Posted in Features on February 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Every now and again I get asked to write a band bio. I’m happy to do it when I’m able, but it always takes me an absurdly long time to get it completed. Still, when Conan comes calling, it’s either step up or face some kind of doomly ceremonial beheading, so I figured I’d better get on it. If nothing else, I was happy to have an excuse to put on their new album, Blood Eagle(review here), which will be out late this month/early next month on Napalm Records.
After a few rounds back and forth correcting my many uses of the literary device known as the “typo,” here’s how it came out:
CONAN, BloodEagle bio
With monolithic tones and barbarian tales, Conan were born to destroy. The Northwestern UK trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Paul Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil began in 2006 with the Battle in the Swamp EP as their first outing in 2007, but it was 2010’s Horseback Battle Hammer EP that first caught the attention of the international underground, and the impression of Conan’s “caveman battle doom” was immediate. Songs like “Satsumo” and “Krull” showed that just because the band sounded big didn’t mean they couldn’t also write a song, and when their debut long-player, Monnos, followed in 2012 preceded by a 2011 split with Slomatics, the response was duly huge.
A slot at the Netherlands’ prestigious Roadburn festival in 2012 resulted in 2013’s Mount Wrath live album, and Conan continued to shake venue floors and cave in chest cavities wherever they played. Touring Europe, they shared the stage with Sleep in Norway and in 2013, Conan featured at Desertfest in London, laying waste to Camden’s famed Underworld club alongside Chicago’s Bongripper, with whom they also released a split EP, Conan’s contribution coming in the form of the sprawling, droned-out “Beheaded,” their longest song to date at over 17 minutes.
After tracking them using forensic experts and analysis of the footprints the band left stomping across the UK and Europe to support Monnos, including at the 2013 Damnation Festival, Napalm Records signed Conan for the release of their second album. Davis, in turn, set about building a temple. Working with the band’s longtime producer Chris Fielding, he constructed Skyhammer Studio, where, as the house engineer, Fielding would helm 2014’s Blood Eagle for Napalm as both Conan’s and the studio’s reputation continued to grow.
To celebrate their return with their most accomplished blend yet of riff-largesse and memorable hooks, topped off as always by Tony Roberts artwork featuring their mascot “The Sentinel,” Conan set forth a full European tour for Spring 2014, including a return to Roadburn and appearances at Doom Over Leipzig, Droneburg Festival, Temples Festival, the St. Helena Doom Fest and France’s famed Hellfest. Their shows already the stuff of legend and the Blood Eagle songs being their most bludgeoning material, Conan’s conquering days have just begun.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This coming May, Future Noise will bring together a pairing of abrasive UK sludgers for a split 12″ of considerable nastiosity. The Sleeping Shaman streamed two tracks from it today, and the combination of Bastard of the Skies and Grimpen Mire works out to be basically like asking the audience whether they’d prefer to the punched in the left side of the face or the right. I don’t know if there’s any letup over the course of the 12″, but there certainly doesn’t seem to be much in “Yarn” or “The Hollow Wreck,” as you can hear via the link below.
BASTARD OF THE SKIES & GRIMPEN MIRE To Release 12” Via Future Noise; Track Stream From Both Bands Now Available!
Future Noise is ecstatic to announce the coming together of 2 of the UK’s rising heavyweights in the form of Blackburn’s Noise Rock deviants BASTARD OF THE SKIES and Birmingham’s filth mongers GRIMPEN MIRE for a limited Split 12” which will see the light of day in early May 2014.
Both sides for this behemoth of a release were recorded by BASTARD OF THE SKIES guitarist/vocalist Matt Richardson at his own Full Stack Studio, mastering was handled by the ever faithful James Plotkin while artwork was realised by illustrator Michael Cowell.
And today, The Sleeping Shaman is honoured to bestreaming a track from both bands, ‘Yarn’ by BASTARD OF THE SKIES & ‘The Hollow Wreck’ by GRIMPEN MIRE, now press play below to be devastated by the aural assault you are about to hear…
Tracklisting for the split is as follows:
BASTARD OF THE SKIES side: A1. Yarn A2. Bao Fu A3. Wounder A4. Old Vessels
GRIMPEN MIRE side: B1. The Hollow Wreck B2. Vermin Hive B3. Fragments of Forgotten Craft
More news on Pre-Orders and release date will be announced soon!
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Look at that fucking lineup. God damn. I mean, Desertfest London killed it last year with Unida and Dozer and Lowrider and Pentagram, etc., but man, with Spirit Caravan and Boris and The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and everyone else on this bill, it might be even bigger. From Pombagira and The Cosmic Dead to Weedeater and Samsara Blues Experiment, it’s the kind of thing that no doubt will make you want to be three places in once. Monkey 3, Sasquatch and Graves at Sea. Come on. That’s not even fair.
Two more added to the pile today in the form of native UK acts Baron Greenback and Dead Existence. Announcements follow courtesy of the Desertfest website:
Baron Greenback See Red at DesertFest 2014
Despite Baron Greenback’s decision to avoid labelling themselves as any particular genre, the culmination of their talents and styles lands them smack in the middle of what a good DesertFest band should be: riff-laden, thick as mud and full of heavy grooves.
With a mission to “create music which shifts through different textures and soundscapes whilst remaining interesting, captivating and challenging”, the ‘Greenback acknowledge they still need to retain a groove that people can appreciate. However, the major thing that sets them apart from the pack is a slight edge of funk to keep your mosh pit-ready toes dancing.
Since forming in South-West England in 2009, this heavy quartet have been very busy; they’ve shared stages with the likes of Serpent Venom, Alunah, Karma to Burn, Slab, Honky, Desert Storm, and more recently the mighty EYEHATEGOD, Orange Goblin, Kylesa and Graveyard. Above all, the band pride themselves on simply playing whatever style of music thunders out of their instruments naturally, and we’re certainly lucky that their musical second nature has landed them alongside the heavyweights to give them all a funky kick in the pants.
Kind Words: Cat Jones
It’s a Dead Existence Once Again at DesertFest 2014
Veteran sludge warlords Dead Existence cite “Misery” and “Hatred” as the main influences for their brand of savage metallic brutality.
Boasting tracks that push the 15 minute mark, a Dead Existence show is a safe place for those phobic of ballads, tambourines or a sense of wellbeing. The band’s experience is evident as they expertly blend elements of Doom, Sludge and Hardcore into their cauldron of hatred, concocting a potion of formidable potency. Dark, brooding and atmospheric interludes whisper reassurances in your ear, but dare to trust this feral beast and you’ll be the victim of the unrelenting and merciless fury that waits around the corner.
Brave Dead Existence at DesertFest 2014, I urge you. One thing is for sure: the only moment a lighter will be held aloft is in search of an escape route after these London-dwelling Leviathans challenge the foundations of the venue to a duel, and rise victorious.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
As you can see in the banner above, the lineup for Desertfest 2014 in London wasn’t exactly hurting as it was, but to have Weedeater get added yesterday and top off the week today with announcing that Boris had signed on to headline alongside Spirit Caravan and Kvelertak, and well, I guess we can call 2014 the year Desertfest “went for it.” Goodness gracious, that’s a solid bill. Makes me want to take out a loan to get there to see it.
While my broke, overworked and underpaid ass hangs its head in an all-too-familiar shame, here are the announcements, snagged off the Desertfest website, with compliments to Tom Geddes, who wrote them:
TOKYO EXPERIMENTALISTS BORIS TO HEADLINE DESERTFEST 2014!
And so we announce our final headliner for DesertFest 2014 – Japanese experimental legends Boris!
How on Earth can you capture Boris’ sound in words? It’s beyond impossible; from drone, to sludge, to doom, to psyche, to ambient, to noise rock, to pop, here is a band that you can’t pigeonhole. But it’s in that unpredictable, ever-marching progression that the excitement lies.
Boris formed in 1992 on the extreme fringes of the Japanese hardcore punk scene before flying in every musical direction you can think of. Spending most of their life as a multi-instrumentalist three piece – consisting of Atsuo on drums, Wata on guitar and keyboards and Takeshi on bass, with all three sharing vocal duties – Boris have released just shy of a couple of dozen full lengths in their time on this mortal plane, with no two sounding too alike. Notable influences on Boris are Sleep and The Melvins – which might explain their high yield of records – as well as Nick Cave and even Venom.
The best starting points for a Boris exploration are 2005’s ‘Pink’ –which is perhaps one of their more accessible albums for the casual listener, yet still full of their signature leaps and bounds – and both 2002’s ‘Heavy Rocks’ and 2011’s ‘Heavy Rocks II’ which sit on a more laid back, straight-up stoner rock scale. If you’re more into drone, why not start with the first few releases; or even better, ‘Alter’, a phenomenal collaborative double album with SunnO))). Or you may want to try something completely different, in which case enter the batshit crazy world of 2010’s ‘New Album’ – a blend of J-Pop, shoegaze, psyche and industrial metal. The point is, these guys can do anything, and do it bloody well!
So if you want your mind blown by a band who don’t only surprise you with what’s around the corner, but change the shape of the corner itself, then you must get yourself down to the Electric Ballroom on Sunday night and stand both slack-jawed and in awe. Oh, and if you’re still not convinced, they also incorporate a massive gong into their shows, which is reason enough to be there.
Kana: Tom Geddes
Weedeater Chomping at the Herbal Bit for DesertFest 2014
DesertFest is beyond pleased to announce Saturday night’s sub-headliners, North Carolina’s southern metal bad asses, Weedeater!
An uncompromising power-trio full of sludge, groove and straight-up metal, Weedeater’s aggressive, bone-crunching madness is quite a sight to behold on stage. Fronted by the manic, growling bassist, “Dixie” Dave Collins (also of Buzzov*en and Bongzilla fame), alongside fret-master Dave “Shep” Shepherd and former sticksman Keith “Keko” Kirkum, Weedeater introduced themselves to the world at large with 2001’s ‘…And Justice for Y’all’. What we got in that record was down-tuned, crashing ferocity; and boy did it feel good. The energy that pulsed through that LP was a jolt to the heart and a kick to the face and it’s a trend that followed right through 2002’s ‘Sixteen Tons’ and 2007’s ‘God Luck and Good Speed’ – the latter of which could find itself easily on many an album of the decade list.
Right around the time of the recording of the fourth LP, Weedeater shot themselves in the foot a little bit in the form of Dixie actually shooting himself in the foot. Gladly, a few months down the line – armed with one hell of an anecdote they gave us ‘Jason…The Dragon’, a slightly more experimental take on Weedeater. The brief appearance of banjo and organ appeared without the loss of any of their earthquaking noise to which we had become accustomed.
As clichéd as it might sound, whilst sublime on record, you just can’t capture the feel of Weedeater until you’ve seen them live; only when you’ve stared into Dixie’s “I’ve seen things” crazy eyes and been showered in the splintered remnants of drumsticks can you really get a grip on them. Must see is an understatement.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
They don’t really go too much into it in the list of tour dates, but the Doomed Gatherings fest that Gonga are playing on April 20 in Paris is actually pretty badass. Running three days, April 18-20, it’s got Windhand, Inter Arma, Elder, Pombagira, Year of No Light, Hull, Necro Deathmort, The Socks and The Body on the bill, so you know, no small shakes should you happen to find yourself in Paris this spring. Gonga‘s latest outing, Concresence, was streamed here back in October, and this is reportedly only the first leg of their European tour in support of the album.
Dates and details in blue:
GONGA (UK) – EURO TOUR 2o14 ~1st leg
Clawing their way out of the dank blackness of their riff research laboratory and hungry for the flesh of new twisted listeners, Gonga bring forth a new offering – a Concrescence.
In the five years since their last outpouring of un-anchored HeavyRock, Transmigration, Gonga managed to lose/fire/upset every bass player in the region. Brothers Thomas (dramatic battery) and George (riff philosophy) having survived war and mental abuse from the outside world found a new phenomenon walking the golden triangle right in front of their (third) eyes; a specialist in detail – you could say a time-stretch professional. And so, Latch self-sacrificed himself to the group before he even joined; the perfect combination of Geezer Butler and Cliff Burton muttering arcane wisdom.
A trinity of Earth forms was instantly created; bull, goat, ram. The strength of the triangle allowed the 3 to set about HeavyRock construction. Without singer the aim became to create aural landscapes for band and listener to use as a launchpad for remote viewing, for mental and spiritual enlightenment and for emotional therapy. One could refer to it as instrumental HeavyRock for the philosophical connoisseur.
Riff research and late night experimentations led the trio into unexplored territories of voiceless riff/rhythm. Years passed and the brew grew strong, as did the urge to commit the aural paintings to vinyl. Six tracks, two sides – Concrescence, a region of complexity in comparison to its surroundings.
Gonga hail from Bristol, UK. This is their third album. They have toured with Mondo Generator and High On Fire and have performed at DunaJam in Sardinia, Glastonbury and Download Festivals as well as recording a Maida Vale session for Zane Lowe (Radio 1). Their favourite colour is black or green or something probably.
DATES: 17-4 B,Brussels – L’os Moelle w/ Cojones 18-4 NL, Leiden – Cab 03 w/ Tank86 & Bone Man 19-4 B, Liege – La Zone w/ Wardhill & Six Months Of Sun 20-4 FR, Paris – Glazart *Doomed Gatherings w/ The Socks 21-4 LU, Luxembourg City – Rocas 22-4 D, Solingen – Waldmeister w/ Cojones 23-4 D, Nürnberg – K4 w/ Tempel 24-4 CZ, Prague – tba 25-4 D, Berlin – Urban Spree *unofficial Desertfest Aftershow 26-4 NL, Schoonhoven – DeBastille w/ The Socks
His hood up, his mouth stretched wide in a guttural shout that seems to shake his whole body, Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Paul Davis gives the impression that there’s little of his being not being hurled from the stage at his audience. As the trio of Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, Conan make their debut on Napalm Records in 2014 with their second full-length, Blood Eagle(review here), an album that arrives as the payoff of a creative and popular ascent that began with 2010′s Horseback Battle HammerEP (review here). Through that release, the subsequent 2011 split with Slomatics (review here), their 2012 debut long-player, Monnos(review here), and 2013′s Mount Wrath: Live at Roadburn 2012 and split with Bongripper, Conan have established a base of rumbling low end tone that few seem to be able to match. With thematics drawn from the fantasy conquests of Robert E. Howard, J. R. R. Tolkien and others, Conan‘s aesthetic has become focused on the big, the brutal and the badass. It is a near-perfect amalgam of theory and practice.
Before recording Blood Eagle, Davis built Skyhammer Studio, a professional, live-in facility adjacent to his home in Cheshire, UK, and hired engineer Chris Fielding — with whom he’d previously worked at Foel Studios in Wales — to take up residency. Already, Skyhammer has become a hub of the UK scene, with the likes of Serpent Venom, Coltsblood, Stubb and Greenhorn tracking there, and to complement, Davis has started a record label, Black Bow Records, putting out Conan‘s Horseback Battle Hammer and Monnos on tape as well as releases byBast and a split between Fister and Norska.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jon Paul Davis
How did you come to do what you do?
I was 15 or 16 and had just started playing guitar (a cheap Spanish acoustic). I begged my parents for a guitar after they tried to get me into playing keyboard. I remember having a couple of lessons, a year or two later, and I wasn’t very good but one lunch time I told a friend of mine that I was going to play guitar on stage when I was older. Since then I have stopped and started being in various nondescript bands and then Conan happened and I get to do what my 16-year-old self promised himself back in 1992. I’ve just been been really driven to do this.
Describe your first musical memory.
Two early ones, not sure which is the first. Dancing to Shakin’ Stevens when I was three or four years old in a cafe and people were clapping, I was able to go up onto my tip toes the way he did. Another memory is of my Great Grandmother, who was brought up in Tipperary but brought up her side of our family in Kirkby (North of Liverpool), who used to sing a song like “Irish Eyes are Smiling” or “If You’re Irish Come into the Parlour” or something like that. We always used to have sing-alongs in our house whenever we had that half of my family over. It was awesome and I remember a real sense of belonging and “family” at that young age.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
A tough one. But I would say there was a few weeks when Horseback Battle Hammer was released when it suddenly became apparent that we had unknowingly created something that people we’re into. When Uge from Throne Records emailed me to say that he would put it out in vinyl it made me think, “Wow, we’re actually going to release something on a proper record label.” This sticks out for me because up until that point I had just played in bands as a hobby, and always wished I could get “signed” to a label… Those first stages of becoming aware of people noticing us was very intense, I’ll never forget it. There have been many since that I have already discussed before so I’ll leave them for another time.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I always believe that losing loved ones should be an “occasion,” something you build up to and kind of prepare for. The world wouldn’t just take people away without warning. This has been challenged twice so far with the death of my Grandmother Harriet Fitzsimmons, and my oldest friend Ted Evans. My Grandmother died suddenly on her way to a friend’s house back in 1998 and I still miss her now. Last year, at the end of March I was watching my children playing on a trampoline in Spain when I got a phone call to say that my mate Ted had died. I couldn’t believe it. Ted was the same age as me and died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a great old friend and has left a huge hole in my heart. My Grandfather John Fitzsimmons (someone who I will always look up to as a great example of a hard working honest Liverpool man) died after a long illness and his passing was almost bearable because it had seemed that his time had come and we had all been able to prepare for it. I will always remember sleeping over in my Grandparents house in Norris Green, waking up the next day and being taken by my Nan on the bus to meet my Grandad. When I got a bit older I started going the game with my friends (Ted and a few others) but I would always meet my Grandad in the pub (The Top House in Walton) and I never thought those times would go so fast. Those moments that you never feel as they slip through your fingers. These losses have always made me realise that things aren’t going to last forever and you should enjoy everything you have. I never used to bother with this, I used to take things for granted, but not anymore.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I feel that progression leads to sharpness and you can never stop sharpening your blade. It can always be “sharper” no matter what you think of yourself. Progression often means diversification to some people. Take certain bands, as they progress they sometimes change from what made them them in the first place. I guess it is a process of taking what you have and making the most of it.
How do you define success?
I think bring successful is gaining what you want from a given situation. For me, being happy by doing something I enjoy makes me feel successful. It makes me feel like I am spending my time wisely. I once had a well paid job as HR Manager in a profitable business but I swapped that nine-to-five stuff for a recording studio, a record label and a touring band. I earn less in a monetary sense from these things than I did from the day job but I feel “successful” every day because I get to be at home with the kids at home time and I get to cook their meals every day, I can also tour much more easily. That is real success in my opinion, enjoying life while doing things you want and keeping those around you happy. If you apply this to being in a band some will say that successful bands are those on the biggest label doing the coolest tours. However, that situation might be beneficial financially but it does not necessarily make you happy — it might not keep your soul warm.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
I saw my Grandmother Harriet Fitzsimmons lying in hospital in the final minutes of life following a fatal heart attack. I was a young boy but I sat at her bedside with the rest of my family as she slipped away, talking to her, asking her not to go. She was a lovely woman and I was very attached to her, her memory brings a tear to my eye every single time without fail and I still remember chatting to her earlier that day and wished I had done so for longer. But after we heard of her heart attack I was taken to hospital by an Uncle and he wouldn’t talk to me or confirm what had happened and the first I saw of her was in bed, obviously slipping away. I held her hand and talked to her but seeing her die this way led to many years of anxiety attacks and mild depression. I decided to develop my own coping mechanisms rather than take medication, and now I am no longer affected in the same way but seeing my Nanna pass away in the manner that I did was obviously something my young mind couldn’t cope with.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
My wife and I are currently in the early stages of having an office built in the cellar of our house. I wish to create in this space a solid base for Skyhammer Studio and Black Bow Records. With this set up I hope to progress both of these businesses so I can help bands who are under the radar to get a great quality recording and, hopefully, they can get the same feelings I got back when Horseback Battle Hammer was released, should the recording be picked up by my own label or a different one. Additionally the studio is of such a high quality, and with the very talented Chris Fielding as resident producer, I hope it will continue to attract the high calibre of established bands that we have booked in so far. Chris and I can hopefully create a go-to studio for music recording in the UK.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
1. I’m getting the stop lights fixed on the band’s tour bus tomorrow. I’ve been driving round for a month with no brake lights!!!!
2. On Saturday it is my daughter’s fourth birthday and I am really looking forward to seeing her at the centre of attention.
3. Conan touring starts in March and I just cannot express how much I want to get back playing live again.
Conan, “Gravity Chasm” Live at Desertfest London 2013
Posted in Reviews on January 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Consolamentum is the fourth full-length from increasingly progressive UK-based doomers The Wounded Kings and also their debut on Candlelight Records. It’s also their most consistent album-to-album lineup in the band since 2010′s The Shadow over Atlantis (review here) followed 2008′s Embrace of the Narrow Housedebut with just the founding duo of guitarist/keyboardist Steve Mills and bassist/vocalist George Birch, who was out following The Wounded Kings‘ 2010 split with Cough, An Introduction to the Black Arts(review here), as Mills constructed a more complete lineup of the band that would be able to play live. The third album, 2011′s In the Chapel of the Black Hand(review here), arrived with a markedly quick turnaround considering that apart from Mills it was entirely new players involved — vocalist Sharie Neyland, drummer Myke Heath, bassist Jim Willumsen and guitarist Alex Kearney – and particularly with Neyland‘s haunting vocal resonance, tapped into dark elements of cult metal to coincide with three extended pieces the doom of which was complete and encompassing. On Consolamentum, all parties but Willumsen return, and though it’s somewhat ironic that with largely the same group they’d also have their longest break between records to date (three years), with Al Eliadis on bass and Chris Fielding producing, The Wounded Kings have created an album that feels like their most band-oriented work yet, recorded live and brimming with atmospheric density.
Like In the Chapel of the Black Hand, Consolamentum finds The Wounded Kings working with and around an extended trinity of songs. Opener “Gnosis” is the longest of the bunch (immediate points) at 13:20, and its complemented by the centerpiece title-track at 9:08 and the penultimate “The Silence” at 12:14. All three work at the hypnotic crawl one might expect from The Wounded Kings‘ past work — though “Gnosis” picks up toward the end and each seems to offer a payoff of its own — but there’s development evident not just in how well the five-piece work together over the course of Consolamentum‘s 47 minutes, but also in where they go. Each of the longer works is complemented by a shorter one, and as “Elige Magistrum” starts with a pickslide that such a perfect port of that from the beginning of Black Sabbath‘s “Into the Void” that I wondered at first if it might be a sample (it isn’t), it becomes clear that not only are The Wounded Kings reveling in the bleak, deep-running murk of their own tones and the ritual elements that Mills brings to tracks like “Lost Bride” with long-held Hammond notes, they’re also having fun doing it. Completely instrumental, “Elige Magistrum” (1:29) is essentially the band jamming on a riff. It just so happens that when The Wounded Kings do it, it sounds like the end of the world. The subdued “Space Conqueror” (2:23) follows “Consolamentum” and while the actual sound of it is minimalist and arguably the most brooding stretch on the record, it’s also called “Space Conqueror,” so, you know, it’s not without a sense of levity.
Posted in Reviews on January 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re ever looking to win an award for understatement, call Peter French‘s resumé “enviable.” In 1971, the same year Leaf Hound put out their seminal Growers of Mushroom debut LP, French was fronting Atomic Rooster for the In Hearing Of…album, and 1972 found him taking over for Rusty Day in Cactus for ‘Ot ‘n’ Sweaty. It was a short period of time, but a few landmark contributions. Though Growers of Mushroomwas widely bootlegged and officially reissued along the way, Leaf Hound wouldn’t put out another record until 2007′s Unleashed. With French up front, guitarist Luke Rayner, bassist Ed Pearson and drummer Jimmy Rowland, they’d begun playing out again circa 2004, released a live single through Rise Above in 2006 as a precursor to the album, continuing to tour and do periodic shows. They appeared at Roadburn in 2006 and 2012 both — at the latter playing Growers of Mushroomin full — and at Desertfest in 2012, and in July of that year did two nights in Tokyo that are now presented through Ripple Music as the Live in Japan 2012 CD/DVD (or LP/DVD) package. It’s noteworthy for a few reasons, among them that although they switched out Pearson for Peter Herbert on bass, this incarnation of Leaf Hound had already been active more than five years, over twice as long as the band’s original run.
Of course, Leaf Hound continues in large part to be defined by Growers of Mushroom and the swagger of that era, something that French‘s voice is able to convey some 40 years later on Live inJapan, but on the CD, cuts from Unleashedfeature pretty heavily as well. And where the studio version of that album didn’t quite convey the same kind of spontaneous edge, on stage in Tokyo the newer material meshes well with the old, so that original cuts like “Freelance Fiend” — as signature a riff as the band has — “Work My Body” and “With a Minute to Go” fit easily alongside “Barricades,” “Stop, Look and Listen,” and “One Hundred and Five Degrees.” A vinyl-ready 38 minutes for the audio portion concludes with the Howlin’ Wolf cover “Evil,” which Cactus also covered prior to French joining. There are a few bold exclusions from the CD, including “Sad Road to the Sea” and “Growers of Mushroom,” but the former seems not to have been played at all and the latter appears on the DVD with an extended jam featuring a bass solo from Herbert and subsequent guitar spaceout from Rayner that presumably would’ve put the audio over a vinyl runtime. Add to that the jam in “Work My Body” and maybe Leaf Hound were concerned about upsetting the flow of the audio or repeating themselves too much. Still, as omissions go, those are noteworthy ones for fans of the band.
Posted in Radio on January 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s entirely possible that UK four-piece Grey Widow‘s fucked-up barrage of monstrous tones and vicious screams will make you feel right at home. Seems like every time I post about a band who make a point of being abusively heavy, someone has to step up and say, “Well I don’t think they’re that abusively heavy.” If that’s you, then congratulations ahead of time on working on a different standard than the rest of the universe, because the way I see it, Grey Widow are maddeningly extreme in their approach, and whether it’s the slow oozing riffs of “I” — which I’d call the title-track of their self-released full-length debut, I, but for the fact that all the other songs follow suit in Roman numeral fashion — or unbridled snare-count-in black metal pummel of “IV,” they’re bound to be a test of sonic endurance which many listeners won’t pass. No doubt that’s the point. Weed ‘em out quick and then kick the living shit out of the rest. Grey Widow seem to have a pretty solid idea of what they’re doing on these eight songs.
But for a few cleaner shouts on “II” or in the punkish second half of “VII,” vocals stick to growls and screams. Those aware that Grey Widow boasts former Dopefight guitarist Owen Carty (also members of The Ergon Carousel, Thread and Parole) won’t have to strain to hear some of that band’s sludgy take, but Grey Widow are a different entity almost entirely, darker in there atmospheres and more metallic in their brutality. There’s plenty of groove in “III,” in the chaos-build of “V,” and in the consuming end section that begins with “VI” and runs through “VIII” — comprising about 25 of the album’s total 56 minutes — but nothing so stoner on display here, nor does Iwant for it, its tidal tonality captured by Slabdragger guitarist Sam Thredder late in 2013 at The Cro’s Nest Studio. Rather, Grey Widow commence and carry through an assault of their own, easing the listener into their sundry terrors the way one imagines being tossed off a cliff as “easing.” The Roman numeral titles only make the album more obscure and hard to get a bearing on, but this also seems to be on purpose, the band’s focus not at all on meeting halfway or making overtures toward accessibility.
In the fertile UK heavy underground, Grey Widow‘s debut positions them well on the more extreme end of the scene, and while that will invariably alienate some who might attempt to take on I‘s violent cycle, no doubt just as many other heads will turn in their direction precisely because they’re so unyielding. Particularly as I approaches its finish in the last three tracks, coming to a grisly, excruciating culmination on “VIII,” Grey Widow‘s approach feels terrifyingly solid for being the band’s first time out, and they’ve set themselves up to affect any number of atrocities they might choose in the wake of the genre-spanning cruelties unleashed here. You wanna have the heaviest, most extreme taste in the room? Okay. Meet Grey Widow and prepare to be outclassed.
Listen to Inow as part of the 24/7 streaming rotation on The Obelisk Radio and grab a sample of Grey Widow‘s disturbing wares via the player below, snagged from their Bandcamp page.
Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It has been a substantial two years since UK megadoomers Conan made their full-length debut with Monnos (review here) through Burning World Records in 2012. That album followed a 2011 split with Slomatics (review here) and Conan‘s 2010 hello to the world, the thunderous Horseback Battle HammerEP (review here), and in its wake, Conan made their way around Europe several times, stopping at Roadburn that year — their set was released as the live album Mount Wrath in 2013 — and at Desertfest in 2013 along with a slew of other appearances, including opening for Sleep in Norway (which, if you have a resume, is the line you want on it). All this and a 2013 split with Chicago’s Bongripper led to their signing with Napalm Records, and it’s as their label debut that their sophomore full-length, Blood Eagle, now emerges, marking the beginning of a new era for the band not just for the additional distribution at Napalm‘s disposal, but also for being the first Conan release recorded at Skyhammer Studio, built and owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis and already host to a swath of UK acts, from Coltsblood to Stubb and beyond. If where it was captured has changed, who helmed it remains consistent in Chris Fielding (many, many, many others, including ElectricWizard), who switched from Foel Studios in Wales to set up shop at Skyhammer. His partnership with Conan continues to be to the benefit of all involved on Blood Eagle, which is the band’s most expansive work to date at six tracks/45 minutes.
Those who heard Monnosor have been subject somewhere along the way to Conan‘s immense, plodding doom — they’re among the heaviest bands on the planet, period — will find that all is as it should be on Blood Eagle. Conan, comprised of Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, have progressed, to be sure, and Blood Eagleis distinct in the band’s growth from its predecessor, but they’re also not going to fix what wasn’t broken. A big enough risk was being taken in recording in a new, just constructed spacethat if Conan were ever inclined to depart from the low-end largesse that has typified their work to date, this probably wouldn’t be the time. Still, there is progression evident in the cuts on Blood Eagle — the album taking its name from a maybe-mythical torture in which a victim’s ribs are torn open from the back (spread to look like wings) and the lungs are removed; anyone who watched the first season of the tv show Hannibal might recall a reference to the practice — whether it’s the 9:48 opener “Crown of Talons” setting a grim and lumbering course or the dash-and-pummel of “Foehammer.” Coumbe also takes a lead vocal on second track “Total Conquest,” so Conan are trying new things, however much their core remains intact, but more pivotal to the overall effectiveness of Blood Eagleis how fluidly they move through the material. To compare, with Monnos, shorter songs like the dug-in hook of “Grim Tormentor” and “Hawk as Weapon” appeared first, and the remainder spread out in linear fashion from there, tracks getting more malevolent en route to the closing duo of “Headless Hunter” and “Invincible Throne.”
With BloodEagle, it’s less a case of multiple personalities. Conan were right to lead with the catchier tracks their last time out — one can hardly argue with the success of that album — but the substance here is different and it calls for a different structure. One of BloodEagle‘s most infectious moments arrives amid the shuffling riff of “Gravity Chasm,” which is also one of its longer cuts at 8:12, indicating that the separation between methodologies has at least begun to give way. Ultimately, this makes Blood Eaglea stronger front-to-back listen, since by the time nine-minute closer “Altar of Grief” arrives, it’s not like Conan have cast off hooks in favor of all-out excruciation. Opening with “Crown of Talons,” the longest song here (immediate points) and also perhaps the slowest, is a particularly interesting choice on the part of the band, since they’re essentially saying to their audience, “This is as brutal as it gets,” and then developing the album’s character working off that foundation. Sure enough, “Crown of Talons” is among the most weighted songs Conan have yet crafted, and paired with “Total Conquest,” which brings Coumbe‘s growling shouts to the fore, they right away show that though they’ve held firm to some of their general ethic, neither are they completely interested in repeating themselves. It’s a framework in which they continue to thrive, and Davis and Coumbe continue to rumble out some of doom’s deepest, lowest tones. One imagines a new studio had to be built only after the last one crumbled to the ground.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hearty congratulations to UK trio Coltsblood on aligning themselves with Candlelight Records for the release of their upcoming debut full-length, Into the Unfathomable Abyss. They made it pretty clear on their Beyond the Lake of Madness demo tape (review here) that they were in it for a considerable slog, and with the LP recorded by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio, they’re likely to emerge with precisely that.
The announcement came through this morning, so by all means, dig in:
Candlelight Records sign UK monolithic doomers Coltsblood
Candlelight Records today announces the signing of UK monolithic doomers Coltsblood.
“Coltsblood is the sound of the past, the voices of ancestors, terrifying legends once roared with passion from around fires beneath open skies, fuelled by mead and ale; it is the darkest depths of the human mind and the great journey into the unknown of which we all face. Like Celts thundering into war, Coltsblood take up their weapons and summon colossal riffs loud enough for their ancient Gods to hear. Somewhere in the past, war drums thunder, there bellows a blood curdling cry, fires roar, terror resonates, there is freedom, death, life, meaning. Coltsblood feels the need to recreate the strength and power of these spiritual memories.
Coltsblood formed in Northern England in 2010 but did not surface until 2013 when a demo tape entitled ‘Beyond the Lake of Madness’ was self-recorded and released. Ulthar Records released this demo on vinyl soon after. Coltsblood spent months pillaging the lands, guzzling mead and sharing the stage with many greats within the UK underground as well as Indesinence, Vomitor and Watain. The band recorded and self-released another cassette tape, a four track split with Crypt Lurker which featured a cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘Procreation (Of The Wicked). During this time, the band earned a storm of reviews comparing the music with all genres from funeral doom to black metal and hailing Coltsblood as monolithic, crushing, filthy, bleak, melodic, devastating, other-worldly and horrific.
On the Full Moon of September 2013, Coltsblood entered Skyhammer Studio with Chris Fielding (Primordial, Winterfylleth, Napalm Death, Electric Wizard) and recorded its first full length entitled ‘Into The Unfathomable Abyss’ over the sacred Autumnal Equinox. The album was mastered by James Plotkin due to his extensive work with bands such as Khanate, SunnO))), Indesinence and Isis. Coltsblood was honoured to ask bassist/vocalist and artist Eric C Harrison to create exclusive artwork for the music due to a long time respect for the band Grief.
In 2014 Coltsblood sign to Candlelight Records for the release of ‘Into The Unfathomable Abyss’.”
“It is a sheer honour to sign to the mighty Candlelight Records and join an incredible roster featuring legends such as Orange Goblin and Emperor alongside many of the greatest bands in the UK and a diverse mix of extreme bands from all corners of the world, many of which we feel a real affinity with. Candlelight has been amazingly supportive and welcoming from the word go and we are looking forward to being a part of such a great label.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was flattered to be asked to write the announcement for D.C. riffers Borracho joining the 2014 Desertfest London lineup. For their first show abroad, they’ll support their 2013 sophomore outing, Oculus (review here), among the likes of Spirit Caravan, Kvelertak, Pombagira, The Machine, Elder and many more, which if you’re going to do it, definitely counts as doing it in style. Kudos to the trio. No doubt in my mind they’ll find welcome from the heavy contingent in Camden Town.
Here’s the announcement as it appears on the Desertfest website (in PR wire blue, even though I wrote it):
Borracho Head into the Eye of DesertFest 2014
Since the release of their 2011 debut full-length, ‘Splitting Sky’, Washington D.C.-based heavyweight riffers Borracho have been met with a tidal surge of praise for their burly but natural approach, built around their simple stated formula: “Heavy repetitive grooves.” They’ll make their first trip across the Atlantic to show their wares at DesertFest 2014!
In 2013, Borracho’s second album, ‘Oculus’, found them down a guitarist/vocalist but no less dedicated to Heavy. Fucking. Riffs. Constructed to highlight the centerpiece groove of ‘Stockpile’, the fuzz on ‘Oculus’ brought Borracho’s nodworthiness to another level; guitarist Steve Fisher stepping comfortably into the role of singer alongside the swaying rhythm section of bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano.
Says Fisher of playing DesertFest: “We couldn’t be more honoured to be joining our friends in Spirit Caravan and Sixty Watt Shaman to help represent the mid-Atlantic heavy scene in London this year. To kick off our first tour in Europe by being a part of an event like DesertFest is amazing and we look forward to seeing some old friends and fans, and making some new ones.
What can DesertFest expect from Borracho? Some of the US’ finest in up and coming underground heavy rock, shipped with much love and warm vibes straight from the Doom Capitol.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
While I have a very strong feeling that this isn’t the only Desertfest announcement concerning the London lineup to come this week, I thought it was worthwhile nonetheless to mark the addition of ritual doomers 11 Paranoias to the 2014 festival, where they’ll play on the Quietus stage. I’m not sure which venue that is, but rest assured a black cloud will settle over whatever room it might be when the Ramesses offshoot start their set. Their 2013 EP, Superunnatural, was like a dense fog through which you could find no visibility. Stands to reason when you start combining members of Bong and Ramesses that the results are going to have a vaporizing effect.
Here’s the announcement from the festival website:
***11 Paranoias To Trip Out On The Quietus Stage***
11 Paranoias To Trip Out On The Quietus Stage
Coming together for a jam on 11/11/11 Adam Richardson (Ramesses/Lord Of Putrefaction), Mark Greening (Ramesses/Electric Wizard) and Mike Vest (Bong) realised that they had created a noise so heavy that it was in danger of forming its own weather systems.
11 Paranoias released their debut album ‘Superunnatural’ on Ritual Productions last year, unveiling a tar black, sludge blasted riffscape which was heavily psychedelic and hypnotic to boot, calling to mind Loop, Monster Magnet and Hawkwind more than any doom revivalists you care to mention.
Probably the most notable thing about Sam Gopal‘s Escalatorwhen it was released in 1969 was that the band’s namesake percussionist substituted tabla for the standard rock drumkit. Not to take away from that, as it was an interesting turn for a London-based band even in that time of Eastern-influenced psychedelic rock becoming somewhat mainstreamed (Gopal himself was born in Malaysia), but if the group is something of a footnote today, it’s more because of vocalist/guitarist Ian Willis, who by the time he left Hawkwind to form Motörhead some six years later would adopt the universally-recognized moniker of Lemmy Kilmister.
Lemmy‘s involvement in Sam Gopal isn’t exactly a secret — prior to joining, he played guitar in Blackpool-based The Rockin’ Vickers from 1965-1967 and those seeking a sample of his work before and around Motörhead were afforded an easy opportunity with 2006′s Damage Casecompilation — but neither is it widely advertised, and when he finally decides that Planet Earth isn’t cool enough to hold him and departs this mortal coil, Escalator isn’t likely to be mentioned as part of his considerable list of landmark or otherwise influential works. Still, for devotees of proto-heavy rock and psychedelia, the album has much to offer in the moody wanderings of “Grass” and sweet, pre-”Planet Caravan” vibe of “Angry Faces.”
With fellow guitarist Roger D’Elia and bassist Phil Duke, Lemmy brings a nascent fuzz to “The Dark Lord,” which was included on that Damage Case compilation no doubt for its theme as much as the song itself, but the bulk of Escalatoris candlelit British psych, the subtly bass-driven “The Sky is Burning” having little time for the kind of raucous blues jamming Cream were doing at that point, “You’re Alone Now” aside, or even the swagger of Jimi Hendrix, for whom a young Lemmy famously roadied. Maybe Sam Gopal were a little behind the times, then, but if so, the distinction is moot since the album fits with its general era and precedes in both tone and execution the kind of heavy-rock-into-prog explosion that UFO, Uriah Heep, the second lineup of King Crimson and, indeed, Hawkwind were about to unleash on the UK rock scene as the likes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin made their way to megastardom behind Pink Floyd, who’d already been signed to a major label (EMI) for two years.
Hearing Escalatorthrough a filter of hindsight is inevitable, but the stoned-out push of “You’re Alone Now” seems prescient in asking, “Can you hear me on the wind?/Are you thinking of what might have been?” and as much as Lemmy‘s presence dominates even though the vocals are mostly given to a rudimentary melodic garage-type drawl fitting to the music, the songs have value beyond novelty for anyone who’d take them on as part of a larger exploration through the roots of heavy. Putting Sam Gopal next to earliest Vanilla Fudge doesn’t seem inappropriate when they get into Donovan‘s “Season of the Witch” and rough it up a bit, but the sleaze that’s inevitably brought to the already-sleazy Doors cover “Back Door Man” — a bonus track on the 2010 Esoteric Recordings reissue — helps to give Escalatora personality of its own, as much of that might be wrapped up in a reading of the album through the Lemmy context.
It was that Esoteric Recordings reissue that I wound up with, following a recommendation that I check the record out because, with or without “the Motörhead dude,” it’s quality psych. I’ve found that to be precisely the case, and found that I’m drawn to repeat listens of Escalatornot because of the personnel, but because of the songs they execute. If you’re not already familiar, give it some time to settle in.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desertfest continues to solidify. After the huge announcement of the hyper-sludged Human Disease Promo/When Planets Collide stage a couple weeks back and the addition of Kvelertak as a headliner for both the London and Berlin installments, London has confirmed appearances from Dutch heavy rockers Swamp Machine and Scottish space-jammers The Cosmic Dead for this year, making them just the latest acts to be absorbed into the Desertfest sphere alongside Spirit Caravan, Elder, Sixty Watt Shaman, The Machine, Samsara Blues Experiment and many more. It’s good company to keep, and rumor has it there’s still more to come.
While I catch my breath, here are the announcements for The Cosmic Dead and Swamp Machine, courtesy of the Desertfest website:
***DesertFest 2014 Raise The Cosmic Dead***
Next to join The DesertFest machine are The Cosmic Dead – one of those bands who you can get a handle on just from their name; a brutal lathering of psyched-out droning, proggy, experimental goodness that infects your eardrums with pure mind-bending pleasure.
Hailing from Glasgow – via the furthest reaches of both space and your mind – this cosmonautical quartet have been flying about the universe at a rate of several thousand light-years per second, crafting the perfect vibes since 2010. Firing out three perception-warping full lengths in the last three years – each of which debuted on that almost mythical of mediums, the cassette – along with several live releases and a split with Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, The Cosmic Dead seem committed to piping out those soul-warming tones. Having toured with Naam, Golden Void and Torche, as well as playing the hallowed grounds of Roadburn, the self-proclaimed ‘foremost Hawkwind tribute band’ leave no doubt towards their stellar live credentials either.
If you wish to travel through the 4th dimension of sound and reward your ears, don’t miss these guys when DesertFest rolls into town.
Kind Words: Tom Geddes
***Swamp Machine Switched On for DesertFest 2014***
Swamp Machine make their DesertFest debut in 2014 with their signature stoner rock. Yes, we love our stoner rock, so how do we distinguish all these wonderful bands from one another?
Well, whilst everyone has their own unique magic, these guys actually sound like a steamroller smashing through your living room. It’s heavy, it’s hard and it’s oh so sludgy.
Inspired by the swamps outside of their Dutch rehearsal studio, this Netherlands powerhouse encapsulates the very spirit of sludge – giving the listener the feeling they’re slowly sinking into the swampy marsh and loving every moment of it. They formed back in 2010, and have rocketed from strength to strength, supporting the likes of Karma to Burn, Wo-Fat, and Naam along the way.
We are honoured to have Swamp Machine really packing a punch to our 2014 line-up, and we’d implore any doom metal fan to be down the front for this one. You won’t be left high and dry.
Kind Words: Phil Davies
Below you can see a list of bands confirmed for this years festival…Still plenty of bands to be announced in the coming weeks…
KVELERTAK, SPIRIT CARAVAN, MAIN SUPPORT (to be re announced), ELDER, MASTER MUSICIANS OF BUKAKE, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN, MONKEY 3, SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, KONGH, SOURVEIN, ASG, THE MACHINE, BLUES PILLS, GRAVES AT SEA, DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT, THE BODY, MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN, ANCIIENTS, BLACK RAINBOWS, GRIME, GRANDLOOM, ARABROT, POMBAGIRA, HEY COLOSSUS, SLABDRAGGER, WAR WOLF, LIFER, SWAMP MACHINE