Aside from considering myself fortunate enough to call them personal friends, Baltimore-by-way-of-New-Jersey-by-way-of-Seattle-by-way-of-New-Jersey-etc. two-piece Rukut are also the band who, probably over a decade ago now, blindsided me with a lesson in the dynamic that a duo can offer at their best, distinct from solo artists, trios, and so on. Their passage between minimalist garage thrash, brutal punk, grind and sludge has played out DIY for years in small bars, clubs and just about anywhere else they’re asked to show up that they can park their van, but I’ve never heard it sound quite as full and devastating as it does on the new cut “White Squirrel White Fox,” taken from a brand new self-released EP, The Headless.
It’s been a while since Rukut – the duo of guitarist/vocalist Lew Hambley and drummer/graphic artist Chris Jones – released their last full-length, 2008′s Life’s Pain, but their years don’t seem to have been misspent. Hambley‘s vocals, turning vicious at switch-flick speed, touch on the guttural with “White Squirrel White Fox,” and the instrumental accompaniment they receive makes for due chaos, Jones switching between D-beat crust drive and all-out blasts after his stick-click count-in serves as the subtle announcement of the fury about to be unleashed after a grueling minute of stomping introduction. In short order, Rukut tear ass through a build that is brought to a raging, violent head precise enough to give Nasum a nod without losing Napalm Death‘s crucial soul.
By way of a spoiler, it starts with a white squirrel and ends with a white fox, but it’s really what’s between the two in the Jones-directed video that proves most essential. Rukut’s The Headless EP, can be heard at their Bandcamp page. “White Squirrel White Fox” doesn’t carry a warning for epileptics who might check it out, but it probably should: The aurally brutal comes with strobe to match.
Posted in Radio on April 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s hard to decide what’s more striking about Execution, the new two-song single from Kansas City five-piece Merlin — the full, crisp production of the tracks themselves, or just how different the band comes across in them as compared to their late-2013 self-titled debut. Since that album’s release last August, Merlin have added rhythm guitarist Ben Cornett to the lineup with lead guitarist/backing vocalist Carter Lewis, vocalist Jordan Knorr, bassist Evan Warren and drummer Caleb Wyels, but it’s hard to believe one six-stringer can bring about so much change in the band’s approach, and that rather, the shift from meandering shoegaze psych rock to heavier crunch and twang-ready stomp in “Execution” can only have been the result of some conscious decision. “Execution,” which comes paired with a cover of Pentagram‘s “Forever My Queen,” meters out an initial roughneck stomp that has twang à la the intro of Clutch‘s “The Regulator” and moves into Melvins-style vocals and (sure enough) Pentagram-style doom and roll. Whatever else it might be, it’s a long, long way from shoegaze.
When Execution first came to my attention, I hadn’t yet heard the self-titled,and so pegged Merlin as looking to fit with bruiser American-style heavy rock, but in the context of the prior album, the “Forever My Queen” cover makes even more sense. The version that opens Pentagram‘s First Daze Here is 2:24, but Merlin‘s take is over six minutes, and since the song itself it kept largely intact the extra time comes from an extended jam on the back end. I hadn’t picked up on it because of the production value of the single — which, again, is crisp and accessible and professional — but what they’re doing there is an extension of the open vibe they brought to tracks like the lazily unfolding “Achimedes” from Merlin, just repurposed to suit their shift in sound. Where “Execution” only seems to build into something more raucous even in its second-half bridge, “Forever My Queen” opts to space out a little more. It makes more sense after one hears Merlin jam all over their self-titled, and where it might at first seem like they’re trying to milk the Pentagram track for everything they can get out of it, further investigation reveals that in fact, jamming has been an essential part of their work to date.
How this might continue to manifest on Merlin‘s upcoming second full-length, Christ Killer (due out April 18), I don’t know, but “Execution” seems to hint that perhaps the band is trying to find a middle ground between boozy heavy groove and trippy psych jams. It’s a noble pursuit, and it shows Merlin have the potential to distinguish themselves in more than just one niche going forward.
Hear “Execution” and “Forever My Queen” now as part of the 24/7 stream of The Obelisk Radio and grab a name-your-price download from the player below, conjured from Merlin‘s Bandcamp.
“All in Vain” is a quick 2:45, but it gives a decent sampling of what Berlin trio Rodeo Drive might get up to on their forthcoming Morbid Beauty full-length, which is set to release this Friday. Fronted by bassist Hans Eiselt, who also plays guitar in heavy psych jammers Samsara Blues Experiment, Rodeo Drive are an altogether gruffer, more straightforward band. Eiselt‘s vocals, still melodic, are throaty and well suited to the rush of “All in Vain,” and while there are some psychedelic undertones, the sound is much more traditionally stoner rock, aimed for simpler execution and hitting the mark with what seems to be no trouble at all, guitarist Friedrich Stemmer and drummer Rene Schulze joining Eiselt in the steady push.
The video for the track is likewise down to earth — a few different cameras capture the band rocking out in a dimly lit room. Posters adorn the wall behind them, and at the start of the clip, somebody — presumably Eiselt — says the phrase, “psychedelic relic.” Maybe that was the original name of the song, or maybe it’s a sort of general assessment from the band on their style, but sure enough, “All in Vain” does hint at more ethereal sonic territory, and a cut like the seven-and-a-half-minute “Earth Dark Diseases,” which is up for streaming at Rodeo Drive‘s ReverbNation page, would seem to indicate that “All in Vain” is just the start of what the band might have to offer on Morbid Beauty.
Still, not a bad place to start. Rodeo Drive release Morbid Beautythis Friday at a gig at Berlin’s Jägerklause with Olympus Mons and Liquid Silk, should you happen to be in the area. If not, you can check out “All in Vain” below.
“Beware the wolfen blitzkrieg” is some fairly sound advice, and if nothing else, Memphis, Tennessee, four-piece Super Witch seem to know what they’re talking about when it comes to matters of monsters. Right in time for April Fools, the heavy horror rockers have unveiled a new single called “Army of Werewolves,” and as you might guess, the song is about werewolves, in an army, attacking the populace. In case you were wondering.
Super Witch, comprised of Joey Killingsworth, Eldorado Del Rey, John Pickle and Chris Mccoy, released their four-track The SunEP earlier this year, taking the name from Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios, where it (plus a bunch of stuff by Elvis and Johnny Cash, etc.) was recorded in 2013. “Army of Werewolves,” however, is newer than that, recorded at Rocket Science Audio and taken from the band’s debut full-length, which is reportedly coming soon.
For not having been recorded in a space where pop culture history was made, “Army of Werewolves” certainly lacks nothing for sonic punch. Guitars, bass and drums hit heavy with a blend of noise and stoner influences, and the double-layered vocals give a punkish edge to the proceedings matched by the track’s stripped-down structure and efficient use of the under-three-minute runtime. If you’re interested in getting a good look at the band, however, the Pickle-directed clip for “Army of Werewolves” (there wolves. there castle.) keeps them mostly anonymous, focusing instead on the instruments at work, save for when vocal lines are delivered. Even then, no eye contact. Makes for an interesting take on the usual performance video. One doesn’t generally think of that as a way to stay anonymous.
Please find the clip for Super Witch‘s “Army of Werewolves” below and enjoy. More to come on their full-length, and in the meantime, the single and 2013′s The SunEP are available to download through their Bandcamp.
Posted in audiObelisk on March 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
At 33 minutes, the self-titled and self-released debut from Pennsylvania instrumentalists King Dead sits right between an EP and a full-length outing. The trio’s sound is similarly nebulous, hovering between psychedelic post-rock, heavier amplified push and Morricone-via-Earth soundscaping, and as their first five songs showcase, they come equipped with a formidable scope. Shades of Pelican show up in the payoff to the cumbersomely-titled “As One Plows and Breaks up the Earth, so Our Bones Have Been Scattered at the Mouth of the Grave,” and when closer “God Makes a Lot of Fucking Promises” launches from its Dustbowl swirl into lumbering crashes and more vicious churn, Neurosis‘ “Times of Grace” seems a ready comparison-point, but King Dead – the Stroudsburg-based trio of four-string bassist Kevin Vanderhoof, six-string bassist Will McGrath and drummer Steve Truglio (the latter of whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known and worked with for years) — do well to incorporate these into a still-forming cohesion, boldly captured live on this self-titled.
They recorded in Stroudsburg’s Living Room on Jan. 25, so the material is pretty fresh, and whether it’s the Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method-style sustained nod of opener “Ghosts along the Riverbank” or the loose-string jangle of centerpiece “Length of Rope,” their contemplation comes metered out in weighted bottom-end and patient timekeeping. The middle cut strikes as the smoothest in its transitions and the fullness of its course, a build taking place over the 6:42 run while parts are intertwined, refrained and deconstructed. It happens subtly, but when the high end drops out before the four-minute mark and McGrath and Truglio carry the atmosphere on their own, the return is clearly the beginning of an apex that, save perhaps for that of the more jagged closer, is the most satisfying to be had on King Dead‘s King Dead. And while the follow it with the shortest and most uptempo song on the release, “Drowning in Dust,” even there they continue an impressive grip on the ambience, some whistling arriving late to introduce a gallop straight out of the Spaghetti West.
Tracks also work smoothly one into the next, but to give a general idea of where King Dead are at their first time out and where they might subsequently progress, “Length of Rope” finds them in an engaging balance of driving push and tidal sway. King Deadwill be available on CD starting April 19. Please find “Length of Rope” on the player below, and enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
King Dead have been conspicuoulsy haunting the Stroudsburg PA area lately. Bass players Will McGrath and Kevin Vanderhoof, recruited New Jersey Transplant Steve Truglio on drums last summer, and have begun to wander around the NEPA/NJ area. Their debut record on the cusp of release, was recorded LIVE in their practice and performance home venue at The Living Room in Stroudsburg by Dave Reiser of ROCK HARD STUDIOS. They definitely have their own sound.
Call it sludge, doom, or what we like to say is spaghetti western doom sludge, it sure doesn’t sound like yer typical heavy 3 piece band these days. With virtually no vocals, aside from one song(not on the record) and a whistle solo in another, its all about dynamics and the building tempos. Creepy, dreary, sleepy and melodic riffs layered over deep bottom and pounding drums. A good soundtrack for any lethal injection event.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Prolific Boston garage-doomers Ice Dragon have issued a new single called “Demons from Hell” in their traditional write-it-record-it-toss-it-out-there fashion. Word arrived last night of the cut, which steps back from some of the psychedelic experimentation of their latest full-length, 2013′s Born a Heavy Morning (review here), and follows in the nastier-riffing footsteps of their prior two-tracker, Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (discussed here), taking a dark and metallic approach to axe-swinging heaviness.
Like everything they do, “Demons from Hell” was recorded by the band at their home studio, Ron’s Wrecker Service, and in addition to underscoring the breadth of sound they’re able to capture on their own — one probably wouldn’t listen to 2012′s Dream Dragonand think “Demons from Hell” was captured in the same room — the new track drives home just how much the lo-fi production sound has become an essential part of their aesthetic, whether it’s Ron‘s howling vocals or the sharp-edged turns of Joe‘s bass, Brad‘s drums and Carter‘s guitar. When the latter takes a noise-caked solo over steady tom runs, you can practically hear the tape hiss, even on the digital stream.
I don’t know whether or not “Demons from Hell” will be part of Ice Dragon‘s next full-length, which is reportedly in the works, or if its sound portends what that album might sound like — when it comes to these guys, any speculation is just setting yourself up to look dumb later — or if it will receive any kind of physical release to make the most of its Zé Burnay cover art, but it’s a catchy, raw cut that stands well with the band’s earlier outings, three of which are due for release on CD through PRC Music in May (plus Ingot Eyefrom ultra-bleak side-project Tentacle). As always, the song is available as a pay-what-you-will download from their Bandcamp page.
Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It has been 19 years since New York City doomers Blood Farmers released their self-titled debut on Hellhound Records, and while that album and their 1991 Permanent Brain Damage demo were reissued via Japan’s Leaf Hound Records in 2008 and 2004, respectively, and trio have been playing periodic shows for a half-decade if not longer, if a new record was ever going to happen, it was nothing if not due. Thus arrives Headless Eyes, the long-anticipated second offering from Blood Farmers, keeping with the horror-obsessed aesthetic, pushing the sound to places they haven’t taken it before, but keeping a controlled current of tension in its lumbering riffs. The three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist Dave Szulkin (who also plays bass here, while Brown handles it live) and drummer Tad Léger have a stripped down approach to the genre, and for the lack of frills throughout its 44-minute course, one might call Headless Eyesminimal, though that hardly does justice to the depth of its production, atmospheric density or attention to sonic detail, as evidenced in the creative use of sampling for a call and response in the chorus of the title-track, or the synth textures that emerge on the penultimate 10-minute instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and closing David Hess cover, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” taken from Hess’ soundtrack to the 1972 horror film, The Last House on the Left.
So rather than minimal, let’s say Headless Eyeshas been chased through the woods by some unseen terror and forced to cast off its bullshit along the way. A substantial portion of the record is instrumental, since the aforementioned “Night of the Sorcerers” (nonetheless a highlight) and the earlier “The Creeper” account for about 16 minutes of the runtime, and together with the cover, which is another six minutes, that leaves opener “Gut Shot,” “Headless Eyes,” and “Thousand-Yard Stare” as anchors for an album that draws the listener deeper into its foggy depths before offering the melodies of “The Road Leads to Nowhere” as a way back to reality. It’s no coincidence that “Gut Shot” and “Headless Eyes” lead off. The former is a tortured, slow nod of a riff with Brown recounting a tale of agony to accompany the drawn out notes and Léger‘s careful stomp underneath. Also responsible for the Headless Eyesgraphic design, Léger was an original member of Westchester, NY, thrashers Toxik, but that pedigree would seem to serve him little in matching time with Szulkin‘s guitar and bass and Brown‘s carefully positioned verses. Likewise, Szulkin has two album with sludge-thrashers The Disease Concept under his belt, and though it comes out a bit in his leads on “Thousand-Yard Stare” and maybe a touch in “Night of the Sorcerers,” the bulk of Headless Eyesis more mournful than malevolent, though as noted, an atmosphere of threat is never far off.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Thickening up thrash riffs can be a tricky proposition, but Massachusetts foursome Titanis find a niche somewhere between doomed plodding and more aggressive metallurgy on “Hyperion,” the rough mix of which is the first audio to surface from their forthcoming Celestial AggressionEP, which will release at the end of April. To mark the occasion, Titanis have a gig booked with Cortez and others at JJ’s Tavern (no relation, unless they’re looking to sell) in Florence, MA, as well as a handful of other gigs over the spring and summer.
Details and introductory whathaveyou barreled down the PR wire thusly:
Western Mass natives/newcomers TITANIS announce their debut EP “Celestial Aggression”, set for release April 26th. Featuring thirty minutes of new, original music across three tracks, the sounds heard here pull from all types of influence: from doom, thrash, early hardcore, progressive, instrumental, post rock and more.
Thematically based on a various concepts of ancient society (including ancient Greece), and written over a 7 year period, this marks the debut effort of each musician, as TITANIS is the first release featuring guitarist/vocalist Niko Galanis, bassist David Willoughy, rhythm guitarist Brett Miller and drummer Patrick O’Neill.
An album release show is set for April 26th at JJ’s Tavern/13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence, MA – featuring Boston stoner rockers Cortez, Buffalo NY’s Super Killer Robots, and Easthampton’s Problem with Dragons – whose front man Robo recorded TITANIS’ debut at his studio, LOUDville, in Feb 2014.
Below is a rough, unmixed preview of what is to come on the album!
Track listing: 1: Hyperion (12 minutes) 2: Horus the Red (8 minutes) 3: Europa (10 minutes)
Live dates: 4/26 JJ’s Tavern, Florence MA w/ Cortez, Problem with Dragons, Super Killer Robots 5/2 Maximum Capacity, Chicopee MA w/ Vacant Eyes, Thunderforge, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Black Absence 6/5 Ralph’s Rock Diner, Worcester MA w/ Mockingbird, TBA 6/20 Cherry Street Station, Wallingford CT w/ TBA
Some part of me feels like I just need to finally have it out with these songs. Late last fall, when Tucson, Arizona’s Young Hunter issuedthe three tracks “Welcome to Nothing,” “Trail of Tears” and “Dreamer” online as the Embers at the Foot of Dark MountainEP, there was no doubt in my mind that it was one of 2013′s best short releases. The 18-minute collection has become a staple in the months since its release, perfect for killing late night silences, and in Ohioan‘s Tetralogía Lavaplatos, it has a match. The two recordings share personnel, a spirit born of the land from whence they come and some lyrical themes — albeit manifested differently in texture — so it’s only fitting they’d wind up together, Ohioan‘s four songs, “Madrugada Sonora,” “Fat Children (with Privilege),” “Herida de Llorona” and “Dogshit in Plastic Bags” showcasing American drone-folk of varied intent and poetic critique to complement Young Hunter‘s emotionally-resonant spiritual weight.
The tape arrives in a hand-made package, the cover on front, a quote from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road on back that reads, “People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.” A piece of black tape seals the cardboard, which unfolds to various stamped symbols and the tape itself, black with gold paint, accompanied by a download card and folded sheet with lyrics for Young Hunter‘s songs and the two of Ohioan‘s that have them. The sides on the outside have “YH & OH” stamped on them, and it’s a fitting answer to Young Hunter‘s 2012 CD outing, Stone Tools, which showed similar depth in presentation. For a format as maligned as tapes often are, this split (limited to 200 copies) is one more argument for the validity of them as an outlet for creativity. Still, once one puts the thing on and presses play, there’s very little else that matters.
Droning at the start, “Welcome to Nothing” bursts Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain to life with terrifying lucidity. Young Hunter frontman Benjamin Blake intones at the start, “Abandon those around you/Do not be afraid…” beginning a verse that plays out a subtle build over the song’s first minute-plus before the drums and full-breadth guitars kick in. Even on tape, the sound is huge, the pulse vital, the mood darkened by the continued drone that becomes the out-front riff of the verse. A chaos swirl is given push by pounding drums — both Adan Martinez-Kee and Matthew Baquet are credited on the three tracks, I don’t know who plays where — and “Welcome to Nothing” is at a running pace the tension and drama of which is contrasted by the subdued delivery of the vocals. Crashing drums and a lead line from the guitar provide a sort of instrumental chorus while the hook resides in the refrain of the verse, the line “Welcome back to the void,” serving as an anchor up to the cacophony that rounds the track out and cuts echoing into the beginning of “Trail of Tears,” a single, spacious guitar introducing the line that will be the song’s central figure as a series of drum hits slam home punctuation.
I do not mind saying that there are several “holy shit” chill-up-the-spine moments on the Young Hunter side of the tape, and the unfolding of “Trail of Tears” is one of them. The band reels back and then lets loose a staggering nighttime landscape, guitars doing coyote howls to set up the first verse, Julia DeConcini joining Blake atop the complex wash from guitarist Mike Barnett, guitarist/keyboardist Samuel Christopher (who, like DeConcini, also appears with Ohioan) and bassist Michael Huerta, all of them and the drums coming together to create this rumbling, presence that both consumes and grooves, “hey-heys” and “ooh-oohs” showing up for an understated chorus before the keys and guitars duke it out in multilayered solos. The stomp from the beginning of the track reemerges in the second half as the foundation for a build the culmination of which is the tape’s most singularly devastating moment of tonal largesse and impact – Neurosis worthy — the drums pulling back to half-time at just the right moment and immediately afterwards starting in on the beat that is the foundation for “Dreamer,” the shortest of Young Hunter‘s three inclusions on the split.
By this time, Young Hunter have crafted a dense atmosphere, dark but not cultish or silly and earning its heaviness through control and presence. “Dreamer” essentially breaks into three parts. Guitars match the drum beat step for step and develop from there in a tense push that opens wide for an airy verse before trading back. The major change comes with the line “See the bones left where the spirit wakes up,” which marks the beginning of a build that will lead to the split’s most driving payoff, Blake coming to the fore over the maddening drive to ask, “When you gonna wake up?/Are you gonna wake up when you die?” ending the apex in screams not black metal-influenced like some of those on StoneTools, but rawer, more primal. And just to show that even as they’ve gone so far out, Young Hunter aren’t so out of control as to snap back with a hit of the snare, return to the original guitar rhythm/drum beat and cap “Dreamer” with a bookend to underscore the accomplishment of its songwriting. The several minutes of silence that follow offer well-appreciated opportunity for recovery.
Ohioan‘s take comes from another angle. Both “Madrugada Sonora” and “Herida de Llorona” are instrumental, the first launching the dark-folk/Americana outfit’s side with a bed of drone. More even than Young Hunter, whose songs prove distinct almost in spite of themselves, Ohioan‘s material gives the impression of being meant to be experienced as a whole. Extended waves of guitar notes make for a minimalist beginning, layers weaving in throughout “Madrugada Sonora” in a subtle and cautious build that comprises the first five minutes of Tetralogía Lavaplatos — something I’ll readily admit I only know because of the digital version of the EP. On the tape, it blends together seamlessly, and even when more distinct feedback arrives, it’s hard to know exactly where “Fat Children (with Privilege)” starts, though there’s little obscurity once the vocals begin. O Ryne Warner (who also appears with Young Hunter and has contributed bass to Ghost to Falco, from Portland, Oregon) is credited with co-engineering and mixing, as well as “other shit” in the studio, and listed first among a host of others as “faculty” — all info online; no personnel info with the tape liner — so I’m relatively comfortable presuming its his voice recounting the tale in the lyrics of “Fat Children (with Privilege),” but don’t quote me.
He’s joined throughout Ohioan‘s four songs by the aforementioned Christopher and DeConcini, as well as Connor Gallaher, Andrew Collberg, Jeff Lownsbury, Jeff Grubic, Sasha, Geoff Saba, Ryen Egglestein, Jim Colby, Isadora Moreno-Frisby, Alexandra Cer and Benjamin Ford-Sala (who also did the art for foldout), though who’s doing what is a mystery and to delve into speculation seems like overkill. The lyrics of “Fat Children (with Privilege)” are less about the titular youths themselves than the cultural excesses of wealth and hubris they’re meant to represent. It’s Howl meets service-industry blues:
“I cleansed every dish That the rich tooth missed I fed their fat children With privilege On skin On organs And flesh With the skin Of my friends,”
And isn’t long in going on to talk about a “life, ever spent, paying rent” — something Young Hunter touched on as well in “Dreamer” with “Another life spent chasing paychecks” — the disillusion with adult consumerist life indicative both of creative restlessness and the core of resentment that bleeds through the remainder of the track. Where Young Hunter crashed and slammed, Ohioan seethe, though in Angels of Light-esque form, there’s a swell of volume and lurching heft as well near the end of the track, topped by strings (real or inorganic) and multiple vocals as it is. The song breaks back down to its root frustration and silence precedes the instrumental “Herida de Llorona,” a twanging, guitar of country’ed sweetness offering some contrast to the gnashing teeth in the prior cut’s finish.
That atmosphere of sentiment for the impossible — something other countries rightly shake their heads at but is nonetheless a core element of American culture — continues into “Dogshit in Plastic Bags,” though neither the title of the song nor its lyrics would draw one to that notion. If it was Ohioan‘s intent to toy with contrast, they did a more than able job of it, the words barely spoken in sweet, patient melody as the lines, “Our legacy will be dicks drawn on bathroom walls, empty windows and dogshit in plastic bags outside the mall” provide the capstone for what would otherwise superficially appear as a dreamy, wistful country exploration, complete with pedal steel and slow, soft drumming. They do not linger after those lines are delivered with cadence that seems to playfully distract from the message itself, and the split concludes in a fashion rather unassuming considering the scope of what’s played out over the course of the prior 40-or-so minutes.
Last I heard, Blake had moved to Portland, Oregon, so if there’s a future for Young Hunter or what that might look like, I don’t know. Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain remains a substantial contribution either way. Ohioan, nebulous as they are, have several other releases to dig into available via their Bandcamp — 2011′s Balls Deep in Babylon catches the eye — in some alliance with Infinite Front, which seems to be an artist collective as much as a record label. Fair enough. What remains true for both acts is the essential nature of the work they’ve given here. I’m not sure if a tape does it justice. I’m not sure what format would — some form of audio tattoo? But a tape makes sense coming from two groups who’ve obviously stood under a huge desert sky and realized how little it matters one way or another, so a tape it is. Recommended.
Posted in On Wax on March 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s an undertone of burl that’s carried through the entirety of Bushfire‘s Dec. 2013 second long-player, Heal Thy Self, and that’s due in no small part to vocalist Bill Brown‘s low-in-the-mouth approach. He’s not exactly shooting for “whiskey-soaked Southern” or something like that, but his post-grunge style remains consistent throughout the nine tracks of the vinyl, which arrives in a sturdy gatefold with a quality, 180g platter, heavy stock dust jacket and foldout liner notes that further the visual theme from artist Ingo “Krimalkin” Lohse, the intricacy of whose work is all the more appreciable in the 12″ format. Heal Thy Selfis a different experience on LP as opposed to CD or Bandcamp stream or whatever it might be, but however one approaches it, the Darmstadt, Germany, double-guitar five-piece offer songwriting coinciding with the dependable physical feel of the Heal Thy Selfalbum. Their material is straightforward in a bruiser sense and asks few indulgences while staving off monotony with change-it-up cuts like the moody “Brother” on side B and the cowbell-infused boogie of “Tuff Luv,” which closes side A.
No shortage of doomer roots are on display — album opener “Failure” ends with whispers eerily reminiscent of those announcing the departure of “Children of the Grave” on Master of Reality– but Bushfire‘s trade is heavy, riff-driven rock and roll. If it had anything to do with getting high, I’d be tempted to call it stoner, but their approach is tighter than that designation seems to warrant these days, the two guitars of Marcus Bischoff and Miguel Pereira comfortable in a leadership role when they need to be and driving the grooves that Brown ably rides in his vocals, bassist Nick Kurz offering more to the personality of the whole than just tonal weight, though plenty of that as well, and drummer Tom Hoffmann punctuating the roll and suitably getting into some double-kick bass when “Glossolalia” moves in its back end to some surprisingly blackened screams for a bit of flourish that Bushfire don’t return to, but makes its point anyway and gives a different context to the from-the-gut shouting that caps the Down-style riffing of “Elephant,” which in turn leads to “Tuff Luv,” the verses there reminding more of The Atomic Bitchwax than anything so gruffly intentioned.
Side B has a somewhat different personality. Production makes most of side A consistent sound-wise despite the fact that Bushfire are leaning to one side or another within their aesthetic, but with four songs as opposed to five and the closing duo of “Hungry” and “Dream” checking in at just under seven minutes each, the vibe is bound to be somewhat distinct from the first half of Heal Thy Self. All things are relative, of course, but where “Failure” set the album into motion with a mounting swell of feedback and distortion, “Objector” opens side B with quiet guitar and a subdued, contemplative verse. It doesn’t last, and soon enough “Objector” is into some of Heal Thy Self‘s ballsiest swaggering, all starts-and-stops and “hey whoa yeah”-style shouting. Fair enough. “Brother,” also one of the longer songs, develops the ideas that “Objector” seems to hint at in its intro — though is plenty heavy besides — and with a slower pace sets out a hook that’s among the most resonant Bushfire have to offer, “Hungry” seeming to work in a similar vein until a build in the midsection into faster riffing provides fluid transition to a shuffle that recalls some of “Tuff Luv” from side A. It’s the stomp that wins out, topped with wah guitar as it is, and “Hungry” seems to drunk-stumble into “Dream.”
Honestly, after both “Brother” and “Hungry,” “Dream” comes across as something of an afterthought. There isn’t much on offer that the prior 41 minutes haven’t shown Bushfire already capably displaying, but the opening crashes give some sense of arrival anyway, and the finale moves at a decent clip, so it’s not likely to offend either if you’ve made it this far into the record. A vague spoken sample arrives in the second half of the song over the last guitar solo, and after “Dream” stomps to its finish, there are some piano noises and what sounds like a bird of some sort, no doubt of some significance to whatever it was the dream itself may have been about. I do not know how many copies of Heal Thy Selfthe band pressed — mine’s hand-numbered as #190 on side B, so at least that many — but it’s a substantial effort in both sound and physical construction for a DIY band to undertake, and to Bushfire‘s credit, they pull it off front to back, whether it’s the coherence of their style and production or the atmosphere that the detailed lines of the gatefold convey. They’ve been around for a decade and still sound like they’re growing, but Heal Thy Selfhas plenty to offer a vinyl hound with a craving for thick grooves.
Posted in On Wax on March 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a resonant but difficult to place course that Brooklyn trio Eidetic Seeing chart on their second, self-released full-length, Against Nature. The band — guitarist Sean Forlenza, drummer Paul Feitzinger (also synth) and bassist Danilo Randjic-Coleman — shift easily between pulses of aggro-jazz and post-rocking doom, resulting in a kind of gritty wash made all the more immersive by their mostly-instrumental approach. Particularly on side B’s “Ashplant Blues” and “K2,” both of which top 10 minutes, it’s hard to know where one stops and the other ends, and that’s obviously on purpose on the part of the three-piece, who seem to arrive at an airy dreariness on the 11-minute finale, like Crippled Black Phoenix gone wandering and slamming into a brick wall of stylized freakout, dense fuzz and those gravity waves from the Big Bang that I keep hearing so much about.
Tonal warmth is high, both on “K2″ and throughout most of what precedes it, which makes the cooler greys of the matte-finish LP cover — the record itself is black vinyl housed in a black dust jacket — somewhat mysterious, but I suppose multicolor psychedelia has been done to death and rebirth, black and white less so. If that’s representative of a drive toward individualism, it’s mirrored in the five songs included on Against Natureas well. From the opening strums of side A’s launch with “A Snake Whose Years are Long,” which give a deceptive impression of Americana that the song ultimately has little interest in fulfilling, Eidetic Seeing show themselves as patient when they want to be and propulsive in kind. The shortest inclusion on Against Natureis the third track, “Frôleuse,” and even that tops six and a half minutes, so there’s plenty of space for the trio to flesh out and pursue sonic whims where and when they might.
And while there is a suitable meandering sense for (mostly) instrumental heavy psych, this is somewhat offset by shifts into grounded, densely weighted riffs. “A Snake Whose Years are Long” establishes an expertise in the technique, not so much trading back and forth as oozing between one side and the other, and “White Flight” moves from a dreamy synth opening to some of the most dead-on traditional Sabbathian tonality I’ve heard. The kicker is Eidetic Seeing don’t use it to mimic Sabbath. Instead they just ride the riff momentarily on the way to a stomping verse of building intensity that, in turn, cuts back to smoky jazz, undercutting its class with abrasive feedback before moving on to more glorious space riffing. A noisy finish cuts cold into the start of “Frôleuse,” the capstone of an A side that shows no less delight in ignoring the Lego instructions of genre as it constructs a somewhat more tempered spaceship of its own design.
“Frôleuse” hands down disenchantment in a chaotically swirling culmination made rawer through natural-sounding production — that is, they’re not lush even at their farthest out — and after the flip, “Ashplant Blues” seems to answer back with some initially doomed-out lumbering, but the personality of the song and of the second side as a whole is distinct from the first half of Against Natureand shows Eidetic Seeing are comfortable pitting longform works against each other as they are the sounds of Morricone and Russian Circles. Ultimately, Against Nature– which presumably was not named in honor of the Maryland classic heavy rock outfit featuring the members of Revelation, though one never knows — stands as an intriguing and self-directed LP, and while Eidetic Seeing present an approach with some rougher edges, they seem more to delight in riding the sharp corners than to be in need of smoothing out. If it’s to be a long-term creative progression, Against Naturemakes a solid argument for following it.
It’s a pretty rare phenomenon, but every now and again somebody gets in touch who feels strongly enough about a release to send it to me even though they’re not affiliated with the band in question, not part of any record label or promotional effort or anything like that. Just a fan of a work who thinks I’d be better off hearing it enough that they’re willing to put their postage where their mouth is and actually send it. To that end, I offer thanks and kudos to Anthony Brown of Guildford in the UK who saw fit to shoot a copy of Enos‘ 2010 debut, Chapter1,across an ocean on my behalf. Even before I went to the post office and picked it and the XII Boar demo he also sent up, it was an effort I appreciated.
I’ve had some past experience with Enos, and pleasant experience at that. The band played the pre-show at London’s Desertfest last year (review here) supporting 1000mods that I was fortunate enough to attend, and while there, I picked up a copy of their 2012 self-released outing, All too Human. The band, who are named for the first chimpanzee launched into orbit, also work with space-program themes on the five tracks of what would essentially be a demo if it didn’t sound so cohesive over the course of its 34 minutes. It’s not hard to pin a narrative arc to the five tracks, “Launch,” “In Space,” “Floating,” “Transform” and “Back to Earth,” so to coincide with the professionally crisp production, they seem to have started out with a firm grip on the concepts driving their creativity. All the better across the songs, really, since “Launch” embarks with a countdown of cymbal wash and explodes with a vibrant pulse into the riffing of Chris P. Rizzanski and Sean Cox, which emerges as the dominant force in a nonetheless well-balanced mix thickened by George “Bungle” Cobbold‘s bass.
Rizzanski also handles vocals in semi-melodic, echoing shouts that sit smoothly alongside a psychedelic impulse, though when “In Space” is at its most chaotic, following a brief acoustic stop when Sparky Rogers kicks back in on the drums and the guitars are going full-force, he seems to shift more into a throatier approach that in another context I’d probably attribute to a Neurosis influence. Even looking back after All too Human, Chapter 1finds Enos refreshingly individual. Yeah, there are the post-Kyuss riffs and some of Rizzanski‘s delivery reminds of Orange Goblin‘s Ben Ward — an impression I got less from the subsequent outing — but if Enos are making anything clear on these tracks it”s that what they’re in the process of developing is theirs specifically, and as “Floating” lives up to its name with the transition into the more raucous “Transform,” the shortest song on Chapter 1but a barn-burner at 4:26, the work they’re doing seems well worth undertaking, the two guitars showing some lead interplay in the bridge over the solid rhythmic foundation of the bass and drums.
As it was no doubt intended to do, the nine-minute closer “Back to Earth” provides a neat summary of the 2010 outing — which, if you’re looking for a marker of its era, you might find in the MySpace link included on the back liner of the jewel case — gradually building a psychedelic opening progression to an airy mid-paced push and forward to a grander, louder, larger apex that consciously answers the call of the first four cuts for resolution prior to its long fadeout. Knowing they’d put out All too Humantwo years later and build on the accomplishments here feels a bit like cheating, but does nothing to diminish enjoyment of Chapter 1as it is. The band’s latest release is the 2013 live album The East Slope, which is sold-out on CD, but still available digitally through the Enos Bandcamp, and there are still a couple copies of Chapter 1out there as well. I feel fortunate to have been given one and having sat with the album and gotten to know it better, am all the more able to understand why Brown felt so strongly about it in the first place. Thank you, sir.
This video came down no PR wire. It’s not a premiere. It’s not exclusive. It’s been up for about a week. Basically I saw Nashville four-piece All Them Witches had posted the link on their Thee Facebooks page and after watching the whole thing, I felt compelled to post it as well. The track is “Mountain,” which is the meditative closer of their 2013 full-length, Lightning at the Door (discussed here), and the clip was filmed live at Chicago’s Cobra Lounge. I think the date was Feb. 5, since that seems to be the last time I can find they were there. Pretty recent, anyway, and with solid sound quality, though what strikes more than that is how well the mood of the song is conveyed live.
I haven’t had occasion to see All Them Witches on stage yet, but having enjoyed the crap out of Lightning at the Doorand the preceding Our Mother Electricity (review here), I hope to. The band — bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, drummer Rob Staebler and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave — offer a dead-on look at their stage dynamic in the video, Staebler holding a tension in the drums that grounds the song even as Parks, McLeod and Van Cleave seem to be their most spaced out. Their blend of blues and heavy psych-derived jamming comes through clearly, and though it seems early on like the wheels might come off, they keep it together to get a fervent round of hooting from the crowd at the end. Well earned.
If you dig this, All Them Witches have vinyl on the way for Lightning at the Doorfrom whence it comes. They also recently issued a live recording digitally through Daytrotter, though I can’t vouch for it since I couldn’t figure out how to make the download work. That won’t be the last concert document to come from them, however, since their show March 7 at The Garage in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was also taped and filmed for a live release. Will be interested to see how that turns out, but in the meantime, I thought this might fit well at the end of a long day:
All Them Witches, “Mountain” Live at Cobra Lounge, Chicago, IL
Posted in On Wax on March 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Dressed in wizard robes and toting songs like “Crabs” and “Super Sluts from Outer Space” — I think I saw that movie — the trio Blackwitch Pudding emerge from Portland, Oregon, with a forceful helping of semi-psychedelic sludge on their first LP, Taste the Pudding. I’ve worked pretty hard to do so and found myself largely unable to get past the classically metallic misogyny of the album’s cover, which falls flat of intentional irony and saps This is Spinal Tap of its satire while trading a leash for a blindfold, thus leaving open the possibility that, hey, maybe she’s into it and this is a practice in which she’s engaging as part of a loving, fulfilling relationship, only to close it again via the element of force implied by the second hand behind the drawn figure’s head. But because one only invites bullshit by namecalling (there’s only so many times I’m willing to hear that I “don’t get it”), I’ll stick to the music of the self-releasing three-piece’s debut. They make glorious use of dirt-encrusted tonal largesse, veering here and there into more extreme, Zoroaster-esque growling murk on “Shark Commando” and their finale, while saving start-stop plod for “Crabs” on side B.
The wizard-centric lineup of guitarist Space Wizard, bassist Lizard Wizard and drummer Wizard Wizard – they’re like the Ramones, only magical — plant a foot deep in the post-Sleep school of riff worship, but there’s a character to 10-minute closer “Acid Castle Mountain Top” that portrays more than “Dragonaut” imitation, Blackwitch Pudding leaving most of the all-out growls for the end of each half of the album, which is something all the more apparent on the vinyl version than the CD or digital, though Taste the Puddingbenefits from the variety in whichever format. They ultimately descend in that closer from a trance-inducing nod to a smoke-clouded and noisy finish with even the drums spaced out by the end, all degenerating over a bed of constant toms, much darker and heavier than the don’t-take-it-too-seriously art and titles would seem to dogwhistle to the converted. Earlier on, “Gathering Panties” churns with beastly aplomb, a blast of low-end underscoring a riff that would otherwise motor were it not too monolithic to budge on the way to more fast/slow tradeoffs. Tempo dexterity works to Blackwitch Pudding‘s advantage from the start on opener “Mortre’D,” which drones and rumbles and abyss-shouts its way to life over the course of its seven-plus minutes, only to smoothly culminate with an increasingly speedy rush at the end of it.
And “Super Sluts from Outer Space,” which follows, may be the shortest cut of the bunch — also probably the most stoner rock, thickening and obscuring an otherwise Red Fang-style mover groove, though there’s plenty of dank competition — but even it finds room for a moment’s pause in the middle, brief as it is. I find some of the album’s most effective bludgeonry to be in “Swamp Gas of the Nevermizer,” which blends airy psychedelic leads with crunching riffs, the already-noted fluidity of tempo, lyrics that may or may not be about farts, and even touches on blending the cleaner and more abrasive vocal approaches on display elsewhere in various measure. As the start of side B, it’s a standout cut anyway, though not the apex of Taste the Puddingitself, which make no mistake arrives in “Acid Castle Mountain Top.” Still, the overarching impression of Blackwitch Pudding‘s debut — visuals aside — is in its showcasing of the trio’s tones and how they might proceed from here to pummel their listeners with them. It’s a more than effective display, proving particularly through Lizard Wizard‘s bass that low end can reach just as impressive expanses as echoing, richly effected guitar. If you’ve got speakers you’re looking to get rid of, Blackwitch Pudding would seem a worthy way of blowing them out.
Reunited New York doomers Blood Farmers are taking orders now for their sophomore album, Headless Eyes. A self-release, Headless Eyes is the first Blood Farmers long-player to surface in the 19 years since their self-titled debut came out on Hellhound, and it has been awaited since the band first started doing shows again a few years back. Their fetish for all things horror comes through both in the title of the album and its graphic design, handled by drummer Tad Leger, who’s given a sampling of the art for anyone who’s yet to pick up a copy of the CD. He’s joined in the band by vocalist Eli Brown and guitarist/bassist Dave Szulkin.
Blood Farmers‘ debut was reissued on Japan’s Leaf Hound Records in 2008 with a bonus track — their 1991 demo, Permanent Brain Damage, had been put out by the same label in 2004 — and the band has toured and made fest appearances leading up to the Headless Eyesrelease, hitting Europe in 2011 alongside Black Pyramid and also playing Days of the Doomed in Wisconsin.
Click the image below to get a feel for the art — front and back cover, plus liner, etc. — for Headless Eyes, which comes with an update from Leger and the tracklisting. I’ve also included a clip of the title-track so you can have a taste of Blood Farmers‘ grainy, VHS-style doom. Enjoy:
Here’s a peek at some of the sickening art that houses each copy of the new Blood Farmers album, Headless Eyes. It’s not pretty but that was our goal when creating it really. Thanks to all the kind folks who have supported this release. All sales go straight to the band. NO labels, distributors or anyone involved in this. So please help us spread the word. Our sincere thanks to the TRUE Doom culture!
Tracks are: 1.Gut Shot (6:17) 2.Headless Eyes (10:49) 3.The Creeper (4:51) 4.Thousand-Yard Stare (6:34) 5.Night Of The Sorcerers (10:15) 6.The Road Leads To Nowhere (5:59)