintaining the basic focus on craftsmanship that made so many of that outing’s cuts resonate. So “Heavy Blue Sky” might unfurl with a more melancholy roll, and “Devil’s Brew” might get down to boogie business in quick fashion ahead of the organ-ified “Snake Eyes,” but what ties the material together is the quality of its execution, and in branching out, Stubb seem to in no way have bit off more than they can chew. “Snake Eyes” and the subsequent “You’ll Never Know,” at seven minutes each, make up a substantial closing duo that brings out some of Cry of the Ocean‘s best moments. And in case you’re worried, there’s no shortage of fuzz either.
As proof, today I have the pleasure of hosting “Sail Forever” for streaming. In it, one can get a sense of the wider emotional net that Cry of the Ocean casts and the warm tones that have remained very much an essential part of their approach. Stubb push the balance to one side or the other several times over the course of the eight tracks, but “Sail Forever” makes an excellent summary, pulling its vibe from elements on all sides and putting it to use with one of the LP’s strongest hooks.
Hope you dig it:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Stubb‘s Cry of the Ocean is due Nov. 14 in North America, Nov. 17 in Europe. More info at the links below.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desertfest teased this announcement yesterday, and since Human Disease Promo/When Planets Collide have put together a stage at each of the past fests, that they’d do so again at Desertfest London 2015 isn’t a huge surprise, but still, they’ve acquired some killer acts to fill it out. The reactivated Minsk will apparently make a trip overseas next April, and Black Cobra will return to Desertfest after playing at the Underworld last year. Add Noothgrush on top as headliners and Dopethrone, Agrimonia and Walk through Fire to round it out and it’s safe to say Desertfest London won’t be lacking for sludge next year.
The PR wire put it like this:
NOOTHGRUSH, MINSK, BLACK COBRA, DOPETHRONE, AGRIMONIA and WALK THOUGH FIRE confirmed for DESERTFEST LONDON 2015
Like every year, London promoters When Planet Collides and Human Disease Promo will be curating a stage at The Underworld, hosting some of the most crushing and bleak riffage on the whole festival. Let’s all welcome the mighty NOOTHGRUSH, MINSK, BLACK COBRA, DOPETHRONE, AGRIMONIA and WALK THROUGH FIRE at DESERTFEST LONDON 2015, taking place on April 24-26th in Camden.
Already confirmed: SLEEP RED FANG ORANGE GOBLIN MY SLEEPING KARMA
Human Disease Promo / When Planets Collide Stage NOOTHGRUSH MINSK BLACK COBRA DOPETHRONE AGRIMONIA WALK THROUGH FIRE
For the fourth year running, Camden will be hosting one of the most exciting stoner/doom/sludge/psyche gatherings in Europe, for a full weekend of fuzzed-out tunes, psychedelia and partying. As the first headliner of this 2015 edition, American stoner rock pioneers SLEEP will be treating the Desertfest crowd to the finest smoked-out odysseys, with an exclusive headlining set at London’s famous venue Koko. Also headlining, Portland’s heavy rock’n’rollers RED FANG are set to turn this fourth edition into a massive metal celebration. The ground is set to tremble once again this year, with UK metal heavyweights ORANGE GOBLIN delivering their fiery metal anthems for a one-off 20th anniversary performance. It’s very rightfully than German psych foursome MY SLEEPING KARMA will be perfectly embodying the cosmic side of the lineup.
This new announcement with cult North-American outfits NOOTHGRUSH, MINSK, BLACK COBRA and DOPETHRONE, as well as Sweden based AGRIMONIA and WALK THROUGH FIRE is giving our 2015 lineup the blackened twist that is expected by all sludge and doom worshippers each year. Impending earthquake in Camden…
Posted in Radio on October 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I wanted to make sure I did a round of radio adds for this week. Not just because they’re fun to do and it’s a bit like submerging my head in heaviness for an afternoon, but because I’ve already got one or two records in mind to join the playlist next week (or the week after, depending on time) and I don’t want to get too far behind. As always, these five are just picks out of the bunch. Over 20 records went up to the server today, so there’s much more than this to dig into. As well as all the rest of everything up there. I don’t even know how much stuff that is at this point. Last I heard from Slevin, it was “a lot.” Nothing like more, then.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Oct. 16, 2014:
Godflesh, A World Lit only by Fire
It seems that after a decade-plus of moving further away from Godflesh‘s sound in Jesu, guitarist/vocalist Justin K. Broadrick has had no problem whatsoever slipping back into songwriting for the ultra-influential early-industrial outfit. Preceded by an EP called Decline and Fall (review here) that was also released through Broadrick‘s Avalanche Recordings imprint, the 10-track A World Lit Only by Fire harnesses a lot of the churn that was so prevalent in prime-era Godflesh and, more impressively, successfully channels the same aggression and frustration without sounding like a put-on. The chug in “Carrion” is visceral, and while “Life Giver Life Taker” recalls some of the melody that began to show itself on Godflesh‘s last album, 2001’s Hymns, and subsequently became the core of Jesu, songs like “Shut Me Down” and the gruelingly slow “Towers of Emptiness” find Broadrick and bassist G.C. Green enacting a familiar pummel that — and this is a compliment — sounds just like Godflesh. No doubt some of that is because so much of the duo’s elements are electronic, and while they might sound dated after a while, electronics don’t actually age in the same way people do, but even in the human core of the band, Godflesh are back in full, earth-shattering force. A World Lit Only by Fire is a triumphant return. I don’t know if it necessarily adds much to the Godflesh legacy that wasn’t already there, but as a new beginning point, a sort of second debut, its arrival is more than welcome. Godflesh on Bandcamp, Justin Broadrick on Thee Facebooks.
Early Man, Thank God You’ve Got the Answers for us All
After starting out in Ohio and making their way to New York around the middle of the last decade, the duo of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mike Conte and guitarist Pete Macy – better known as Early Man – recorded their new album, Thank God You’ve Got the Answers for us All, as they put, “inside various closets, attics and basements within the greater Los Angeles area over the past year.” I recall seeing them in Manhattan and getting their demo in 2004/2005 and Early Man was the shit. They were gonna be huge. A contract with Matador Records brought their debut and then they went five years before their next album came out, and by then, retro metal and heavy rock has passed them by. Thank God You’ve Got the Answers for us All taps some of the same younger-Metallica vibing of their earliest work on “Black Rains are Falling” and closer “The Longer the Life,” but the current of Sabbathian heavy that was always there remains strong and “Always Had a Place in Hell to Call My Own” ups the ante with a more punkish take. The recording is raw in the new digital sense, but the tracks get their point across well enough, and Conte‘s songwriting has always produced some memorable results — the keyboard-soaked “Hold on to Nothing” stands out here — but it seems like the story of Early Man is still waiting to be told. Early Man on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural
Any given song, it can be hard to tell where Detroit’s Temple of Void come down on the spectrum of doom/death and death/doom, but whatever genre tag you want to stick on it, their debut long-player, Of Terror and the Supernatural, is fucking grim. A roaring morass of thuds, low growls, bouts of extreme violence and bludgeonry, and horror — oh, the horror. Last year’s Demo MMXIII (review here) was fair enough warning, but what the double-guitar five-piece do across these eight tracks is a cruelty of atmosphere and lurch. Squibbles perpetrate “Invocation of Demise,” which also has some surprise key work that sounds like a flute, and a moment of respite arrives with the subsequent “To Carry this Corpse Evermore” in Opethian acoustics, but as the title would indicate, “Rot in Solitude” throws the listener right back into the filth and it’s there Temple of Void seem most in their element. Buried deep in “Exanimate Gaze” is a melodic undertone and 10-minute finale “Bargain in Death” shows a fairly dynamic approach, but the core of what they do is rooted in toying with a balance between death and doom metals, and already on their first outing they show significant stylistic command. If they tour, it’s hard to imagine one of the bigger metal labels –Relapse, Metal Blade – wouldn’t want them somewhere down the line. Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks, Saw Her Ghost Records, Rain without End Records.
Mage, Last Orders
UK fivesome Mage debuted in 2012 with Black Sands (review here) and showcased a burly blend of heavy rock and metal, and tonally and in the drums, their sophomore outing, Last Orders, follows suit in copping elements of thrash, Voivod-style otherwordliness and a penchant for shifting tempos effectively while keeping a seemingly downward path. Vocalist Tom has pulled back on the ultra-dudely vocals and it makes a big difference in the band’s sound for the better. He’s much better mixed and exploring some new ground on “The Fallen,” but he boldly takes on the task with the slower “Beyond” — the longest song here at six minutes flat — and comes out stronger for it. Guitarists Ben and Woody, bassist Mark and drummer Andy showcase some Electric Wizard influence in that song, but I wouldn’t tie Mage‘s sound to any one band, as “Lux Mentis” before offers huge-sounding stomp and “Violent Skies” after feeds an adrenaline surge of chugging and turns before opening to Last Orders‘ satisfying payoff, Tom tapping into mid-range Halford along the way and closer “One for the Road” reminding that there’s still a riffy side to the band as well. Mage on Thee Facebooks, Witch Hunter Records.
Lamperjaw, Demo EP 2014
Formed in 2011, Virginian trio Lamperjaw make their three-track debut with the descriptive Demo EP 2014, drunken-stomping the line between sludge and Southern heavy. One can’t help but be reminded of Alabama Thunderpussy‘s glory days listening to “Throw Me a Stone,” but with guitarist Dedrian, bassist Lane and drummer Codi all contributing vocals, Lamperjaw bring something immediately distinguishing to their approach. “Blood Dreams” aligns them with the burl-bringing Southern set, some screams and a metallic chug surprising after the opener’s booze-rocking vibe, but their real potential comes out on the seven-minute “Menace of a Cruel Earth,” which moves from low-in-the-mouth whoa-yeah-style grit across a successful linear build to a harmonized, well-arranged apex. It’s always hard to judge a band’s intent by their first release, and there’s a lot about their sound Lamperjaw are still figuring out, but they’ve given themselves some directional liquidity on their first demo, and it will be interesting to hear how they proceed from this point. Lamperjaw on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Like I said, this is just a fraction of the stuff that went up to the server this afternoon, so if you get a second, I hope you’ll peruse the The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page, or whatever it is I’m calling it in my head this week. It’s the same page as always either way.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
UK five-piece Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs issued their new two-track release, Psychopomp, first as a cassette in an edition of 50 copies, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, they’re gone. Just 48 hours after they came, they went. Fair enough. For the rest of us who let slip their chance to dig into “Psychopomp” or its foreboding, drone-fueled Joseph Curwen remix — each of the two tracks clocking in at 20 minutes, which makes for one hell of a cassingle — Box Records has made it available to stream and download in its freaked-out entirety.
Both “Psychopomp” and its remix — which one would hardly recognize were they not right next to each other — serve as a reminder to pay closer attention next time, as the cumbersomely-named band’s blend of heavy psych, noise and post-rock is one I’d certainly rather not miss. Lesson learned.
This from the PR wire:
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Psychopomp Available Now
Following their sold out 2013 split 12″ with The Cosmic Dead, Newcastle based psychedelic rocking composers Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (members of Ommadon, Blown Out, Khünnt) return with their sophomore opus – Psychopomp. The band once again meld their take on doom, psyche, stoner and classic to offer up 20 plus minutes of solid riffage and towering carnage. Citing so many genres may be cause for concern, but anyone familiar with their acclaimed debut ‘The Wizard and The Seven Swines’ will be aware of the band’s inexplicable ability to emphatically rock out through many styles whilst serving up a completely congruent and engaging listen.
True to form Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs adhered to the mysticism surrounding their band by presenting ‘Psychopomp’ on Box Records without fan fair on a run of 50 cassettes which sold out in just 2 days. There will be a second run of cassettes released when the planets fall freely through the cosmos and align when random probability dictates. Until then ‘Psychopomp’ is available as a digital download through Box Records which includes a completely mangled remix by Lovecraft inspired droner Joseph Curwen.
Posted in Reviews on October 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Birmingham doomers Alunah make their debut on Napalm Records with Awakening the Forest, their third album. It’s been a long two years since their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), left such a resounding impression — four since their debut, Call of Avernus (review here), was released — and in that time, some things have changed and others haven’t. The four-piece have traded out bassists, bringing Dan Burchmore aboard, and clocked considerable road time in support of their material, touring in the UK and Europe that’s resulted in a considerable forward movement in their songwriting. Their overarching approach, however, is consistent, as is their presentation. Awakening the Forest, like its predecessor, was recorded by Esoteric‘s Greg Chandler and mastered by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, and there’s sonic cohesiveness as a result between the two records. Likewise, Alunah‘s latest maintains the band’s penchant for themes of nature worship, guitarist/vocalist Soph Day here using metaphor and, one imagines, some escapism in coping with the loss of her father, songs like opener “Bricket Wood Coven,” “Heavy Bough” and “The Summerland” evoking an organic feel in lyric and tone alike, a fuller-sounding production from Chandler not taking away from the underlying warmth in Day‘s tone or that of her fellow guitarist David Day, the foursome rounded out by Jake Mason on drums. All told, Awakening the Forest‘s six tracks cover 45 minutes of expansive, rolling doom given an otherworldly feel by Soph‘s echoing vocals and fluid movement between and within the individual pieces.
It breaks about evenly into two vinyl sides and works that way as well, but I prefer a linear, CD-style listen because it underscores two elements working very much in Awakening the Forest‘s favor: The languidness of groove and the immersiveness of the record as a whole. You could put a platter-flip between “Awakening the Forest” and “The Mask of Herne” — which is the shortest cut included at 5:53 — but I’ll take it front-to-back and really dig into the chance to get lost in Alunah‘s rollout, slower here than on the last album overall but with choruses no less memorable or engaging, an overarching sleepy-woods feel pervading each cut in succession, beginning with “Bricket Wood Coven,” which oozes out choice, open-feeling riffing for its eight-minute entirety, Soph telling tales of a high priestess calling the moon, and by the time it’s over, the spell has been duly cast. The subsequent “Heavy Bough,” while shorter and somewhat more uptempo, is ultimately no less ethereal, and with “Awakening the Forest” and “The Mask of Herne” following — the latter referring to the antlers donned by Herne the Hunter, a ghost said in English folklore to haunt Windsor Forest, referenced in the album’s cover art — Alunah‘s hypnosis is long since complete, the title-track offering a high point in its hook, early soloing and spacious post-midpoint jam, and the latter launching Awakening the Forest‘s second half with particularly graceful vocal layering and a steady affirmation that the consuming fuzz on the songs prior was no fluke. Not that there was any doubt, but the reassurance is welcome all the same ahead of the closing duo, “Scourge and the Kiss” and “The Summerland.”
At 8:39 and 9:05, respectively, “Scourge and the Kiss” and “The Summerland” are the two longest songs on the album, and paired next to each other they make the trance-inducing aspects of earlier cuts all the more apparent. In its structure and focus on the chorus, “Scourge and the Kiss” stands in line with “Awakening the Forest” and “Bricket Wood Coven” as another strong execution of Alunah‘s songwriting, trading off brooding quietness with bigger-toned riffs and layered leads between the two intertwining guitars over the rhythmic foundation from Burchmore and Mason. In its vocals and in those leads, it gives heavy psychedelic flourish to what the band has already accomplished, and in the context of the album, it keeps the momentum moving forward, but the larger impression is made my the closer, which delves as close as Alunah have come to minimalism. A linear build begins soft and sentimental with the guitars, and immediately the focus is on atmosphere more than anywhere else on Awakening the Forest. Soph delivers her first vocals shortly before three minutes in, and though weightier distortion kicks in around the halfway point, a patient sensibility holding firm as “The Summerland” works its way toward its payoff. It never loses its contemplative, melancholy spirit, and that’s how Awakening the Forest ends. They don’t force an adrenaline surge where one doesn’t want to be, and above all, the final moments of Awakening the Forest seem honest in their intent and emotional portrayal. Whatever pagan elements might be at work throughout, Alunah‘s third album doesn’t veer from its human core, and for that, and for its marking the continued growth of the band and their coming into own in what they do, moving beyond their influences to an increasingly individualized approach, Awakening the Forest is their strongest outing yet.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After releasing their debut EP, Eat up the Sun, last year on Superhot Records, London trio Vodun – also seen as Vôdûn — issue their new single “Loa’s Kingdom” today as a free download in order to provide advance warning of their first full-length, which is due out next year. The three-piece take their cues from psychedelic rock, churning metallic tones and Afrobeat rhythmic complexity, and donning costumes and makeup for their stage show, they give a visual impression of a rawer form of Goat. The two acts actually share very little in common sonically, so don’t be fooled going into “Loa’s Kingdom,” which seems to subliminally implant its hook as it rushes past for a quick, under-three-minute listen.
Aside from the aesthetic vigilance, it’s that ability to blend memorable songcraft and a feeling of chaos that impresses most about Vodun, who never lose control of the material even when it seems most like it’s about to fly off the rails. Beginning with heavy rocks starts and stops and a forward percussive presence, “Loa’s Kingdom” unfolds with preaching vocals and a manic build of tension that lets loose in its chorus, the bass-less trio of singer Chantal Brown, drummer Zel Kaute (also of Groan) and guitarist Oliver Martinez enacting dizzying turns before a steady nod emerges. It’s a ferocious rush, and if it takes you two or three times through before you get your head around the song, my hope is you’ll consider it worth the effort.
Vodun head out on a round of UK dates Oct. 24. Find that list and some more info on “Loa’s Kingdom” under the player below, and enjoy:
Loa’s Kingdom is about the desire to transcend into the realm of the Gods – your highest self. A kingdom only fit for supreme beings, who must first pay penance to Papa Legba, as all the spirits do. He is the first and last, the beginning and end. He is the one who will let you into their world, and the one to let you out, so be generous with your offerings…
Rising from the ashes of London’s female-fronted metal band Invasion, VODUN blends a unique concoction of heavy metal and psychedelism, while embracing the African/Caribbean culture in the fullest possible way ever. Successfully reborn as voodoo Loa spirits Oya, Ogoun and Ghede, VODUN unleashed their first EP « Eat Up The Sun » in 2013, a perfect introduction to the trio’s singular and thrilling blend of shredding guitars, blazing rhythms and soulful vocals. After completing a short UK tour, the band revealed a vibrant new single entitled “Possession” (released in 2014 via the “New Heavy Sounds Vol. 3″ compilation), thus paving the way for their debut full-length, due out later in 2015. Second excerpt off VODUN’s forthcoming record, « Loa’s Kingdom » is a highly energetic ode to spiritual elevation marked by pounding riffage and incredibly catchy hooks. Get ready to unleash your inner Loa…
TOUR DATES 24.10 CAMBRIDGE – Portland Arms 25.10 COLCHESTER – The Old Bus Station 26.10 NOTTINGHAM – Stuck On A Name 27.10 WAKEFIELD – The Unity 28.10 MANCHESTER – Kraak Gallery 29.10 LIVERPOOL – Maguires Pizza Bar 30.10 BRISTOL – Mothers Ruin 01.11 LONDON – The Victoria
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Currently banging out a quick round of dates in Canada and a couple US shows surrounding ahead of hitting the road with Opeth and In Flames in December, raucous Portland heavy rock forerunners Red Fang have been announced as headliners for the London and Berlin 2015 editions of Desertfest. Both fests will take place at the end of next April. They join Sleep as one of the headliners for London and Orange Goblin‘s 20th anniversary special for Berlin, of course among many others and more to come.
Announcements from both Desertfests follow, yoinked from the PR wire:
RED FANG confirmed for Desertfest London 2015!
They need no introduction, each one of their gigs turns into the best metal party you’ll ever have: ladies and gents, we have the immense pleasure to confirm RED FANG as second headliner of DESERTFEST LONDON 2015, which will take place on April 24-26th in Camden.
For the fourth year running, Camden will be hosting one of the most exciting stoner/doom/sludge/psyche gatherings in Europe, for a full weekend of fuzzed-out tunes, psychedelia and partying. As the first headliner of this 2015 edition, American stoner rock pioneers SLEEP will be treating the Desertfest crowd to the finest smoked-out odysseys, with an exclusive headlining set at London’s famous venue Koko. Also headlining, Portland’s heavy rock’n’rollers RED FANG are set to turn this fourth edition into a massive metal celebration. The ground is set to tremble once again this year, with UK metal heavyweights ORANGE GOBLIN delivering their fiery metal anthems for a one-off 20th anniversary performance. It’s very rightfully than German psych foursome MY SLEEPING KARMA will be perfectly embodying the cosmic side of this first announcement.
Desertfest Berlin – April 23th, 24th & 25th 2015 – Red Fang added to the Line-up!
The fourth edition of our festival will take place once again in the famous ASTRA KulturHaus, in the beating cultural heart of BERLIN (F-Hain/X-Berg), from APRIL 23TH to 25TH 2015! We already look forward to welcome you again : 196 days left to wait :)
On the programme: 2 stages, around 25 bands playing across the 3 days, a beergarden, a hippie corner market and art exhibits… you know the formula… but also a bunch of new suprises that you will discover soon enough!
We started in September to unveil the first bands of a line-up that will totally blow you away, with a lot of exclusive/special shows: ORANGE GOBLIN “20 Year Anniversary Special Show”, MY SLEEPING KARMA “Album Release Party”… And we are proud to announce today that Portland’s Hard Rock Heroes RED FANG will headline one of the 3 nights!!
EARLY BIRDS TICKETS can already be purchased for 75€ via the link you will find a the end of this release!
Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Eight album’s deep into one of doom’s highest-profile careers, Electric Wizard don’t leave much room for middle ground. Indeed, the massively-influential Dorset forebears seem to delight in dividing listeners, and since their return in 2007 with Witchcult Today, they’ve continued to refine a cultish, horror-obsessed approach to malevolent stoner noise that can be taken one of two ways: It’s either brilliant or it’s terrible. To be fair to the band, who are joined on their latest outing, Time to Die (released on Spinefarm Records after a well-publicized schism with longtime label Rise Above), by original drummer Mark Greening, they’ve gamed the system pretty well. For the last seven years, Electric Wizard have pushed toward a style of doom that drives to be the noisiest, the most threatening, the filthiest, rawest-sounding mess possible. So if records like Time to Die or the preceding 2010 full-length, Black Masses (review here), come across as a wash of wah swirl marked out by samples and the abyssal moans of founding guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn, well, you have to give it to them — that’s exactly what they were going for. Sure enough, Time to Die is fuckall incarnate. At nine tracks/66 minutes, it’s the longest album Electric Wizard has ever done — 2000’s landmark Dopethrone was their only other outing to pass an hour — and however you might feel about the band, that they’re genius or that they’re hacks, it’s likely only to affirm your position. Recorded by Liam Watson with additional tracking by Chris Fielding, it’s the next stage in Electric Wizard‘s destructive progression, and it carries all the ultra-fuzz, sexualized violence and devil worship that those who follow or abhor the band have come to expect.
I’ll say that in the argument between genius or bullshit, the former perspective makes Time to Die a lot more fun. As Oborn and fellow guitarist Liz Buckingham seem to reference “The Phantom of the Opera” in the central riff of 10:45 opener “Incense for the Damned,” the vibe is immediately familiar for its darkness and for the hateful wash that fades in from the Sabbathian sampled rainfall. Of course, half the appeal of Electric Wizard particularly since Witchcult Today has been their ability to balance these chaotic atmospheres with a catchy bounce, and “Incense for the Damned” follows suit in that — bass on the album seems to have been handled by Clayton Burgess of Satan’s Satyrs and someone going by Count Orlof — as does the subsequent title-track and the penultimate “Lucifer’s Slaves,” but if there’s progress to be heard anywhere on Time to Die it’s in how much Electric Wizard have managed to blend their rhythmic hooks with freakouts of bleak, grainy psychedelia, songs like “I am Nothing” and the zombie-incantation “We Love the Dead” leaning to one side or another as the well-constructed overarching flow of the album plays out. “Funeral of Your Mind,” which opens the second platter of the 2LP release and the CD follows the well-placed samples topping the otherwise instrumental “Destroy Those Who Love God,” is the most effective at bringing together these various elements, and though it’s not as memorable as “Time to Die,” it’s a demonstrative high point (low point?) of Electric Wizard‘s ever-purposeful stylistic plunge. The guitars, forward in the mix as ever, ring out depravity in every swirl and Greening‘s drums stomp a far-back snare to ground Oborn‘s vague, effects-laden croon, which leads a gradual descent into the goateed mirror universe evil twin of what might otherwise be called a jam.
Ultimately, how much further Electric Wizard can push their current pursuit before it winds up sounding watered down or loses its visceral edge is a debate for another time. As the band’s third installment of the Oborn/Buckingham era, Time to Die is invariably a sequel to the two most recent albums before it, but though it continues some themes from Black Massesand Witchcult Today – closer “Saturn Dethroned” echoes “Destroy Those Who Love God”‘s gloomy instrumental approach, ending with a return to the rainfall that began “Incense for the Damned,” but the prior two LPs also had titles referring to Saturn — there is a personality on display in its darker, more vicious take, and where Black Masses was more of Electric Wizard‘s psychedelic party record, Time to Die is more twisted and relentless in its mood. Even the shorter, more relatively straightforward “SadioWitch” resides in a pervasive tonal murk, and its feel characterizes much of where the band is at throughout. There may be a formula at work here, but it’s not stagnant, and whether or not Electric Wizard have actually reached bottom is something that only subsequent offerings can tell. For now, their downward-minded progression is ongoing even as their notoriety continues to spread, and though they’ve contributed two generational landmarks over the course of their career in Dopethrone and Witchcult Today, very little on Time to Die seems to indicate they’re ready to live up to the title. For their legions of converted, the album will be another gospel of bleary-eyed triumph, and the rest will likely remain unpersuaded. Doesn’t look to have hurt the band any. It might be time on their next full-length for them to cut a new path or at least branch further off the one they’ve been on for the last seven years, but wherever Electric Wizard go, many follow.
Sometimes in listening to Captain Beyond‘s classic 1972 self-titled debut, it’s easy to forget that there were just four members in the band. At times they’re almost orchestral, layers of guitar and vocals making their way in and around winding, still-heavy riffs and grooves. The lineup was considerable even then — vocalist Rod Evans (ex-Deep Purple), guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt (ex-Iron Butterfly), bassist Lee Dorman (ex-Iron Butterfly) and drummer Bobby Caldwell (who played with Johnny Winter and would go on to form Armageddon) — but no question that Captain Beyond‘s Captain Beyond was more than the sum of its parts. Few records of the era so successfully bridged the then-widening gap between heavy rock and prog, and frankly few have come along since that could excite fans of both. Its bizarre structure, with each side almost a record unto itself with its own themes and progression, makes it all the more complex, but it’s also a remarkably smooth listen, with cuts like “Mesmerization Eclipse,” “Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air),” “Raging River of Fear” and “As the Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)” creating memorable, lasting impressions.
Lasting enough that Captain Beyond has had four decades of cult influence. After hearing Evans sing “Frozen Over,” I don’t think one can put on early Pentagram without hearing a similarity in Bobby Liebling‘s approach — Pentagram also had the lead track on Record Heaven‘s Thousand Days of Yesterdays tribute — and from The Atomic Bitchwax to Mastodon, scores of bands have taken lessons from Reinhardt‘s style of riffing and spaced-out leads, his layering acoustic and electric rhythms and the jazzy punch of the movement in this Caldwell‘s compositions. And Captain Beyond‘s Captain Beyond was truly a moment that wouldn’t come again. By the time a year has passed, Caldwell was out of the band, and replaced on 1973’s Sufficiently Breathless by Marty Rodriguez, with Dorman at the fore as principal songwriter. Sufficiently Breathless was a more than solid follow-up to Captain Beyond, but the group’s legacy continues to be based largely on their accomplishments here and the rare character and breadth that this album brought to bear. It is rightly considered among the most pivotal works of early heavy rock.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
So. Last Saturday, my mother-in-law’s old, sick pekingese got dropped off so The Patient Mrs. and I could take care of it while her mom was on vacation. You can see where this is going. The week started off — first thing Monday morning — with The Patient Mrs. asking me to get up and confirm her suspicion that the dog had died. Sure enough. I checked for a pulse, as if such a thing were possible on so fluffernutter a dog as a pekingese, and declared her suspicion correct. Added surreality came when a structural engineer and a lawyer showed up to look at something with the house (long, irrelevant story) and I had to hurry to pick up the dog and clean up the various leaked-out fluids so they could enter without having to step over the body. I had not yet brushed my teeth.
The Patient Mrs. found a local kennel that also doubled as a crematorium — take a second and let that sink in — so what else to do? I put the dog in a box and we drove over, about 15 minutes in the car. Our own dog, the little dog Dio, we left home to deal with her confusion. There was a form The Patient Mrs. filled out and then the lady behind the counter at the crematorium was like, “Okay, come on,” and directed us to follow her to the furnace, telling us along the way about the state contracts they have with the Mystic Aquarium, the roadkill, etc. All the while we’re on this piece of property back in the woods, walking past the pet cemetery, canopy of trees overhead with grey skies. I was fairly certain that The Patient Mrs. and I were both going to be killed and shoved in the furnace with only the texts I’d sent my family about the ordeal left for detectives to trace the whereabouts of our murderers.
We weren’t, thankfully. We got into an open barn with what was quite clearly the furnace in the middle of the room, ashes and metal trays on the floor, the vague smell of burning in the air, and I began to wonder if it was a do-it-yourself kind of deal. This worry also proved unfounded. The woman directed me to put the box down on a table nearby and we left, chatting pleasantly and awkwardly as we traipsed through the woods back to my car. I knew this dog well, and there wasn’t really much to say anyhow, so that was it. And everything was fine until I started to have these thoughts that what if I was wrong? What if the dog wasn’t really dead, if it had just peed itself and been asleep and breathing too shallow for me to tell? Of course it was dead — the body was limp when I picked it up — but still, I couldn’t shake the image of the dog waking up in that cardboard box on that table, and it stayed with me the last five days. Even now, and we’ve already gotten the call to go pick up the cremains.
That was how the week started. It’ll end in a little while when I head out to see Kind and The Golden Grass in New Bedford at a taco joint. So yeah, a little strange.
Next week, stick around for a review of that show, plus on Monday a stream of the new split between Krautzone and Lamp of the Universe, an Apostle of Solitude giveaway, review of the new Lo-Pan and Electric Wizard and as many other records as I can manage to fit. If you didn’t notice, I tried to cut back on the word counts for reviews because they were getting out of hand again. We’ll see how long it lasts, but at least I’m trying to keep it under control. Sometimes the sentences just keep going.
Go Giants for Acid King, go Orioles for all of Maryland doom. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
With a sound built on echoing psychedelic doom obscurities, 11Paranoias will reemerge this fall with a new album called Stealing Fire from Heaven, furthering their penchant for horror on what will be close to the three-year anniversary of the project having been formed by bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson. Formerly of Ramesses, Richardson formed 11Paranoias with his ex-bandmate Mark Greening on drums, but the lineup is now comprised of himself, guitarist Mike Vest (also Bong) and drummer Nathan Perrier, formerly of Capricorns. This is important to remember because no doubt the songs themselves will sound brutally inhuman and one wants to be reminded that people actually made the thing.
Darkness swirls at the mouth of the PR wire, which brings word of the album and the new song “Surrealise” available to stream:
11PARANOIAS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM DETAILS AND UNVEIL FIRST TRACK
DUE FOR NOVEMBER 10 RELEASE VIA RITUAL PRODUCTIONS
London-based psychedelic doom trio, 11PARANOIAS, have today announced details of their forthcoming album, and unveiled the first track to be taken from it.
The album, titled Stealing Fire From Heaven, will be the third release from the band, following on from their 2013 offering Superunnatural, and Spectralbeastiaries which was released in March 2014. The first track to be unleashed is “Surrealise” – a sultry jam that starts of with sleazy, sepia-toned sax before breaking out to segue into an earth rumbling doom groove.
The phenomenal artwork for Stealing Fire From Heaven is a piece by celebrated pioneer of the Surrealist art movement, Max Ernst, entitled ‘The Temptation of St Anthony’. The artwork can be seen below.
11PARANOIAS encapsulate otherworldliness and psychedelia, drawing in inspiration, and spewing out the results in a devilish cocktail of riffs, fuzz and fury. Formed on 11/11/11 with a jam that set them off on this eventful musical path, the band has relied on improvisation and instinct throughout; at no point more so than when it came to record Stealing Fire From Heaven. With no songs written or rehearsed, the band decamped to the studio on the summer solstice to lay down the seven tracks that make up the album. The results are a heady mix of low swirling grooves, super heavy psych and seriously uneasy listening.
Adam Richardson (bass/vocals) provides an insight into the recording process for the album:
“We have made full use of the ‘automatic’ process again on Stealing Fire From Heaven – not just the lyrical/incantation aspect, but the entire process – and it has rewarded us with this ‘unseen apparition’ which we love! It takes guts, blood, trance dwelling exploration of inner and outer space, and an unflinching will to make a record in this method….
“Surrealise, despite its ‘born of nothing’ approach, delves naturally into a mournful lament, of ‘killing sadness’ – that could only be divined and not written. We have coaxed Stealing Fire From Heaven from our consciousness and the stars into this dull dimension we (think we) know. Any idiot can write a great song, learn it and record it, but this traditional approach has become dead to us…
“Long live the new flesh!”
The solid trio at the core of the fuzz-fuelled fury are Adam Richardson, Mike Vest (guitar) and Nathan Perrier (drums), who each bring their own past experiences and weight to the table. Stealing Fire From Heaven was recorded and mixed in the summer of 2014 at London School of Sound and XL Recordings. Adam Richardson also played keyboards on the record. Saxophone and synth is contributed by Austin Milne.
Stealing Fire From Heaven will be released on 10th November 2014 via Ritual Productions. Further details of the album, including preorder information, will be made available in the coming weeks.
The full track listing is as follows: 1. The Great Somnambulist 2. Paranoiditude (Beyond The Grave) 3. Surrealise 4. At The Cursus 5. By The Light Of A Dying Star (Neutron Start) 6. Lost To Smoke 7. Retribution of Dreams
11PARANOIAS will play the following shows: 30/10/14 Underworld, London, UK 01/11/14 Grenswerk, Venlo, Netherlands 02/11/14 Glazart, Paris, France 09/11/14 Exchange, Bristol, UK
Posted in On Wax on September 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s little I’m inclined to argue with less than a new The Kings of Frog Island record. Their 2013 outing, IV (review here), began a new era for the amorphous UK band, self-releasing LPs after a three-album stint on Elektrohasch, and they follow that LP quickly with the heady two-sides of V, which furthers their blend of classic psych, garage rock and heavy/desert rock impulses. I don’t think it really matters who shows up on a given day for the studio, just so long as they can jam, and V unquestionably benefits from that mentality, and this time around, steady partakers Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar), Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) and Gavin Searle are joined by Gavin Wright and Tony Heslop, who came aboard last time out, and Lee Madel-Toner, with Scarlett Searle guesting. Change and fluidity have been running themes for The Kings of Frog Island since their 2005 self-titled debut, and V is no exception.
Like IV, there’s no number anywhere on the 12″ sleeve that would tip you off if you didn’t already know it was the fifth album, but even side-by-side with its predecessor, V shows off a heady growth in sound and confidence from last year’s offering, Buteaux comfortable topping side A’s tripped-out closer “Raised in a Lion’s Den” with a single line of vocals (“I was born in a desert, raised in a lion’s den”) to add mystique to an already molten atmosphere. In particular, the blend of ambience and more grounded songwriting — something The Kings of Frog Island have never lacked — is readily on display throughout the new LP, an early highlight arriving with the psychedelic desertisms of “Sunburn,” the opener that billows out of the introductory “Tangerine.” For the first half, divisions between songs are otherwise pretty clear. “Tangerine” hypnotizes early and gives way directly to “Sunburn,” but that song, “Temporal Riff,” which follows, “Born on the Fourth” and “Raised in a Lion’s Den” have definitive starts and finishes, which by the time side B rounds out won’t be the case. “Temporal Riff” is another early high point, departing from “Sunburn”‘s distortion waves and into ’60s-style acoustic psych pop that subtly builds around a wash of cymbals that continues a theme from last time out of patient, impeccably captured drumming from Watson, fluid in the speakers and in the ears and a key element in the band’s approach. The song itself isn’t limited to that or to a jam — it has one of the album’s best hooks, right up there with “Sunburn” — but it makes the transition easier into the classic garage rock swagger of “Born on the Fourth,” a quicker jaunt distinguished by call and response vocals and the lyric “Put your hand in the palm of mine,” which mirrors the rhythmic insistence well.
“Raised in a Lion’s Den” is likewise well placed at the end of side A, since it foreshadows some of what side B gets up to with its lull-your-consciousness rollout and sense of lysergic space rock meandering. “Novocaine” is earthbound compared to some of what follows, with a lightly Beatles-style verse-into-chorus transition, but still plenty groovy, starting out soft and getting into volume-swell guitar antics and subdued airiness before the more purely desert-tinged “Five O Grind” reminds of the expanses a Kyuss influence can cover when put to best use. The swirl and heavier vibe is immediate, echoing vocals deep under the riff, the title repeated as the lyrical center of the song, the fuzz consuming. It’s the most forceful of the riffers on V, but not out of place either with “Novocaine” before it or “Destroy all Monsters” after, which references Godzilla in its title and is pretty clearly named for its largesse of riff, similarly to how “Temporal Riff” may have been titled for its backward-in-time vibing. “Five O Grind” is the last bit of earthly grooving The Kings of Frog Island do here, if you can call it that, since even when their material is structured it’s blissed out, and the last three cuts, “Destroy all Monsters,” “Make it Last” and “On” bleed together to finish the album in flowing fashion, the clear ending of “Five O Grind” with its lead guitar, buried vocals and steady nod giving way to the stomp of “Destroy all Monsters” — how else would one do that but with giant lizard feet and maybe a bit of laser breath? — which flows nebulously into “Make it Last” and “On.” Where the point of separation is between the last three tracks, I don’t know exactly, but “Destroy all Monsters” seems to separate after several turns of standalone drone riffing into feedback from which a more fuzzed riff emerges (the drums rejoin), and if you told me that was the switch into “Make it Last,” I’d believe you.
From there, one might point out any number of points at which “On” takes hold to round out V, but in doing so I think a crucial intent of the album would be sacrificed. As with IV, it’s pretty clear that a big part of The Kings of Frog Island‘s intent in only releasing an LP edition of V is that the record should be experienced as a whole, in one complete sitting split only between sides A and B. Ultimately, where “Make it Last” becomes “On” doesn’t matter. It’s the fades in and out, the feedback, drum-propelled, the steady bassline and the ground the material covers that’s all the more important than if the quick stop is where one ends and another begins. Either way, V is finished with its fading, synth-topped jam, a foundational guitar, bass, drum rhythm topped by a wash that continues even as ambient vocals make a surprise return as if to remind that there are still humans somewhere behind all this liquefied noise. Tambourine punctuates for a while and what must be “On” devolves into one last hypnotic wash of psychedelic melody, organ sounds being the last element present before the needle returns. I’ve been a nerd for The Kings of Frog Island since their 2008 fuzz-landmark, II, and in the years since, they’ve showed an unrelenting pursuit of expanded-mind exploration. What’s perhaps most encouraging about V is how amiable a companion it is for IV while maintaining a personality of its own. Clearly grown out of the preceding full-length, V seems to establish the band’s progression as one set to continue with no end in sight. Again, you won’t hear me argue.
The Kings of Frog Island, “Sunburn” official video
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
An interesting spot The Wounded Kings are in, and one that’s really as much new for them as it is old. They’ve been through lineups, multiple, around guitarist Steve Mills over their now-nine tumultuous years, but to my knowledge this is the first time they’ve ever brought anyone back who’s been in the band before. Original vocalist George Birch appeared on the first two The Wounded Kings albums — as a duo with Mills – and the 2010 split with Cough, but then was out. Now, a few years later, he’s back and about to go on tour with the band for the first time. A strange circumstance, I’m sure, being the new guy as well as an original member, but The Wounded Kings have always benefited from an otherworldly sensibility, and I’m sure a little weirdness will only bolster that.
The tour starts Oct. 24 at the venerable The Black Heartin Camden Town, and will include stops at the Into the Void and Dutch Doom Days festivals. Full announcement of the run follows:
This will be our first European jaunt in 2 and half years and our first ever with George back at the helm…it’s the heaviest the band has ever been and it’s so great to be able to play for the first time some of the older classics like Melanthos and Baptism of Atlantis!
We are also heading up to London and Birmingham at the beginning of October (4th and 5th) to play both Candlefest and Fearfest respectively.
Oct. 24 The Black Heart London UK Oct. 25 Into the Void Festival Leeuwarden NL Oct. 26 Helevete Oberhausen DE Oct. 27 Zentralcafe Nurnberg DE Oct. 28 TBC Oct. 29 Trafik Klub Budapest HU Oct. 30 Rockhaus Salzburg AT Oct. 31 Falkendom Bielefeld DE Nov. 1 Dutch Doom Days Festival Boroeg Rotterdam NL Nov. 2 Glazart Paris FR
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Later this month, UK heavy psych trio Formes will take part in the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia alongside an impressive cast of colorfuls that includes Gnod and Spindrift and many, many more. Reverb is sure to ensue. That’s a pretty hip happening, and I’d be inclined to post about their upcoming album, Dysphoria, either way, but what really got me hooked was the track “Tumult” from the record, with its off-kilter blend of shoegaze and growling aggression. You’ll note the artwork is in direct conversation with Hawkwind, but there’s an extremity to go with Formes‘ spacey side that comes through in “Tumult” that one rarely hears from those inclined to jam and our bliss out. “Psychedelic metal” isn’t a new phrase by any stretch, but Formes have a take on it that makes the swirl seem all the more engulfing.
Fascinating times we live in.
Art, news, links and audio, in that order:
Drawing inspiration from Hawkwind, Sleep, Ufomammut on to Deftones and Tool, Formes trade in heavy doom laden psychedelia with a distinctly metallic edge. The band’s self-recorded debut album ‘Dysphoria’ released later this year will take you to the farthest reaches of your mind, propelled by otherworldly sounds, obscure psychedelia, doom and sludge grooves as evident on album taster ‘Tumult’. The 7 minute slab of ungodly doom laden psych sees the band finally forging their personality after two years of experimentation and progression to a heavier sound since formation in 2012.
Winning support from BBC Introducing, BBC 6 Music and a wealth of positive blog notices, live the band have shared stages with many of psychedelias biggest artists including Cosmic Dead, The Cult of Dom Keller, Plank and Mugstar. They play a coveted appearance at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia in September which is sure to raise the bands profile.
UPCOMING GIGS 26th September – Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia 11th October – Satans Hollow, Manchester 16th Ocotber – Oxjam Leeds Takeover 20th November – Hope and Anchor, London
Posted in Radio on September 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a couple weeks since the last time I was able to get together a proper round of adds to The Obelisk Radio, and the list as a result is accordingly huge. I’d have to go back and compare the last 18-plus months to be sure, but I think 40 albums is up there with what I might have uploaded during the initial buildup of the playlist, just basically getting everything I could think of and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t to expand on what was on the hard drive when I got it. We’ll be at two years since the Radio stream went live before I know it. Time goes quick, and seems to all the more when each post has a timestamp.
I say this every time, but there’s a lot of killer stuff included this week, so I hope you find something you enjoy.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Sept. 13, 2014:
Bong, Bong Presents Haikai No Ku Ultra High Dimensionality LP
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to try to ascertain what plane of being Bong are residing on these days, but suffice it to say, they’ve evolved beyond corporeal form and merged with the all-consuming distortion of the universe. At least that’s how it sounds. The maddeningly prolific UK drone-doomers present this release but aren’t actually on it, save for guitarist Mike Vest, who leads the side-project Haikai No Ku through five tracks of blissful psychout on Ultra High Dimensionality. If you’re looking for differences between the two outfits, Haikai No Ku lean less toward grim droning than Bong, and songs like “Dead in the Temple” and “Blue at Noon” roll out huge psychedelic grooves — the band is completed by bassist Jerome Smith and drummer Sam Booth – but there’s consistency to be found in the wash of noise and the complete hypnosis of their repetitions anyway, and as high as the dimensionality might be, the volume should be higher. One to get lost in for sure, and there’s enough space for everyone. Bong on Twitter, on Bandcamp.
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, The Shining One
The pun in the moniker of Moscow double-guitar four-piece Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. Featuring The Grand Astoria collaborator Igor Suvorov, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds pull together touches of psychedelic impulsiveness and classic heavy rock structures with the production clarity and catchy songwriting of mid-era Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a danger underscoring the boogie of “How to Fix Things” from the band’s self-released debut LP, The Shining One, that seems to find payoff later in the big-groove hook of “Highlow World,” which provides one of the album’s most satisfying listens before shifting into an airier dreamspace and fading into the noisier “Lords of the Damned,” reviving the largesse of riff prior to the closing title-track. An intriguing debut for an outfit loaded with potential, the fullness of their sound boding particularly well for their confidence in their sound and the precision of their execution. One not to be missed. Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Desert Lord, To the Unknown
Finnish stoner-doom foursome Desert Lord get into some Sabbath-worship on their debut long-player, To the Unknown, but manage to avoid both the trap of retro ’70s-ism that has much of Europe so firmly in its grasp and the trap of sounding like Reverend Bizarre, whose legacy in their native land isn’t to be understated. Of particular note is that Desert Lord cite The Cult as an influence. One can hear shades of that in the guitars on opener “Forlorn Caravan,” but Desert Lord quickly move into doomier fare on the subsequent nine-minute “Wonderland,” which distinguished by weeded-out wah on Roni‘s bass. Middle-ground is sought and found on “New Dimensions,” with vocalist Sampo Riihimäki reminding of Earthride‘s Dave Sherman in his movement between rougher delivery, spoken word, and accentuated screaming, also hinting at roots in more traditional metal, though “Manic Survivor’s Song” gives way to more stoner territory in the guitar, reminding of some of Eggnogg‘s stylistic turns, though with less of a mind toward tonal thickness. They’re still figuring out where they want to be, but Desert Lord‘s To the Unknown has more than a few moments worth the effort of a listen. Desert Lord on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Space Mushroom Fuzz, Onward, to the Future
Perpetually progressive and perpetually prolific bizarro psych rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz return with another new release, dubbed Onward, to the Future. The Boston outfit, led by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside, include two tracks this time out, “Onward, to the Future,” a laid back space rocker made strange in its midsection with some theremin-style keys, and the waltzing “Half the Way Down,” which shows off some classical guitar work over a subtly oompah backing rhythm with soft, brooding vocals. Is it possible to have a shoegazing waltz? Space Mushroom Fuzz never lack character in they do, Abrams periodically leading the way through jams that could and sometimes do run into indulgent (if satisfying) noodlefests, but particularly with “Half the Way Down,” there’s something more grounded and sadder at the root. “Onward, to the Future” tells a tale of alien invasion — short version: they win — and showcases the band’s exploratory side, but even that ends contemplative and relatively minimal, sort of dropping instruments one at a time by its finish on a long fade. A lesson in taming expectation, perhaps, and a fascinating, quick journey from this inventive outfit. Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Plunger, Space Plumber
All seems to be on a course for weirdo noise punk as Los Angeles bass/drum duo Plunger get underway on their debut Space Plumber EP, some Melvins influence making itself felt on “Toxic Wrap,” and then they rumble and thump their way into the eight-minute centerpiece title-track, and it becomes apparent that there’s much more going on with twin brothers Mark (bass/vocals) and Kris Calabio (drums/vocals, also of Old Man Wizard) than it might at first seem. They quickly put their own minimalism to work for them on the faster opener “Blerg Rush,” but “Space Plumber” moves far off into sparseness, the drums barely there when they are and then gone ahead of the transition into “Sleep,” on which both Mark and Kris contribute vocals over a fuller rumble and steady roll, clearly enjoying the contrast. “Plunger” rounds out the release with a fuller take on some of the faster movement of the opener, starts and stops in the unpretentious 1;53 finale. One gets the feeling the (Super) Calabio Bros. are only going to get stranger from here, and that suits them well. Plunger on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Once again, these are five cool releases, but there were 35 other records that join the playlist today, including full-lengths from Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Apostle of Solitude and on and on. A couple of these will be on the year-end list, so if you get the chance to check out The Obelisk Radio playlist and updates page, I think it’s worth a look.
Posted in Reviews on September 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After two ceremonious vinyl reissues for their 2012 Disastronaught (review here) and 2013 Corned Beef Colossus (review here) EPs, London heavy rock four-piece Steak make their proper debut on Napalm Records with Slab City, also their first full-length. In several ways, the album is a 10-track/49-minute homage to the glories of desert rock, and particularly, Slab City is indebted to Kyuss‘ 1994 genre classic Welcome to Sky Valley in both its mindset and execution, taking its name, as that record does (if unofficially) from a location in the Californian desert. Not only that, but Steak – vocalist Kippa, guitarist Reece Tee (also a principal organizer of the DesertFest in London), bassist James “Cam” Cameron and drummer Sammy Forway – traveled from London to Palm Springs in Southern CA in order to record at Thunder Underground with producer Harper Hug, who also recently engineered outings by Vista Chino and John Garcia, and co-producer Arthur Seay, guitarist of Unida and House of Broken Promises. In addition, John Garcia makes a guest vocal appearance on side A’s “Pisser,” underscoring that track’s particular Blues for the Red Sun-shine, and even unto the goof-off bonus track “Old Timer D.W.” — which, admittedly, is both less pull-you-out-of-the-album and more of an actual song than was “Lick Doo” on Sky Valley – Steak wear their influence on their sleeve. I’m not going to complain about that. With the general quality of their riffing and the compression brought to the recording — Vista Chino‘s Peace makes a decent comparison point, production-wise — by Hug and Seay, Steak embark on their first long-player by continuing the progression from their EPs that serves as the steps toward creating their own identity out of that influence. And anyway, it’s not like they’re trying to tell you they wrote “Gardenia” or something.
I’ve been curious to hear how Steak would make the leap from their shorter releases to a full album. They do so reusing only two tracks — “Liquid Gold” from the second EP, and “Machine,” from the first. Each is the second song on its respective half of Slab City, which seems to have been structured with at least thoughts of vinyl. “Liquid Gold” in particular is an early highlight, coming off opener “Coma”‘s noisy and gradually solidifying atmosphere — the first couple minutes of the album, the band seem to be coalescing aurally before the track launches — more expansive sounding than the original and with a different treatment of Kippa‘s vocals, which here are deeper in the mix and piled in effects, whether it’s echo, compression, megaphone, reverb, etc. Sometimes that can signal a lack of confidence on the part of a singer, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case here. While he’s got a gruff delivery and he’s prone to sticking to it, Kippa doesn’t strike as the kind of vocalist trying to hide behind studio trickery, and the impression across Slab City‘s first three tracks — “Coma,” “Liquid Gold” and the shorter push of the titular cut, “Slab City” — is that the band is trying to find different ways of changing things up around Tee‘s wall of fuzz and the laid back heavy grooves of Cameron (who once again serves as Steak‘s hidden weapon) and Forway, whose tight snare pop manages to ground the proceedings even at their most jammed out. And they do jam. Songs are structured, but even “Pisser” moves through its varied parts and into and out of Garcia‘s parts with a sense that any minute now Steak might just decide to ride a riff for the next eight minutes. They don’t go that far — at least not until closer “Rising,” and even that has purpose — but they make it known effectively that they could and reserve the right to at some future date. The noisy wash of “Quaaludes and Interludes” underscores the dynamic flow of Slab City‘s first half, setting up side B to keep the momentum moving forward.
It does so successfully. “Roadhead,” which follows “Quaaludes and Interludes,” begins a trio of faster cuts that continues through “Machine” and “Hanoid” as Steak hit full throttle en route to the eight-minute “Rising” and Slab City‘s grandest statement of where they are as a band. Though I doubt you’ll be hearing about it on the radio anytime soon, “Roadhead” is one of the album’s catchiest songs — a solid opener for the second half — and with the familiar roll of “Machine” backing it up, there’s a bit of back and forth play going on with the energy of the material, despite a pretty consistent tempo. Tee alternates between airy lead lines in the verse and a more heads-down chorus rollout, but the groove is palpable either way, and he saves a scorching lead for “Hanoid,” which builds up quickly over a four-and-a-half-minute course and ends with a cymbal wash and feedback to signal the shift into “Rising,” the longest piece on the record and most expansive, bringing in a feedback start, some vague speech in there either sampled or not, drum thud taking hold to transition into the verse. The song is almost at its halfway point be the time they get to the chorus, Kippa raging out his lines over waves of distortion in the guitar and bass. More feedback serves as a transition back through the next cycle, and though it’s basically a verse and a chorus repeated, Steak approach “Rising” with a feel open enough to bring some chaotic vibing to the mix, which is as fitting an end to Slab City‘s movement as one could ask. That makes “Old Timer D.W.” a little extraneous, perhaps, but the bonus track, which begins with a cockney “Come on now, work for your money! Play another song!” and shifts into reverb-drenched slide guitar shenanigans, is clearly serving a purpose beyond what it might convey about the band’s songwriting. Its half-written feel is somewhat incongruous with Slab City‘s overall purposeful nature — if Steak had just been interested in screwing around, they probably would’ve saved the travel expense and stayed in London or at least the UK to do it — but as far as sending messages goes, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” isn’t a bad thing for a band to say on their first album.
But don’t mistake them, Steak might be up for tossing off a riff here and there, but even when they do so, they’re playing to a very specific idea, and Slab City — desert hued and desert captured — is a record by a group of players who knew precisely what they wanted to accomplish in making it. It is not haphazard. The two EPs set up a comic-book-style narrative between them, and I don’t know if Slab City continues that or not (hazards of digital promos), but in terms of their overarching progression, it proves just how ready they were to take on the long-player task, and justifies the ambitious method by which they recorded the album through high-grade riffs, memorable songs and a molten flow between its component tracks. Steak leave themselves room to grow, but don’t let that take away from the fact that Slab City is a markedly impressive debut and as true a work of desert rock as one is likely to find no matter the geography.