Oh, hey. I get it. “George ‘Dubya’ Kush.” Presumably that’s the reefer that gets you so fucked up that you can barely speak and you have terrible judgment and you let your supervillain of a vice president usurp executive authority while he goes around shooting friends in the face and sanctioning torture, for like a decade. Good times. Seriously might be the most effective anti-drug commercial that’s never been made.
Nashville’s All Them Witches are never too far off from the next surprise, whether it’s a tour announcement or, in the case of “George ‘Dubya’ Kush,” a new jam. The digital single closes out a busy year for the four-piece — bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan Van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler — who’ll start off 2015 by traveling to Ohio to play with Mount Carmel and Electric Citizen, following the earlier-2014 release of their Effervescent EP (review here) and the physical pressing of their second full-length, Lightning at the Door (review here), as well as several tours and an inaugural trip to the West Coast, from which a host of live recordings have surfaced via their Bandcamp.
“George ‘Dubya’ Kush” probably has more in common with Effervescent than the album: It’s an improv-sounding jam seemingly recorded live to a four-track tape, capturing the band in their element, sounding natural and fluid for its seven-minute duration. There’s a bit of reggae in the bass and drums, and the guitar feeds into that, but they keep it plenty psychedelic as well and later on, Parks starts feeding out lines from “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at the Door, so the vibe is hardly stilted one way or another, despite the overall relaxed feel one might expect from a jam with such a titular pun working on its behalf.
Check it out below and enjoy. All Them Witches‘ early 2015 tour dates follow:
All Them Witches, “George ‘Dubya’ Kush”
All Them Witches shows:
Jan 02 The Woodward Theater Cincinnati, OH w/ Electric Citizen & Mount Carmel Feb 04 Ace of Cups Columbus, OH Feb 05 Mercury Lounge New York, NY Feb 06 The Middle East Upstairs Cambridge, MA Feb 07 The Haunt Ithaca, NY Feb 08 Bug Jar Rochester, NY Feb 10 Pike Room at the Crofoot Pontiac, MI Feb 11 The Hi-Fi (formerly Do317 Lounge) Indianapolis, IN Feb 12 The Empty Bottle Chicago, IL Feb 13 7th Street Entry Minneapolis, MN Feb 14 Catcus Club Milwaukee, WI Feb 15 Rozz Tox Rock Island, IL Mar 05 New Mountain Avl – Sol Bar Asheville, NC
Calgary stoner four-piece Witchstone make no attempt to steer listeners away from their riffy mindset. Their self-released debut full-length, Tales of the Riff Riders, is a four-song cassette that offers front-to-back groove and fuzz, diving headfirst into the Sabbath-and-Sleep school of stoner rock for extended cuts like “Riff Riders Part 1,” “Riff Riders Part 2,” which together make up the 22 minutes of the album’s first half. It’s charming stuff, if familiar. The compressed distortion suits the tape format as well as the translucent purple of the cassette itself suits the band’s aesthetic, and though their approach is straightforward in its way, Witchstone – guitarist/vocalist Sean Edwards, bassist/vocalist Andrew Sanderson, guitarist Ian Lemke and drummer Marcello Castronuovo – have plenty of room in their jams for establishing a sense of personality. That comes through as well on side two’s “Boson Raiders,” an instrumental that’s also the only song here under 10 minutes long, and the concluding “DeepSpace PathFinder,” which uses all of its 16:31 to unfold Witchstone‘s grandest included jam.
Toss in some caveman howls and cleaner vocal tradeoffs between Edwards and Sanderson, some tempo shifts, quiet-to-loud changes and you probably get a decent idea of where Witchstone are coming from, but nothing about Tales of the Riff Riders comes across as shooting for innovation. They’re preaching to the converted, in a sense, and going for a quality nod — which they get almost immediately — rather than something that’s going to reinvent the genre around them. I have no problem with that whatsoever. “Riff Riders Part 1″ (11:06) moves at a languid but steady roll and sets a forward momentum of lurching groove that lives up to the track’s title. Let there be no doubt they’re riding that riff. Castronuovo gives hints of technical prowess in tight snare fills as “Riff Riders Part 1″ marches toward its midsection break, which leads to an instrumental jam that previews more Wurlitzer inclusion on the finale and leads not quite directly into the no-less-weedian intro of “Riff Riders Part 2″ (10:21). That they’d go to silence between one and the other is curious, since it’s a two-parter, but on tape it feeds directly anyway, and if Witchstone haven’t made their point by the time “Riff Riders Part 1″ is done, then it’s not going to matter.
Tales of the Riff Riders follows Witchstone‘s 2012 self-titled debut EP, and as it’s their first long-player, I’d probably be inclined to give them leeway anyhow, but their kind of repetitive jam-out really doesn’t require it. They’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a stoner band jamming out stoner grooves for stoner heads — none of which actually requires drug use, if you were wondering — and as “Riff Riders Part 2″ unfolds, cleaner vocals into a faster instrumental movement, the first half setting up the run in the second, a slowdown and some echoing shouts leading to the big finish, it’s so much more satisfying to just go with it than to try and analyze the band’s moves that I feel like I’m cheapening the experience even talking about it. I doubt that, if it’s the first stoner rock record you’ve ever heard, you’re going to put on Tales of the Riff Riders and go, “Oh wow, now I get it!” but if you’re in the genre and know where Witchstone are coming from, then these songs are like a comfortable t-shirt you can put on and immediately feel at home. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
By the time they get around to the noisy beginnings of “Boson Raiders” after a quick side flip, some vocal effects and added percussion add further character to the proceedings without deviating in mood from the spirit of the two-parter back on side A, and the rolling instrumental groove that emerges is well in league with what’s still to come on “DeepSpace PathFinder” as well, the closer crashing in on a bassline from Sanderson that, along with Castronuovo‘s drums, is the foundation for Tales of the Riff Riders‘ best linear build. The Wurlitzer returns to add atmosphere along with Lemke and Edwards‘ guitars, and vocals arrive shortly before three and a half minutes in, rawer and jarringly forward in the mix, either dual shouts or just dually layered, breaking eventually into a heavy psych-style lead (actually, that might be a cordless drill run through effects pedals), another verse and the solo-topped apex. To Witchstone‘s credit, they probably could’ve ended “DeepSpace PathFinder” on the feedback that takes hold 11 minutes in and had another groove in their pocket like “Riff Riders” one and two, but instead they push forward with a smooth, almost sleazy Sabbath-bred jam, giving one last immersive moment before a sustained rumble and hum leads the way out.
There’s a lot about Tales of the Riff Riders that’s familiar, but between the swing in Castronuovo‘s drums, the righteousness from the guitars and tonal warmth in Sanderson‘s bass, there’s also a lot to dig into. They’re not asking a lot from their audience, and in return, they’re delivering a solid showing of genre with a weird-enough sensibility to pieces here and there to give some hint as to how Witchstone could stand out from the pack down the line. No complaints.
According to Lamprey bassist Justin Brown, he and Sarah Crosley took on the task of creating the band’s stop-motion video for their new song “Iron Awake” as a way of developing his video-editing skills. I don’t know much about stop-motion, but it sounds to me a little like jumping off a mountain to learn to climb back up. Nonetheless, for Lamprey, a power trio employing two basses where one might otherwise find a guitar, it’s fitting with their character to go all out.
Brown, bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham and drummer Spencer Norman have a new record due early in 2015 recorded by Adam Pike at Toadhouse Studio (see also Red Fang, Last Giant, etc.), and while info on that is as-yet minimal, a lot of what one might need to know about the follow-up to Lamprey‘s 2012 The Burden of Beasts EP (review here), one can probably glean from “Iron Awake” itself, aurally and visually. The song is 94 rumbling seconds that pummel efficiently and broadly, an epic feel immediate in the stomping riff, echoing vocals and lead tones (yes, that’s still bass; Lamprey are wizards), Norman‘s crash huge and fitting the tones Burnham and Brown conjure. In the video, the band is represented by three loincloth-clad warriors — pretty sure those are old He-Man action figures, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you which ones — who meet various villainous presences along their path.
Werewolves are beheaded, monsters and giants are bested, and in the end, Lamprey are transported by what looks like a tooth-covered shower head with googly eyes (fuck yes) to what I can only assume is the “Stage Playset” from which individual figures are sold separately, where they pick up their instruments and rock out the last couple seconds of the song before being once more blipped away.
“Iron Awake” is the first audio I’m hearing from Lamprey‘s new release, but in both sound and in how they present it, you’ll get no argument out of me. A minute and a half excellently spent:
In the time since Ann Arbor, Michigan, heavy rockers Blue Snaggletooth released their 2011 debut, Dimension Thule (review here), guitarist/vocalist Chris “Box” Taylor has changed out the entire lineup of the band other than himself. As they are now on the newly-released sophomore outing, Beyond Thule, Blue Snaggletooth is comprised of Taylor as the principal songwriter, with guitarist Casey O’Ryan bassist Joe Kupiec and drummer Mike Popovich. There’s some continuity in the references of their song titles — “Ahamkara” is a dragon in the video game Destiny and “Nameless Cults” comes from Lovecraft, etc. — but the vibe on the new record comes across tighter than on the debut, and that’s what really matters.
Their new video for relatively brief album closer “Transmutation” is similarly tight, or at very least a straightforward affair. One by one, the band walks into a building — you’ll note it’s drummer Mike Popovich who gets there first; right on time — and once inside, they proceed to jam the hell out of the song, and then they leave. It might be the quickest practice they’ve ever had, but it makes for a cool clip, bathed as they are in blacklight and surrouded by posters responsive to same. There’s a break in the middle where they touch visually and sonically on psychedelia, but the song’s primary impression clicks somewhere between punk and heavy rock, and Taylor is well suited to his position as bandleader.
I’ve been trying all week to get a second to get the clip posted, and I think once you put it on, the appeal speaks for itself. Beyond Thule is available now on clear vinyl from Blue Snaggletooth‘s Bandcamp, where the full album is also streaming.
Blue Snaggletooth, “Transmutation” official video
From the band’s latest release Beyond Thule, Transmutation. Recorded at Metro 37 Studios, Mastered by Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound.
Video Production: The Garage Auteurs Shot by: Brad Torreano + Robert Felts Directed / Edited by: Brad Torreano
BST is: Chris Taylor – vocals, guitar Casey O’Ryan – guitar Joe Kupiec – bass, vocals Mike Popovich – the drum kit
Posted in Radio on December 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I try to do these every week. I’d like to, ideally, but it seems to be more like when folders and zip files clog up my desktop enough to really get on my nerves. Fair enough. A full 20 records joined the playlist today, including a couple wintry classics from Anathema that either were overlooked by me or wrongly left out, plus the new Witch Mountain album, and some other recently-reviewed and otherwise-written-about stuff. It’s actually a pretty killer list. If you’re into it, or if you want to see what else has been added lately or what was played today, check out the Playlist and Updates Page. I spend an embarrassing amount of time there. Here are a few more reasons why.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 5, 2014:
Burning Saviours, Unholy Tales from the North
The unheralded heroes of Sweden’s retro heavy movement return with their first full-length since 2007. Their fifth outing overall, Burning Saviours‘ Unholy Tales from the North follows a series of four singles released between 2012 and 2013 (recently compiled by I Hate Records and released under the title Boken Om Förbannelsen) and finds the Örebro four-piece reveling in ’70s-style doom once more, albeit with a rawer and less directly ’70s-style production. That is, it’s not as directly fuzzed as their self-titled debut was nine years ago, when it was pretty much them and Witchcraft digging on classic Pentagram alone, but still presented in the same spirit, a strong opening trio of “They Will Rise Tonight,” “And the Wolves Cried Out” and “Your Love Hurts Like Fire” creating a lasting impression somewhere between early metal (think Rocka Rolla-era Priest) and the heavy rock that preceded it. Two Swedish-language tracks, “Ondskan” and “Lyktgubben,” end each side, and at 28 minutes, it’s a quick runthrough, but shows easily that Burning Saviours – since 2010 the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks, lead guitarist Jonas Hartikainen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström — remain vital in their approach, cuts like “Inside My Mind” and “The Sons of the North” exploring metal’s roots effectively and organically while crafting something new, if familiar, from them. Burning Saviours on Thee Facebooks, at Transubstans Records.
Soldat Hans, Dress Rehearsal
Swiss newcomers Soldat Hans seem to be embarking on an admirably ambitious journey with their self-released debut, Dress Rehearsal, the title of which hints at their thinking of it as a demo, but for which the extended four tracks included serve to craft a sense of ambience that marks it unmistakably as a full-length. Engrossing in its atmosphere, patient in its construction and impeccably conceived, Dress Rehearsal plays out lengthy builds fluidly and takes listeners from minimalist drone and slow unfolding to massive, feedback-caked sludge, and then back again, sounding natural in the process and brilliant for both its pummel and restraint. None of the four cuts — “Meine Liebste; Sie zerbricht sich” (15:21), “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” (13:34), “Zikueth! Zikueth!” (18:25) and “Liefdesgrot” (15:08) — really departs from a bleak, moody feel, but there are shifts throughout, as “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” moves from the linearity of the opener to brooding post-rock and jazzy exploration before hitting its own wash of viciousness. To have a band take such control of their sound on their first outing is remarkable, and the longest and farthest ranging of the tracks, “Zikueth! Zikueth!” provides Soldat Hans their shining moment, theatrical but not overdone, melodic early and raging late, hypnotic in the middle, as classic as it is avant garde. They close out with another maddening payoff in “Liefdesgrot,” and while in the future I’d be interested to hear them take on structures as wide-ranging as what they bring sonically to Dress Rehearsal, if this is just practice, I can’t wait for the show to start. Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
If you were to go by their sound alone, I don’t think there’s any way you could come out of hearing burly five-piece Olde‘s Hypaethral Records debut long-player, I, and not imagine they were from Virginia. In fact, they come from Toronto, but the aggro Southern metal they purvey on the album’s eight bruising tracks would be right at home in the heart of sludgeland, full as it is of steady rolls — Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin provides trailmarking thud — the from-the-chest growling from Doug McLarty and lumbering riffs, songs like “Heart Attack” and “Changelings” in the tracklist’s midsection readily crossing the line between sludge and doom, all mudhole stomp, metallic affiliation and violent groove. There’s atmosphere at work, but it comes out through the aggression portrayed, and ultimately, I has about as all the ambience of having your teeth kicked in. And yes, that counts the variation on the theme in the closing “Perimeter Walk,” the more echoing guitar, farther back vocals, and so on. With a crisp production behind it, Olde‘s debut knows precisely the kind of beatdown it wants to deliver and sets about its task with brutal efficiency. Olde on Thee Facebooks, Hypaethral Records on Bandcamp.
Holy Grove, Live at Jooniors
Recorded at some point between then and now at Joonior Studios in Seattle, Washington — I’m guessing more toward “then” — the 2014 outing Live at Jooniors from Portland four-piece Holy Grove is only two songs, but even one would be enough to serve notice of their warm tonality and the bluesy vocals of Andrea Vidal, who pushes her voice to its reaches on “Holy Grove” and still manages to nail the emotional crux. Honestly, that would probably be enough to carry “Holy Grove” and the following “Nix” on its own — sold; I’m on board — but I won’t discount the fuzz in Trent Jacobs‘ guitar or bassist Gregg Emley‘s fills in “Nix,” or the seamless shift drummer Craig Bradford leads between subdued verses and the tense chorus of “Holy Grove.” As far as serving notice goes, Live at Jooniors does so and then some, and without sacrificing sound quality as so many underground live recordings do. Seems to me a 7″ release wouldn’t be out of order, but Holy Grove seem more intent on getting together their full-length debut, which if they can bring to the studio the vibe they create in just 13 minutes on stage, is going to be something to look out for indeed. Learn the name, because you’ll hear it again. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Buenos Aires instrumental four-piece Persona formed in 2004/2005, but their newly-released self-titled appears to be their first LP, preceded by a 2012 EP. If the better part of the intermittent decade was spent jamming, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the band, who present nine plotted but flowing tracks that keep some loose sensibility to them while following a course of classic heavy and fuzz rock. The lineup of guitarist/bassists Lucas Podestá and Santiago Adano, guitarist Gustavo Hernández and drummer Esteban Podestá touch here and there on more metal tendencies, as on “Los Perros” and the brief “Cortina,” but that’s no more out of place than the proggy exploration of “Cuna de Fantasmas,” a King Crimson-style noodling underscored by subtly engaging snare work and giving way to a heavier push. The lead guitar on “Cazador” provides a particularly engaging moment of payoff for the album’s first half, but there’s enough variety throughout that Persona‘s Persona offers a range of satisfying moments. Still room for the band to develop their style, but they obviously have the will and chemistry to do so. Persona on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Dungaree, Climb out of the River
I’ll give it to Hungarian four-piece Dungaree based on their moniker alone. It’s simple, fun to say, and it evokes the rebelliousness of a bygone time. Their debut release, a three-song EP dubbed Climb out of the River, is likewise sharp-dressed, with a grunge-style production that pushes the dudely vocals of László Gergely to the fore ahead of Horváth T. Zoltán‘s guitar, Balogh Attila‘s bass and Dencs Dominik‘s drums to result in a sound that comes across to my American ears more akin to commercial hard rock than underground heavy, though in my experience the line in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe is both less distinct and less relevant. The tracks are short, straightforward, hard-hitting and catchy, with “Climb out of the River” a strong opening hook, “Dream Again” pushing into metallic guitar chugging in its breakneck chorus, and “Right Words” toying with a lounge boogie — snapping fingers and all — that assures the listener that although Dungaree have their sharp corners, they’re not about to take themselves too seriously either. Might not be for everyone, but shows a strong foundation of songwriting, and I wouldn’t ask any more of a first outing than that. Dungaree on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Six releases, and a pretty varied bunch at that. It’s still really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went up to the server. I always like putting stuff on there — it’s like casting a fishing lure, except maybe without killing? I don’t know. More like tossing a fish in the ocean maybe and not knowing when it will swim by the boat again. Or maybe I just (re)watched Jaws recently and have aquatics on the brain.
Either way, we’ve passed the two-year mark since the stream went online and I’m very happy with how The Obelisk Radio has turned out. Special thanks to Slevin for all the work he’s put in over that time in helping me with hosting and making it go, and thank you as always for reading and listening.
Well, Texas duo Stone Machine Electric didn’t call it Garage Tape because they broke the bank and spent half a million dollars recording it, but don’t be put off. While the title speaks to the DIY nature of its origins, Garage Tape actually sounds clear and warm enough to get its message across. Guitarist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer Mark Kitchens tracked the release — which is comprised of two extended improvisations — in the actual garage of the latter with Erik Carson of Tin Can Records, who also mixed and mastered the tape, on July 26, 2014. Their mission, as they put it, was to give listeners a raw look at their creative process, and as time goes on, they seem to be driving further toward making jamming central to that. The chemistry between Irvin and Kitchens is undeniable (their connection has resulted in a number of come-and-gone-again bassists) across each of Garage Tape‘s component halves, duly named on the translucent blue cassette as “Side A” (20:52) and “Side B” (21;39), and the languid, thick-toned rollout that ensues is only given more of a demo feel with the analog hiss of a tape beneath.
At one point relatively late into side A, Irvin seems to loop a rhythm track and proceeds to solo over it. That’s a progression that fades out as the first of the tape ends (there’s a bit of silence since “Side B’ is longer) and in again as the second half begins, so yeah, I have no trouble believing that Stone Machine Electric played out the material for Garage Tape live in one whole jam. In that way, breaking it up into two sides actually kind of interrupts the flow for a minute, but honestly, if after the 20 minutes of “Side A” are done, you’re not completely immersed in Irvin and Kitchens‘ hypnotic repetitions, it probably wasn’t going to happen at all. As they push closer to the core of their own creativity, their material becomes more fluid, extended and accomplished, but if you can’t get down with improv heavy jamming, Garage Tape isn’t the place to start, even with Irvin‘s effects experiments throughout, “Side B” seeming to bubble with Echoplex-style pulsations behind its airy soloing and rhythm track to which, to Kitchens‘ credit, the drums hold firm, shifting as the six-minute mark of “Side B” approaches to drive the jam into its next stage. This conversation between drummer and guitarist takes place in the several movements of “Side A” as well, and it’s clearly a language that’s developed between the two players over their time together.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who can hang with a 40-minute getdown, Stone Machine Electric‘s Garage Tape cycles through this-could-be-a-song-oh-wait-let’s-try-this riffy movements with an utter lack of pretense and a molten fluidity that a still-limited number of bands in the US seem keen on portraying at all, let alone developing or using as the basis for their approach. That makes Garage Tape a bolder release, though honestly it’s not like Stone Machine Electric have been stifling impulses to-date, whether it’s their 2013 self-titled full-length (review here) or subsequent live outing, 2013.02.07. One could easily see that live set as a manifestation of the same impulse driving Garage Tape – to put as little space as possible between the band’s processes and the listener’s experience — but Garage Tape gets more to the heart of where they’re coming from and what they have to offer those who’d take them on. It’s an admirable goal and an admirable jam, and with their experimental will reinforced via a download called “Side C” that collaborates with Arlington-based noisemaker the owl and the octopus to remix and retool a 20-minute version of the initial Kitchens and Irvin jam, Garage Tape still shows there’s more weirdness to come from the duo, who’ve always excelled in that regard.
Posted in On Wax on December 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Massachusetts-based metallers SET reside somewhere between the seemingly disparate sides vibes of thrash, stoner and doom, but from the bombastic groove of opener “Dicing with Death,” which launches their Valley of the Stone 2013 debut LP, self-released digitally and on vinyl, they’re immediately difficult to place in one or the other. Granted, the Worcester four-piece can’t play in two speeds at the same time, so it winds up being tradeoffs between fast and slow, extreme and nodding, but still, what’s most successful about the two-sided eight-track release is how much it seems to pull its elements together as a cohesive whole, cuts like the aforementioned “Dicing with Death,” or side A’s closer “The Eagle” pushing forward with breakneck weight and speed while “Magnum Opus” plods a smokier course and “Wolves behind the Sheep” works to bring the various sides to bear in one of Valley of the Stone‘s most engrossing rolls.
As a standout with a particularly killer hook, “Wolves behind the Sheep” serves to represent the stylistic breadth of the band well, blasting one second and swinging hard the next. I’ve had the advantage at this point of seeing SET play live three times now (reviews here, here and here), and seeing the fluidity drummer Tim brings to his tempo changes on stage only affirms what comes across on Valley of the Stone in that he does well in holding these songs together. That’s true throughout the album, as bassist/vocalist Andy, guitarist/backing vocalist Jeff and guitarist/vocalist Dan run off in one direction or another, telling stories of souls lost and various horrors inflicted on the unsuspecting, as much Slayer and S.O.D. as Sleep and Trouble. Their identity as they present it here is what gets carved out of the influences, something as threatening atmospherically as it is outwardly aggressive, “The Eagle” rounding out side A with its brashest vibe yet, dense low end underscoring a barrage of riffs and crash that drives through a metallic apex and into a finale of dizzying turns.
It’s fucking heavy, and I don’t think SET would have it any other way. The plot thickens on side B, though, with the creepy lead guitar on the title-track giving way to a full-on grindout followed by noise rock rumble-and-shout, the band’s command unwavering as they nod at Crowbar‘ssludge en route to the next round of swinging pummel and the Dopefight-style stoner punk of “Apophis,” catchy but less nuanced than “Valley of the Stone” or “Children of the Doomed,” which serves as the apex of the album, Jeff and Dan coming together to add a rush of lead lines to the hook. Since, like “Wolves behind the Sheep,” it’s the penultimate cut on its side, there’s an element of symmetry at work in Valley of the Stone‘s structure as well, but the more satisfying thing is the actual song, which hits the blend of extremity and groove just right and shows what SET are able to do at their best. The closer, “Sacred Moon Cult” is rightly saved for last and is probably the only track that wouldn’t be a comedown after “Children of the Doomed,” but its chorus feels like it’s taking a shortcut to righteousness, as opposed to the frenetic rawness of “Children of the Doomed,” which punches through a wall rather than going around it.
Maybe at that point it’s splitting hairs, but either way, by then SET have shown their ability to cull something individual out of familiar elements, and there’s nothing more one could reasonably ask of their debut than that, though in that regard it’s worth pointing out that the vinyl version of Valley of the Stone, with its two-sided liner and dead-on black-and-white artwork makes for no less accomplishment of presentation. Some bands figure it out late, some bands figure it out early. SET would seem to be in the latter category if the debut is anything to go by, and with a sound so varied, they still have plenty to work from in terms of creative progress without much fear of stagnating anytime soon.
Posted in Reviews on November 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Listening to Murcielago‘s self-titled, self-released debut, it’s not a huge surprise that some of it comes across sounding akin to Boston heavy rock headliners Roadsaw. There are commonalities superficial and otherwise. First of all, their lineup boasts guitarist Ian Ross, who also plays in Roadsaw. The album was recorded by Benny Grotto, who has also helmed outings for Roadsaw, at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Massachusetts, which is owned by Roadsaw vocalist Craig Riggs. Riggs also makes a guest appearance on the boogie-fied penultimate cut, “Zora,” backing up bassist NeilCollins, whoworks in a somewhat likeminded style vocally at points throughout as well. And aside from the consistency of Ross‘ guitar tone and being demographically similar — at least the three-quarters of the band that’s notRoss; that part is demographically the same — the two acts share a core approach based around giving modern heavy interpretation to classic methods. As I understand it, Ross joined Murcielago after they had already been together for some time with Collins, guitarist/backing vocalist Matthew Robbins, who also sings lead on “Fairlane Swain” and took the photo on the cover, and drummer Brian Chaloux, so I don’t know where they were in terms of writing this material when he came aboard, but his tone, even in combination with Robbins‘, is recognizable. Murcielago distinguish themselves through what they do with their riff-led heavy grooves, and in the subtly brooding personality that emerges on cuts like opener “Bulldozers,” which leads off the 10-song/43-minute offering nestling quickly into a steady rolling groove that proves to be a specialty of Murcielago as the album progresses. Ultimately, if they prove anything across Murcielago‘s span, it’s that they know what they want sound-wise and they know how to make it a reality, which is more than a lot of “first albums” can offer.
If you’re a fan of unpretentious American heavy, Small Stone-style rock, there’s going to be little here with which to find argument. “Bulldozers” and “Money,” both right around six minutes, show off the fullness of sound Murcielago can harness when they so choose and the swing that they can bring to a rhythm, Collins giving away some punk roots in the chorus of the latter, which hits hard after a start-stop verse. Unsurprisingly for a two-guitar four-piece, there’s a good bit of soloing to be had, and Ross and Robbins trade off readily — the former in the right channel, the latter in the left — adding salt to “Money,” which but for “Fairlane Swain” is the longest track here at 6:01. “Cheebahawk,” which follows, is shorter and faster both, but not so far removed in spirit, its straightforward push, crisp cymbal sound and Collins‘ vocal command guiding from a riff-heavy beginning into a quick, semi-twanging midsection that presages some of what’s to come on “Smoke Season” before returning to the thick-toned riffs and a one-into-the-next solo from Robbins and Ross, leading to the last verse and chorus. When it arrives, “Smoke Season” is the first of three shorter pieces. It and the later “Like Bricks,” which provides a split between highlights “Way too Far” and “Fairlane Swain,” are interludes, and the backwards-cymbal-forwards-guitar “The Last Line” is the album’s outro after “Zora.” They get progressively longer until the last one, but the difference is “Smoke Season” is acoustic — Collins and Robbins working together on guitar — and it’s probably the most classic rock stretch of Murcielago, which is fitting since it kicks off a strong middle-third and comes before the fuzzed out “Don’t Do Nothin’,” Collins channeling his inner Riggs with just the right riff to do so over. One of the record’s most resonant hooks, “Don’t Do Nothing” gives way to the no-frills stomp-and-run of “Way too Far,” and the two make for an excellent pair, showing off some of Murcielago at their best.
That said, Murcielago is also a record that becomes a richer listen as it goes on. If one looks at the tracklist as divisible into three sections, “Bulldozers,” “Money” and “Cheebahawk” make for a solid lead-in, “Smoke Season,” “Don’t Do Nothin’,” and the mega-catchy “Way too Far” push further into quality songwriting and begin to expand the instrumental scope, and with “Like Bricks” as an intro, “Fairlane Swain,” “Zora” and “The Last Line” show that they’re not afraid to shake up their own approach, whether it’s with Chaloux‘s backwards cymbals on the outro, bringing in Riggs on “Zora” — which seems to be about a two-year sailing trip undertaken by Collins from 2004 to 2006 — or Robbins taking lead vocal charge on “Fairlane Swain.” At 7:44, the latter strikes a balance between instrumental progression and a foundational hook revolving around the lines, “Heavy metal parking lot/Just a dimebag of shit pot…” describing scenes taken from what seems to be personal reference — a photo of a 1966 Ford Fairlane provided by and presumably featuring one Steve Swain flipping off the camera is included in one of the inside panels of the six-panel digipak — atop a riff that’s just about universal before delivering the title line with underclassman’s reverence to a classic image of cool. Or is it contempt? Either way, the album’s instrumental payoff follows, built from the ground up and boasting highlight guitar work from both Robbins and Ross, and “Zora” gives a Dozer-worthy last kick in the ass before the quiet psych-bluesy “The Last Line” caps off a record that doesn’t seem to want to end. Fair enough, but by the time it gets there, Murcielago‘s Murcielago can’t be accused of leaving something unsaid. Rather, the foursome’s debut delivers a complete-album feel and a vibe that develops as it unfolds and helps greatly to individualize the band. Whatever, and whoever, they may share, Murcielago leave their first long-player behind them having given the listener a sense of who they are musically and what they want to accomplish here and going forward stylistically. They’re not green as musicians and they don’t sound like it, but the self-titled neither lacks pulse nor wants anything for songwriting.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Classic stoner nod permeates Boundless, the debut release from Brazilian instrumental trio Space Guerrilla, but I think what really won me over was the Planet of the Apes sample in opener “Lift Off,” taken from the film’s opening monologue, by a pre-“cold dead hands” Charlton Heston. Haven’t watched that movie in a while — though I just saw the second reboot flick that came out last summer, and meh; Andy Sirkis is a highly-specialized genius and no James Franco is always a plus — but might have to break it out again and see if I can line it and the EP up to play at the same time. I doubt it’ll have any strange synchronized effect or anything, but might be fun either way, though the Planet of the Apes lines are just one of a multitude of samples used throughout the five-track outing.
The whole EP is available to stream on the band’s Soundcloud, so feel free to dig in on the player below if you’re looking for something riffy and spacey for the afternoon. Also included is some background on Space Guerrilla, should you want to familiarize yourself. They like stoner rock:
In August 2013, a journey through time and space began. The cosmonauts Angelo Boose (guitar), Cristiano Muniz (bass) and Guga RB (drums) reunited in the city of Porto Alegre, Southern Brazil, to start the deep space cruising by Space Guerrilla. Throughout long smokey reharsal sessions, they wrote five songs which are part of its first EP “Boundless”, recorded at Hurricane Studio by the wizard Sebastian Carsin.
Gathering inspiration from distant galaxies, Space Guerrilla’s music is influenced by stoner rock bands such as Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Unida, Dozer, Truckfighters, Weedpecker, and 60’s-70’s rock bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Cream and others.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
By the time it comes out, it’ll be about a year since the first announcement from Brooklyn’s Mountain God of their forthcoming EP, Forest of the Lost. Why the delay? Well, aside from playing shows, which they’ve done all year, most recently at Brooklyn’s Sludgefeast this past weekend alongside Naam for their final gig, It’s Not Night: It’s Space and an impressive assemblage of others, they’ve also had a few lineup changes, trading out drummer Ian Murray for Ryan Smith (also of Thera Roya) and losing keyboardist Jon Powell to a move, only to fill the gap with noisemaker/vocalist Chris “Dickler” Dialogue, formerly a bandmate of Mountain God bassist Nihil Kamineni in Alkahest. Kamineni, who also handles recording for the band, and guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi remain from the original lineup (pictured above), and though both Murray and Powell played on Forest of the Lost, it seems like Mountain God‘s expanding conceptual basis — not to mention their biography — is only going to get more complex as time goes on.
If you look out the right side of the plane, you’ll see this off the PR wire:
On February 20th, 2015, Mountain God will release its sophomore record, “Forest of the Lost”. The EP is a concept record, consisting of a single song broken down into different movements.
The diverse track twists and turns over the course of 20 minutes, focusing on the plight of a medieval village, located somewhere in the deepest recesses of mankind’s history. The village children, left to their own devices, disappear into the night searching for proof of a local witch, all the while their parents engage in acts of depravity and debauchery.
As the story reaches a climax, the listener is challenged into thinking about the cast of characters, and the true nature of good, evil, neutrality, and indifference. Musically, the record is a melding of 60s and 70s psychedelics and aesthetics with the heaviness, crunch, and shattering riffs of traditional doom and metal.
“Forest” builds on the ground covered in “Experimentation on the Unwilling” (released July 2013), exploring new sounds and textures, all the while continuing down the pathway of socially conscious topics.
The band will play a record release show February 20th in Brooklyn, and the track will have a physical release. Mountain God will release more information about each of these points later in the year.
Posted in Reviews on November 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though Mississippi-based five-piece Face on Mars got together in 2006, their recent self-titled full-length is their debut. They had a track feature on a StonerRock.com compilation back when such things existed and released a split in 2011 with punkers Before I Hang, the song from which, “Jump the Gun,” also appears as the centerpiece of the nine-track Face on Mars. They position themselves as a psychedelic fuzz band, and eight-minute closer “The Last Astronaut” has some trippy effects and a jammier feel to bear that out, but the bulk of what the album has to offer is straightforward, Small Stone Records-style American heavy rock, guitarist/vocalist Drew Kern tapping into his inner Dave Wyndorf vocally while the band — Kern, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Curtis, bassist Jonathan Lee Parks, drummer Jarod Lumpkin and keyboardist/guitarist Drew White – drive home riffs somewhere between a less-garage Baby Woodrose and, particularly in the case of opener “We Get Loud,” earlier Queens of the Stone Age‘s still-accessible sprint. A love of classic heavy is professed, and I don’t doubt it, but the production is modern across Face of Mars‘ 43 minutes, which play out in capably heavy, somewhat predictable fashion their riff-led, full-toned thrust.
An earlier cut like “Golden Throne” and the later “Screaming Boy” seem to have some touch of Lord Fowl-style boogie, but not knowing when in the last eight years these tracks were written, I wouldn’t want to cite an influence mistakenly. No doubt the Chris Goosman mastering job had some effect in that regard — Goosman handles a lot of work for SmallStone, including the aforementioned Lord Fowl‘s 2012 outing, Moon Queen– but Face on Mars inject some classic Sabbathism into “Beat ‘em Dead”‘s bluesy roll and find further distinction through White‘s various synth/key/lapsteel contributions. Kern is an able vocalist well suited to the riffs he’s topping, his style gruff but not caricature dudely, and over Lumpkin‘s cowbell and funked out start-stop riffing in second cut “Psychedelic Jesus,” he keeps a solid balance of restraint and blues in what he does, bolstered by echoes so that the style comes across somewhere between KISS and Mountain as filtered through the second Sasquatch record. Face on Mars have a few killer hooks up their collective sleeve, and “Psychedelic Jesus” is one of them, and the fuzzier “Jump the Gun” is another, but there’s room to grow as well in the handling of a lower tempo in “Source of Ignition.” They’re right to want to change things up, and they’re right in where they want to do it, but while the second half of the track takes off in an airy barrage of guitar leads (before returning to the chorus), the earlier verses don’t have the same kind of power. “Screaming Boy,” which follows, is a suitable kick in the ass to get things moving again.
The instrumental “Minnows” (shortest here at 2:12) is a lead-in for “The Last Astronaut (longest at 8:37), but has its own progression as well, and particularly with how well the one plays off the other, I wouldn’t call what Face on Mars present on their first album underbaked or overblown — they simply give themselves avenues for further development should they embark on a follow-up to their debut. I’d be interested to hear them continue to toy with psychedelic elements — the keys, the wash of leads — as they refine their verse/chorus tradeoffs and tighten some of the transitions like that coming back to the hook in “Source of Ignition.” “The Last Astronaut” isn’t close to being their most raucous moment, but I’d argue it’s their most commanding, and the exploratory feel that comes forward as it moves past the halfway point (not to mention Parks‘ bassline) satisfies immensely. I guess that’s the kind of thing you do in your last song, but Face on Mars prove throughout this outing that they know what they’re doing enough to be more daring should they want to be. Among the elements that ultimately work greatly in their favor is the production of Face on Mars – helmed by the band with engineering/mixing by Mark Black at Black Magic Studios in Hattiesburg — sometimes in areas not known for a huge heavy rock scene, bands come out with records that sound either too metal and have no low end or too flat and lack warmth. Face on Mars sound crisp and come through clearly on these tracks, and are plenty full between the guitars, bass, and synth, but still have enough natural edge so that they don’t sound completely divorced from what the songs might be when coming from a stage. Whatever they do from here, however they might evolve, they’ll do so from a worthy first outing light on pretense and assured of where it wants to be sonically.
Posted in On Wax on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There is a stark contrast between the A and B sides of The Cosmic Trigger‘s new, self-released 7″, The Cosmic EP. The Fort Worth four-piece’s release, pressed to thick vinyl and arriving in a quality-stock matte-finish gatefold sleeve with righteous vertical cover art by Michael Sturrock, is two songs, “Voltaire” and “Catharsis,” totaling just over 11 minutes, and they vary their sounds widely from one to the next. “Voltaire” owes some of its rocking bounce to Thin Lizzy, the guitars of Spenser Freeman and Tyrel Choat meshing along a running, winding course, while Choat‘s vocals growl out a kind of drawn-back Metallica gruffness in the verse, only to open to a cleaner shout in the chorus, given steady punctuation by drummer Josh Farmer‘s sharp snare and a low-end foundation for the guitars by bassist Dustin Choat. It’s catchy, and the recording — by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas — is clear and crisp. It seems initially that perhaps too much so, and like The Cosmic Trigger would benefit from being roughed up a bit, but particularly for those who didn’t hear their 2012 debut full-length, The New Order of the Cosmos, “Catharsis” goes a long way toward explaining where the band is coming from.
Not to be confused with the YOB song of the same name, “Catharsis” works its way around a prog-metal bassline from Dustin and, though Tyrel works in largely the same vocal style, the lyrics (printed on the inside of the vinyl gatefold) give a different take, a severe narrative of betrayal and a murderous chorus of, “You ain’t going home tonight/You’ve seen my face/I’ll see the light drain from your eyes/But you ain’t going home tonight,” blindsiding with its violent intent. By contrast, “Voltaire”‘s lyrics call out the philosopher and question the prospect of modern mortality, but if they’re concerned with death, it’s certainly not death by the speaker’s own hands directed at what seems like an ex-girlfriend. Maybe I’m reading too much into metaphor, but it comes on pretty strong in the song itself, the tapped guitar and basslines building to a head before launching into a riffier closing section after the lyrics, “You’ve made your choice and/Now you’re dead to me.” Fair enough. It may be that The Cosmic Trigger enjoy toying with these ideas as much as they clearly enjoy pitting subgenres against each other, but if you were to take on The Cosmic EP unawares, it could easily be jarring. I guess, if you’re going to take a listen, just be warned. Someone might get hurt.
The full-length, though it featured a different guitarist alongside Tyrel, worked in a similar stylistic vein on the border between heavy rock groove, metallic aggression and progressive intricacy. Listening to The Cosmic EP, it seems the band are still figuring out where on that spectrum exactly they want to position themselves, or at least which stylistic basis from which they want to explore outward. Performance-wise, they’re tight and cohesive enough that there’s nothing to make me think they wouldn’t be able to arrive at that point, and both of these songs are well constructed, it’s just a very ambitious aesthetic they’re trying to capture and they have work to do before they get there.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Arlington, Texas, two-piece Stone Machine Electric are moving ever closer to the heart of the jam. They’ve set a Dec. 9 release date for the limited cassette issue of Garage Tape, the title of which seems to tell a lot of the story. It’s Stone Machine Electric — the once again and seemingly permanently sans-bass duo of guitarist/vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/vocalist/thereminist Mark Kitchens — jamming in a garage. In August, they had Erik Carson of Tin Can Records record them at their practice space, and the fruits of that session are what you get with Garage Tape. Considering the band’s last release was the show-recording 2013.02.07 (discussed here), they seem to be pushing further toward giving listeners an inside look at what they do, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s always an awesome thing to see with a band like this.
Not only are they going as raw as possible, though, but as a bonus, they’ve partnered with Texan countryman expirimentalist and lower-case practitioner the owl and the octopus for a special remix of Garage Tape itself. I guess the whole thing? I’m not really sure, but it’s a fascinating idea. The PR wire has more:
STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – Garage Tape Remix
On December 9th, 2014, we will release the “Garage Tape” digitally and on cassette. This outing will show you what it is like peer into our jam space. These jams weave in and out of consciousness, glazing the listener with tonal build-ups and tearing out landscapes with riff-laden precision. “Garage Tape” demonstrates how to lose your head and see what happens.
Texas heavy duo, Stone Machine Electric, will be releasing the “Garage Tape” on December 9th, 2014. In anticipation of this, the band has decided to add a little something extra to this release.
Stone Machine Electric has recruited local noisemaker extraordinaire, the owl and the octopus, to do a remix of the “Garage Tape”. It will be included as an extra with the download of the tape. Please note that all tapes will come with a digital download included. Hopefully it will be ready by release…
Release show is set for January 16th, 2015 at The Grotto with Wo Fat and Maneaters of Tsavo, with special guests Whoa! Fat Machine.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
UK burl rockers XII Boar — which even though I know it’s pronounced “twelve boar” I still always say as “zhee-boar” — have issued a new digital single that’s a take on Motörhead‘s “Damage Case.” The Southern-styled sludge rock three-piece, somewhat unsurprisingly if you’ve heard their stuff before, beef up the Motörhead original, which appeared on side B of 1979’s classic Overkill. It’s a pretty bold cover to take on, but XII Boar have specialized in the brash since they got going, as their 2014 single Truck Stop Baby will attest, and they’re right in their element with the bruiser groove of “Damage Case,” which can be downloaded free via their Bandcamp page.
They sent word down the PR wire of the new track, and I spliced in a bit of bio background in case you’re unfamiliar. The track itself you can check out on the YouTube player below:
UK Metal & Roll Heavy Weights ‘XII Boar’ pay tribute to Motörhead
UK stoner and sludge scene regulars, ‘XII Boar’ have done a surprise release covering Motörhead’s classic ‘Damage Case’ for your audio pleasure. Putting their own slamming take on the tune and reworking it in their southern fried, crushing, sludgey style, it has been a smash hit across the interweb and already received rave reviews!
Speeding at you like an out of control train, XII Boar (pronounced ‘Twelve Boar’) have been tearing a new one into the stoner/sludge/metal scene over the last 2 years. The three-piece wrecking ball from Aldershot, Hampshire, blast their way into your skull with ear-splitting leads, sonic riffs, filthy bass lines, whiskey drenched vocals and a sweet southern groove.
Combining Motörhead’s swagger, Sabbath’s downtrodden doom and the swinging crunch of Corrosion of Conformity – these Hampshire louts lay down a colossal slab of rock n’ roll-infused groove metal that fuels even the greatest parties.
Not bad for a band who literally do all the hard work in house. Having independently recorded, produced and released two EPs since their inception, they have garnered much attention and rave reviews from both the press and fans alike.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
With former members of A Million Miles and Buffalo Hump in the ranks, Hamburg five-piece High Fighter have released their debut EP, The Goat Ritual. It’s available now using something called the “internet” — I think I spelled that right — and features five tracks that pull together elements from classic stoner rock and modern metal, screams intertwining with melodic vocals over heavy and propelled riffing. The full thing can be streamed on the player below, and they’re asking one euro for a download, which I’m pretty sure translates to $75 by now. Ask about generous interest rates.
Info and audio:
HIGH FIGHTER: Former members of A Million Miles, Buffalo Hump & Pyogenesis Unveil New Band!
Stream First EP The Goat Ritual in Full
After the release of their critically acclaimed album in early 2013 & their surprising split right after in early 2013, former A Million Miles frontwoman Mona Miluski & guitarist Christian Shi Pappas, have teamed up with Stoner Rock group Bufallo Hump – who had already been joined by ex-Pyogenesis drummer Thomas Wildelau – have just unveiled a brand new band known as HIGH FIGHTER!
Born in summer 2014 & with those great, former bands involved, HIGH FIGHTER delivers heavy stoner metal riffs, sludgy blues rock, hardcore elements and the relentless, intense and almost violent vocals by Mona. The band just recorded their first EP called The Goat Ritual – accordingly to the band live over one weekend in their rehearsal room – “no studio, no highclass polished production, just pure, simple and heavy!” stated the band just recently on their Facebook page.
And from there it became more than just a representable demo. HIGH FIGHTER’s brand new EP The Goat Ritual is now available to stream free at:http://bit.ly/1nHeqnC
Based in Hamburg, Germany, HIGH FIGHTER have announced their first show in their hometown on December 19th 2014. The band is currently in writing process for a full-length album and will be unveiling more gigs & news soon!
High Fighter are: Mona Miluski – vocals (ex-A Million Miles) Christian “Shi” Pappas – rhythm guitar (ex-A Million Miles) Ingwer Boysen – lead guitar (ex-Buffalo Hump) Constantin Wu?st – bass (ex-Buffalo Hump) Thomas Wildelau – drums (ex-Pyogenesis & Buffalo Hump)