Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After last month announcing the acquisition of drummer Rich Lewis, UK planet destroyers Conan have put word out that they’ve begun writing for their next album. It will be their third full-length and will arrive as the follow-up to early-2014’s Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), which furthered the band’s penchant for over-the-top-if-the-top-was-the-very-bottom-of-low-end tonality, vicious hooks and minimally lyricized tales of slaughter — all things that have become Conan‘s hallmarks as much as the cavernous footprint left behind after they play.
Whatever they title their next LP, it will be a landmark for the band. Not only because it’s their second for Napalm or the always-pivotal third album, but because it will be the first outing since their 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here) not to feature drummer Paul O’Neil and the first with longtime producer Chris Fielding on bass and sharing vocal duties with guitarist, vocalist and founder Jon Davis (interview here). Lewis comes to the band from Cardiff metallers Intensive Square, who’ll reportedly have a new record out next year as well. Conan also being confirmed for their live debut on US shores at the 2015 Maryland Deathfest and having a UK tour in the works for earlier in the year and no doubt much more to come, it seems like Lewis‘ intro to the band’s touring cycle is going to be a busy one. You could say it already has been since they recently put in a couple weeks on the road together and made their first appearance in Britain at the Underworld in Camden Town on Oct. 30.
Still, only going to get busier. The three-piece confirmed work in progress thusly:
NEW ALBUM UNDERWAY…..
This week we have begun writing a new full length album.
You can understand that we will not commit anything to the recording until it is heavier than Blood Eagle – that would be pointless.
When it is ready we will update further but so far things are sounding totally ridiculous.
Posted in Reviews on November 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Twenty years and eight albums on from their beginning as Our Haunted Kingdom, the hills would seem to be few and far between for Orange Goblin, but they keep climbing. The reigning kings of London’s populous heavy rock scene and in many aspects its progenitors, the four-piece seemed to enter a new phase in their career with 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here), also their Candlelight Records debut. After several years languished following release trouble for 2007’s stellar Healing through Fire, light touring and no output, it was as likely as not they were done. In the years since, they’ve become one of heavy rock’s most eminent stage acts — the 2013 stopgap live album, A Eulogy for the Fans (review here) documented this thoroughly — and their influence continues to resonate well outside of their UK homebase. Back from the Abyss, their latest studio outing, arrives with 12 tracks and 57 minutes of new music and finds guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, drummer Chris Turner and frontman extraordinaire Ben Ward pummeling along similar lines as its predecessor. Also released by Candlelight, it boasts a similarly clean production style, and with AC/DC and Motörhead as their primary models, Orange Goblin seem across its span to be shifting into a comfort zone of brash turns, snarled vocals, heavy riffs and catchy songwriting. Stylistically and thematically, songs like “Mythical Knives,” “Übermensch,” “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “The Abyss” aren’t so far from what Orange Goblin have done since 2004’s Thieving from the House of God – they’ve long since been in command of their sound — but the vibe is steadier, more self-aware. They’ve established their formula, and like AC/DC, like Motörhead, like Slayer, the project now isn’t so much searching for what they want the sound to be as working to refine it as they move forward.
Like its predecessor, Back from the Abyss was recorded by Jamie Dodd at The Animal Farm in London, and if the band wanted to capture a similar feel, it’s understandable given the welcome reception and success of A Eulogy for the Damned. That’s not to say Back from the Abyss doesn’t have a personality of its own. One can hear it in the tightness of the crisp, thrashing “The Devil’s Whip” and its second-half companion “Bloodzilla,” or in how clearly Orange Goblin are writing for their audience. Ward is not through opener “Sabbath Hex” before he’s interacting with an imaginary crowd: “If you understand, raise your right hand/Repeat after me, we are stone free.” Perhaps that’s direct acknowledgement of how much of a professional live band Orange Goblin have become, and no doubt when that cut is aired live it receives or will receive the desired effect, but if Orange Goblin are writing songs for the stage, they run into the trouble of not needing 12 of them for a new release, and that becomes a conundrum for Back from the Abyss as it plays out. The semi-title-track “The Abyss” is well constructed but doesn’t accomplish much that “Übermensch” didn’t already nail, and while the penultimate “Blood of Them” is a blend of hook and horror-inspired atmosphere worthy of “The Fog” from the last record, “Into the Arms of Morpheus,” which ends the first half of the album (presumably, the first of two LPs encompassed), is a better longer-form progression, sounds more inspired and is closer to the front for a reason. The three-minute instrumental closer, “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” has a lumbering doom sensibility and deftly layered-in solo lines from Hoare, but where it seems to be waiting for its kickoff-riff the way “Mythical Knives” moves from a progressive-sounding opening into bruiser riff and the band’s particular burl, the last track just fades out, ending an offering so obviously keyed for adrenaline on a downer note. Maybe that’s the trip back from the abyss? I don’t really know.
For longer-term fans, the meat of Back from the Abysscomes toward the end of its first half. “Sabbath Hex” is a vibrant opener, “Übermensch” is a formidable showing of a songwriting formula at work, and “The Devil’s Whip” proves that Orange Goblin can tear it up full-speed with no questions asked, but it’s “Demon Blues,” “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “Into the Arms of Morpheus” that really convey a sense of the band’s maturity, their position among the world’s foremost heavy rock acts, and an album-style flow. Millard and Turner setting the foundation, Hoare drives the riff of “Demon Blues” and Ward masterfully rides that groove, leading to the bluesy intro of “Heavy Lies the Crown,” vocals following the guitar for the album’s catchiest chorus: “Who am I to, to make the rules, to break the rules and slay the fools/How am I, to be the man, who rules the land, with sword in hand/Fire roars, upon the shores that carry heroes off to wars/Heavy lies the crown I wear, but I did swear this weight to bear.” A somewhat inflated view of the band’s status, but a hell of a hook. At 7:27, “Into the Arms of Morpheus” is Back from the Abyss‘ longest track, Millard handling the opening with a choice bassline soon built upon by Hoare and Turner, the song taking a stoner rocker’s time to fully unfold. It works in three movements — the opening jam, the verse/chorus trade, and the closing jam — but it’s structurally and in sheer listenability the most human portion of the album, and they still get their sing-along in there too. The subsequent “Mythical Knives” is a solid opener for the second LP of a kin with “Sabbath Hex” or “Übermensch,” but “Bloodzilla” and “The Abyss” don’t have the same urgency behind them, and “Titan,” the instrumental preceding “Blood of Them,” features a welcome guitar hook, but neither pulls the listener back in nor leads directly into “Blood of Them,” which opens with fading-in bass over spooky-style ambience and shifts into a vehement closer (even though it’s the second to last track, it’s obviously the final push), with Ward‘s growl echoing out one last monstrous chorus.
Even the transition between “Blood of Them” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth” seems choppy. They could’ve easily put some more spooky rumbling after “Blood of Them” cut out to smooth the way into the finale, but it’s cold one into the next, and in truth, much of the album is that way as well apart from the first-half section already noted. As a fan of the band, I won’t discount Orange Goblin‘s songwriting ability, and in presence and performance, Back from the Abyss lacks nothing. For how tight they sound, however, the presentation should match, particularly as it’s the longest record they’ve ever done (1998’s Time Travelling Blues and 2002’s Coup de Grace were close). Still, their momentum will continue to carry them forward, and there’s more than enough material here to fit well in the setlist alongside “Red Tide Rising” from the last record and the host of classics from their storied career — “Quincy the Pigboy,” “Scorpionica,” “Blue Snow” (if you’re lucky), “They Come Back,” “Some You Win, Some You Lose,” and so on — and that’s pretty clearly the point. Back from the Abyss isn’t a perfect album, but for a lot of what they do and however many hills they may yet climb, Orange Goblin are largely undeniable. They remain undeniable.
Posted in Radio on November 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Managing to do rounds of adds to The Obelisk Radio two weeks in a row? Why, that’s almost too much on-it to bear. I’ll try really hard to contain my self-satisfaction. Okay no I won’t.
A pretty diverse bunch of records joining the playlist today. There are 11 total that went up, and in addition to correcting the oversight of not having put up YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend yet (infinite apologies), there are also new ones from Lord Dying and Primordial, It’s Casual and the recently-reviewed Elephant Tree. Also the Atavismo that I put up the info for the other day and which will be reviewed at some point soon, and five records I thought it would be worth highlighting out of the bunch. Some of these artists I’m sure you know, one or two maybe not, but again, it’s a fairly wide stylistic berth and that’s just the way I like it best.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Nov. 14, 2014:
Jakob Skøtt, Taurus Rising
His third solo album, Taurus Rising is also the second of the year for Copenhagen-based Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skøtt. Released through El Paraiso Records, it continues in the vein of earlier 2014’s Amor Fati in pursuing more of a full-band vibe, but strips that down somewhat to incorporate just synth and live drums. The result across Taurus Rising‘s five tracks is an unremitting progressivism, showcasing Skøtt‘s allegiance to krautrock in songs like opener “Escape from the Keep” while the centerpiece “Pleiades” has a little more of a psychedelic swirl. Keyboards arrive in multiple layers throughout, filling out the mix, and Taurus Rising becomes all the more impressive when one considers that Skøtt is essentially jamming with himself. He does so with a strong sense of evoking varied atmosphere from the tracks, the closing duo of “Bucket Brigades” (10:13) and “Taurus Ascendant” (7:59) pushing deep into spaced-out dynamics and, in the case of the latter, providing the album with its fullest wash and most satisfying linear build. Whether or not Skøtt intends to keep up this pace of releases, I don’t know — no reason not to so long as he’s inspired; it’s his playing, recording and label — but the prog-jazz sensibility of Taurus Rising seems ripe for further development. Jakob Skøtt on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
Sleeping Pulse, Under the Same Sky
Sleeping Pulse are not yet fully through “Parasite,” the opening track on their Prophecy Productions debut, Under the Same Sky, before Mick Moss lets loose the full emotional juggernaut of his vocal delivery. The duo is a collaboration between Moss, best known as the frontman and founder of Antimatter, and Portugal-based guitarist Luís Fazendeiro of Painted Black, who wrote the music. At 10 songs and 55 minutes, Under the Same Sky is tied together both through Moss‘ voice and a persistent airiness that, were it not so cleanly presented, I’d almost be tempted to call post-rock. It is darkly progressive, and the lyrics match, weaving tales of manipulation in the subtly building “The Puppeteer” (also watch out for the sampled applause about a minute in) and betrayal throughout moody cuts like the later “Noose” and “War.” For those who know Antimatter – whose latest full-length, Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), was released in 2012 — Sleeping Pulse finds Moss well in his element across the board, but Fazendeiro varies the style such that the piano-led “The Blind Lead the Blind” and emergent distortion chug of “Painted Rust” fit well alongside each other, and Under the Same Sky flows smoothly to its concluding title-track, a minimal piano piece backed by ebow-style tones and once more showcasing the resonance in Moss‘ blend of fragility and defiance. A sleeper not to be slept on, particularly with winter ahead. Sleeping Pulse on Thee Facebooks, Prophecy Productions.
Palm Desert, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow
Perhaps unsurprising when one considers they take their name from the hometown of California’s ’90s desert rock movement, but Poland’s Palm Desert owe a large sonic debt to Kyuss. In the Wroc?aw four-piece’s style of riffing, tonality and propensity for the occasional stoner jam on their third album, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow (Krauted Mind Records), they show their allegiance to the desert style and its blend of fuzzed-up punk and laid back psychedelia. Vocalist Wojciech Ga?uszka helps change things up, however, with some elements of Soundgarden-era Chris Cornell to go with periodic John Garcia gruffness, so that Pearls from the Muddy Hollow‘s nine tracks make a suitable companion piece to Steak‘s 2014 full-length debut, Slab City, which basks in a similar mindset. That’s not to say Palm Desert bring nothing of their own to the style — both the quick “Rise Above” (not a Black Flag cover) and extended closer “Forward in the Sun” (8:19) branch beyond idolatry to an individualized moment — just that the resounding impression throughout Pearls from the Muddy Hollow is Kyuss loyalism. Within the style, they do well in portraying a warm-toned feel and shift smoothly between movements both inside of and between their songs. They’re not revolutionary, but Palm Desert do justice to a familiar sound and sometimes that’s plenty to make for a quality record. Another decent bit of output from Poland’s fertile scene. Palm Desert on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
High Fighter, The Goat Ritual EP
Formed earlier this year as an amalgam of members from A Million Miles and Buffalo Hump, Hamburg, Germany’s High Fighter storm out of the gate with the five-song The Goat Ritual EP, a 21-minute thrust of modern metal and heavy rock ideals. Vocalist Mona Miluski shifts readily between a bluesy clean delivery and searing screams over the nod-ready riffing of guitarists Christian “Shi” Pappas and Ingwer Boysen, bassist Constantin Wüst and drummer Thomas Wildelau trading off between riding the grooves on “2Steps Blueskill” and energizing the bounce on “Fire in the Sun.” Second cut “Breaking Goat Mountains” seems to be particularly geared toward Kyuss‘ “Green Machine” in its riff, but bleaker, screamier centerpiece “Black Waters” shifts between the EP’s heaviest assault and a guitar-only peaceful moment that rounds out with a bit of fading feedback that leads to the wakeup punch of “Fire in the Sun,” in turn given over to the mosh fodder of “In Veins”‘s early going, which somehow transitions into more laid-back heaviness in its second half, of course building back to the initial riff to round out. In its production and much of its execution, it’s metal, but High Fighter keep command of heavy rock elements in such a way as to showcase the nascent moments of what has the potential to be a fascinating progression. The ritual, it would seem, is only beginning. High Fighter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sans Soleil, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky
Calling a string-infused, instrumental post-metal release “atmospheric” seems completely superfluous, but Austin fivesome Sans Soleil put enough of a focus on ambience throughout their four-track Tofu Carnage Records debut long-player, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky, that to not say so would be worse. Eva Vonne‘s viola plays a major role in the band’s sound on “A Holy Land” and is complemented there and thereafter by guitarists Dustin Anderson and Lee Frejyalune and bassist Theron Rhoten, but it doesn’t come across as trying to fill a gap where vocals might otherwise be, instead just a weaving current between the distortion and sub-doom plod of drummer Zach Hoop, whose crash distinguishes itself on “An Umbral Plain” in keeping a slow march together early and moving fluidly to double-time in the middle third. Dense but not claustrophobic, the subsequent “Across Brilliant Sands” opens direct interplay between Vonne and a line of lead guitar before moving into Grayceon-style sparseness and explosion, or at least a more doomed interpretation thereof, and building to what feels like an apex for the album until the 11-minute closer “Beneath a Godless Sky” busts into a gallop as it passes the halfway point and relents from there only to resume again with greater force, closing out A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky with a fitting push to coincide with the tonal weight preceding. An exciting and engaging debut from a group who arrive with a firm sense of what they want to convey sonically and emotionally. Sans Soleil on Thee Facebooks, Tofu Carnage Records.
Like I said at the outset, a little all over the place this week, but hopefully you find something to dig one way or another. To check out the full list of adds for this week and every week back to late 2012, and to see what’s been played on The Obelisk Radio today (some good stuff there), check out The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page. It’s where the cool kids hang out, or something.
Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The first time through, it is jarring when the screams come. Elephant Tree‘s Magnetic Eye Records debut, Theia, plays the setup perfectly. The newcomer London four-piece open with an 18-second sitar intro “The Call” — they later answer it with the 42-second “The Response,” totaling one minute — and shift seamlessly into the drum-led intro of the eight-minute, languid-rolling, heavily riffed “Attack of the Altaica,” with its open, multi-vocal verses, catchy but not overdone hook, resonant backing sitar drone and sparse guitar, and second half dedicated mostly to an instrumental jam. There’s one scream as they make that transition, buried in the mix at around 4:40, but there’s an effect on it, and the following jam is so immersive with its light guitar swirls, sitar noodling, and steady percussive base, that even after the fuzz guitar kicks back in to give the song its heavy end, “In Suffering” is still a surprise. Theia, which takes its name from the ancient planetoid that smashed into earth creating the moon, is the first outing from guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also of Stubb and Trippy Wicked), sitarist/vocalist Riley MacIntyre and drummer Sam Hart, and with the liquefied heavy psychedelia they otherwise elicit, one might be tempted to call the screams a misstep on “In Suffering,” but I disagree. They change the whole context of the release. One rarely finds sitar and screams in the same place, and that seems exactly to be the point. After “In Suffering,” you don’t know what else any of Theia‘s seven tracks might bring, if they’ll sludge out again or dive further into the jammy psych bliss of the extended semi-opener. It turns out a little bit of both, and more too.
Elephant Tree call Theia an EP, but I read it as more of a full-length. It has a two-sided flow, even on CD — though the CD has 10 minutes of silence at the end of closer “The Sead” and rounds out with a two-minute riff reprise — and the songs play well one into the next with added ease from each side’s intro, “The Call” and “The Answer,” and the smoothness of the transitions overall, whether it’s “Attack of the Altaica” into “In Suffering,” or “Vlaakith” into “Lament” into “The Sead,” the release continuing to expand its breadth the whole time in the way new bands often are more open about trying different things as they begin to establish songwriting patterns. The variety in the music speaks for itself. Even “In Suffering,” which is as harsh as Elephant Tree get, breaks down in its midsection for a swing-drum heavy psych jam, and gradually builds first to a clean-sung verse and then near the end to resurgent throatripping, somewhere in style between sludge and black metal, but effectively used. On the four-panel digipak version of Theia, “In Suffering” finishes heavy and nodding and gives way to MacIntyre‘s sitar on “The Answer,” which provides a brief but welcome respite and smooths the way into “Vlaakith,” a steady roll of subdued verse and weightier hook no less in conversation with “Attack of the Altaica” than “The Answer” is with “The Call.” Again we see that however far out Elephant Tree go in their jamming, they manage to pull back to some payoff to the structure of the song itself. This does them well across Theia as a whole and particularly with “Vlaakith,” on which Townley seems to touch on lead guitar ideas but ultimately backs off an actual solo to let the multi-source vocals drive the track’s apex and conclusion.
At just over two minutes, “Lament” is more than another interlude mostly because of the vocals, Holland‘s voice recognizable and bluesy over a subtly building stoner riff that continues to make its way northward for the (relatively short) duration. Like “In Suffering,” it’s something else to change the context of the material around it, and shows that Elephant Tree aren’t necessarily bound by one songwriting modus or another. That they pull it off is all the more impressive considering Theia is a first release, and “The Sead” finishes out with an interplay of atmospheric screams and clean singing over a steady riff. The sitar seems to take a back seat to fuzzed out guitars and warm-toned bass, but the band are obviously able to play it either way. A last hook is peppered with emerging lead guitar — I wouldn’t be surprised to find Townley bolder in this regard on future outings — and a quick scream marks the launch into the faster-riffed ending that, particularly with 10 silent minutes behind it, feels quick and cold in comparison to “Attack of the Altaica” or “Vlaakith.” The reprise arrives long enough later to be truly buried, but fades in as it builds for one final swell of volume to close out Theia in showcase of some but not all of the pieces working in Elephant Tree‘s favor, namely the easy, classic-styled-but-modern-sounding grooves, natural tones, fluid approach. Couple them with the potential they establish in the sitar, the use of multiple singers (and multiple singing styles), the diversity in songwriting and the will to craft an overarching flow, and Theia makes for a particularly strong, forward-thinking and nuanced debut. It might be surprising at first, but as it unfolds, Elephant Tree prove expansive enough readily handle such stylistic range.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
UK burl rockers XII Boar — which even though I know it’s pronounced “twelve boar” I still always say as “zhee-boar” — have issued a new digital single that’s a take on Motörhead‘s “Damage Case.” The Southern-styled sludge rock three-piece, somewhat unsurprisingly if you’ve heard their stuff before, beef up the Motörhead original, which appeared on side B of 1979’s classic Overkill. It’s a pretty bold cover to take on, but XII Boar have specialized in the brash since they got going, as their 2014 single Truck Stop Baby will attest, and they’re right in their element with the bruiser groove of “Damage Case,” which can be downloaded free via their Bandcamp page.
They sent word down the PR wire of the new track, and I spliced in a bit of bio background in case you’re unfamiliar. The track itself you can check out on the YouTube player below:
UK Metal & Roll Heavy Weights ‘XII Boar’ pay tribute to Motörhead
UK stoner and sludge scene regulars, ‘XII Boar’ have done a surprise release covering Motörhead’s classic ‘Damage Case’ for your audio pleasure. Putting their own slamming take on the tune and reworking it in their southern fried, crushing, sludgey style, it has been a smash hit across the interweb and already received rave reviews!
Speeding at you like an out of control train, XII Boar (pronounced ‘Twelve Boar’) have been tearing a new one into the stoner/sludge/metal scene over the last 2 years. The three-piece wrecking ball from Aldershot, Hampshire, blast their way into your skull with ear-splitting leads, sonic riffs, filthy bass lines, whiskey drenched vocals and a sweet southern groove.
Combining Motörhead’s swagger, Sabbath’s downtrodden doom and the swinging crunch of Corrosion of Conformity – these Hampshire louts lay down a colossal slab of rock n’ roll-infused groove metal that fuels even the greatest parties.
Not bad for a band who literally do all the hard work in house. Having independently recorded, produced and released two EPs since their inception, they have garnered much attention and rave reviews from both the press and fans alike.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Paradise Lost‘s last couple albums have been melancholy gems. Both 2012’s Tragic Idol and 2009’s Faith Divides Us — Death Unites Us (review here) drew a line to the rawness of the band’s early work without forgetting the brooding sensibility of their later forays, working under a sonic formula that seemed to be consistently developing while holding to a core of strong songcraft resulting in memorable tracks. Good records, in other words. But as the band continues to try to find their place, they seem to be pushing further back into their own breadth of influence, looking toward their deathly beginnings for where to head next.
We’ll look to the PR wire, as ever, for some explanation:
PARADISE LOST begins recording new album
After taking a trip back in time with the Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities) album and the last studio album Tragic Idol (2012) — which entered the charts at #2 in UK Rock Charts, #6 in Germany, #15 in Austria, #30 in France and #32 in North America Top New Artists/Heatseeker Charts — it’s now time for PARADISE LOST’s 14th studio album!
The band is about to begin the recording sessions for their highly anticipated 14th studio album with Jaimie Gomez Arellano from Orgone Studios in London (GHOST BC, ULVER, CATHEDRAL, ANGEL WITCH /http://www.orgonestudios.com).
PARADISE LOST’s Nick Holmes (vocals) comments: “We wanted to approach the new album differently this time, by embracing the band’s VERY early days with the last few years. We have written a very dark yet melodic album, but this time many songs definitely have a death metal edge, which is something we haven’t done for a long, long time in PARADISE LOST.”
The new album is tentatively scheduled for a worldwide release via Century Media Records in late April 2015. Stay tuned for more news coming soon!
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.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs photo by Jose Ramón Caamaño, on Flickr here.
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.