Thirty-four of the most bullshit-free minutes ever pressed to a record. There are a lot of reasons to dig Motörhead, and they’re just about all accounted for at one point or another on Overkill, their 1979 sophomore album and one of three records (granted one of them was prior-recorded) they’d have out that year in the wake of the success of their 1977 self-titled debut. Too metal for punks and too punk to really be metal, Motörhead would nonetheless become a pivotal name dirtying up the cleaner, classier intentions of the NWOBHM in the early ’80s, and Overkill helped set the stage for that. Its raw power and full sprint were pivotal in the development of thrash as well, and as much as Motörhead – then the lineup of bassist/vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, guitarist Fast Eddie Clark and drummer Philip “Philthy Animal” Taylor — are forever bound to the landmark property that is “Ace of Spades,” songs like “Stay Clean,” “Overkill,” “No Class” and “Metropolis” are every bit as essential, and from the bruiser rock of “(I Won’t) Pay Your Price” to the could-have-been-Hawkwind “Capricorn” and the swaggering “Limb from Limb,” Overkill is a whiskey-drunk, balls-out classic that’s every bit the “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore” album its reputed to be.
Motörhead don’t get much coverage around here, unless you count bands doing covers or Woody‘s column, the title of which is in reference to this LP, and I have my reasons for that. Their insurmountable history is one — more tours and records than just about anyone could count — and the fact that they’re more or less a given is another. You might be familiar with Overkill and you might not, but there’s just about no way you’re going to click play on the YouTube video above and it’s the first time you’ve ever heard Motörhead. Shit, they have their own cruise! It’s not like they’re hurting for press or there’s much left to say about them that’s never been said. You might as well write poetry about the moon.
But of course, plenty of people do that as well. I hope you enjoy Overkill. This is the 1996 reissue, so some bonus tracks kick in at the 34th minute. Listen to them or don’t. More Motörhead never hurt anybody, unless you count tinnitus.
Kind of a quiet week, at least on a personal level. That suits me at this point. My ankle is just about healed up save for some pretty specific flexibility issues, and my grandmother seems to be getting stronger physically after last week’s scare. She’s 99, so it’s not like she’s gonna go out and do a six-minute mile, but standing up is progress. I also left the house yesterday and didn’t get pulled over by any cops, which was a welcome change from the norm.
Of course, I live in terror even saying such things that a piano will magically fall from the sky as I walk to the mailbox or something, but my point is it was a stressful couple weeks to start 2015 and I’ll take what I can get as regards moments to catch my breath. I’m going to a show tonight in Providence to see USA out of Vietnam, and I’ll have a review of that early next week. Monday, an audio premiere from India’s Shepherd and a premiere of two behind-the-scenes Karma to Burn clips, so plenty going on one way or another.
Also planning on having a new podcast up before next week is out and I’ll review Sonny Simmons and Moksha Samnyasin and Torche albums and the second Black Moon Circle LP if there’s time. The radio stream has been running on the backup server most of this week, so I didn’t do a round of adds, but I should hopefully have something going in that direction by next Friday. Fingers crossed.
Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in On Wax on January 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Oh, I love this album. I really do. Quite frankly, I consider it a treat to even be writing about it again. From Wendy Rae Fowler singing about how she lost her heart at Wounded Knee on “Ghostship – Deadwater” to Mario Lalli stepping in for a croon on “Meadows,” the instrumental depth brought to “Tomahawk Watercress” and “Wetlands” by Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce and UK atmospheric heavy rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri, and Scott Reeder‘s layered harmonies on “Garden Sessions III” — the echoes of “waves on a distant shore” feature in my mental jukebox regularly — Yawning Sons‘ 2009 debut, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is among the most beautiful executions of heavy psychedelia I’ve ever heard. And the only reason I call it a “debut” instead of “only album” — they also have a split out with WaterWays, another Arce-inclusive project — is because no small part of me is still hoping for a follow-up at some point even six years later. It’s not impossible. This is an album that has kept me warm in winter, has soundtracked summer nights and has come with me on every significant bit of travel I’ve undertaken since its release. I think of it as an “airplane” album, because if I’m going to crash out of the sky and fall 35,000 feet to my demise, it’s I want to have the chance to be listening to it as I go down. No bullshit.
Alone Records has seen fit to reissue Ceremony to the Sunset, giving the album its first vinyl release after the original CD version came out via Cobraside in the US and Lexicon Devil in Australia. The pressing is 500 copies in translucent red, orange or yellow (I got yellow and it doesn’t look like it lets light through in the pics above because of the white background, but it does). It comes in a gatefold with a reworked cover no less suited to the spaciousness conjured throughout the record by Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri – the lineup of guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, texturist Blake and drummer Stevie B. is the same now as it was then — and it’s even more distinguished from the original offering by the inclusion of closer “Shores of Desolation,” an instrumental added to the back of side B that was tracked during the initial sessions in the UK and never released. While Alone pretty much had me at the word “go” on a reissue for Ceremony to the Sunset, I will say that the chance to hear a piece of music yet-unissued from this collaboration added significant appeal to the thought of giving the record a revisit. And no regrets. Blake must feature heavily on a song so textured, and sweet-toned guitar feedback is used to bring out further waves of melody before a final fadeout and back in and back out ends the new version of the album on a contemplative, sans-drums note following the bounce of “Japanese Garden.” Somewhat similar to “Whales in Tar,” but with a more foreboding undertone.
Since I usually put on Ceremony to the Sunset for a front-to-back listen, the vinyl does change the dynamic with two sides, and in that, “Shores of Desolation” serves a secondary function in evening out the halves. I hadn’t thought of “Meadows” as an opener, but it works well to start off side B after the flip, regrounding the proceedings after the three instrumentals “Tomahawk Watercress,” “Wetlands” and “Whales in Tar” appear in succession following album-opener “Ghostship – Deadwater” on side A. That track and “Tomahawk Watercress” continue to provide a tonal bliss that is largely unmatched in desert rock, Arce and King weaving guitar lines around each other while Hannon‘s bass and Stevie‘s drums give them a foundation on which to play out the memorable progression, descending and wistful. “Wetlands” brings the drums more forward, as does “Japanese Garden,” Yawning Sons‘ original closer, and like “Ghostship – Deadwater” and “Meadows” mirror each other as eight-minute side-starters, so too do “Whales in Tar” and “Shores of Desolation” work in conversation to end each half. I’ll make no attempt to hide my appreciation for Reeder‘s vocals on “Garden Sessions III,” but the guitar movement he tops is accordingly lush and open-spaced, relieving the almost-tense buildup that follows Lalli‘s guest spot on “Meadows.” Even with the rush of underlying percussion, it is a song to drift away by, and Reeder‘s voice is the tidal pull that carries you off. A one-man Beach Boys. Brilliant.
Granted I’m hardly impartial, but I can’t imagine that if you haven’t heard Ceremony to the Sunset before that the vinyl edition of it won’t grab you with its atmospherics and hooks both vocal an instrumental. In the history of desert rock, it’s probably a footnote, but for me it’s a landmark and an album that I’ve spent six years with at this point and found only a richer experience as time has passed. If Alone‘s reissue gets more people to hear it, or if those who appreciated it before have another excuse to take it on again and hear it in a different way, then all the better. Maybe one of these days Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri can get together again and make a follow-up. Here’s hoping.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Limited to 2,000 copies, The Pretty Things‘ new box set, is nothing if not encompassing. With 13 CDs, 2 DVDs, a 10″ vinyl, hardcover book, collection of legal documents and more, it has just about the entire life’s work of the UK band, who released their first album, The Pretty Things, in 1965, plus rare demos and outtakes and live stuff and much more. Not sure if there’s anything from their alter-ego, Electric Banana, but if you’re a Pretty Things fan, there should still be plenty to keep you busy.
The PR wire sends details and the overwhelming tracklisting. Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky is out Feb. 23 on Madfish Records and is available to preorder now:
Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky: The Complete Pretty Things Collection
Release Date: February 23rd 2015
For over fifty years, The Pretty Things have proudly, unapologetically and righteously scorched their own, unique trail through contemporary music. A half-century (plus) of the raunchiest white-boy rhythm and blues, of punch-ups, dazzling highs and epic struggles, of innovation and exultation, lauded by their peers, vilified by authority, a crucial influence on successive generations of acts, The Pretty Things make it to the mid twenty teens with mojo intact and edge unblunted.
It is with great pleasure that the career of this epochal British rock ’n’ roll band is justly celebrated by way of Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky, a lavish multi-media Box Set that contains the following:
ELEVEN STUDIO ALBUMS ON CD – housed in gatefold digi-sleeves, including FORTY-TWO bonus tracks
TWO BONUS CDs with FORTY-FIVE previously unreleased demos, alternate versions, live recordings and outtakes
TWO DVDs with new documentary Midnight to Six 1965-1970, by acclaimed producers REELIN’ IN THE YEARS, plus SF Sorrow Live At Abbey Road, The Pretty Things On Film, plus promo videos and interviews
10-INCH VINYL REPLICA ‘ACETATE’, featuring Defecting Grey full length demo and Turn My Head (studio version), plus 2 previously unreleased tracks
LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED 100-PAGE HARDBACK BOOK, featuring a comprehensive band history penned by Mike Stax (editor of Ugly Things magazine), with rare photos and memorabilia
FAMILY TREE & TESTIMONIAL POSTERS – tracing the band from Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys and The Rolling Stones to the present day, and featuring hand-written messages from Pretty Things past and present
COURT CASE HISTORY – excerpts from confidential legal files from the band’s ground-breaking battles to retrieve their rights and songs
BRAND NEW ART PRINT BY PHIL MAY – the original of which will be randomly placed in one lucky set!
BOUQUETS FROM A CLOUDY SKY will be released on Monday, February 23rd 2015 on the Madfish label (www.madfishmusic.com).
The Pretty Things have clocked up many notable ‘firsts’ in the glorious half-century, including The first Brit rock ‘n’ roll drug bust The first banned single (Don’t Bring Me Down, 1964) The first rock ‘n’ roll prosecution of a loaded firearm The first band to record a five-minute single (Defecting Grey) The first band to record a Rock Opera (‘SF Sorrow’, 1968) The first UK band to win a Rolling Stone ‘Record of the Year’ (‘Parachute’, 1970) First band to be signed to the Swansong label (Led Zeppelin’s imprint) First band to win the Mojo Hero Award!
THE GREATEST ROCK ‘N’ ROLL BAND YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF!
Box Set Full Tracklist
Rarities CD 1: 1 Don’t Bring Me Down (Live On The Beat Room 1964) [2:16] 2 Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut (Live On The Beat Room 1964) [3:26] 3 Johnny B. Goode (Live On The Beat Room 1964) [1:42] 4 Cry To Me (Alternate Version) [2:44] 5 Photographer (Rough Mix From Acetate) [2:12] 6 Bright Lights Of The City (Demo) [3:00] 7 Out In The Night (Demo) [2:39] 8 One Long Glance (Demo) [2:55] 9 Children (Alternate Version) [3:02] 10 Defecting Grey (Alternate Mix) [3:12] 11 Why (Live In Hyde Park) [6:16] 12 She Says Good Morning (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [3:41] 13 Alexander (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [3:29] 14 Renaissance Fair (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [2:13] 15 S.F. Sorrow Is Born (Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam) [3:34] 16 You Might Even Say (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [4:01] 17 Eagle’s Son (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [3:00] 18 Graves Of Grey (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [0:50] 19 It`ll Never Be (Philippe Debarge Sessions) [04:33] 20 Scene One (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [01:15] 21 The Good Mr. Square (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [04:33] 22 She Was Tall, She Was High (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [00:56] 23 In The Square/The Letter (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [03:41] 24 Rain (Westbourbe Terrace Demo) [03:20] 25 Cries From The Midnight Circus (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [03:53]
Rarities CD 2: 1 I’d Love Her If I Knew What To Do (Version 1 – Westbourne Terrace Demo) [2:16] 2 Seen Her Face Before (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [1:24] 3 Everything You Do Is Fine (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [4:07] 4 Cold Stone (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [3:28] 5 You Never Told Me Lies (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [2:04] 6 Take A Look At Me (Westbourne Terrace Demo) [4:12] 7 Wild And Free (Demo) [3:42] 8 I’d Love Her If I Knew What To Do (Version 2 – Demo) [1:39] 9 Spider Woman (BBC Radio Session) [4:32] 10 Route 66 (Live At The Hippodrome) [2:52] 11 Joey (Mono US Single Mix) [3:02] 12 Monster Club [3:51] 13 Cause And Effect [3:09] 14 Holding Onto Love (Outtake) [6:07] 15 You Can`t Judge A Book [3:01] 16 Chain Of Fools [4:53] 17 No Questions [4:20] 18 It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (Outtake) [4:04] 19 Hoochie Coochie Man (Outtake) [5:44] 20 Look Away Now (Outtake) [5:15] 21 Helter Skelter [4:54]
DVD 1: Midnight To Six, The Pretty Things 1965-70, produced by Reelin’ in the Years [2 hours duration] Bonus Material: The Pretty Things. On Film [13:00] Rosalyn (Promo Video) [2:20] Eve Of Destruction (Promo Video) [3:03]
DVD 2: S.F. Sorrow – Live At Abbey Road [1 hour]
10? Replica ‘Acetate’: Side 1: 1 Defecting Grey (Full Length Demo from acetate) (5:10) 2 Turn My Head (Demo) (2:34) Side 2: 1 Don’t Bring Me Down (Previously Unreleased Version) (1:40) 2 I Can Never Say (1:58)
Studio Album Tracklist The Pretty Things (1965): 1 Roadrunner [3:12] 2 Judgement Day [2:46] 3 13 Chester Street [2:22] 4 Big City [2:01] 5 Unknown Blues [3:48] 6 Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut [3:23] 7 Honey, I Need [1:59] 8 Oh Baby Doll [3:01] 9 She`s Fine She’s Mine [4:24] 10 Don’t Lie To Me [3:53] 11 The Moon Is Rising [2:33] 12 Pretty Thing [1:38] Bonus Tracks: 13 Rosalyn [2:18] 14 Big Boss Man [2:36 ] 15 Don’t Bring Me Down [02:08 ] 16 We’ll Be Together [2:08 ] 17 I Can Never Say [3:36 ] 18 Get Yourself Home [2:18 ]
Get The Picture? (1965): 1 You Don’t Believe Me [2:22] 2 Buzz The Jerk [1:54] 3 Get The Picture? [1:55] 4 Can’t Stand The Pain [2:41] 5 Rainin’ In My Heart [2:30] 6 We’ll Play House [2:33] 7 You`ll Never Do It Baby [2:26] 8 I Had A Dream [2:58] 9 I Want Your Love [2:16] 10 London Town [2:26] 11 Cry To Me [2:51] 12 Gonna Find Me A Substitute [2:57] Bonus Tracks: 13 Get A Buzz [4:01] 14 Sittin’ All Alone [2:47] 15 Midnight To Six Man [2:19] 16 Me Needing You [1:58] 17 Come See Me [2:39] 18 L. S. D. [02:24]
Emotions (1967): 1 Death Of A Socialite [2:41] 2 Children [3:01] 3 The Sun [3:04] 4 There Will Never Be Another Day [2:19] 5 House Of Ten [2:49] 6 Out In The Night [2:40] 7 One Long Glance [2:52] 8 Growing In My Mind [2:19] 9 Photographer [02:07] 10 Bright Lights Of The City [3:02] 11 Tripping [3:22] 12 My Time [3:05] Bonus Tracks: 13 A House In The Country [3:01] 14 Progress [2:58] 15 Photographer [2:15] 16 There Will Never Be Another Day [2:26] 17 My Time [3:11] 18 The Sun [3:04] 19 Progress [2:42]
S.F.Sorrow (1968): 1 S.F. Sorrow Is Born [3:15] 2 Bracelets Of Fingers [3:38] 3 She Says Good Morning [3:30] 4 Private Sorrow [3:50] 5 Balloon Burning [3:49] 6 Death [3:11] 7 Baron Saturday [4:02] 8 The Journey [2:42] 9 I See You [3:53] 10 Well Of Destiny [1:46] 11 Trust [2:47] 12 Old Man Going [3:07] 13 Loneliest Person [1:27] Bonus Tracks: 14 Defecting Grey [4:33] 15 Mr. Evasion [3:30] 16 Talkin’ About The Good Times [3:46] 17 Walking Through My Dreams [3:37]
Parachute (1970): 1 Scene One [1:51] 2 The Good Mr. Square [1:27] 3 She Was Tall, She Was High [1:36] 4 In The Square [1:55] 5 The Letter [1:39] 6 Rain [2:29] 7 Miss Fay Regrets [3:28] 8 Cries From The Midnight Circus [6:28] 9 Grass [4:20] 10 Sickle Clowns [6:36] 11 She`s A Lover [3:32] 12 What`s The Use [1:45] 13 Parachute [3:52] Bonus Tracks: 14 Blue Serge Blues [3:58] 15 October 26 [5:00] 16 Cold Stone [3:15] 17 Stone-Hearted Mama [3:52] 18 Summer Time [4:32] 19 Circus Mind [2:03]
Freeway Madness (1970): 1 Love Is Good [6:53] 2 Havana Bound [3:57] 3 Peter [1:27] 4 Rip Off Train [3:18] 5 Over The Moon [4:31] 6 Religion’s Dead [4:14] 7 Country Road [4:48] 8 Allnight Sailor [1:57] 9 Onion Soup [3:49] 10 Another Bowl? [2:54] Bonus Tracks: 11 Religion’s Dead (Live Lyceum 1973) [4:48] 12 Havana Bound (Live Lyceum 1973) [4:20] 13 Love Is Good (Live Lyceum 1973) [6:43] 14 Onion Soup (Live Lyceum 1973) [8:28]
Silk Torpedo (1974): 1 Dream / Joey [6:46] 2 Maybe You Tried [4:20] 3 Atlanta [2:41] 4 L. A. N. T. A. [2:24] 5 Is It Only Love [5:05] 6 Come Home Momma [3:41] 7 Bridge Of God [4:57] 8 Singapore Silk Torpedo [5:12] 9 Belfast Cowboys [6:55] Bonus Tracks: 10 Singapore Silk Torpedo (Live Santa Monica 1974) [7:06] 11 Dream / Joey (Live Santa Monica 1974) [7:21]
Savage Eye (1976): 1 Under The Volcano [6:02] 2 My Song [5:09] 3 Sad Eye [4:29] 4 Remember That Boy [5:02] 5 It Isn’t Rock ‘n’ Roll [3:58] 6 I’m Keeping [3:58] 7 It’s Been So Long [5:04] 8 Drowned Man [4:23] 9 Theme For Michelle [1:46] Bonus Tracks: 10 Tonight [3:06] 11 Love Me A Little [3:11] 12 Dance All Night [2:54]
Cross Talk (1980): 1 I’m Calling [4:07] 2 Edge Of The Night [3:20] 3 Sea Of Blue [3:14] 4 Lost That Girl [2:50] 5 Bitter End [3:17] 6 Office Love [4:12] 7 Falling Again [0:20] 8 It’s So Hard [3:15] 9 She Don’t [4:08] 10 No Future [4:29] 11 Wish Fulfillment [3:06] 12 Sea About Me [3:23] 13 The Young Pretenders [4:06]
Rage Before Beauty (1999): 1 Passion Of Love [3:22] 2 Vivian Prince [5:15] 3 Everlasting Flame [3:46] 4 Love Keeps Hanging On [8:55] 5 Eve Of Destruction [3:03] 6 Not Givin’ In [4:02] 7 Pure Cold Stone [5:47] 8 Blue Turns To Red [4:01] 9 Goodbye, Goodbye [2:45] 10 Goin’ Downhill [4:12] 11 Play With Fire [4:07] 12 Fly Away [4:31] 13 Mony Mony [4:45] 14 God Give Me The Strength (To Carry On) [6:03]
Balboa Island (2007): 1 The Beat Goes On [4:10] 2 Buried Alive [3:35] 3 Livin’ In My Skin [3:59] 4 (Blues For) Robert Johnson [8:01] 5 Pretty Beat [2:52] 6 In The Beginning [4:42] 7 Mimi [2:34] 8 Feel Like Goin’ Home [2:43] 9 The Ballad Of Hollis Brown [6:28] 10 Freedom Song [4:46] 11 Dearly Beloved [4:59] 12 All Light Up [4:30] 13 Balboa Island [4:42]
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally announced for release last fall, the sixth album from UK doom/drone psych experimentalist duo Pombagira is now set to arrive as their Svart Records debut on March 23. The two-piece’s last work, 2013’s Maleficia Lamiah (track stream here), plummeted into deep reaches of dronescaping, and it seems that going by the 13-minute title-track posted below that Flesh Throne Press will follow suit and expand on those ideas, the band’s evolution having been ongoing since their first release now eight years ago and traceable in the vocal progression and movement toward heavy doomadelia in that time.
It’s also a double-album, so expansive might just be the key idea on Flesh Throne Press, but we’ll see how it goes when it shows up, and if Pombagira get out for more shows in support. More to come as I hear it, but in the meantime, if you were, say, putting together a massive list of 2015’s anticipated releases, Pombagira would be a fitting candidate for inclusion.
If that was a thing you were doing, say.
To the PR wire:
POMBAGIRA REVEAL DETAILS OF THEIR UPCOMING SIXTH ALBUM, FLESH THRONE PRESS, TO BE RELEASED VIA SVART RECORDS 23RD MARCH
Pombagira return with their sixth album since their inception in 2007. Flesh Throne Press sees the band expanding on themes covered in their previous double album release Maleficia Lamiah. Recorded in July 2014 across two intense weeks the band put down over 80 mins of material all of which will be made available on the double CD and double album, both of which will be released by Svart Records on 23rd March 2015.
Musically, this album projects the band forward with a mind-expanding purpose for exposing the body to a varied compositional range. When it is heavy, it obliterates in an avalanche of riff making, and when in full tilt, it is only matched by the orchestral quality produced by tracking six amps and cabs for every guitar take.
More concise in its delivery than Maleficia Lamiah, the overall cerebral effect upon the listener is apocalyptic. It will not only rattle you to the very core of your being, but it also wills the listener to a plane where an inner meditative pose can be sustained. This is accomplished by way of the heaviest songs Pombagira have written to date, and by injecting stripped down undistorted constituents to the proceedings. Surfacing in standalone songs as well as being interspersed amongst those heavier tracts of progressive expansiveness, the band this time around present to the listener their most exact example of musical uniqueness. Coursing with the undulations of textural juxtaposition, Pombagira make firm their claim of being a truly original band without compare.
Retentive themes regarding the dead and the necromantic discourse for conversing with ancestors both forgotten and the fallen is here enfleshed. In many ways this album solidifies a connection between the written word composed within Peter Hamilton-Giles’ soon to be published “Grimoire of the Baron Citadel” through Three Hands Press, and the ongoing ritual work to serve the forgotten and fallen. Flesh Throne Press actually refers to the visceral experience of the grave dirt which presses in on the flesh during the initiatory procedure.
Embodying both aspects of ingress and egress, this new album will present a more psych-o-delic side to Pombagira’s music, as they find innovative ways to evolve their sound. In an attempt to bind the sorcerer to the spirit entourage that comes from taking every deviation, Flesh Throne Press explores the ‘nightside’ like no other.
Posted in Radio on January 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Usually I approach doing a batch of radio adds with some trepidation — after all, I’m basically writing five (or, in this week’s case, six) short reviews — but after doing that Last Licks series last week, this honestly feels like a breeze. Perspective is everything, and to add to yours and mine, I’ve got 18 records joining The Obelisk Radio playlist this afternoon, and it’s a widely varied bunch, both in what’s written up here and the actual makeup of the stuff.
Full-lengths, EPs, splits, a live release, a single, some doom, some black metal, some heavy rock, sludge, psych, you name it. I had the radio going for a while yesterday and heard a few really satisfying changes in style. I like that and I hope you do too, because I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. Full list of adds is on the Updates and Playlist Page.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Jan. 9, 2015:
Formes, Dysphoria Part 1
For an album that starts “Through this Hole” and finishes in “Dead Ends,” Formes‘ Dypsphoria Part 1 is a resoundingly progressive and diverse outing that, at its core, works primarily in playing shoegaze psych and extreme metal off each other. Somewhere between Dead Meadow and Akercocke, a song like “Dead Ends” finds a way to mesh wub-chug riffing with the crooning vocals of guitarist/bassist Steve McNamara with the responding death growls of his brother, drummer/guitarist Jordan. The UK three-piece is rounded out by Rob “The Alchemist” Hemingway, whose synths feature heavily in songs like “I am Nothing” and “Tumult,” which atmospherically expand on the ideas the opener presents, thrusting these two sides into the same place and, in defiance of what are generally thought of as the physics of genre, making it work. Formes‘ most effective moments are when they ram one into the other, as on the acoustic-to-doom-pummeling “Smile Club,” which follows quietly seething brooder “I Will Make You Ill” and rounds out with an extended whistle of harsh feedback, but I won’t discount the value they clearly place on structural variety either. Together, they make Dysphoria Part 1 as satisfying as it is unpredictable, and while I don’t know when one might expect Part 2 or just how many installments of Dysphoria there might be, I look forward to when I can next encounter the fruits of Formes‘ stylistic restlessness. Formes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Romero, Gold for the Hunt
Madison, Wisconsin, sludge poppers Romero made a New Year’s present out of “Gold for the Hunt” by offering the song as a free download on Jan. 1, but it’s also the first new studio material to come from the four-piece since their early 2013 full-length, Take the Potion (review here). Like that album, the single revels in a Floor/Torche influence, but seems to delight even more in its fuzzy tone and burly edge in the vocals of guitarist Jeffrey Mundt and drummer Ben Brooks. With the foundation of Patrick Hotlen‘s bass rumbling beneath, the guitar and vocals push through a tension-release chorus and into a well-layered chugging bridge that further highlights Romero‘s penchant for melodic bellowing. Guitarist/percussionist/organist Tim Consequence seems all but absent initially, but in the final movement, a sustained current of organ winds up as one of “Gold for the Hunt”‘s most distinguishing factors. Well, that and the brutal growing, anyway. Glad to hear from Romero, even in so abbreviated a manner. If you’ve never encountered them before, “Gold for the Hunt” provides a quick, efficient summary of their approach, and if you heard Take the Potion, the new song will only make you further anticipate the follow-up. Romero on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Bellringer, Bellringer EP
Based in the weirdo haven of Austin, Texas, newcomer trio Bellringer – for whom this untitled/self-titled, self-released EP is the first outing — boast a familiar face (or at least a familiar cowboy hat) in guitarist/vocalist Mark Deutrom (Clown Alley, peak-era Melvins), who’s joined by bassist Corey Cottrell (ex-Megazilla) and drummer Craig Nichols (Guided by Voices, The Breeders) on these four tracks. The sound, while adventurous stylistically and in terms of the construction of individual parts, is rooted in heavy rock, opener “Vapor Lock,” a catchy number like “Wait” and the instrumental chorus of “Von Fledermaus” reminding some that, yes, Deutrom was the bass player on Stoner Witch, but particularly in the latter an even more resonant impression comes across like Masters of Reality‘s blend of pop and heavy rock oddness. That vibe continues on the nine-minute psych-jam closer “The Burning Gift,” which brings Deutrom‘s vocals forward and works in keyboard arrangement flourish, bell sounds, string sounds and various melodic volume swells to underscore the point that, even on Bellringer‘s introduction, pretty much anything goes if it works. So be it. The world needs more experimental rock that doesn’t forget there are two sides to that equation, and Bellringer seem to come out of the gate ready to gleefully tip the scales one way or the other. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Wizard Eye, Riff Occult Live
If, like me, you’ve been itching to get a handle on some new music from Philly’s theremin-laced, golly-these-guys-need-to-get-a-new-record-out stoner doom trio Wizard Eye, Riff Occult Live should do the trick. All but two of the tracks — “On the Banks of a River” and the meshed-together “Gravebreath/Say No More” — come from the riffy three-piece’s forthcoming sophomore outing, and while it’s definitely a live record, the dense fuzz and nod-ready roll that guitarist/thereminist/vocalist Erik Caplan, on-a-first-name-bassist Dave and drummer Mike Scarpone conjure wins out anyway on cuts like “Drowning Daydream” and “Flying/Falling,” Scarpone‘s kick drum a pop in the low end while Wizard Eye ooze their way through one Sabbathian jam into the next. Opener “Eye of the Deep” sets a tone for extended solos and thick groove, and Wizard Eye do not falter from that path as the set makes its way to the 11-minute final jam, each riff arriving, kicking ass, and moving on in well-purposed succession. Riff Occult Live doesn’t entirely sate the anticipation for a new album, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Lewd Flesh, Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte
Marked out immediately by the echoing, over-the-top bluesy vocals of Malene Pedersen, Copenhagen heavy rockers Lewd Flesh make their Spaghetti Casetti Records debut with the Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte 7″, bringing together the two songs “Acid Rider” and “Lewd Troves” to give a professional, crisp first impression across two sides and about 11 minutes. Guitarists Nanna Braunschweig Hansen and Casper Nilsson, bassist John Madsen and drummer Jakob provide the backdrop for Pedersen‘s rocked-out vocal thrust on “Acid Rider,” and more ’90s-style cues are taken on “Lewd Troves,” the wailing guitars offering a flourish of noise influence to coincide with the band’s straightforward production. It is their first outing, and two songs, and it’s a raucous start to make, but there’s room to grow as well in Lewd Flesh‘s hammering out their balance of grunge, noise and heavy rock impulses and figuring out where to place the vocals in the mix. To the credit of both the band and the release, Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte sounds both smoothly produced and on-stage energetic, and hopefully they can keep that spirit intact as they continue to grow. Lewd Flesh on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Red Mess, Crimson EP
Familiar riffs abound on Red Mess‘ debut EP, Crimson, and the Brazilian trio give due reverence to the likes of Sabbath and Goatsnake, but it’s the rougher, semi-retro presentation that draws the listener into the atmosphere created by guitarist/vocalist Thiago Franzim, bassist Lucas Klepa and drummer Douglas Labigalini over the four tracks/22 minutes. There’s something theatrical in Franzim‘s vocals to opener “Trapped in My Mind” that also give a classic Alice Cooper Band feel to the proceedings as well, and that’s really just one element of heavy ’70s worship that continues on “Hole” and the subsequent, motor-ready “Stoneage Coopers,” but they save the best for last in 5:30 closer “Through the Trees,” which offsets Graveyard-style subdued blues noodling with heavy rock thrust, a highlight performance from Klepa alongside Labigalini‘s swinging cymbal and tom work, and an engaging build throughout. They’re feeling their way through developing their sound, and that’s exciting to hear since the three-piece already has some considerable chemistry between them. Hopefully they’re able to take lessons from Crimson – named, apparently, in homage to a classic prog influence — and move forward as they discover where they want to go and how they want their songs to take them there. Red Mess on YouTube, on Bandcamp.
Had to get that sixth one in there, and not just because it frees up another space on my desktop. The idea behind doing adds like this isn’t just to remind people there’s a radio component to this site. That’s part of it, sure, but the bigger agenda here is to hopefully give you another opportunity to check out music you might dig. That’s why the audio is right there under each review. I sincerely hope something above piques your interest and that you also share it with someone you think will enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Put into position headlining Saturday night April 25 along with Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, New Orleans sludge progenitors Eyehategod continue to reap acclaim — and, presumably, souls — from their long-awaited 2014 self-titled studio return. They’ll be in good company at Desertfest in London, along with Orange Goblin, the aforementioned Bjork, Sleep and Red Fang, all of whom prove worthy headliners for a fest of increasing diversity and prestige.
The announcement came through on GMT with verbiage by Tom Geddes:
EYEHATEGOD TO CO-HEADLINE SATURDAY NIGHT AT DESERTFEST 2015!!
ARE SLEEP NOT ENOUGH DOOMY SLUDGE FOR YOUR SET OF 2015 HEADLINERS? DIDN’T THINK SO.
That’s why DesertFest are ecstatic to announce that Eyehategod will be co-headlining the Saturday of this year’s festival, alongside Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band!
One of the cornerstones of the sludge scene since their formation in 1988, EHG have been front and centre ever since. Announcing their presence to the world with 1992?s ‘In the Name of Suffering’ and following sharply in the next year with the blistering ‘Take as Needed for Pain’, the riffs and groove of Sabbath were there, but with a colossal punch and a weight that were simply beyond heavy. Add into the mix Mike Williams’ signature snarls and EHG were always onto something special. ‘Dopesick’ and ‘Confederacy of Ruined Lives’ followed in 1996 and 2000 respectively and only added to the legendary catalogue of Eyehategod.
After a studio album drought of 14 years, last year saw the self-titled release of ‘Eyehategod’, which wasn’t so much a return to form as it was a raising of the bar. Full of power and forays into hardcore throughout without losing much of the slow, dirty sludge riffing; we may have had to wait, but this was anything but a Chinese Democracy-style disappointment.
A rare live treat over the last decade, with touring being sparse, Eyehategod are must see at DesertFest 2015. Miss this chance and you may be kicking yourself for a long, long time to come. Kind Words: Tom Geddes
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
With Steak and Desert Storm as headliners, the Winter Warmer Weekender 2015 is set for Jan. 16 and 17 and will pull together some of the London-area underground’s finest in heavy. The two-night festival has been put together by When Planets Collide, which traditionally is also responsible for the sludgiest stage at the London Desertfest, and that side of things isn’t left out here either — looking at you, BongCauldron — though there’s plenty of variety within the sphere of heavy rock between the lineups.
Also noteworthy that Desert Storm are getting ready to release their new album, Omniscient, on Jan. 26 via Blindsight Records. No doubt they’ll be in a celebratory mood as they close out the Friday night lineup, and with good reason.
When Planets Collide posted the schedule and info for the fest:
Full timings for the WINTER WARMER WEEKENDER!!
After a cracking SUMMER SIZZLER SESSION just a couple of weeks ago I have decided to put all my efforts into making the WINTER WARMER WEEKENDER 2015 the best show yet so we shall all be convening on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th January 2015.
This means that once again you have the whole Sunday to recover and it also means that you can beat those winter blues by coming and seeing 12 of the greatest new offerings in our scene today!
To start things off we are blown away to announce 2 previous good friends of WPC who really have shot to stardom since last appearing at an event of ours so we are truly chuffed to have them return again to headline.
On Friday we have the stoner Groovers DESERT STORM who have only played with us once back 2 years ago but we have brought them back and placed them where they belong in headlining position!
On Saturday we have the desert rock Titans STEAK who have played a lot of shows with us over the years but since performing last have not only Signed to Napalm Records but recorded one of the best albums of 2015 which even includes guest vocals from Lord John Garcia himself!
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yesterday was pretty rough. Some excellent stuff in that batch of 10 discs, but man, by the end of it I don’t mind telling you I was dragging more than a bit of ass. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I think that, as a project, this was worthwhile. There was a lot of stuff — too much — sitting around that was going to go undiscussed coming out of 2014, and now here we are, it’s the New Year, and I feel like at least a small percentage of what came my way got its due. Small victories.
So this is it. Reviews 41-50. After this, there isn’t much from 2014 that I’ll be looking back on; it’s mostly stuff to come, which is a different matter entirely. I’m sure we won’t be out of Jan. before I’m behind again in a major way, but what the hell, at least I’m trying, and at least there’s 50 discs that showed up on my desk that can be put on the shelf instead. Yes, it’s a very complex filing system. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, let’s finish it like the final battle from Highlander. There can be only… 10… more…?
Okay maybe not.
Thanks for reading.
The Re-Stoned, Totems
Helmed since 2008 by the multifaceted Ilya Lipkin, Moscow mostly-instrumentalists The Re-Stoned release their fourth album in the form of Totems on R.A.I.G., a 58-minute wide-breadth journey into heavy rock groove with touches of psychedelia, plotted jazz-jamming and a raw tonal sensibility. Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump contributes a noteworthy solo to “Old Times,” and along with bassist Alexander Romanov, Lipkin (who himself handles the artwork design, guitar, bass, shaman drum, jew’s harp, mandala and some voice work) employs a guest drummer, percussionist and didgeridoo player, so there’s a measure of variety to the proceedings, be it the jerky pauses in “Shaman” or the earlier effects-laden exploration of “Chakras.” “Old Times” has a bit of funk to it even before Stump’s arrival, and the acoustics of “Melting Stones,” which follows, border on cowboy Americana. They’ve never had the most vibrant production, but The Re-Stoned manage to convey a natural feel and confidence as they progress, the creative growth of Lipkin always at the center of what they do.
For his second album under the moniker Anthroprophh, guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen (also of The Heads) brings in a rhythm section to aid him in his time-to-get-really-weird purposes. Thus, bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, who together form the duo Big Naturals, add to the strangeness of songs like “2013 and She Told Me I was Die” on Anthroprophh’s Outside the Circle, a 45-minute excursion into warped sensibilities and things meant to go awry. Songs are made to be broken, and that happens with drones, sudden shifts in atmosphere, some smooth transitions, some jagged, all designed to transport and ignite stagnation. It does not get any less bizarre as Outside the Circle moves toward its nine-minute title-track, but one doesn’t imagine Allen would have it any other way, and one wouldn’t have it any other way from him. I call a fair amount of music adventurous for deviating from the norm. Anthroprophh makes most of that sound silly in comparison with its buzzsaw guitar and raw experimental display.
Saskatoon four-piece Lavagoat continue to challenge themselves even as they bludgeon eardrums. Their single-track CD EP, Weird Menace, pulls together six individual songs recorded mostly live in their rehearsal space with a purposeful drive toward rawness and a horror thematic. Sure enough, where their 2012 LP, Monoliths of Mars (review here) and 2010 self-titled debut (review here) offered increasing stylistic complexity, Weird Menace steps forward atmospherically by pulling back on the production value. Murky screams permeate “Ectoplasm” only to be immediately offset by the low growls and deathly groove of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” presented as nasty as possible. There are still some touches of flourish in the guitar – one can’t completely cast off a creative development, even when trying really, really hard – but to call Weird Menace’s regressive experimentalism anything but a success would be undervaluing the turn they’ve made and how smoothly they’ve made it. Note: a follow-up LP, Ageless Nonsense (actually recorded earlier than this EP), has already been released.
Limited to 50 CD copies and presented in an oversize sleeve, soon-to-be-picked-up-by-somebody Colorado five-piece Ketch’s self-titled debut demo/EP is death-doom brutal and doom-death grooving. Vocalist Zach Salmans and guitarist Clay Cushman (who also recorded) trade off growls and screams over plus-sized, malevolent riffs and guitarist Jeremy Winters, bassist Dave Borrusch and drummer David Csicsely (also of The Flight of Sleipnir) only add to the pummel, which hits a particularly vicious moment in the grueling second half of “Counting Sunsets,” a dirge of low growls giving way to churning, nodding despair. Beginning with 9:18 longest cut “Shimmering Lights” (immediate points), Ketch deliver a precision extremity that even on this initial offering makes its villainous intent plain with volume and overarching drear. The midsection stomp of “Chemical Despondency” and the gurgle in closer “13 Coils” affirm that Ketch have found their stylistic niche and are ready to begin developing their sound from it. One looks forward to the growth of this already maddening approach. Bonus points for no obvious Lovecraft references.
Somewhere between death, black and doom metals, one finds Rhode Island three-piece Eternal Khan exploring cosmic, existential, literary and mythological themes on their self-released debut full-length, A Poisoned Psalm, the jewel case edition of which includes both lyrics and liner note explanations of each of its seven tracks. It’s an ambitious take from a trio who seem destined at some point to write a concept album – maybe based on Faust, maybe not – but the actual songs live up to the lofty presentation, be it the suitable gallop of “Raging Host,” despondent push of centerpiece “The Tower” or double-kick bleakness of “Void of Light and Reconciliation.” Guitarist/vocalist N. Wood, guitarist T. Phrathep and drummer D. Murphy mash their various styles well, but there’s room to grow here too, and I’d wonder how “The Black Stork” might work with an element of drone brought into the mix to add to the atmosphere and provide contrast to the various sides of Eternal Khan’s extremity. Even without, A Poisoned Psalm serves vigorous notice.
Rife with ‘70s swagger and easy-rolling blues grooves, Get Pure is the third record from Columbus, Ohio trio Mount Carmel, and it goes down as smooth as one could ask, the guitar work of Matthew Reed, bass of his brother, Patrick Reed (since out of the band and replaced by Nick Tolford) and drums of James McCain meshing with a natural, classic power trio dynamic only furthered by the vocals, as laid back as Leaf Hound but with an underlying bluesiness on cuts like “One More Morning” and “No Pot to Piss.” At 11 tracks and a vinyl-minded 35 minutes, neither the album as a whole nor its component tracks overstay their welcome, and late pushers like “Hangin’ On” and “Fear Me Now” leave the listener wanting more while closer “Yeah You Mama” bookends with opener “Gold” in hey-baby-ism and irrefutable rhythmic swing. Comfortable in its mid-pace boogie, Get Pure offers a party vibe without being needlessly raucous, and its laid back mood becomes one of its greatest assets.
One could hardly accuse Stockholm classic proggers Pocket Size of living up to their name on Exposed Undercurrents, their second album. Even putting aside the expansive fullness of their sound itself, there are nine people in the lineup. It would have to be some pocket. The group is led by guitarist Peder Pedersen, whose own contributions are met by arrangements of saxophone, Hammond B-3, flute, theremin and so on as the 11 tracks of Exposed Undercurrents play off intricately-conceived purposes to engaging ends. One is reminded some of Hypnos 69’s takes on elder King Crimson, but Pocket Size have less of a heavy rock stylistic base and are more purely prog. A clean production – this is clearly a band that wants you to hear everything happening at any given moment – serves the 54-minute offering well, and though it’s by no means free of indulgence, Exposed Undercurrents is imaginative in both the paths it follows and those it creates, the joy of craftsmanship clearly at the core of its process.
Though it’s actually only about 41 minutes, I doubt if Zoltan’s Sixty Minute Zoom would benefit from the extra time in terms of getting its point across. The instrumental London trio of keyboardist Andy Thompson, bassist/keyboardist Matt Thompson and drummer/keyboardist Andrew Prestidge revel in ‘70s synth soundtrack stylizations. For good measure I’ll name-check Goblin as a central influence on “Uzumaki,” the second of Sixty Minute Zoom’s five inclusions, but John Carpenter’s clearly had a hand as well in brazenly cinematic texturing of synth and the late-‘70s/early-‘80s vibe. The various washes culminate in the side B-consuming 21-minute stretch of “The Integral,” which is broken into separate movements but flows smoothly between them, pulsations and drones interweaving for a classic atmosphere of tension and balance of the chemistry between the Thompsons and Prestidge and the progressive, immersive sound they create. Fans of earlier Zombi will find much to chew on, but Zoltan dive even further into soundtrack-style ambience. All that’s missing is Lori Cardille running down a dimly lit hallway.
Offered as a nine-track full-length plus a four-song bonus EP, the self-titled debut from Madison, Wisconsin’s The Garza meters out noise rock punishment with sludgy ferocity. A trio of notable pedigree – drummer/vocalist Magma (Bongzilla, Aquilonian), guitarist Shawn Blackler (Brainerd, Striking Irwin), and bassist Nate Bush (ex-Droids Attack, ex-Bongzilla) – they fluidly pull together post-hardcore elements and Crowbar-esque turns while retaining a core of punk rock. “Rage” is a solid example of this, but it’s true of just about all of the album proper, which largely holds to its approach, adding some melody to the seven-minute pre-bonus-tracks closer “Kingdoms End” and varying tempo here and there around its destructive central ideology. The four bonus tracks are of a similar mind as well, Magma switching up his vocals every now and then to add variety to proceedings that otherwise prove vehemently assured of their position. I’m not sure if the extra cuts help reinforce the album’s rawness or detract from the closer, but The Garza aren’t exactly light on impact either way.
Dot Legacy’s self-titled Setalight Records debut, particularly for a green-backed CD with vinyl-style grooves on front, is not nearly as stoned as one might think. The Parisian foursome of Damien Quintard (vocals/bass/recording), Arnaud Merckling (guitar/keys/vocals), John Defontaine (guitar/vocals) and Romain Mottier (drums/vocals) employ a broad range on the 46-minute album’s nine tracks, from the shoegaze post-rock of “The Passage” to the driving heavy psych of “Gorilla Train Station,” all the while holding firm to a creative reasoning geared toward individuality. If they wound up adopting “The Midnight Weirdos” as a nom de guerre, I wouldn’t be surprised, but in fact there’s little sense that at any point Dot Legacy aren’t in full command of where their material is headed. All the better for the surprising opening duo of “Kennedy” and “Think of a Name,” which shift between reverb-soaked meditation and vibrant, hook-laden heavy rock. A fascinating and original-ish debut that could be the start of something special. They should hit the festival circuit hard and not look back.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s just 54 seconds, so by no means does the snippet unveiled today of UK space metallers Enos‘ “Son of a Gun” offer a definitive glimpse at the track, which features a second drummer and guest vocals alongside the four-piece and will serve as their portion of a split 7″ with Mangoo due early in 2015 on H42 Records, but it’s a suitable teaser anyway since it makes me want to hear the rest of the song. Enos are also working on their third album and the follow-up to 2012’s All too Human, which hopefully will be out by the end of the New Year as well, lest my timing prove wrong for including it in my anticipated-albums notes. That list will be out in a week or two. Enos will be on it.
Until then, the news:
New year, new release, more gigs!
So, it’s been quite a while since we’ve posted here but fear not, we’ve been keeping ourselves busy. A few of you may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet on the gig front recently, there’s a reason for that! Work on our third record is coming along very well. We’ve been writing and demoing tracks over the past couple of months (any of you who came to one of our shows in 2014 will have heard one or two of them. We started airing a couple on tour with Abrahma and Mother Corona back in March). We’re quickly closing in on the point where we will be ready to commit them to tape, we’ll keep you posted!
If you simply can’t wait then we have something to keep you going! Over the summer we spent a bit of time in the studio recording a track for a split 7? with Mangoo. Due out in the spring this release will be out as a limited edition via H42 Records and features exclusive artwork by the talented Alex Von Wieding on both sides (Alex is responsible for the artwork on All Too Human). As this is a special release we decided to push the boat out with this track. Son Of A Gun features Sam Dorrell of Left Arm Pregnant (who also stepped in for Sparky on our European tour with Mangoo and Rescue Rangers in 2013) joining Sparky for some double drum kit action. We also recruited Sigrid Jakobson (whose vocals appear on Collisions and Obscured on All Too Human) for some backing vocals. Son Of A Gun was recorded at Empora Studios and produced by Mark Roberts. Here’s a snippet….
And now for some gigs….
We’re very happy to say that we’ll be starting 2015 with a couple of shows (where you will no doubt be hearing some of our new material). First off we’ll be taking to the stage at The Macbeth in Hoxton on the 20th January alongside Slabdragger, Trippy Wicked and The Cosmic Children of The Knight and Jack and The Bearded Fisherman. This is a Nightshift Promotions show in association with Rock-A-Rolla magazine. Keep an eye on their Facebook event for more details.
We are also very happy to announce our return to Paris on February 26th 2015. We’ll be playing at Glazart alongside Monolord and Salem’s Pot. This show is for Stoned Gatherings and Dead Pig Entertainment. We are very happy to be returning to Paris once more and we’re looking forward to seeing you there! Keep an eye on the Facebook event for more details.
Posted in Reviews on December 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yesterday was kind of crazy, but I don’t mind telling you I think today might be the most all-over-the-place of the week each of the five piles on my desk — now three, soon two — offers something different from the others, but it’s a wide spectrum being covered here, and there’s a couple abrupt turns from one to the next that I didn’t really do on purpose but I think will make for an interesting challenge anyway. In case you’ve been wondering, that’s what kind of nerd I am. Also the Star Trek kind.
I’m feeling really good about this series so far. Really good. I reserve the right to, by Friday, be so completely done with it that I never want to even think of the idea again, but I can only begin to tell you how satisfying it is to me to be able to write about some of these records after staring at them for so long sitting on my desk. Today’s batch is reviews 21-30 of the total 50, so we’ll pass the halfway point in this pile. If you’ve been keeping count since Monday or checking in, thanks, and if not, thanks anyway. Ha.
It’s about that time:
Brain Pyramid, Chasma Hideout
Although it was streamed here in full in September, the persistent stoner charm of French trio Brain Pyramid’s debut album, Chasma Hideout (released by Acid Cosmonaut Records), seemed to warrant further highlight. Whether it’s small touches like the organ underscoring centerpiece “Lucifer” or the wah-ready bass of Ronan Grall – joined in the band by guitarist/vocalist Gaston Lainé and drummer Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo – or the memorable if genre-familiar turns of “Into the Lightspeed,” the band’s first LP impresses with unpretentious heavy rock front to back. It’s not perfect. Lainé’s vocals come across high in the mix on opener “Living in the Outer Space” and there are points where the “familiar” runs stronger than others, but especially as their initial full-length offering, Chasma Hideout is one that one seems to continue to grow on the listener as time goes on, and one hopes that the heavy psych chicanery from which they launch the 11-minute closing title-track becomes the foundation from which they build going forward. Potential worth reiterating.
With the backing of venerable Swedish imprint I Hate Records, Canadian two-piece Zaum release their first LP in the four-song Oracles, a 48-minute work taking its central musical and atmospheric themes from Middle Eastern cues. Melodically and atmospherically, it relies on chants, slow, deep low end and minor key riffs to convey a dense ambience, reminding some of Om’s Mideast fixation on “Peasant of Parthia” – third and shortest here at 8:13 – but otherwise on a much heavier, darker trip entirely. Opener “Zealot” (12:55) and closer “Omen” (14:08) both offer plodding pace and a methodology not unlike Nile played at quarter-speed, but it would be a mistake to call the hand with which Kyle Alexander McDonald (vocals, bass, synth, sitar) and Christopher Lewis (drums) approach their aesthetic anything but commanding, and when McDonald switches to a semi-blackened rasp in the second half of “Omen,” Zaum demonstrate a desire to push even further into extremity’s reaches. I can’t help but wonder how far they’ll go.
Some of the organ sounds on “Eye Opener,” the aptly-titled leadoff from Virginia four-piece Fire Faithful’s second LP, Organized Occult Love, remind of what Beelzefuzz conjured atmospherically, but an even more primary impression is the uptick in production value from Fire Faithful’s 2012 outing, Please Accept this Invocation (review here). Recorded by Windhand’s Garrett Morris, songs like “Last Fool on Earth” and “Organized Occult Love” brim with tonal resonance and a perfect balance the mix. Guitarist Shane Rippey handled the latter with Morris, and throughout, his tones and that of bassist Jon Bone shine, but whether it’s a more straightforward, Earthride-style groover like the title-track, or a more ranging doomer like “Combat,” vocalist Brandon Malone is well balanced to cut through the morass and drummer Joss Sallade’s crash resides comfortably behind the thick chugging. Melissa Malone and Gabrielle Bishop contribute backing vocals to “Last Fool on Earth” and only affirm how much Organized Occult Love brings Fire Faithful’s Southern doom to another level of presentation. An important forward step.
Five years after debuting with 2009’s Cantos a Ma Vida, Amsterdam-based Pendejo return on Chancho Records with Atacames, a 10-track/44-minute wallop of classic heavy rock riffing and Latin American influence via the Spanish lyrics of vocalist El Pastuso and his readily-wielded-but-not-overused trumpet, which makes a surprising complement to Jaap “Monchito” Melman’s fuzz-heavy guitar, Stef “El Rojo” Gubbels’ bass and Jos “Pepellín” Roosen’s drums, but in context works well to bring personality and an individualized sensibility to a sound otherwise heavily indebted to the likes of Kyuss and Fu Manchu. Quality songwriting and variety in songs like the slower “Amiyano” and the building “Hermelinda” ensures Atacames offers more than novelty to those who’d gape at its other-ness, and when that trumpet does hit, it never falls flat. Closing out with a pair of big-riffers in “El Jardinero” and “La Chica del Super No Se Puede Callar,” Pendejo’s sophomore effort produces results as substantial as they are fun, and serve to remind that’s why we’re here in the first place.
Cali trio Heavy Glow – guitarist/vocalist Jared Mullins, bassist Joe Brooks and drummer St. Judas – have spent a decent portion of the year on tour in support of their full-length, Pearls and Swine and Everything Fine. Understandable, and all the better to pick up your girlfriend in-person. Smooth, well-baked grooves permeate cuts like “Mine all Mine,” which also appeared on their prior 7” (review here), and the later “Nerve Endings,” a Queens of the Stone Age-style production giving about as much of a commercial vibe as a record can have and still be heavy rock, but the songwriting is paramount and definitely an element working in Heavy Glow’s favor, whether it’s the takeoff chorus of “Domino” or near-lounge vibe of “Fat Cat.” There’s an aspirational sensibility at the album’s core that’s going to make for an odd fit for some riff-heads who might be puzzled how something so nearly desert rock can still sound not at all like Brant Bjork, but hooks is hooks, and Heavy Glow use them well.
Bibilic Blood released three albums between 2009 and 2011, but the Eastlake, Ohio, duo haven’t been heard from since – their nightmarish, depraved psychedelic sludge vanishing in a smoky, somehow hateful wisp. Snakeweed marks their fourth album, and with it bassist/vocalist Suzy Psycho and drummer/guitarist Scott “Wizard” Stearns unfurl another demented collection of chaos snippets from an alternate, terrifying universe, the 11 songs totaling just 27 minutes with enough lumber and obscure freakout on two-minute mainliners like “Severed” and “Bloodnomicon” in the middle of the record to be a genre on itself — like a grainy horror flick made scarier by its rawness. Closer and longest cut at 4:10 “Bloody Rabbit” starts with Boris, Flood-style noodling from Stearns on guitar, but samples transition into Snakeweed’s most gruesome chapter, Suzy Psycho’s voice echoing, twisted, from out of an abyss that might as well be your own subconscious, referencing Jefferson Airplane along the way. Their particular brand of malevolence has been missed, and hopefully Snakeweed starts a new bout of activity.
Thera Roya & Hercyn, All this Suffering is Not Enough
Gloom prevails and takes multiple shapes on All this Suffering is Not Enough, the new jewel-case split between Brooklyn post-metallers Thera Roya and progressive New Jersey black metallers Hercyn. Each band includes one song, and for the trio Thera Roya, that’s “Gluttony,” which builds its churn from the ground up and intersperses spacious guitar and almost punkish clean singing en route to a wash of scream-topped distortion, trading off volume and ambience and ultimately delivering a lot of both in a densely-packed eight minutes. Hercyn, a four-piece, counter with the 14-minute “Dusk and Dawn,” which follows their also-longform Magda EP (review here) in grand and squibbly form, a gallop taking hold early topped with throaty screams and shifting between melodic and dissonant impulses, a midsection solo offering a standout moment before the bludgeoning resumes. Each act offers a quotient of noise not to be understated, and despite working in different styles, that’s enough to let them complement each other well on the searing 23-minute Ouro Preto Productions release.
Synapse, the third full-length from German trio The Spacelords, arrives like a gift from the bliss-jam gods. Four extended mostly-instrumental cuts arranged two per side on a Sulatron Records LP, crafting memorable impressions with washes of synth and guitar, intelligent jams that feel partially plotted and intelligent but still exploratory and natural in how they flesh out. Guitarist Matthias Wettstein is out front in the mix, but bassist Akee Kazmaier and drummer Marcus Schnitzler (also of Electric Moon) aren’t far behind, as much as a title like “Starguitar” might make you think otherwise. The chemistry between the three-piece remains tight across the album’s 41 minutes, and from the rich bass and chugging guitar of the opening title-track to the more laid-back groove of “No. 5” and voicebox strangeness of “Pyroclastic Master,” which has the record’s only vocals in robotically spoken lines, Synapse seems to make all of its connections along the way. Heavy psych heads previously unfamiliar will want to take note. The vinyl, of course, is limited.
A progressive heavy rock trio from the Netherlands, The Good Hand present Atman, their second album, on Minstrel Music, with an adventurous semi-desert sensibility given crisp production and a somewhat wistful feel in songs like “Greenwich Mean Time” and “Unity.” For a record that starts out with lead guitarist/vocalist Arjan Hoekstra (also tuba, trombone, bugle, keys, percussion) declaring “I am god,” Atman is surprisingly not-arrogant, owing probably as much to Radiohead as Kyuss and keeping an experimental feel to the stops and arrangement of “The Opposite,” bassist/vocalist Dennis Edelenbosch and drummer/vocalist Ingmar Regeling (both also Monotron) swinging out classic style but holding firm to a modern edge. Out of nowhere is the 19-minute closing title-track (nothing else hits six), on which The Good Hand unfold varied movements that push beyond the charm of “The Death of the Real”’s ‘60s affiliations and into spaces jazz-funky, or droning, or doomy, or all of them. No easy accomplishment, but The Good Hand manage to hold it all together fluidly.
Byzanthian Neckbeard, From the Clutches of Oblivion
Okay, seriously. What the hell do you think a band who live on an island in the English Channel and call themselves Byzanthian Neckbeard sound like? Burly as hell? Well you’re right. The Guernsey foursome of guitarist/vocalist Phil Skyrme, guitarist Jon Langlois, bassist Dano Robilliard and drummer Paul Etasse get down on some dudely, dudely grooves on their 2014 debut, From the Clutches of Oblivion. “Doppelganger” nestles somewhere between death rock, stoner and sludge, and there’s a heaping crash of doom on “Plant of Doom” (duh) and “To Seek the Cyberdwarf” to go with the more swaggering take of “Hive Mind Overlord” as well. But primarily, you don’t put the word “Neckbeard” in your band’s name unless you’re on a pretty masculine trip, and Byzanthian Neckbeard do not fuck around in that regard or in the aggro boogie of “The Ganch.” CD is limited to 200 copies in a four-panel digipak to house the growl-laden, riff-led plunder that ensues across its brief but bloody 32-minute span.
Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is it. New Year’s is this week and by Friday we’ll be into 2015. A new year always brings new hopes, concerns, records and so on, but to be completely honest, I’m just not quite done with 2014 yet. So here we are. I’ve had stacks of CDs on my desk and folders on my computer from the last couple months of stuff I have been trying to fit in, and it doesn’t seem right to me to let the year go without cramming in as much music as I possibly can.
Gotta call it something, so I went with “Last Licks,” since that’s basically what it will be. The plan is that between today and Friday, each day I’ll have another batch of 10 reviews. I’m not going to promise they’ll be the most comprehensive ever, but the idea is to do as much as I can and this seems to me the best way to turn my brains into goo. When that ball drops in Times Square, there’s a good chance I’ll be typing.
No sense in delaying. You get the idea, so let’s jump in:
Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
Recorded live as their debut on Candlelight Records and the follow-up to 2011’s debut, Return to Earth (review here), the sophomore outing from Welsh heavy rockers Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today, is distinguished by a vocalist swap bringing in Matt Williams of Suns of Thunder. Williams has a tough job in replacing Dorian Walters, who like guitarist Stuart O’Hara, bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey, is a former member of Acrimony. There are times when it works and times when it doesn’t. Along with a more barebones tonality in the guitar than appeared on the debut, Williams brings a more straightforward style in his voice, and it changes the personality of the band on songs like “Freedom Engines” and the first-album-title-track “Return to Earth.” “Tribe of the Old Oak” is a catchy highlight and I’ll almost never argue with a song called “Obelisk,” but it seems like they’re still searching for the footing here that seemed so firmly planted their last time out.
Upstate New York blues rockers Handsome Jack waste little time living up to the title Do What Comes Naturally. The name of their third album, released by Alive Naturalsound, is both mission-statement aand suggestion, and on songs like the soul-inflected “Creepin’” and the rolling “You and Me,” they make it sound like a good idea. Blues and classic soul meet garage rock across cuts like the relatively brief “Leave it all Behind,” but the tones are warm throughout the record, and guest spots on harmonica and Hammond help keep a sense of variety in the material, well-constructed but still loose in its vibe. The twang might recall The Brought Low for heavy rock heads, but one doubts Handsome Jack groove on much that came out after Psychedelic Mud. Even the CD splits into sides, and as easy as it would be for something like this to sound like a put-on, Handsome Jack prevail with closer “Wasted Time” in making an outing that’s anything but.
London doomers Serpent Venom sound like experts in the form on Of Things Seen and Unseen, their second album for The Church Within following 2011’s Carnal Altar and their initial 2010 demo (review here), a righteous 48-minute lumbering slab of heavy riffs, downerism and nod. It’s not every band who could put “Death Throes at Dawn” and “Lord of Life” next to each other, but the four-piece of vocalist Garry Ricketts, guitarist Roland Scriver, bassist Nick Davies and drummer Paul Sutherland keep their focus so utterly doomed that even the quiet, minimalist acoustic interlude “I Awake” – ostensibly a breather — comes across as trodden as the earlier “Sorrow’s Bastard,” or the Reverend Bizarre-worthy “Let Them Starve,” which follows. For those who long for trad doom that has an identity outside its Vitus and Sabbath influences, Serpent Venom prove more than ready to enter that conversation on the wah-soaked soloing in the second half of “Pilgrims of the Sun.” Right fucking on.
The artwork tells the story. Owl Glitters’ Alchemical Tones (on Heart and Crossbone Records) is a wash of color. Taking tribal rhythms and repetitions and pairing them with organic low-end, chanted vocals and periodic excursions of psych rock guitar, Arkia Jahani (who seems to be the lone creative force behind the project, though Mell Dettmer mastered) brings a ritualistic sensibility to the eight included pieces, and the flow is molten from the start of “Dervishes.” Less purposefully weird than Master Musicians of Bukkake, but farther into the cosmos than Om, there’s a folkish identity at the heart of Alchemical Tones that keeps the proceedings human even on the near-throat-singing of “Hakim Sanai” or “Poets of Shiras” and “Khalifa’s Visions” an immersive pair preceding the droning closer “By the Candlelight Our Eyes Welcome Glimmers of Eternity.” Beautifully experimental – and in the case of “Mindful of Gems,” fuzzed to the gills – Owl Glitters’ second outing engages sonic spiritualism with dogmatic command and stares back at you from the space within yourself.
Sandveiss released Scream Queen, their first full-length, late in 2013, reveling in a modern sound crisply produced and more than ably executed to feature the vocals of guitarist Luc Bourgeois, who provides frontman presence even on disc alongside guitarist Shawn Rice, bassist Daniel Girard and drummer Dzemal Trtak. Cohesiveness isn’t in question as opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Blindsided” rounds out its 6:26, leading the way into “Do You Really Know” and setting the tone for big-riffed Euro-style heavy from the Quebecois foursome, who slow down on “Bottomless Lies,” on which Trtak backs Bourgeois in you-guys-should-do-this-more fashion, and ultimately hold firm to the focus on songwriting that establishes itself early. They fuzz out on closer “Green or Gold,” but by then it’s another element of variety among the organ, guest vocals on “Scar” and tempo shifts on Sandveiss’ ambitious debut, distinguished even unto the six-panel gatefold digi-sleeve in which it arrives, the art and design by Alexandre Goulet one more standout factor on an album demanding attention.
Probably the most clearly Beatlesian moment on Octopus Syng’s Reverberating Garden Number 7 is a slight “Hey Bulldog”-style cadence on side A’s “Very Strange Trip,” and that in itself is an accomplishment (one I’m apparently not the first to observe). The Helsinki four-piece in their 15th year are led by guitarist/vocalist Jaire Pätäri and emit an oozing, serene psychedelia, peaceful and lysergic in late ‘60s exploratory fashion. Reverberating Garden Number 7 (on Mega Dodo Records) echoes out vibe to spare and is deceptively lush while keeping a humble vibe thanks in no small part to Pätäri’s restrained vocal approach and curios like “Cuckoo Clock Mystery,” which boasts an actual cuckoo clock to add bounce to its arrangement. Nine-minute closer “Listen to the Moths” is the single biggest surprise, and an album unto itself, but its unfolding is only the capstone on a collection of psychedelic wonder sincere in its stylistic intent and execution. It fills the ears like warm air in the lungs.
Destructive Australian trio Sun Shepherd put the bulk of Procession of Trampling Hoof to tape in 2011. Closing bonus track “Exploding Sun” is a demo from 2006, but it fits with their extended tracks and big riffs piled onto each other in densely-weighted fashion, if rougher in presentation. More Ramesses than High on Fire, who prove otherwise to be a key influence tonally for guitarist/vocalist Anson Antriasian, must-hear bassist Leigh Fischer and drummer Michael Barson, though their approach is decidedly less thrash-based. The first five of the six songs find Sun Shepherd’s first full-length a pummel-minded blend of sludge and doom. Antriasian’s vocals are semi-spoken, but fitting theatrically on “Goat-Head Awakening” with the grueling riff-led nod, the tension released as they pass the halfway point of the 10-minute run, a raw atmosphere bolstering the chaos of their slower-motion marauding. With the welcome flourish of stonerly soloing on “Engulfed by Ocean of Time,” one can’t help but wonder what the Melbourne natives are up to three years later.
Fuzz-toned elements of Sleep and Sabbath pervade the stoner-doomy self-titled The Church Within debut from Oslo three-piece Purple Hill Witch, who carry the bounce well in immediately familiar riffs and groove. Swinging drums from Øyvind and the inventive basslines of Andreas underscore Kristian’s purely Iommic riffage and blown-out vocals, somewhere between Witchcraft’s earliest going and Witch’s self-titled. If that gives Purple Hill Witch an even witchier feel, “Final Procession” sounds just fine with that, as do shorter tracks like the later “Aldebaranian Voyage (Into the Sun)” and centerpiece “Karmanjaka” on which the stoner side comes out in force. They finish by using all 11 minutes of the eponymous “Purple Hill Witch”’s runtime, breaking in the midsection for a murky exploration that’s creepily atmospheric without veering into cult rock cliché. They bounce resumes and slows to a crawl to close out, but the jam serves Purple Hill Witch well in expanding the band’s sonic reach and the album’s weedian sensibility. Not that they were keeping it a secret.
A burly dual-guitar five-piece with roots in Germany and Switzerland, Giant Sleep start out their self-titled, self-released first LP with a brief intro titled “Argos” before getting to the question, “Why am I angry all the time?” as the central, recurring line of “Angry Man.” That song, like “Henu” and “Reproduce,” gets its point across quick in heavy rock fashion and develops its argument from there, a progressive metal vibe pervading especially the latter, which is penultimate in the 10-song/52-minute effort, and underscores the high-grade craftsmanship accomplished throughout. “Dreamless Sleep” is probably my pick of the bunch for its airier tone and resonant minor-key hook in the guitars of Markus Ruf and Patrick Hagmann, vocalist Thomas Rosenmerkel belting out the chorus before making way for plotted solos atop Radek Stecki’s bass and Manuel Spänhauer’s drums, but it’s not so far removed from its surroundings. As a whole, the album could be more efficient, but it wants nothing for songwriting, and especially as a debut, Giant Sleep hits its marks readily.
Opener “Las Noches del Desierto” is the only one of Star Collider’s five tracks under 10 minutes. Flux seems to be the norm for Finnish post-stoners Acid Elephant, who recently brought in vocalist Martin Ahlö but here revolve around the core of bassist/guitarist/vocalist Miksa Väliverho, guitarist/vocalist Ilpo Kauppinen and drummer Roope Vähä-Aho, employing a host of others on obscure vocals, percussion and djembe throughout the 64-minute sophomore outing, recorded in 2012 and released late in 2013. Whoever they are now, Acid Elephant on Star Collider call out heavy psych, drone/jam and riff-based impulses in their extended cuts, gradually getting longer from “Red Carpet Lane” (10:46) until closer “Bog” hits 18:29. To their credit, their songs leave impressions to match their length, and even as it’s finishing its instrumental run, “Godmason” (15:58) is highlighting its resonant central riff, having emerged from a wash of feedback and amp noise at its beginning, preceded by the droning centerpiece “7th Stone.” Satisfying and unpredictable, Star Collider balances experimentation and engagement smoothly without losing its focus on individualism.
The Judas Priest catalog has a few classics in it, or I guess they wouldn’t be Judas Priest, and while they’ve joined the ranks of those metal bands who seem to retire as often as not, there’s little arguing one can do with their early years — they’re the raw building blocks on which heavy metal would be constructed. And as much as Black Sabbath gets credit for inventing the sound, listening to a record like 1978’s Stained Class, there’s little doubt Priest played a major role in shaping the style and visual aesthetic of the genre.
Stained Class is the fourth Judas Priest album, following 1977’s Sin after Sin, 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny and their 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla, which gets slagged a lot for not being as “metal” as what followed, but offers plenty for fans of heavy ’70s rock. Songs like “Better by You, Better than Me” (a cover of Spooky Tooth), “Exciter,” “Invader,” the ultra-badass “Saints in Hell” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” are monuments of the soon to rise New Wave of British Heavy Metal, arriving two years before Iron Maiden released their first album and roughly concurrent to Motörhead‘s 1977 self-titled debut. Sabbath at this point were falling apart, releasing Never Say Die in ’78 before the big split with Ozzy, and while early metal seemed to be floundering all around them, Judas Priest would emerge to lead the style into the ’80s, to what many still regard as its peak era.
Not a bad legacy to wind up with. Of course, the mob went wild when Priest issued British Steel in 1980 (1978’s Killing Machineappeared between Stained Class and that album), and that helped propel the Birmingham five-piece to their iconic status, but a couple years earlier, when Stained Class hit, it did so with more of a workman feel. Comprised at that point of guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, vocalist Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Les Binks, they were a band who knew what they were going for and who knew who they were even as pop consciousness shifted toward the rawer and less superficially pretentious punk of the day. I won’t take anything away from that either — if you ever hear me badmouth the Ramones, please alert the authorities that I’ve been kidnapped and replaced by a cyborg with shitty taste — but I think time has proved Judas Priest were right in sticking to their guns.
This is the last week-ending full-length of 2014, so I hope you enjoy.
Why Saturday and not Friday as usual? Well, The Patient Mrs. and I got home a little bit after midnight from about 72 hours straight of Xmas family time. It was delightful, and draining. A final two-hour trip north from Connecticut and by the time we got in, we didn’t even have energy enough to bring in presents from the car. It’ll happen today. Of course, not closing out the week before I went to bed wound up being the wrong choice since I was up until two and then up again from about 5:30 to 8 this morning — something just didn’t feel right — so I got mine in the end for veering from the routine even in this small way. Take that, me.
If you celebrated, I hope you had a good ol’ time. This week coming up is New Year’s, so things get even crazier. The Patient Mrs. and I will head back down to New Jersey in the middle of the week (Tuesday night, I believe) for more festivities and wahthaveyou, but I’ve also decided to close out 2014 with a bang around here. I’ve got stacks of CDs on my desk that have come in for review and it’s time to get them gone, so what I’ve decided to do is a series I’m going to call “Last Licks.” It’ll be 10 reviews per post (obviously each writeup will be relatively brief), Monday to Friday this coming week, rounding up stuff I want to get in before the year ends, and that’ll be that for 2014. Yeah, I know it’ll be 2015 by next Friday, but just roll with me on it. It’ll be good.
So that’s 50 reviews next week. Keep an eye out. Ha.
I also have some news to catch up on, so I’ll work that in where and when I’m able, and we’ll have the results of the Readers Poll — did you get your list in? — hopefully on the first, but maybe the second if Slevin is busy or tells me to screw off, which he’d be well within his rights to do. It’s been a close race the whole month and has been exciting to watch, and I’m thankful to everyone that’s taken part so far.
Thanks also to everyone who shared the lists that went up this week and the podcast as well. I know it wasn’t much for quantity of posts the last couple days, but I hope the quality made up for some of that.
Alright, I’m going to get more coffee and spend the remainder of this lovely day sitting on my ass. Enjoy the holiday weekend. Be safe, have fun, and we’ll see you back here Monday to close out 2014 in style.
Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.
Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.
Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.
Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.
Let’s get to it:
The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014
1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural
A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.
Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.
With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegraciónhit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.
On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.
And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.
To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.
If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & Silver, Wren, Death Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been listening to The Obelisk Radio a lot this week, particularly while starting to put together my top albums of 2014 list, so it seemed only appropriate to get a new round of adds up to the server. As we come to the end of the year, there’s always a slowdown in terms of releases, but if I had to put a number to it, I’d call it a 10, maybe 20 percent drop at most. If it was running water and you were looking at it, you’d notice no difference. A flood is still a flood.
As such, 14 records joined the server today. Some are recently reviewed, some aren’t out yet, some have been out for a little bit. It’s a solid batch of stuff, and if you haven’t yet had enough of lists — more to come, believe me — it’s worth a look at the Playlist and Updates Page. The amount of stuff on there is staggering. It’s a wonder the radio stream manages to fit in so much Clutch at all.
Let’s get to it.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 19, 2014:
Mugstar & The Cosmic Dead, Split LP
Two sides, one song from each band, each a massive slab of a jam. Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead and Liverpool’s Mugstar make a solid pairing, and by solid I definitely mean liquid, and by liquid I mean that’s what your brains will be by the time Mugstar‘s “Breathing Mirror” (18:42) and The Cosmic Dead‘s “Fukahyoocastulah” (25:51) are done. Instrumental in their entirety and jammed out on a subspace frequency that I only imagine they can already hear in the Delta Quadrant — and no doubt they’re wondering what the title of The Cosmic Dead‘s contribution means exactly — both cuts share an affinity for progressive heavy psych exploration, kosmiche and krautrock alike, but with a fresh take on the classic idea of we’re-gonna-get-in-a-room-and-this-is-what-happens that runs through, whether it’s in the drone midsection of “Breathing Mirror” after the jam has died down and before its resurgence, or the later reaches of “Fukayoocastulah,” which rest on the nigh-eternal bassline that’s steady enough to hold the course despite the various effects freakouts, slow swirls and experiments happening around it. About 45 minutes solid of primo heavy jamming? Sign me up. Mugstar’s website, on Bandcamp, The Cosmic Dead on Thee Faceboks, on Bandcamp.
Goya, Satan’s Fire
Eleven-minute opener “Malediction and Death” makes its primary impression in its consuming tonality — a harsh but encompassing low end that emerges out of the initial cavalcade of feedback starting the song. The first three minutes of “Malediction and Death” are noise before Phoenix’s Goya kick in their riff, drums and vocals, sounding as huge on the Satan’s Fire EP as on their preceding split with Wounded Giant (review here) but perhaps even more malevolent as they continue to find their place within wizard doom, marked out by the two-at-once solo shredding of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens, the lurching rhythm behind him and the swing of drummer Nick Lose, whose snare punctuates “Malediction and Death” like a life-preserver tossed into the abyss. Unsurprisingly, they end noisy. “Symbols” picks up with two minutes of sparse, atmospheric drumming, and the title-track (5:58) finishes with a tale of antichristianity, dropping out of life, and watching the world fall apart. Doom? Yes. Perhaps not as patient as “Malediction and Death,” “Satan’s Fire” itself offers suitable heat, and delivered through amps that likewise sound about ready to melt, provides a memorable impression even beyond its Oborn-style hook. Goya on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Somewhere between classic doom and more aggressive, hardcore punk-derived noise, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, four-piece Attalla are the kind of band who could probably release nothing but 7″ singles for the next five years and still make a go of it. As it stands, their self-titled debut offers a stirring rawness in the dual guitars that reminds there’s more ways to make an impact tonally than just with volume or fuzz. Their roots are in punk, and that’s plain enough to hear in lead guitarist Cody Stieg‘s vocals on songs like “Light” and “Lust,” but “Haze” nestles into a stoner groove late that suits Attalla well, and the later “Veil” offers charged propulsion in the drums of Aaron Kunde, whose snare sound is tinny but fitting with the sans-frills stylings of Stieg, rhythm guitarist Brian Hinckley and bassist Bryan Kunde. Some variation in tempo throughout changes things up, but a particularly triumphant moment comes with the raw Slayer-esque foreboding (think slow Slayer) that begins “Doom,” a fitting closer to Attalla‘s Attalla with its subtly complex stylistic blend and relatively barebones presentation. I’m not sure where Attalla go from here in terms of developing their sound, but the debut offers reason enough to want to find out. Attalla on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
If you played me TarLung‘s TarLung debut full-length and told me the trio were from North Carolina, I’d undoubtedly believe you. In fact, they hail from Vienna, Austria, but just so happen to have the Southern sludge ideology nailed down on their first offering. Roots in Crowbar and Eyehategod and Sourvein can be heard throughout, big nod, harsh vocals, weighted plod. The guitars of Rotten and Phillipp “Five“ Seiler (the latter also vocals) brings in some of that Pepper Keenan-style Southern riffing, on “Last Breath” particularly, but the bulk of what they and drummer Marian Waibl get up to on these seven tracks is rawer and nastier, the album’s last three cuts — “Apeplanet,” “Black Forest” and “Space Caravan” — providing the best glimpse at TarLung‘s effective aesthetic interpretation. Tonally and methodologically sound, what remains for them to do is hone a more individualized approach, but particularly for a self-released first album, the crisp harshness they convey on the centerpiece “C2″ — a kind of maddening high pitch running throughout — satisfies when taken on its own level, and among the three-piece’s assets, their lack of pretense will no doubt serve them well moving forward. TarLung on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Gangrened, We are Nothing
Proffering lurching, aggressive sludge over three tracks arranged longest to shortest, Finnish trio Gangrened conjure sweeping chaos on We are Nothing, blatantly contradicting the title of the release despite whatever riff-laden nihilism might be at work philosophically. Among the most telling moments on the release — which follows a split tape from the four piece of vocalist Ollijuhani Kujansivu, guitarist/bassist Andreas Österlund, guitarist Jon Imbernon and drummer Owe Inborr, who’ve since traded out their rhythm section — is the opening sample of “Them” in which a man in a Southern US accent rants in paranoid rage about helicopters flying over his property, indicative of some conspiracy or other. In both their influence and their execution, that fits Gangrened‘s overall portrayal well, but both the 12-minute opener “Lung Remover” and closing semi-Black Flag cover “Kontti” (translated “24 Pack” and a feedback-soaked, sludged-up play on “Six Pack”) are pissed off enough to warrant the attention they seem to be demanding in their noisy charge, snail-paced and malevolent as it is. Gangrened on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
As always, this is just a fraction of what was added to The Obelisk Radio today. If you get the chance to check any of this stuff out, I hope you dig it, and if you decide to launch the player, I hope whatever’s playing is awesome.