ROADBURN 2015 DAY THREE: Return to the Lake of Madness

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

roadburn 2015 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.11.15 — 04.00 — Late Sat./Early Sun. — Hotel

It was a misguided attempt at sleep that led me to bed after watching Coltsblood to round out my night. Didn’t work beyond the apparently standard three hours, which is what I’ve gotten give or take each night since Wednesday. When I lie down, my head hears parts of songs, David Eugene Edwards saying, “You don’t know me from Adam, down here in the lamp light,” or Sæþór Sæþórsson of Sólstafir‘s banjo in the back half of “Ótta,” among others. One day bleeds into the next. I dragged ass most of the afternoon and evening, to be perfectly honest, and given the tossing and turning I’ve just done and the fact that I’m up two hours before I set the alarm, I expect the trend to continue. weirdo canyon dispatch sat coverStill, when you’re here, you have to keep going. There’s more to see and more to hear.

We finished the third issue of this year’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch on schedule, folding and all. It’s online here if you get the chance to check it out.

The weather, which had been gorgeous enough to boast some restorative effect of its own, has turned. I could just as easily call it “yesterday,” but for the purposes of review, I hope you’ll allow the editorial decision to keep current: “Today.” The weather turned today. As though it knew UndersmileUrfaust, and Fields of the Nephilim were all on the bill and decided “enough of this sunny shit, let’s get down to business for real.” It cleared up later, but was still colder than it had been, and early in the afternoon, I looked outside at one point and saw waves of rain coming down. That was right after Coma Wall, which, you know, fair enough.

Playing as a five-piece with their usual two couples plus a cellist, the mostly-acoustic alter-ego of Undersmile started my day off at Stage01. I got there early, which you have to do, and I wasn’t the only one. Taz Corona-Brown, Olly Corona-Brown, Hel Sterne and Tom McKibbin, plus Tom Greenway on the cello spread out over the stage, McKibbin behind, pulling double-dutyComa Wall (Photo by JJ Koczan) on drums and banjo. With Taz and Hel in dresses and quickly sliding into the sort of drawling dual vocals that are a trademark of both Coma Wall and Undersmile, there was a theatrical element to it, but the thickness of the atmosphere spoke for itself as they hit into “Summer” from their 2013 Wood & Wire split with, who else?, their other band. Off to the side of the stage, Olly sat on bass facing the others, kind of overseeing the whole thing with one leg crossed over the other. He looked managerial, but the low end filled the room well, and Coma Wall eased my way into the Roadburn Saturday better than I could’ve asked.

I’d still like to hear them take on “Rotten Apple” or “Don’t Follow” — something off Jar of Flies — which I think they’d nail in the vocals and really be able to darken the mood on, but wouldn’t you know they weren’t taking requests. Couldn’t argue, anyway. Over in the main hall, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin were well into a live soundtrack to 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, which played on the big screen behind them, audio and all. I saw them here for a bit last year, and sure enough parts of the score were recognizable from that set as well as the movie. Like with Sólstafir‘s live soundtrack on Thursday, there were spaces without any music at all, but of course the difference is that Goblin also wrote the score originally, so to see them do it live to the film was something extra special.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin (Photo by JJ Koczan)Perhaps most impressive about it was the timing, which they nailed. Keeping pace to scene changes and the film’s quick cuts, they ran through various pieces and themes, the quick bursts for tension as everything goes to crap with all the zombies at the mall, the biker gang showing up and bringing Tom Savini, and so on. It’s been a while since I saw it, and I’d forgotten how many classic lines there are in the film, about Hell being full and the dead walking the earth, and “Operator dead, post abandoned.” There were some times where the balance of audio was lopsided one way or another — hard to match up a film and a live band on stage — but it smoothed out, and I can’t imagine it was many attendees’ first time seeing the movie. That said, I’ve never watched Suspiria, which Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin are scoring as part of the Afterburner, so who knows? When they were done, the four-piece came to the middle of the stage from their spread-out positions, two on one side, two on the other, the middle open to allow the eye to watch the movie, and took a bow. A few seconds before, the credits rolled past with their name listed as The Goblins. So be it.

Enslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan)Next up on the Main Stage was a second go for Enslaved. I tried before they went on to calculate in my head how many Enslaved-related sets there were this year in comparison to 2010, when they were the official artist-in-residence and did sets with offshoot projects like Trinacria and their collaboration with Shining. Between their set last night, the Skuggsjá collaboration with Wardruna that followed, guitarist Ivar Bjørnson ‘s BardSpec set and today, I think they might have 2010 beat. I’m not sure if Bjørnson curating with Wardruna‘s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik counts for double or anything — you’d have to get into percentages and it proved too much for my feeble brain to take. In any case, today’s Enslaved set focused much more on newer material. Fair after last night. The recently-issued In Times (review pending) featured heavily with “Thurisaz Dreaming,” “Building with Fire,” “In Times” and “Daylight,” but there was still room to dip back to 2001’s Monumension for “Convoys to Nothingness,” or 2003’s progressive turning point Below the Lights for “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth,” and a balance was struck between the older and newer.

Further distinguishing today from yesterday, though, were the guests. When they got to “Daylight,” bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson announced they’d be joined by SelvikAðalbjörn Tryggvason from Sólstafir and Per Wiberg, now in CandlemassEnslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan) but known also for his work in Opeth and Spiritual Beggars. The three contributed on vocals at the beginning and end of the song, and Selvik came back out for a longer, soulful guest spot on “Convoys to Nothingness,” while Enslaved proper delivered again the kind of set that brought the crowd back from last night, “Isa” tossed in as a bonus and a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song” with more guest guitar included to add even more intrigue. It was not as intense as Friday had been, their newer material offering a more intricate but decidedly less raging style, but they handled it professionally, and seemed to be having as much fun as the audience while they ran through their second of the weekend’s two full sets. The Heads, who followed, are the official artists-in-residence this year, but Enslaved always seem to find welcome at Roadburn.

Particularly having missed The Heads when they played at Het Patronaat last night — Roadburn means hard choices — I knew I wanted to see them today. They were supposed to be here last year, and played in 2008, but with Walter doing live visuals The Heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)and the four-piece of lead guitarist Paul Allen, guitarist/vocalist Simon Price, bassist Hugo Morgan and drummer Wayne Maskell (the latter three who played as Kandodo on Thursday and joined forces with Loop‘s Robert Hampson at Het Patronaat), it was unmissable. A righteous set boasted jam-laden takes on “Gnu,” “Legavaan Satellite,” “U33″ and “Spliff Riff,” the effect positively molten as they enacted space rock supremacy and handed Roadburn its ass over the course of 75 minutes. For me, they were the day’s hypnotic highlight, and I don’t think I was the only one. The crowd cheered as they went into and out of jams, builds paying off and starting anew. As I stood in the back and watched, next two me, two dudes were arguing in German and a third turned around and told them, in accented English, “Please, no politics while The Heads are on.” All laughed. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all Roadburners.

As with Kandodo the other night, The Heads‘ set made me want to The Heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)head over to the merch area and go, “Just give me everything,” though they have enough live albums over there that to try it and I’d be broke(r) in no time flat. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, knowing records like Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, which was just recently reissued, At Last and their 1995 debut, Relaxing With…, but they were molten on stage, one song bleeding into the next in a consuming entirety that, even after they’d long since gone, kept the crowd howling. It was fucking awesome. I don’t know how many times I’ll get to see The Heads in my life, but I’m not likely to forget the first, in any case, and if I take nothing else away from Roadburn this year, I’ll take a new touchstone for heavy psych live performance. “It’s good, but is it The Heads good?” will prove a hard standard for most to meet.

Over in the Green Room, Black Anvil were finishing up a punishing set and I watched for a minute through the door as they pummeled away. Undersmile were on next in there, and I’ve been following them since their split with Caretaker in 2011 (review here), undersmile 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)so I didn’t want to miss it. They have a new full-length out called Anhedonia, and while I’m a little heartbroken at not having heard it — I loved 2012’s lung-filling debut LP, Narwhal (review here), and thought I had a pretty good relationship with the band — it still seemed prudent to show up early for a dose of their grueling, claustrophobic-but-melodically-brilliant doom, especially as a crushing companion piece to Coma Wall earlier in the day, a sort of bookend with the same lineup minus Greenway‘s cello. They were heavy enough to feel the sound in your chest. I give McKibbin credit for being able to push the tones of HelTaz and Olly along, even at such a lumbering pace. By the sound alone, it seems like a task more suited to the crane outside working on the addition to the 013, but the drums do drive Undersmile‘s material forward, and they packed out the Green Room to the point where even the space to watch through the door was full. I felt equal parts lucky to see them, bummed I haven’t heard the new album, and glad I showed up early while they were setting up. It was quite an emotional rollercoaster. Maybe that’s why I had to come back to the hotel and go to sleep afterwards.

Or maybe I was just rendered unconscious by fucking Coltsblood who — holy shit — took Stage01, removed all its fillings and performed a root canal with a safety pin. It was fucking ridiculous. Hyperbole-worthy madness that even H.P. Lovecraft himself would stare at and be like, “Damn, that’s horrifying.” I watched the final few minutes of synth-heavy proggers Zoltan before the UK trio of bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested (also of Black Magician, who played Het Patronaat at Roadburn 2013) went on, Coltsblood (Photo by JJ Koczan)but god damn. Even before they started, as Jemma checked her guitar and John ran the line on his bass, you knew it was going to be filthy. Their 2014 full-length debut, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here), seemed all the more aptly named as they got underway, and even though John had some technical trouble early on, they shared a bottle of mead on stage and absolutely laid waste to the smaller of the rooms at the 013. I say in full knowledge of John‘s prior association with the band that they were the heaviest thing I’ve seen in that space since Conan made their Roadburn debut there in 2012. They were unbelievable.

And it became quite clear that they’ve earned some loyalty of fanbase as well. The front of Stage01 was crowded with UK types, one of whom took on the solemn duty of making sure that Coltsblood‘s incense (of which I was markedly downwind) stayed lit. Another dude next to me alerted John when the sound guy called for him Coltsblood (Photo by JJ Koczan)to start checking his bass. This is a band that people are obviously taking very seriously. The deathly rumble of their extreme, dark, sludgy doom made earplugs a futile exercise, and especially in a one-two with Undersmile, they justified that reaction. With John shouting and growling into the mic while Plested slammed away behind and Jemma, entranced, riffed out a viscous, oil-thick morass, it made sense. I’d want to keep the incense lit too.

By the time I split out from Stage01, the air had more or less been driven out of the room. It was hot, sweaty, smelly — Roadburn means fart clouds — and suitably oppressive. Outside smelled like french fry grease from the food tent, but even that seemed like fresh air. I made my way back to the hotel and started to sort pictures out and get everything ready to review, but noticed after a few minutes that my head was down on the table and I couldn’t seem to pick it back up. I stared up at the laptop monitor for a little bit and decided to crawl into bed.

Wasn’t a crawl. More of a lurch. Either way, about three and a half hours later, I gave up the ghost and decided the middle of the night would be a perfect time to recount the day’s varying destructive encounters. Tomorrow — Sunday, which now that it’s after 06.00, I’m about ready to call the new “today” — is the Afterburner, also plenty busy with Lo-Pan and Abrahma and Argus and BongripperAnathema and The Golden Grass. Work on the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch starts in about four hours and it will be here and gone before I know it. At least that’s how it usually seems to go.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Roadburn 2015: Mugstar, Coma Wall, Undersmile, Pyramidal and Domo Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The only thing I find debatable about Arik Roper‘s poster art for Roadburn 2015 is whether or not it was ethical of him to use so much awesome in one sitting. It is a gluttony of awesome. We’re getting into the high season of lineup additions, which means over the next couple months, the festival will really start to take shape around the previously announced headliners, other headliners still to come, new acts, curated picks, and so on. So far it’s looking once again like the theme is diversity. Even between the groups most recently added — MugstarPyramidalDomoUndersmile and Coma Wall — there’s a huge stylistic variation. Hell, Undersmile and Coma Wall are on opposite ends of the spectrum alone, and they’re made up of the same people.

Here’s Roper‘s poster as big as I can make it on the page (click to make it bigger), and details on the newest bunch to join the Roadburn 2015 lineup, courtesy of the fest’s website:

Mugstar To Put Glistening And Outerworldly Sonic Glory On Display At Roadburn 2015

Heavily influenced by psychedelia, Krautrock and even Post Rock, Liverpool UK’s beloved Mugstar are in the vanguard of modern psych rock, just in case you were unfamiliar with them.

Infusing their brooding moodiness, minimal psych rock mesmerism and propulsive, hypnokraut grooves with seriously psychedelic ferocity has propelled Mugstar to stand alongside such well-regarded contemporaries as Circle, Bardo Pond and Oneida.

The band distil the wordless core of Hawkwind, Neu! and Sonic Youth and their highly recommended albums Sun Broken, Lime and Axis put transcendent, glistening and outerworldly sonic glory on display.

So, for Roadburn 2015, Mugstar will explode into an interstellar, total drugpsych tripout on Thursday, April 9 at the 013 venue, and we’re equally excited to announce that the band will also play the soundtrack to Ad Marginem on Saturday, April 11 at Het Patronaat in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Pyramidal and Domo To Represent Spanish Heavy Psych at Roadburn Festival 2015

Spanish heavy psych has long been overdue at Roadburn, so we’re thrilled to announce that Pyramidal and Domo, both hailing from Alicante, will bring their stoner inspired heavy Space Rock with progressive and Krautrock leanings to the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival, set for April 9 -12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Channeling the undiluted spirit of King Crimson, Hawkwind and Neu! on debut album Dawn In Space, and critically acclaimed follow-up Frozen Galaxies, Pyramidal will take you to the farthest reaches of outer space, propelled by otherworldly sounds, obscure psychedelia and hypnotic grooves.

Domo harkens back to the heyday of the gonzoid power trio’s of the hazy late 60s and early 70s, anchored to heavy clouds of screaming, wah wah driven psychedelia. If you love (early) Gary Moore, or you’re a fan of Tony McPhee (like most of us at Roadburn), and massively worship The Groundhogs‘ Split, then Domo will be surely a must for you.

Word on the street is that Domo‘ S/T debut album will be finally released on vinyl soon.

Sirens Of Sludge Undersmile To Bring Doom And Despair To Roadburn 2015

Undersmile will bring their hypnotic, soul crushing blend of doom and despair to the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Featuring the unique dual vocal interplay of singer-guitarists Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown, Undersmile combine tortuously slow tempos, discord and stomach-churning melody to create an intense listening experience, both live and on record.

Having released an EP, three splits (with Caretaker, Bismuth and their own alter-egos, Coma Wall) and 2012’s epic debut album Narwhal, the band will be supporting their as-yet untitled second album which they will be previewing at the festival.

Prepare For Despair As Coma Wall Bring Acoustic Death Folk To Roadburn Festival 2015

Coma Wall, the acoustic alter-ego of Undersmile, will bring rustic downbeat blues and folk to the 20th edition of Roadburn Festival on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

The very notion of unplugging a band as monstrously heavy and doomladen as Undersmile seemed almost ludicrous before we actually heard what it entailed, as the band replaced sludgy distortion with banjos and acoustic guitars in their alter ego Coma Wall guise.

Taz Corona-Brown and Hel Sterne’s haunting close harmony singing still brought a tingle to the spine as the band dredged southern gothic creeping dread and spectacularly outdid their electric selves on their split Wood & Wire EP (released by Shaman Recordings), bringing a bit of black sun gloom to sunny spring days and making for one of the most uncompromisingly powerful records to come out of Oxford (UK) in years.

Taking influence from artists such as Nick Cave, 16 Horsepower, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bob Dylan, Low, Mark Lanegan, Nirvana and Alice in Chains, Coma Wall will play songs from an upcoming EP, as well as tracks from Wood & Wire.

Roadburn Festival 2015 will run for four days from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

http://www.arikroper.com/
http://www.roadburn.com/
https://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival
https://twitter.com/roadburnfest

Mugstar, Ad Marginem (2012)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 EPs, Demos and Singles of 2013

Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve been trying to get this one on the page for a couple weeks now — really since last year if you want to go back that far — and I finally just decided to do it. Granted, it’s already 2014, but I’m pretty used to being behind the times, so I hope you’ll indulge me on this one.

The thing is, of course we already did the Top 20 Albums of 2013, but that leaves an awful lot out in terms of quality shorter releases. Demos, singles, EPs, splits — whatever it might be — there’s a lot more to the story of a year in music than who’s putting out what full-length. That might be true now more than ever, with digital releases and artists having the ability to more or less give a song-by-song feed of new material should they so choose. Since this is the first time I’ve done this list, I’ve kept the presentation pretty basic, but there’s a lot to dig into here anyway in terms of the quality of the music and what people were able to accomplish in, in some cases, just one or two tracks.

My basis for judgment here is basically the same as with the full-albums list, and by that I mean how much I listened to something played a huge role, and it’s not just how important I think an EP or a split or a demo was that got it included on this list — though of course that stuff matters as well. Like spelling, repeat listens count. And it goes without saying these are my picks and have nothing to do with the Readers Poll, the results of which are here.

Okay, let’s do this:

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2013

1. The Machine/Sungrazer, Split
2. Dozer, Vultures
3. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide
4. Black Thai, Seasons of Might
5. Wo Fat/Egypt, Cyclopean Riffs Split 12″
6. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
7. Shroud Eater, Dead Ends
8. Steak, Corned Beef Colossus
9. Geezer, Gage
10. The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado 7″
11. Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground
12. King Buffalo, Demo
13. Groan, Ride the Snake
14. Crypt Sermon, Demo MMXIII
15. Stubb, Under a Spell b/w Bullets Rain 7″
16. Salem’s Pot, Watch Me Kill You Tape
17. Undersmile/Coma Wall, Wood and Wire Split
18. Second Grave, Antithesis
19. Sinister Haze, Demo
20. Olde Growth, Owl

Honorable mention has to go to the Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man split, C.O.C.‘s Megalodon EP, which was right on but which I didn’t really hear enough to include. The Gates of Slumber‘s Stormcrow as well.

Just a couple notes: In the case of Olde Growth, putting them last was actually more about not being sure when the official release date of Owl was than anything else. I actually listened to that quite a bit, and “Tears of Blood” remains my favorite work of the duo’s to date. In terms of demos, it was a good year for doom debuts, with Crypt Sermon and Sinister Haze both showing some malevolent classicism, and King Buffalo‘s demo grew on me almost immediately upon hearing it and right away made me look forward to whatever might come next from them.

I was a little hesitant to put a split in the number one spot, but The Machine‘s riff for “Awe” alone made it necessary. I’ve kept this disc on my person for almost the entire year and continue to have no regrets in doing so. For Dozer, yeah, it was a collection of older material, but I still enjoyed the crap out of it. Both Mars Red Sky and Black Thai signaled considerable creative growth in four-song EPs, and the Wo Fat and Egypt split more than lived up to its mission. The riff lives in bands like that, and as we get further into stylistic nuance and subgenre development, it’s those groups who are holding on to the Heavy.

Young Hunter are one of the most promising bands I’ve heard in the last three years. Flat out. Killer release. Ditto that in a much different context for Shroud Eater, whose take on heavy only got more sinister and more effective with Dead Ends. Steak emerge as tops among the five British bands — a quarter of the list! — here. Their Corned Beef Colossus also had the best title I heard all year, and though Trippy Wicked, Groan, Stubb, and Undersmile/Coma Wall (the latter earning bonus points for putting out a split with themselves) all thrilled, Steak‘s potential got them that spot. Time for a full-length, guys.

Not to leave out New York — though the geographical alignment is a coincidence — Geezer‘s Gage tapped into a jammier feel that I thought suited the band remarkably well, and The Golden Grass‘ debut single offered one of the most charming irony-free good times I’ve heard in a long while. The Salem’s Pot cassette was one of my most-listened-to tapes this year, last mentioned but not at all least, Second Grave‘s Antithesis probably would’ve clocked in higher if I’d had more time with it, but was definitely one I wanted to put in here anyway.

As I said, a lot of really astounding shorter outings, and worthy of attention in their own right. If I missed anything, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.

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Bismuth and Undersmile Split Available for Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

As far as I’m concerned, this one gets a twofold fucking a: It exists and you can hear it now. Disgruntled sludgers Bismuth and drone-minded nightmare-conjurers Undersmile have partnered, each with a vinyl side of their own brand of sonic madness. Put some Tony Roberts art on it, press it to tape and LP, and you’re good to go. Tartarus Records has the beast available for preorder and that’s great, but what’s even better is being able to listen to its low end drag before you make your purchase.

This is the first I’m hearing of Bismuth and it’s pretty clear from “Collapse” that I need to go back and check out their 2012 Eternal Marshes demo. For Undersmile, they follow-up the split with their acoustic alter ego, Coma Wall, with a 23-minute behemoth of a track as tonally huge as it is melodically disturbed. It’s not easy listening, but I dig the challenge.

Preorder link, Tony Roberts artwork and the standard Bandcamp player follow, hot off of the PR wire:

TAR023 Bismuth / Undersmile split

Amp worship meets agonizing doom. Finally a split release between two of UK’s heavyweights in female fronted doom and sludge. Bismuth from Nottingham offer Collapse, a worthy follow-up to the Eternal Marshes demo tape, released last year. More bleak drone landscapes and torturous vocals by Tanya. Undersmile from Witney chose for an atmospheric approach on their side of the split and came up with Titanaboa; a dark, nightmarish beast of a track. Truly their best offering so far. The artwork was made by the amazing Tony Roberts, which fits perfectly with both bands.

FFO: Khanate, Corrupted, Bell Witch, Ensorcelor.

The LP is a co-release between Graanrepubliek Records, Tartarus Records and At War With False Noise

Pressing info:

100 gold cassettes
100 red/black vinyl (mailorder only)
200 black vinyl

Preorder the cassette, vinyl & special bundles here: http://tartarusrecords.com/album/split-2

Bismuth/Undersmile, Split LP (2013)

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Undersmile Debut New Video for “Soil” from Split with Coma Wall

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

With a limited CD version of their Wood and Wire split with acoustic alter ego project Coma Wall forthcoming, morose UK doomers Undersmile have released a new video for the track “Soil” from the release. Wood and Wire (track premiere here) came out on Shaman Recordings earlier this year and the CD will be released by Future Noise with Coma Wall reinterpreting the Undersmile track “Big Wow.”

No word yet on preorders for the CD version, but check out the “Soil” clip below directed by M. Arthur Wickson and the PR wire info that follows:

Undersmile, “Soil” official video

UNDERSMILE Premier New Video For The Track ‘Soil’ On The Sleeping Shaman

UNDERSMILE and director M. Arthur Wickson are very happy to present the music video for the song “Soil” taken from the band’s recent split EP ‘Wood & Wire’, released on beautiful transparent purple 12” vinyl by Shaman Recordings.

The video was filmed in the spring of 2013 at various locations, but primarily in and around Shaken Oak Farm where the band recorded their half of the split with acoustic alter-egos COMA WALL. Directed and edited by M. Arthur Wickson (who also produced the band’s previous music video for “Milk”), the “Soil” video attempts to capture more of the band’s live energy – apt for a song that has recently become a staple of their live set. Check out the premier over on The Sleeping Shaman.

The limited 12” is available to purchase direct from Shaman Recordings.

In other news, UNDERSMILE are also extremely pleased to announce that a limited edition CD of ‘Wood & Wire‘ is to be released in June/July on Future Noise Recordings, the label which also released last year’s ‘Narwhal‘. The CD will feature an exclusive bonus track in the form of COMA WALL’s take on UNDERSMILE’s “Big Wow,” as well as more artwork (the original concept sketches) from the talented Craig Bryant. Pre-orders will be available soon via Future Noise Recordings.

The CD tracklisting is:
1. Coma Wall – Summer
2. Coma Wall – You Are My Death
3. Coma Wall – Big Wow (bonus track)
4. Coma Wall – Cutter’s Choice
5. Undersmile – Soil
6. Undersmile – Killer Bob
7. Undersmile – Hives

UNDERSMILE and COMA WALL only have a handful of live dates left in 2013 as both bands will be taking a break, with UNDERSMILE soon to be recording a song for a 12” split with Nottingham’s titanic duo Bismuth and COMA WALL beginning to make plans for their next release. Their upcoming dates are as follows:

1st June – Gullivers in Manchester – Undersmile with Ishmael, Grimpen Mire and Bastard of the Skies *this may be Ishmael’s last ever gig
29th June – Summer Sizzler all-dayer @ the Windmill, Brixton – Undersmile & Coma Wall will be performing with a great line-up of other bands *Undersmile’s final gig of the year
21st July – The Racehorse, Northampton – Coma Wall with M E R R I N and Nick Hudson – a night of music and improvised video
9th – 11th August – SUPERNORMAL FESTIVAL @ Brazier’s Park, Oxford – Coma Wall.

‘Wood & Wire’ will be available on vinyl at all of the above dates, and the CD will hopefully be available from the Summer Sizzler onwards.

http://www.facebook.com/Undersmile
http://undersmile.bigcartel.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coma-Wall/443763845670135
http://www.shamanrecordings.com

Undersmile & Coma Wall, Wood & Wire Split (2013)

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audiObelisk: Undersmile Premiere “Killer Bob” from Wood & Wire Split with Coma Wall

Posted in audiObelisk on February 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Any band can put out a split with another band. Far rarer are those who can release a split with themselves. Due out for release shortly on a limited-to-500 pressing of purple vinyl, the full-length Wood and Wire split on Shaman Recordings unites British nautical doomers Undersmile with their unplugged alter ego, Coma Wall. As much as two bands featuring an identical lineup can be “united,” that is. Since they’re already the same people? Ah, never mind. You get the point.

The point is that by bringing together Coma Wall with Undersmile, the four-piece proves once again to be able to affect as much heaviness atmospherically as they do tonally. The ambience and emotional heft of Coma Wall‘s material flows naturally and engagingly into that of Undersmile — each band is given three tracks of a vinyl side — and the acoustic setting only provides more room for guitarists Taz Corona-Brown and Hel Sterne to branch out melodically and harmonically with their vocals. Cuts like “You are My Death” and opener “Summer” offer Cantrell/Staley-esque vocal interplay, and while the same could be said of Undersmile‘s previous album, Narwhal (review here), the context is different enough on Wood and Wire to highlight their performances.

And where Undersmile stretched suitably oceanic on Narwhal, the Wood and Wire split finds them somewhat more compressed, time-wise. Nonetheless, they make the three tracks feel as massive and tidal as one might expect. Recorded by Justin Greaves (Crippled Black Phoenix, Iron Monkey, etc.), “Soil,” “Killer Bob” and “Hives” are no less melodically-centered than did Coma Wall‘s contributions, but come on unremittingly heavy, pushed forward at a distinct drag by bassist Olly Corona-Brown and drummer Tom McKibbin. The Witney unit(s) recently premiered Coma Wall‘s “Summer” and today I have the pleasure of hosting the debut of “Killer Bob” from Undersmile‘s side of Wood and Wire. Please find it on the player below, and enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Undersmile and Coma Wall‘s Wood and Wire split is available now for pre-order through Shaman Recordings. For more info, hit up Coma Wall on Thee Facebooks or Undersmile on Thee Facebooks. Thanks to Lee Edwards and Shaman Recordings for allowing me to premiere “Killer Bob.”

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Undersmile & Coma Wall Split Pre-Orders Available; Track Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The first audio has surfaced from the new Wood and Wall split between UK nautical doomers Undersmile and their acoustic alter ego, Coma Wall. The Sleeping Shaman has a track stream at the link below where you can hear the debut audio from Coma Wall, who nestle right into Alice in Chains harmonies like they were so much warm water.

Pre-orders for the split are available now as well, and rumor has it there’s yet to come a glimpse at Undersmile‘s portion of the release on this very page sometime soon. Worth keeping an eye out:

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COMA WALL / UNDERSMILE ‘Wood & Wire’ – Exclusive Stream, Artwork Revealed & Pre-Orders Now Available!

The anticipation is nearly over as today, The Sleeping Shaman, streams an exclusive track taken from the up and coming COMA WALL & UNDERSMILE 12” simply entitled ‘Wood & Wire’, the track ‘Summer’ is taken from the COMA WALL side and can be streamed AT THIS LOCATION.

Shaman Recordings also announced that Pre-Orders started today and besides the 12”, there’s the option to bundle in a T-Shirt with the COMA WALL / UNDERSMILE ‘Wood & Wire’ logo emblazoned on the front, more information and orders can be placed on the Shaman Recordings website HERE.

And finally, the artwork has also been revealed today which was lovingly crafted by up and coming illustrator Craig Bryant and you can check it out in all its technicolor glory below.

‘Wood & Wire’ brings together Oxford’s monolithic Undersmile and their acoustic alter-ego Coma Wall on one release.

Although this is Coma Wall’s debut release, they’ve already gained fans after playing sets at Desertfest 2012 and supporting Dylan Carlson (of Earth) on his first ever solo show. This recording sees the band laid bare – no amps, no fuzz boxes, just acoustic guitars, percussion and a banjo that showcases their own brand of Dark Americana and Doom-Folk in the spirit of the MTV Unplugged sessions.

On the other hand Undersmile, having been endorsed by the likes of Earth’s Dylan Carlson and Henry Rollins of Black Flag, are both engaging and crushing, blending numerous influences from Swans to Babes in Toyland to arrive at a genuinely fresh, cohesive, and brutal sound. Their debut album ‘Narwhal’, released last year by Future Noise Recordings, was met with huge praise from both fans and press alike. For these tracks, the band enlisted the help of Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey, Electric Wizard, Crippled Black Phoenix) to oversee the engineering and his contribution to the recording process helped to further display Undersmile’s diversity and musical growth, as well as their desire to capture a warmer, more ‘live’ sound.

Mastering for both recordings was once again handled by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, Melvins) and the amazing artwork was handled by up and coming Illustrator Craig Bryant (www.behance.net/craigbryant).

‘Wood & Wire’ Track listing

Coma Wall
A1. Summer
A2. You Are My Death
A3. Cutter’s Choice

Undersmile
B1. Soil
B2. Killer Bob
B3. Hives

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10 Album Covers that Kicked Ass in 2012

Posted in Visual Evidence on December 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Whatever medium you enjoy music through, LPs, CDs, digital, tapes, reel-to-reel, Edison cylinders, the fact of the matter is that artwork — the visual representation of the album — makes a huge difference in the overall impression a record makes. There are bands who slave away for months negotiating fine details with artists and there are bands who snap a picture of themselves and throw it out front on their way to grab their next beer. Both methods have yielded classic results.

As 2012 winds down, I thought it might be fun to go back to the start of the year and take a look at some of the best album art that accompanied some killer albums. This isn’t the Best Albums list, just some of what I think is the Best Art. I’ll try my best to keep my reasons short as we go along alphabetically:

Alcest, Les Voyages de l’Âme

The sort of gloomy lushness that artist Fursy Teyssier brought to the cover for Alcest‘s Les Voyages de l’Âme was breathtaking from the first glance. Teyssier (also of Les Discrets; interview here) wonderfully captured the morose beauty in Alcest‘s music and painted a masterpiece that transcended “rock art” as much as the album itself transcended black metal or any other genre in which one might try to pigeonhole it.

Conan, Monnos

The sentinel that has now graced the cover of the last couple Conan releases has mirrored the British act’s ascent in joining the ranks of great heavy metal mascots. Tony Roberts, who drew the piece on the cover of Monnos, has become an essential part of the band’s mythology, meeting their ultra-crushing tonality with visuals that seem to work in atmospheres no less oppressively brutal. If art was ever heavy, it was heavy here.

Doomsower, 1974

A pretty simple idea, but wonderfully executed, the front of Portland neo-traditionalists Doomsower‘s debut EP, 1974, came from an EPA photo documentary project that took place the same year. I picked it for this list not because it was so intricate or anything like that, but proof that sometimes something that seems basic can also be just right for the songs — the rails parallel, but joining, seeming to indicate Doomsower‘s journey undertaken.

Electric Moon, The Doomsday Machine

The question wasn’t so much would there be an Electric Moon cover on this list, but which one? The prolific German heavy psych jammers have a cache of treasure in the work of bassist Komet Lulu, and when it came time to choose from among the several recordings the band released in 2012, The Doomsday Machine stood out as a departure from the bright colors and classic psychedelia, being a painting by Lulu‘s father, Ulla Papel. Here’s to genetics.

Groan, The Divine Right of Kings

Having also handled Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, W. Ralph Walters outdid himself with Groan‘s full-length follow-up, The Divine Right of Kings. With strong References to Hieronymus Bosch‘s vision of hell, Walters visualized the band’s move into classic metal and mixed it with manic get-stoned-and-stare kitchen-sinkery much as Groan continued to consort with brash heavy rock and doom. Walters‘ work on Blue Aside‘s The Moles of a Dying Race was no less distinct an achievement.

Larman Clamor, Frogs

Aside from thinking frogs are awesome in general, I was stoked to see how incredibly well Alexander von Wieding‘s art for his band Larman Clamor‘s 2012 offering fit the music. Otherworldly, darkly psychedelic and caked in haze, the dead stare of the frankenfrog on the front of Frogs perfectly matched von Wieding‘s swampy, bluesy style and looked even better on vinyl. Having also contributed to records by Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Cortez and others this year, von Wieding has made himself one of the most essential heavy rock artists the world over.

Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay

Were it not for the discussion about the process of putting it together in the interview I did with Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the end of October, Josh Graham‘s cover for Honor Found in Decay — especially being so similar in idea to his work on Soundgarden‘s King Animal — probably wouldn’t have made this list, but knowing the level of construction that went into making the piece, from painting the jawbones to using artifact arrowheads from Slovakia, I couldn’t help but see it in a different light. Graham‘s ended his association with Neurosis, but if this is how he went out, they couldn’t have asked for more.

Summoner, Phoenix

I had spent some serious time with Summoner‘s Phoenix by then, had been in talks with the band about releasing it on The Maple Forum, but it wasn’t until I held the LP in my hands at SHoD and really saw the Alyssa Maucere cover in-person that I realized what I was looking at. And once you see it, it’s not really subtle at all. Get it yet? There’s a cock and balls on the right side. I gotta give it to the Boston outfit and to Maucere for sneaking and yet not at all sneaking that one in there. Hey, if you don’t appreciate some phallic humor every now and again, you’re probably not going to start a website called The Obelisk.

Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum & Oro: Opus Alter

Is it cheating to include both covers from Ufomammut‘s Oro two-album series? Probably. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest, because the Italian collective — who for visual purposes go by the name Malleus — tapped into new territory of psych art with the pieces for Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, manifesting the idea of “psychedelic metal” in the actual style and inks used, while also contrasting dark and light and conveying the permanent nature of gold itself and the notions of hypnotic ritual that show up in their music. These covers were proof that Ufomammut are more than just the masters of their sound.

Undersmile, Narwhal

Another Tony Roberts creation, but in a completely different style from Conan‘s Monnos above, the bleak cover of UK nautical doomers Undersmile‘s 80-minute debut LP Narwhal seemed to embody everything the band had to offer on the album. It was dark, with hard drawn structural lines, but also sprawling, encompassing every panel of the digipak and running into the liner much as Undersmile‘s oceanic themes ran into every minute of the music, crushingly heavy or minimalist and ambient. Less about the titular creature within and more about the sea itself, it conveyed an utter hopelessness and the smallness of humanity when set against something so massive as the sea.

There were plenty more I could’ve included here — records from High on Fire, Om, Graveyard, Wight, Caltrop, Ancestors, Samothrace, Vulture and several others all are worthy of honorable mention, but for one reason or another, these were the standouts to me and I hope you agree that even in this go-ahead-and-download-it age of immediate convenience, the visual art remains pivotal to an album experience.

Someone you think got left out? If you’ve got any suggestions to add, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to get a discussion going in the comments, so please, have at it.

 

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