Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll freely admit to being somewhat taken aback by this one. It was less than a week ago that Massachusetts doom metallers Second Grave released their debut album, Blacken the Sky (review here), and today they’re announcing that their time as a band has come to an end. That record, tracked by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, showed noteworthy promise even beyond that of Second Grave‘s two prior EPs, 2013’s Antithesis (review here) and 2012’s self-titled (review here), so it seems all the more like a shame to lose the band now, just as they were entering a next phase of their potential as a unit.
The final lineup of Second Grave — guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder, guitarist Christopher Drzal, bassist Maureen Murphy and drummer Chuck Ferreira — have one last show booked for Aug. 26 at RPM Fest in Greenfield, MA, and then they’re done, but already in the announcement below of their breakup, there’s a note about new projects in the works. Worth keeping an eye and ear out for what comes next, for sure. In the meantime, Second Grave will be missed.
Here’s what they had to say:
As all things must come to an end, Second Grave too is is being laid to rest. While we are all extremely proud of the new album “Blacken the Sky”, the time has come for us to part ways.
As true musicians, everyone has either already been actively playing in other bands, or will eventually re-join the metal scene in other forms. As SG has been a special project to us, we all remain friends and supportive of each other. We have one last show to play, RPM Fest on August 26th.
Tickets are selling fast, so if you want to see the full lineup with two guitars, this is your last chance.
That being said, we want to thank all of the promotors and venues who booked us, critics who reviewed us, bands we played with, friends we made, and most importantly everyone who has to come to a show, bought our merch, and just plain supported us these last 5 years. Doom on my friends, doom on.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
The title of Texas duo Stone Machine Electric‘s latest album, Sollicitus es Veritatem (review here), translates to ‘nightmares are real,’ and yeah, that sounds about right for an early September drive through West Texas into Arizona and New Mexico. Hope the air conditioning is working in whatever vehicle the two-piece are using to make that considerable drive.
They’ve got four shows lined up, two in TX, one in Tempe and one in or near Albuquerque still TBA (if you can help there, get in touch with the band via Thee Facebooks), and in addition to stuff from the new album, they’re apparently already looking to road-test some new jams via improv or I guess however they might come out. Their style is pretty open and I’d imagine at this point, Dub and Kitchens can pretty much just plug in and go for it. All the better.
Two things I really, really dig about the announcement below. First, they refer to themselves as “two-piece weirdos,” which is something I’ve insisted on doing for the last several years nearly every time I’ve written about them, and two, they not only made a poster, but they made an awesome poster that involves absolutely zero cartoon boobage. Kudos all around, gentlemen.
STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – Hot+Sweaty Weekend
Hurst, Texas two-piece weirdos, Stone Machine Electric, are set for a small tour westward over the Labor Day weekend. They’ll make their way through Texas, into Arizona, and hopefully survive the trek through New Mexico.
Stone Machine Electric will be playing songs off their latest album, Sollicitus Es Veritatem, along with their usual/unusual improvised transitions. There is always the possibility they might play something new, since they’ve got some in the works…
Hot+Sweaty Weekend Dates: September 1st – Depot Obar in Lubbock, TX September 2nd – The Sandbox in El Paso, TX September 3rd – Tempe Tavern in Tempe, AZ September 4th – TBD around Albuquerque, NM
Posted in Reviews on August 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
A fervent undercurrent of metal runs beneath the progressive atmospheres of The Search. It extends even to the liner notes of the CD, which not only contain the full lyrics, typed out clear with credits, but notes included for which of the two guitarists — Maurice Eggenschwiler and Jan “El Janni” Kimmel, both also vocals — is taking the solo in that place. More often than not, it’s one, then the other. Shades of oldschool thrash there, but the debut full-length from the Houston, Texas, four-piece owes much more of its crux to prog metal and heavy rock than to anything so raw as younger Slayer. Still, the dogwhistle blows to those who might hear that particular frequency, and the spirit of precision that was always an undercurrent both of thrash — underproduced as it was — and the NWOBHM manifest in these vinyl-ready six tracks/41-minutes, topped off with artwork by David Paul Seymour.
The band was founded by Kimmel, Eggenschwiler and drummer Cory Cousins in 2014 following the hiatus of Sanctus Bellum, and in bringing on board bassist Gabriel Katz, they’ve also shifted their sonic focus toward grander fare. Tonally, The Search, which was recorded and mixed at Lucky Run Studio in Houston, adopts a heavy rock feel, but as it’s presented in such a clean, clear style — and maybe standard tuning? — the overarching impression becomes that of the band’s reach rather than their heft. That’s fitting for the traditions in which they’re working, from Uriah Heep to latter-day Opeth — also noteworthy that Kimmel handles keys, specified by the band as Nord, which Opeth‘s Per Wiberg also used — and with the shared vocal duties, they bring something of themselves fluidly to what winds up being an ambitious debut release.
Variety in the songwriting extends to within individual tracks as well as between them. With the exception of the penultimate title-cut at 9:45, songs range around five to six minutes long, but as Blues Funeral show immediately with the blend of Thin Lizzy bounce and proggy lead work in opener “Autumn Dream.” A previously posted live version had reminded me of Beelzefuzz, and though that’s less the case tonally on the record, some element remains, though the context of The Search immediately broadens with “Harbinger,” the shortest track at 5:19, which takes the central groove of Black Sabbath‘s “A National Acrobat” and successfully repurposes it to suit a rhythmic base for vocal harmonies dressed out with flourish of acoustic guitar, choice ride work from Cousins and later thickening of tone behind the soloing of Eggenschwiler and Kimmel.
Something of a darker feel results than anything either “Harbinger” or “Autumn Dream” before it offered, but the rush of “Planet Void” and the urgency of its push assure Blues Funeral aren’t mired one way or the other. With more impressive dual-vocal work and nods vocally and in the riff to Iron Maiden, it’s Katz‘s low end again that holds the proceedings together as the guitars are prone to launching into momentary fits of scorch, only to return to the verse shortly thereafter, as though nothing ever happened. The vocals are dry at least for the most part, and I don’t think some treatment of reverb would hurt, but as it stands they effectively emphasize harmonies when intended, as in the chorus of “Planet Void,” which is revisited just before a final solo — from Kimmel — brings the first half of The Search to a close.
Kimmel adds organ to “Paragon of Virtue,” and with the creepier doom vibe that follows, it would seem to mirror the Beelzefuzzing of “Autumn Dream” while, again, putting its own ’70s-inspired spin on it. The organ rises to prominence in the mix before all drops out leaving light, intricately-plucked Akerfeldtian guitar as the bed for an instrumental midsection — solo included, naturally — that builds guitar harmonies in layers before shifting into its next phase of lower-toned chug behind another solo section. A little Ritchie Blackmore circa Rainbow would seem to be the initial basis for the start of The Search‘s title-track, but there’s a more patient take in the album’s longest cut — it meanders a bit, purposefully — before sweeping in with organ to its first verse at around the two-minute mark, and the classic heavy rock style still holds its complement of metallic vibe, Katz‘s bass getting a moment to shine early for its heretofore underappreciated tonal warmth.
With more spacious vocals, “The Search” offers a hook as well as proggy expanse, and even after it veers into a more extended organ solo, it takes the time to bring back the chorus and keep the composition itself as the focus, rather than the execution. One might’ve expected Blues Funeral to follow it by ending with a lighter, more melancholic feel. They go the opposite route. “Palmdale” rounds out with nigh-on-thrashy riffing and a leveled-up push from even what “Planet Void” brought to bear, delivered with a down-to-business efficiency and a Candlemass-style soaring vocal that serves to highlight how skillfully the band is able to mesh their influences together.
By the time they get there, of course they end with a solo-topped big rock finish. Well earned. Keeping in mind that The Search is their first outing — preceded by no recordings so far as I know — Blues Funeral meet their considerable ambitions head on, while also setting themselves up for stylistic expansion in any number of directions. They effectively bridge gaps between the classic and modern, rock and metal, and metal and prog worlds, and, most encouraging of all, sound like they’re only going to keep growing.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Kind of bummed I haven’t gotten to hear Planet of Zeus‘ fourth album, Loyal to the Pack, which was released this past May. The Athens-based heavy rockers’ third outing, Vigilante (review here), offered burl-grooved thrills in its songwriting, and the group has emerged as one of the forerunners of the fertile Greek underground, along with the likes of 1000mods and jammy upstarts Naxatras. In any case, it’s one I’d kind of like to check out, so I think I’ll probably dig into the Bandcamp stream below. Their description of the record, which I’ve posted underneath the tour dates, makes it seem like there might be some cool stuff in store.
And hey, I like cool stuff as much as the next guy.
Planet of Zeus head out on a European tour in November — one might recall they toured last November as well, alongside Clutch — to support Loyal to the Pack. Dates, info, links and audio:
So, here we go again!
Come November, we’re going to visit some of Europe’s finest cities, as shown below!
Can’t wait to play, once more, in front of old and brand new friends!
See you on the road!!
03.11 Sofia BG 04.11 Novisad RS 05.11 Timisoara RO 06.11 Budapest HU 09.11 Warsaw PL 10.11 Dresden DE 11.11 Berlin DE 12.11 Erfurt DE 13.11 Hamburg DE 14.11 Dusseldorf DE 15.11 Hannover DE 17.11 Munich DE 18.11 Munster DE 19.11 Koln DE 20.11 Utrect NL 22.11 Glasgow UK 23.11 Belfast UK 24.11 Dublin IE 26.11 Bristol UK 27.11 London UK 29.11 Nantes FR 30.11 Paris FR 01.12 Olten CH 02.12 Bolzano IT 03.12 Vienna AT
At a time in which individualism seems to be the ultimate solution for some, Planet of Zeus come back with their highly anticipated fourth album, “Loyal to the pack”, an ode to the benefits of teamwork. Being well known for their never ending signature heavy riffs, gritty vocals and dancing grooves, the band decided to “shuffle their deck of cards” and embark on a new musical direction, encompassing melody, clean, but heartrending vocals and a newly found sense of dynamics.
This mixture seems to establish a signature sound for Planet of Zeus, a sound that takes the listener on a journey throughout the history of heavy music. From Lynyrd Skynyrd to Mastodon, the Allman Brothers Band to Queens of the stone age and AC/DC to Clutch.
[Click play above to stream ‘Afraid of the Dark’ from Second Grave’s Blacken the Sky. Album is available now from the band.]
It is a dark and metallic churn that dominates Blacken the Sky, the ominously titled and awaited debut full-length from Massachusetts four-piece Second Grave. In its tone and structural cohesion, it is for all intents and purposes a metal record, but its pacing and atmosphere find their roots in classic doom as well — rarely does a “doom metal” tag serve to actually be so descriptive, but Second Grave cover both sides of that equation well across the formidable 55-minute/nine-track span of Blacken the Sky. Having been lucky enough to see Second Grave play on several occasions, it’s not really a surprise either that their first album would be so assured of its purpose or that it would display such poise in its execution.
If nothing else, it’s been three years since their second EP, Antithesis (review here), followed their 2012 self-titled initial offering (review here), so it’s not like the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder (ex-Warhorse), guitarist Chris Drzal, bassist Maureen Murphy and drummer Chuck Ferreira haven’t had time to compose the material and sculpt their aesthetic into what they want it to be, and as songs like opener “No Roam” and “Afraid of the Dark” and the 11-minute “Death March” demonstrate, they’ve clearly gotten there. Where Blacken the Sky meets its truest success is in melding moody ambience and oppressively heavy riffing — the way the band veers into extremity with Van Guilder‘s searing screams on “Bloodletting” or the loosely doomedelic initial two minutes of “Death March,” before the actual march begins and provides Second Grave‘s debut with a worthy crescendo.
No doubt Blacken the Sky will be the introduction for many listeners to Second Grave, but because it’s so put together it’s almost difficult to think of it as the band’s debut. Recorded by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak over the course of just four days — an immediately impressive feat given the amount and depth of the material — the sound is full but not at all unnatural, and some late variety in the interlude “Processional of Lies” and the quiet, layered harmonies of the closing title-track reinforce the brooding sentiment while also building outward from it and expanding the overall context from what the earlier onslaught of “No Roam,” “17 Days” and “Below the Seas” established at the start.
Whether or not Second Grave are planning a vinyl release, I don’t know — they’d either have to shorten the record or go 2LP, which seems prohibitively expensive; a limited run of 100 CDs is being pressed — but there is a notable change of intent signaled with “Bloodletting” at the album’s midpoint, following the melodically rich “Afraid of the Dark” and chugging “Below the Seas” with some mindful scorch and viciously dark energy, and the progression only continues to grow from there. That shift is welcome after the initial trio, which seem to put up a wall of forceful doom and dare listeners to scale it in order to reach the rest of what Second Grave have to offer. Atop the steady roll of Ferreira‘s drums and Murphy‘s bass, Drzal and Van Guider offer fluid riffs and intricate solos, and Van Guilder is steadfast in her vocal command, but the intent is clearly that those three songs should start Blacken the Sky with plodding miseries, and they do. One might say they’re living up to the title in setting the tone.
From their first EP and through the 18-minute two-songer that followed, Second Grave have always shown an affinity for form and structure, and Blacken the Sky does likewise, using the screams in “Bloodletting” and “Death March” to send a clear signal of apex in much the same way that instrumentals introduced each half of their self-titled. The central difference here is the context in which that symmetry arrives. If “Bloodletting” is the peak of the album’s first half — it’s the centerpiece in the tracklisting — and “Death March” the peak of the second — it arrives with two cuts still to go — then those two peaks would seem to serve remarkably different purposes overall. Of course, “Death March” is paying off the album as a whole, but one might say the same thing of “Blacken the Sky” itself, though the means there takes a significant shift.
I wouldn’t call the ending a departure necessarily, since it keeps to Second Grave‘s structural tenets pretty firmly, but in its sheer sound it offers something different from even the droning interlude “Into Oblivion” before it, and while doubtless some will compare it to the subdued side of Windhand — because, you know, ladies — the truth is that Second Grave are coming from someplace else entirely in terms of influence. It’s especially telling that after so much tumult and rage, they would finish quietly, underscoring the patience that’s been present in the songs all along beneath that tempestuousness. One doubts they built the album structure with the intent of giving a glimpse at their progression under way, but after three years, it doesn’t seem impossible to think they have some plan in motion for their future development. Certainly the consciousness at root in these tracks is the work of a band aware of who and what they want to be. As a debut, there’s nothing more one could ask of Blacken the Sky, but by no means is that the sum total of what is delivered.
[Stream Howling Giant’s Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 EP in full by clicking play above. EP is out this Friday, Aug. 12.]
The cumbersomely but somehow appropriately titled EP, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1, from progressive heavy rockers/metallers Howling Giant is not their first short release, but it nonetheless represents a beginning, as its number would indicate. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the self-releasing outfit are working with a strong narrative thread running through the four included tracks — “Mothership,” “Exodus: Earth,” “Dirtmouth” and “Clouds of Smoke” — and they’ve constructed a plotline that plays to the different mood in each song. All told, the EP runs a little under 22 minutes, so it’s a relatively quick in and out, but guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, bassist/vocalist Roger Marks, drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler and organist/synthesist Drew Harakal (who does not play with the band live) cover a surprising amount of ground during that time, giving listeners a glimpse a range that by no means seems to be done growing.
Each cut brings a personality and identity of its own that the storyline then plays to, describing the glorious ascent and ultimate destruction of mankind and maybe everything else that leaves a single survivor on Earth as the music careens between the Dead Roots Stirring-era Elder-style melodicism and winding riffage of opener “Mothership” to the organ-laced final build and crash of “Clouds of Smoke.” Along the way the changes are stark but in a way that makes sense given the narrative context and the progressive scope of the release, and rather than simply jump around between aesthetics, Howling Giant do an effective job of tying together the varied vibes in song structure and lyrics.
In short, they take what would otherwise be a collection of four somewhat disparate tracks — the shifts are stark, but not outlandish — and turn it into a journey for the listener. 22 minutes is about as long as half-hour tv episodes are these days sans commercials, so maybe it’s fair to think of Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 like a teleplay with four acts that would presumably make the band’s prior 2015 four-tracker a pilot testing the waters for this season-one-episode-one release. And whether or not Howling Giant continue the series or their interests and whims take them elsewhere, their journey is cohesive, flourish of organ adding depth to the riff in “Mothership” initially and then stepping back to make room for the massive grooving crash that ends the track and leads into the start of “Exodus: Earth,” which turns to slower, more nodding, fuzzier fare that seems intended to hypnotize as much as engage as did “Mothership” before it.
They prove quickly that they can do the one just as well as the other. That kind of becomes a running theme as well for Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 in that the band doesn’t ever set foot onto territory where they aren’t immediately at home. Could come from confidence of execution, could be a product of the recording situation — the EP is self-produced — but as “Exodus: Earth” shifts into proggier roll with voiceover narration, there is no change in the level of poise they show or the command they wield over the performance. That remains true through “Dirtmouth” and especially “Clouds of Smoke” as well.
More intense from the very start, “Dirtmouth” is also the shortest of the tracks at 4:28 and aside from highlighting Marks‘ formidable bass-tone, it digs into a straightforward, thrashier gallop in the vein of a fuzzier High on Fire or even early C.O.C., classic mosh riff and all. Of course, they do this while also keeping the tone and progressive edge they brought to “Mothership” and “Exodus: Earth,” but it’s another clear change in focus, and another crisp execution that could’ve just as easily fallen flat. After “Dirtmouth” returns to its intro to finish out, “Clouds of Smoke” starts in quietly with spacious guitar that calls to mind some of Devin Townsend‘s more restorative moments, and unfolds patiently into a smooth rhythm topped by harmonized vocals and a linear build that will pushes into a solo section that provides the apex for the EP as a whole before ending with a last ringout of fading organ.
Of the elements shown throughout, perhaps it’s the patience of the closer that’s the most telling about the band overall, since it speaks to the consciousness at work behind their output, but that shouldn’t necessarily undercut the spectrum they cover across these four songs, which is significant, sets up a flow between them and still gives an EP-style sampling of what Howling Giant can accomplish stylistically going forward and working off the exposition of this first episode.
Posted in Features on August 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. Specify whether you prefer the green or red tape. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]
Go ahead and enter now to be considered for a free copy of Indianapolis stoner metallers Void King‘s debut album, There is Nothing. The burly full-length is out now in limited numbers on red or green cassette, and one winner will be selected to receive the color of their choosing. There are only so many of these to go around, so if you want it, get in on the giveaway now. My understanding is they only made 30 copies available to the public.
The album itself was released back in June and you can get a taste of its riffy heft by streaming it in full below. Please note that, as ever, no personal information from anyone who enters will be kept or sold or anything like that. I don’t have time for that kind of shady shit even if I was remotely interested.
Ever trusty, the PR wire sent over the particulars for the album. Thanks to Void King and Clawhammer PR for letting me host the giveaway:
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll be honest. These guys dropped me a line, caught me at the right moment, I checked out the record and dug what they were doing and that’s why I’m putting up a post about the album being released when it was over a month ago. Because I think the release is worth noting, and if you, like me, hadn’t yet checked out Ohio trio Pale Grey Lore and their self-titled debut, currently available digitally and on CD, then, well, you might want to go head and get yourself introduced.
The band was kind enough to give me some background on who they are and what they do and while I’ve still got digging in to do before I’ll be ready to review it properly, I think the description of their mission provided sums up the scope of the record pretty well, particularly when it comes to words like “psych” and “concise.” On early impression, it is strikingly efficient for a first album. I dig it.
Info, links and audio:
Pale Grey Lore debut album
Pale Grey Lore began as a collaboration between brothers Michael (guitar, vocals) and Adam Miller (drums), with Donovan Johnson (bass) joining up in the summer of 2014. Drawing upon elements of psych, doom, sludge, post-punk, and garage rock, Pale Grey Lore create groove-laden, fuzzed-out songs that are spacey yet concise. Their debut self-titled album, released in June of 2016, was engineered by Andy Sartain at Mindfield Recording and Mixing and mastered by Harold LaRue.
Conceived as a series of surreal vignettes, each track depicts allegorical scenes from a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world in which the lines between science and the occult, technology and superstition, are hopelessly blurred.
Guitar, vocals, theremin – Michael Miller Drums – Adam Miller Bass – Donovan Johnson
Music by Pale Grey Lore Lyrics by Michael Miller Recorded, engineered and mixed by Andy Sartain Mastered by Harold LaRue Cover art by Joel Chastain