Posted in Reviews on February 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The central question that emerged from Valley of the Sun‘s 2011 second EP, The Sayings of the Seers (review here), was whether or not the Cincinnati three-piece could maintain the level of energy, of sonic movement, of professionalism in songwriting and production over the course of a full-length album and still offer enough variety to keep tracks from sounding redundant. Their cumbersomely-titled debut long-player, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, released through Fuzzorama Records — the imprint helmed by former and once again Valley of the Sun tourmates Truckfighters – answers that question with a simple yes. Yes, they can. And they do. After a successful crowdfunding campaign and an initial vinyl pressing for contributors, the trio show on the 10-track/44-minute outing that the support they received coming off of The Sayings of the Seerswas not misplaced, and that the crisp, cognizant and engaging presentation of that outing would serve as the foundation of an even bigger assemblage of ideas this time around. Recorded, mixed and mastered by John Naclerio (who also helmed the EP) at Nada Studios in New York, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawkis slick in its layers but expertly handled to craft a sense of space that guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier, bassist Ryan McAllister (who also handled the cover art and layout) and drummer Aaron Boyer work within throughout the songs. In its front-to-back flow and its individual pieces, it is as smooth and balanced an execution of heavy rock as you’re likely to hear. Valley of the Sun come across as tasteful but edgy, produced but natural and in cuts like “As Earth and Moon,” “Nomads,” “The Message is Get Down,” and “Centaur Rodeo,” they offer memorable, classy hooks that long outlast the album’s runtime.
Opener “Worn Teeth” begins at a half-echo blues before unfurling its full crunching breadth, but the central ideas around which Valley of the Sun seem to work are still based in desert rock. Kyuss are a central influence, and Ferrier seems to shift skillfully between the inflections of John Garcia and peak-era Chris Cornell — yes, that is a compliment — but both through their being a Midwestern act and via what seems to be their own creative will, Valley of the Sun present familiar riffing methods with their own take. Heads will find much recognizable as the easy roll of “Worn Teeth” kicks into the full-run of “As Earth and Moon,” but the momentum they build and the flow of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawkdelivers more than desert affectations. McAllister also shares a tenure in the rhythm section of Kentucky’s Moonbow with Hermano drummer Steve Earle, and some of Hermano‘s …Into the Exam Room seems to serve as a guide for how Valley of the Sun‘s debut plays out, whether it’s the funk-swinging starts and stops of “The Message is Get Down” or the push-to-apex groove of the penultimate “Gunslinger.” “The Sleeping Sand” would seem to pay shuffling homage to a desert landscape, but on side A, “Maya” and “Nomads” seem less geographically loyal, the former showing early richness in the bass while Ferrier‘s vocal clarity steps forward in the chorus as a defining element of the album. Like a lot of the record, the structure of “Maya” is straightforward, but as various layers of guitar rise up and drop out, as Boyer‘s thudding toms poke through the mix en route to the last chorus, there’s more than enough to keep the audience hooked for the duration of the two sides into which Electric Talons of the Thunderhawkis very much broken, the first ending with the two-minute acoustic “Laser Vision Intermission,” and the second starting with the fade-in rush of “Within the Glare.”
Posted in Features on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Getting ready to type this list is like standing on the precipice of a canyon. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Last year was an all-out assault of music. I couldn’t have heard it all even if I’d wanted to, and while it’ll probably be June before I feel like I’m sufficiently caught up on 2013, the new-car-smelling rush of 2014 is already underway.
And the only thing to do is press on — though I’ve tried on several occasions, I can’t seem to stop time and review everything that I’m fortunate enough to encounter — and that means glancing ahead to what’s coming in 2014. I know I said so before, but once again, Happy New Year.
One of my favorite things to do is to look forward to a new album. I consider it a sign of the endurance of the human spirit not only that new creative works are being completed and distributed at such a constant rate, but that we can still anticipate the resonance of those works upon their arrival. I don’t mind telling you this is the largest of any such list I’ve ever written for this site. Even as I start it, I’m finding more to add, and I’m sure when it’s done it won’t be complete. So it goes.
There’s more to say, but I’ve delayed enough. We’ll go alphabetically, which is only unfortunate because it puts YOB last. Thanks in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, TBA
We start the same place we started in 2013, with Acid King. The San Francisco giants have sworn up and down they’ll have a new record out this year, and while I’ve yet to see any solid word of its coming manifest, I remain hopeful that it happens. Of course, that was also pretty much the case going into 2013, but they toured Europe last fall and even came out to the East Coast for a show and played some new material (review here), so if it’s to be that IIIfinally gets a follow-up some nine years later, it’s worth keeping an eye out ahead of time. Acid King on Thee Facebooks.
2. Alcest, Shelter
To be released this coming week on Prophecy Productions, the fourth Alcest full-length, Shelter (review here), is billed as a major sonic turn away from the France-based outfit’s black metal influences toward brighter sonic fare. It is that, but the nostalgic melodies and crucial emotionality that has always been the root of Alcest’s sound remains intact. It will be interesting to see what the response is upon its release, but Shelteris an early point of fascination for 2014. Alcest on Thee Facebooks.
3. All Them Witches, TBA
I’m not sure what they’re doing in the studio, if it’s a single, an EP or a full-length album, but this past weekend, on Jan. 11, Nashville heavy psych rockers All Them Witches posted the above picture with the simple tagline “Recording.” Fair enough. It seems soon for them to have another LP after 2013′s excellent Lightning at the Door (discussed here), but that album seemed to arrive soon after 2012′s Our Mother Electricity (reissued by Elektrohasch in 2013; review here), so who knows? It’ll be fun to find out either way. All Them Witches on Bandcamp.
4. Alunah, TBA
UK doomers Alunah will make their debut on Napalm Records with yet-untitled third album. With wider distribution at their disposal than that received by their 2012 outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alunah really leave a mark on 2014, but more fascinating to me than how many people get to hear it is how the band — who’ve swapped out bassists since their last outing — will follow-up the tremendously memorable songs on White Hoarhound. No doubt they can do it, it’s just hard not to be impatient. Alunah on Thee Facebooks.
5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance
I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Amps vs. Ohms in Boston when Blackwolfgoat (aka Darryl Shepard, also of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, ex-Hackman, Roadsaw, etc. and a new project I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet) was tracking the follow-up to 2011′s Dronolith, which was released on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. Raw tracks can sometimes prove to tell little about the finished product of an album, but each piece on Drone Maintenancethat I heard had a distinct atmosphere, and “Cyclopean Utopia” was heavy enough on its own to warrant inclusion here. Rumor also has it that Black Pyramid offshoot The Scimitar will release a studio debut this year. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp.
6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley
Holding the promise of over 90 minutes of live-recorded material from the 2013 Freak Valley festival in Germany, Causa Sui‘s Live at Freak Valley will see release through the band’s own El Paraiso Records and should provide further insight as a companion piece to their 2013 studio full-length, Euporie Tide. As that album boasted such an engaging live and progressive feel, successfully meshing desert and krautrock influences, I’d expect no less from the live outing, which though they’ve put out studio jams before — their three-volume 2008-2009 Summer Sessionsis a joy worthy of the season — is their first official concert recording. El Paraiso Records website.
7. Conan, Blood Eagle
Six devastating tracks that both continue Conan‘s sonic dominance and usher in a new era for the band. Not only is their second full-length, Blood Eagle, their debut on Napalm Records, but it’s also the first Conan LP to be recorded at Skyhammer Studios, which was built and is owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis. Producer Chris Fielding worked with the band previously on 2012′s Monnos (review here) and 2010′s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and Blood Eagle benefits from that now familiar collaboration, bridging the gap between the faster, catchy sides of Monnos and the complementing ultra-plod of its longer tracks. Album opener “Crown of Talons” also ranks among the heaviest things they’ve ever done, and “Foehammer” takes it’s name from Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring, so I don’t know what more you could ever ask of a full-length than that. Conan on Thee Facebooks.
8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited
With the addition of bassist Corey Dozier to the rhythm section with drummer Jason Prushko, Brooklynite doom-funk stompers Eggnogg have been able to move vocalist Bill O’Sullivan to guitar from bass, giving Justin Karol a chance to act all the more as a lead player. How this new four-piece dynamic might play out on You’re all Invited — or even if Dozier played on it — remains to be seen, but from what I’ve caught live, it’s turned them into a thicker, fuller-sounding band, and on new material and old, Eggnogg are coming into their own. They’re still a better band than they know, and one hopes they can get some road time in as well as release the LP to continue to refine their approach. Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks.
9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013
Granted it’s been available through Burning World Records digitally since last November, but Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 is set for physical issue early this year through the label, and having stood in front of the stage to witness the set myself at Het Patronaat in Tilburg and then seen the line running outside the venue and down the block, I can tell you it’s a beast. Put it on vinyl with cover art by Adrian Dexter and maybe a photo or two by yours truly and you’ve got a good way to get a preview for what their sets at the two Desertfests might hold this year. Elder on Thee Facebooks.
10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA
Speaking of Roadburn, emotive UK doomers 40 Watt Sun are set to make a return appearance at the fabled fest in the Netherlands, and the word was they’d do so with material from the follow-up to their 2011 Metal Blade debut, The Inside Room (review here), which established the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (Warning), as a deeply affecting act with a rich sonic texture. No word of an exact release date for the sophomore effort yet, but one expects it will receive no shortage of fanfare prior to and upon its arrival. 40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks.
11. The Golden Grass, TBA
Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ One More Time b/w Tornado debut single was one of the best short releases of 2013, and the sunshiny classic heavy rockers will look to follow it with a first long-player this year. Recording is completed — the tracking was helmed by Andréa Zavareei, who also did the 7″ — and so is mixing, done by Jeff Berner (Naam, etc.), so with mastering in progress, hopefully it’s not too long before The Golden Grass can offer a right-on cure for wintry blues. It will be interesting to hear how they sustain and work within their positive vibes over the course of a complete LP. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks.
12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes
Trails and Passes will be Greenleaf‘s first outing since 2003′s Secret Alphabets not to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm (also of Truckfighters) and also finds the Swedish unit both with a new drummer (hello, Sebastian Olsson) and down from two guitars to one. It was five years between their third album, 2007′s Agents of Ahriman and 2012′s Nest of Vipers (review here), so with a quicker turnaround and a stripped-down songwriting approach that seems geared more toward a live-sounding heavy rock presentation, Greenleaf could easily be positioning themselves as a full(er)-time touring act. The more the merrier. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks.
13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren
UK power trio Grifter surprised some with the quality of songwriting on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the lacking pretense of which was in proportion to its classic heavy rock influence, but The Return of the Bearded Brethren, which is set to release on Ripple Music, won’t have the advantage of sneaking up. If they’re throwing down a gauntlet, the confrontational pose of the shirtless tattooed beardo on their LP cover would seem to indicate it’s a considerable one indeed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Grifter made following up on their self-titled sound as easy as they made infectious hooks sound the last time out. Grifter on Thee Facebooks.
14. Hull, TBA
Down from a five-piece to a foursome after having lost one of their three guitars since the release of 2011′s stellar second LP, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), 2014 marks an interesting point for singular Brooklyn post-thrashers Hull. With a Roadburn appearance slated and a limited vinyl reissue of their 2007 Viking Funeral debut EP in hand, they’ll look to bring their conceptual songwriting into a new presentational arc, and while that’s a fascinating prospect, I’m also looking forward to their new album because it promises to be heavy as fuck whenever it happens to arrive, hopefully by the end of the year. Hull on Thee Facebooks.
15. Lowrider, TBA
Were this list numbered in anticipatory rather than alphabetical order, Lowrider would be much closer to the top than lucky number 13. The Swedish four-piece will be recording their first outing since 2000′s genre-landmark Ode to Io this year after reuniting on stage at Desertfest 2013 — they’ll return to London next month with Dozer — and while I don’t know if it’ll be out by the time 2014 is done, I do know that the sheer prospect of a new Lowrider makes this year much better than it would be otherwise. I already invited myself to Sweden for an in-studio. More to come. Lowrider on Thee Facebooks.
16. The Machine, TBA
A couple weeks back, Dutch heavy psych rockers The Machine — whose split with now-defunct countrymen Sungrazer (review here) was my favorite short release last year — held a poll on their Thee Facebooks page to name their upcoming fifth album, which will follow 2012′s Calmer than You Are (review here) on Elektrohasch. My suggestion? Come to Light. It has the advantage of sounding psychedelic with an undertone of enlightenment to speak to the band’s continuing progression and it keeps with the prior album in being a reference to The Big Lebowski. No word on whether or not they’ll use it, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Machine’s website.
17. Mars Red Sky, TBA
Currently in the mixing stage, the second Mars Red Sky long-player will arrive on the heels of 2013′s Be My Guide EP (review here) and the Bordeaux fuzz trio’s self-titled 2011 debut (review here) and a host of tours and festival appearances. While their plans to record in the California desert reportedly didn’t pan out, the trio put much of the album to tape over the course of a week in Brazil following dates in South America, so it should boast plenty of sunshine either way. The album is due for release in April — a pro-shot live video of the new song “Satellites” was recently unveiled — and Mars Red Sky will also play at Hellfest in their native France in June. Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp.
18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty
The Washington trio’s first album for Listenable Records and their second since picking back up after several years of inactivity while guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed concentrated on Stone Axe, Electric Mountain Majesty is done and mastered as of Jan. 5. Recorded by Reed himself, it will follow a pair of live outings in 2013 (reviews here and here) and 2012′s infectious return, Nomads(review here). I am fully prepared to have these songs stuck in my head for most of 2014, so bring it on. A March release has been floated, which would come ahead of an appearance at Freak Valley in late May. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks.
19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now
Triumphantly creative Finnish cosmic doomers Mr. Peter Hayden will complete a trilogy with Archdimension Now that began with 2010′s Faster than Speed (review here) and 2012′s single-song 68-minute LP, Born a Trip (review here). Crushing tones and a formidable scope don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, though what really interests me is how the Satakunta five-piece will expand on the sound of their last album, which still seems to reveal something new each time I put it on. Their new single “We Fly High,” was streamed here recently and bodes well. Mr. Peter Hayden on Bandcamp.
20. Pallbearer, TBA
Pallbearer have toured hard since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), hit a nerve with doomers across the globe, and the four-piece from Arkansas are set to begin recording their next LP (presumably) for Profound Lore in February. If that puts a release for sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I would imagine it will come coupled with no shortage of live dates, since the band seems most at home on tour. Should be intriguing to have a document of how all that stage time has manifested in solidifying and adding confidence to their approach, and this is another one preceded by much anticipation. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks.
21. Papir, IIII
It would seem I have some purchases to make in order to catch up with Danish heavy psych jammers Papir. Aside from their recent collaboration with Electric Moon, the upcoming IIII will sure enough be their fourth album. Available now to preorder through El Paraiso Records, it is a vinyl-ready 47 minutes of smoothly shifting transitions between lush atmospherics and driving fuzz-heavy rock, ready to stand in line with progressive European instrumentalists like 35007, My Sleeping Karma and indeed their label honchos, Causa Sui. I had caught wind of 2013′s IIIpreviously, but deeper back catalog investigation is definitely warranted. Papir on Thee Facebooks.
22. Pilgrim, TBA
Just before they left to tour Europe with Windhand, Providence, Rhode Island, doomers Pilgrim recorded their sophomore full-length at Moonlight Mile Recording in scenic Jersey City, NJ. After the huge response garnered — and, I should say, earned — by their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, the band jumped from Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint, Poison Tongue Records, to Metal Blade proper for the new one, which along with Pallbearer, 40 Watt Sun, Serpent Venom and The Wounded Kings (and no doubt others) makes a prospect for a thoroughly doomed 2014. So be it. Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks.
23. Radio Moscow, TBA
As I type these words, heavy rockers Radio Moscow are mixing their yet-untitled fourth album (fifth if you count 2012′s 3 & 3 Quarters, which was comprised of early unreleased material) at Big Fish Recording in Encinitas, CA. Details on the release are sketchy at best at this point, and by that I mean nil, but at least there’s progress being made, and since it’s still January, it seems entirely likely the album will surface one way or another in the next 11 months, barring disaster. The bombastic blues jammers led by Parker Griggs toured Europe last fall and rumor is there’s a run in the works for the US at the end of February into March. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks.
24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
What’s not to like about a new Sigiriya album? The UK four-piece premiered “Tribe of the Old Oak” from Darkness Died Todayhere last month, and in addition to the considerable pipes of new vocalist Matt Williams, the track showcased a somewhat moodier psychedelic vibe from the band, who continue to distance themselves from Acrimony, of which bassist Paul Bidmead, guitarist Stuart O’Hara and drummer Darren Ivey were members, while also exploring new avenues from those of Sigiriya‘s debut, 2011′s Return to Earth(review here). I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they set a high standard last time. Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks.
25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA
Reason to Live, was released by Spitfire Records (remember them?) in… wait for it… 2002. Some 12 years ago. Now, these dudes have been kicking around in other bands since Sixty Watt Shaman sort of melted away in the manner that underrated bands often unfortunately do, but with the announcement of their appearances this year at Desertfest (info here) in April and The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May (info here) came word of a new studio release. EP or LP unknown at present. As killer as Reason to Live was, it just doesn’t seem fair to expect Sixty Watt Shaman to be the same band they were more than a decade ago. As such, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m keen to find out. Sixty Watt Shaman on Thee Facebooks.
26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos
The 2011 debut from upstart Swedish heavy-hitters Skraeckoedlan, titled Äppelträdet (review here), was recorded by Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters and had much of that band’s fuzzy compression in blend with their own Mastodon-ic plod. It was a combination that worked so well I thought for sure the young outfit would return to Studio Bombshelter for their next outing, but no dice. As a result, I’m not sure what to expect from Gigantos, but I dug what I heard in a recent live video from them, so we’ll see how it turns out when the LP is done and I’m not about to judge either way until then. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks.
27. The Skull, TBA
I have no interest in downplaying any of the original members of Trouble‘s contributions to that legendary Chicago doom band (nor the work they’re doing now or those contributing to it), but there can be no question that Eric Wagner‘s voice is a signature element, and right now, that’s something The Skull has over the outfit from whence they sprang. Add to that Ron Holzner‘s bass and Jeff “Oly” Olson‘s drums and you’re well on your way to some foundational heavy. Among the best signs is that The Skull were recording with Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, etc.), who obviously knows his shit and is likely to capture their sound as it should be: Completely doomed. Also keep an eye out for Wagner‘s side-project, Blackfinger, who have an LP coming. The Skull on Thee Facebooks.
28. Sleep, TBA
This would be the mother of them all, I guess. A new Sleep album. In addition to hinting at new studio outings by his own three-piece Om and Matt Pike‘s High on Fire, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros let it slip casual-style in an interview somewhere that Sleep were working on new material, thus snapping my Thee Facebooks feed in half. Fair enough. Working on material doesn’t mean we’ll see a record this year, or at all, but obviously if there’s a chance a new album might happen (I’ve been nerding out about the idea for a while; see here and here), it would be proof of justice in the universe. Seems an obvious thing that Billy Anderson would record this as well, and all the better. Can the Sons of Sabbath prove there’s life after Dopesmoker? For now, only the Antarcticans know. Sleep’s website.
29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance
Slated for release through Metal Blade — they’re taking preorders — what if I’m not mistaken is the 32nd Slough Feg LP is due on Feb. 18. As much as I’m looking forward to the release of the record itself, having very, very much enjoyed 2010′s The Animal Spirits (review here), I’m even more interested to see if I finally get up the gumption to interview guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi. Something about a dude who doubles as a philosophy professor and who’s been putting out records in his band since I was nine and long before anyone gave a shit I’ve always found intimidating. We’ll see if I’m up to it this year. @Slough_Feg.
30. Snail, Feral
Last summer, West Coast riffers Snail announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, which means that their fourth outing, Feral, will be their first as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson since their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). Should be interesting to see how the shift to their original lineup changes the tenor of Feral as opposed to their two albums with Clausen, 2009′s comebacker Blood (review here) and 2012′s Terminus (review here), but as the first audio from the record begins to surface, Snail‘s sound seems to still very much have its core intact. Terminusbrought in something of a rawer heavy metal influence coming off the languid, dreamy Blood, but as they’ve been back together now for going on half a decade, no doubt a few more twists are in store. Snail on Thee Facebooks.
31. Steak, TBA
Quickly emerging at the fore of London’s enviable up and coming heavy rock scene — and, in the case of guitarist Reece Tee, helping shape it as one of the architects of Desertfest — Steak are set to debut this year on Napalm Records with what will be their first full-length following two EPs, 2012′s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013′s Corned Beef Colossus (review here). They’ve put in time on tour — they’ll play in Spain with Monster Magnet and in London with Lowrider and Dozer in February — and seem to be ready to take the next step in releasing an album, and after the conceptual elements of both EPs, I’m eager to see where the next chapter of their story goes. Steak on Bandcamp.
32. Stubb, TBA
Tracking is to begin a few weeks from now for Stubb‘s second album at Jon Davis of Conan‘s Skyhammer Studios. After the release of their 2013 single, Under a Spell (review here), and the departure of drummer Chris West, guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland acquired Tom Fyfe to fill the position, and subsequently found a label home on Ripple Music. It’ll be a different Stubb than they were on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but the fuzz runs strong in them however the changes might manifest in the finished product from the studio, and I can’t even think of “Under a Spell” without hearing the chorus in my head, so yeah, I’m on board.Stubb on Thee Facebooks.
33. SunnO))) & Ulver,Terrestrials
A collaboration between drone lords SunnO))) and Norwegian post-black metal progenitors Ulver probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make you crush a beer can on your forehead and call your bros to come over and check it out (actually, I don’t know what kind of music does that, but it probably sucks), but Terrestrials has the potential to be one of 2014′s most unique releases all the same. After Ulver‘s delving into orchestral minimalism on 2013′s Messe I-IX, it’s really anyone’s best guess what this will sound like when it comes out on Feb. 4. SunnO))) explored some cinematic ground with 2009′s Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), but still, to speculate seems like setting myself up to be a fool later. Southern Lord Recordings website.
34. Tombs, Savage Gold
For their third album for Relapse, Brooklyn three-turned-four-piece Tombs headed south to Florida to record with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan. If vague Thee Facebook posts are anything to go by, the resulting LP is 57:18 and titled Savage Gold. I’m not sure when it’ll be out, but as the follow-up to 2011′s widely and loudly lauded Path of Totality, whatever it’s called and whenever the new Tombs shows up, chances are it’s going to receive as much extremity as it doles out. Tombs on Thee Facebooks.
35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata
Heirs to the black, shiny and probably spiky throne of Celtic Frost, ultra-dark metallers Triptykon will answer 2010′s Eparistera Daimones (review here) with Melana Chasmata, which though it’s somewhat easier to type is no doubt even more gleefully excruciating a listen. As with the debut, they’ll mark the release with an appearance at Roadburn (info here). No audio has surfaced yet, but with a release date set for April 24, that can’t be too far off. Will Tom G. Warrior push Triptykon further away from their Celtic Frost lineage? I don’t know, but if there’s beauty in darkness, he’s the one to find it. Triptykon on Thee Facebooks.
36. Truckfighters, Universe
Feb. 4 is the stated release date for Universe (review here), the fourth album from Örebro fuzzdudes Truckfighters. The Swedish three-piece explore ground that at the same time is more emotionally complex than their last outing, 2009′s Mania (review here), and also more straightforward in the songwriting, resulting in a collection of tracks not necessarily as upbeat as some of what they’ve done in the past, but ultimately working toward a different kind of realization. No doubt hard touring will follow throughout the rest of this year, so if you want to catch Truckfighters, you’re likely to get your chance. Truckfighters on Thee Facebooks.
37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk
Like Truckfighters, Midwestern heavy rockers Valley of the Sun will issue their new album, the somewhat cumbersomely-titled Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on Fuzzorama Records, and the two acts are slated to tour together in Europe from Feb. 8 through March 14 ahead of Valley of the Sun‘s April 1 release date. If you contributed to their crowdfunding campaign, you might already have a copy of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawkon vinyl, but either way, the official release is worthy of note, particularly for as much growth as the full-length (their debut) shows from 2011′s already-impressive The Sayings of the Seers (review here). Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks.
38. Weedeater, TBA
Not certain how to tell you this, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a new Weedeater album this year. Between the North Carolina sludgers’ busy tour schedule and Season of Mist reissuing their other four albums, it seems like an awful lot for Weedeater to then also write and record a follow-up to 2011′s Jason… the Dragon (review here). I’m not saying it can’t be done — hell, for all I know they’ve finished writing and the studio is booked — but if a new Weedeater arrives, although it was mentioned with their West Coast tour dates that start this week, right now it seems like it would be later in 2014 or maybe early 2015 by the time it gets here. Hey, I could be wrong. I’d prefer it that way. Weedeater on Thee Facebooks.
39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA
They put out BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini last year as a kind of holdover release, but last month brought news of new songs for 2014, which would be Wolves in the Throne Room‘s first since Celestial Lineage in 2011. They toured their heaviest yet that record, so a bit of a break wasn’t necessarily out of order, but for an act who inspire the kind of loyalty that Wolves in the Throne Room do, three years can be a long time. Not much by way of specifics on the new release, whether it’s a full-length or not, when they might record, where, or when it might surface, but we know they’ve got new material, and that’s a step. Wolves in the Throne Room’s website.
40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum
Due Feb. 24 on Candlelight, Consolamentum is the fourth long-player in the tumultuous career of British progressive doomers The Wounded Kings, who despite a seemingly endless series of lineup shifts have managed to release their four albums in a span of six years. With guitarist/founder Steve Mills at the core and the eerie but powerful vocals of Sharie Neyland over top, The Wounded Kings have tapped into a doom quick to separate itself from the pack, and Consolamentum conjures some of their most oppressive atmospherics yet, with expansive cuts like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” fed into by ambient passages and interludes. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks.
41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Desert legends Yawning Man released a split with Fatso Jetson in 2013 — only appropriate, since the two acts share Mario Lalli — but Gravity is Good for You, like whatever Acid King might have in store, is a holdover from last year’s list. Guitarist Gary Arce of the long-running and hugely influential instrumental jammers has reportedly been in the studio with Lalli and Third Ear Experience drummer Erik Mouness (video surfaced), but there’s yet to be concrete word on when Gravity is Good for You, reportedly a double album and the band’s follow-up to 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here), might be finished. Got my fingers crossed it’s this year. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks.
42. YOB, TBA
Feels like a terribly long way to go only to get to one of the albums I’m most looking forward to hearing, but the alphabet works in mysterious ways sometimes. On Jan. 7, Eugene, Oregon, überdoomers YOB posted the following on their Thee Facebooks: “Had an amazing YOB practice. The new songs are fully in focus. 2 mega DOOM bludgeoners, one “faster” song, and the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written to close. 4 songs, 55 minutes.” Last I heard, they were to begin recording for their seventh (man, time flies) LP this week with a release in the months to follow, and since YOB haven’t put out an album since 2004 that I didn’t pick it as my Album of the Year, you can bet your ass I’m looking forward to what they do next. Particularly that part about “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” Sold. YOB on Thee Facebooks.
Others to keep an eye on, some mentioned above, some not:
Ararat, III (Another 2013 holdover) The Atlas Moth, The Old Believer (Out in June) Brant Bjork, Jakoozi Blackfinger, Blackfinger Godhunter, City of Dust Ice Dragon (Some older releases are being physically pressed and new stuff is never far off) King Buffalo (Their demo ruled) King Dead (First audio just surfacing, but holds promise) Lo-Pan (Been a while in the making at this point, hopefully 2014) Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight The Proselyte (EP coming on Gypsyblood Records) Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean Saint Vitus (Began writing last Fall) Salem’s Pot, Lurar ut dig på prärien The Scimitar (Debut from Black Pyramid offshoot) Seedy Jeezus (Recording in Australia now with Tony Reed) Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen Spirit Caravan (Nothing announced but you never know)
Various Artists, Songs of Townes Van Zandt Pt. II Wino & Conny Ochs (Maybe, maybe not) The Wisdoom, Hypothalamus Wo Fat (New album recorded)
I’m quite positive that the first thing to happen after this is posted is that someone will chime in with something I forgot. At least I hope that’s what happens. As large as this list has turned out to be (much, much larger than I thought it would be when I started taking notes for it), there’s no way it could cover everything, and I hope if there’s an upcoming release in particular that you’re looking forward to, you’ll please let me know in the comments.
Thank you so much for reading and for all of your support. Here’s to an amazing 2014.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Kudos are in order to Cincinnati, Ohio, trio Valley of the Sun. Word has come down the PR wire that the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier, bassist Ryan McAllister and drummer Aaron Boyer have aligned themselves with Sweden-based Fuzzorama Records, the label helmed by none other than Truckfighters. Touring with Truckfighters in Europe is also set for February 2014, and Valley of the Sun‘s debut long-player, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk will be out at the end of March.
A hearty hell yeah to the dudes in Valley of the Sun – their 2011 EP, The Sayings of the Seers(review here), left an impression worthy of the achievement — and here’s looking forward to good things to come.
VALLEY OF THE SUN SIGN TO FUZZORAMA RECORDS!!!
New Album & European Tour Dates in Spring 2014!
US Power Stoner Rock band VALLEY OF THE SUN just announced that they have signed with Truckfighters’ label Fuzzorama Records, who will be releasing the band’s upcoming album “Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk” on March 28th in Europe & March 31st 2014 for the UK! To celebrate the release of their new album live, Valley Of The Sun will be also finally hitting the road next year for some long-awaited European shows alongside with TRUCKFIGHTERS and WHITE MILES!
Check out all tour dates below & mark your calendar for the release of the new album by Valley Of The Sun – “Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk” – set to hit the European stores March 28th & in the UK on March 31st 2014 via Fuzzorama Records – but rumors said you will be able to pick up an early copy at all upcoming live shows!
TRUCKFIGHTERS, VALLEY OF THE SUN & WHITE MILES live in Europe: Feb 14: Debaser Strand – Stockholm, Sweden Feb 15: Blaa – Oslo, Norway Feb 16: Beta – Copenhagen, Denmark Feb 18 Uebel & Gefaehrlich – Hamburg, Germany Feb 19 Lido – Berlin, Germany Feb 20 Groove Station – Dresden, Germany Feb 21 Backstage – Munich, Germany Feb 22 Chelsea – Vienna, Austria Feb 24 Hafenkneipe – Zurich, Switzerland Feb 25 Freakout – Bologna, Italy Feb 27 Melkweg – Amsterdam, Netherlands Feb 28 Divan du Monde – Paris, France Mar 06 Luxor – Cologne, Germany Mar 07 AB – Brussels, Belgium Mar 08 Underworld – London, United Kingdom
Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.
Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.
Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.
Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:
Acid King, TBA
We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.
Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II(review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.
Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.
Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Eracould prove to be aptly-titled indeed.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.
Black Sabbath, 13
There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.
Clutch, Earth Rocker
It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!
Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse
Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009′s Heavily Ever After.
Egypt, Become the Sun
Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun– which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.
The Flying Eyes, TBA
Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011′s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.
Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man
The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”
Halfway to Gone, TBA
What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone – who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.
Kings Destroy, TBA
Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.
The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV
I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.
Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011′s Salvador(review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.
Queens of the Stone Age, TBA
It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007′s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Sungrazer & The Machine, Split
With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.
The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009′s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.
Valley of the Sun, TBA
All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011′s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.
Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.
Vista Chino, TBA
After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.
Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for Yourelease (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.
Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.
So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, Eggnogg, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red Sky, Asteroid, Apostle of Solitude, Windhand, Phantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.
If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.
Posted in Reviews on October 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was stoked for this show. If I hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Still, there was a point early into the evening at which I stood back and had the thought, “I’m at a CMJ showcase.” It’s been years. Like a lot of the overblown hoopla in the music industry, I usually skip out on NYC’s CMJ fest — because here’s the thing no one tells you: It’s no different from NYC every other night. Oh, there are 100 shows and industry types lurking around in suit jackets and jeans? Sorry, that happens every single week. It’s a big part of why the last show I went to in Manhattan was in March.
This, however, was the Heavy Planet CMJ showcase, and if something was going to get me to drive my jaded, been-in-this-business-too-long ass across the self-proclaimed greatest city in the world, it was the chance to see Borracho, Valley of the Sun, Eggnogg and Summoner on the same bill. Shock Radar opened and the show was at Fontana’s – a place that, if I’ve ever been there, it was probably when I was in college, and then probably a CMJ show — and after being kept late at work, I got there early into Shock Radar‘s set, having parked outside at the same time Borracho arrived and seen them get into a parking altercation with another driver. They were right to not want to give up that spot. It was prime.
Much like the show itself. Here’s how it all went down:
New York natives and apparently somewhat responsible for lining up Fontana’s as the venue for the gig, it was my first experience with Shock Radar in a live setting after checking out some of the tracks from their Live Like Lions10″ in advance. Admittedly, I didn’t catch the whole set, but I must have gotten most of it, and in any case, it was enough for the band’s post-grunge affected East Coast noise crunch to make an impression. The vocals had that kind of throaty 1995 vibe like when everyone realized they couldn’t be Layne Staley and had to think of something else to do, but they were solid — the kind of moody act you’d happen onto on one of those nights stumbling through the city, winding up in some hole with more liquor in your system than you intended. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
I could tell right away that Boston’s own Summoner were used to playing on stages this size because every time vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson turned around, he pulled the neck of his bass in toward himself so as to avoid a collision with guitarist Joe Richner. The four-piece had impressed at SHoD, so I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the vitality they brought to their performance or the appealing interplay of Richner and AJ Peters‘ guitars, but their new-school crush satisfied nonetheless, and both Peters and drummer Scott Smith went out of their way to mention they’ll be recording a new album next month. Their latest, Phoenix, is still pretty fresh, but I look forward to hearing the intensity they bring to new material in the studio. In the meantime, “The Interloper” from Phoenixwas a highlight and they went back to their early days as Riff Cannon to close out with the title-track to 2009′s Mercury Mountain, a last-minute burst of energy that made for a raucous finish. I could’ve done with a longer set, but Summoner made every second count, and the smoothness with which they execute their changes and the sheer joy they seem to take in playing these songs made them a pleasure to watch. Again.
My second Eggnogg gig and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back for thirds. The Brooklyn trio included two new songs in their set from their forthcoming and mostly completed new album, including the eponymous “Eggnogg,” which seems to revive the elephantine stomp of “The Gods Will Destroy the Hive” from their prior EP compilation, The Three. Their methods are simple, but their employ more than effective. They riff and groove — tonal thickness is a must — and bassist Bill O’Sullivan‘s bluesy delivery took a turn for the shoutier on the newer material. Especially seeing them right after Summoner emphasized the stark contrast between the two young acts. Both are very good at what they do and cohesive beyond their years, but Eggnogg‘s patience and relatively simplistic songwriting modus and Summoner‘s intensity and rampant dual lead-work seemed to be coming from different places entirely. I liked that, though. Eggnogg are getting their bearings as a live act, but between this gig and the show at the St. Vitus bar in August that I was lucky enough to catch, they’ve affirmed what I dug so much about their recorded material and given me something to look forward to on the next one. Time for them to start piling up amplifiers and get their tones to room-shaking volume.
Valley of the Sun
The lesson of Cincinnati’s Valley of the Sun — and this is a lesson I’m happy to learn anytime the opportunity presents itself — is “oh what a difference a great drummer makes.” You know the scene. You’ve seen those bands that seem to have it all together, and there’s just that one missing element. In my experience, what can really put a good band over the top is a killer, creative drummer, and Valley of the Sun have one in Aaron Boyer. Guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier and bassist Ryan McAllister had their shit together, no doubt about it, but together with Boyer, they hit a level of professionalism that’s road-ready and completely attuned to its aesthetic. Valley of the Sun also played some new tunes, as well as a few highlights from 2011′s The Sayings of the Seers(review here), which I was stoked to be able to pick up on vinyl, and it was crisp American-style heavy rock, desert-fuzzed and in the Kyuss tradition, but fluid in its ’70s worship and presented with the utmost confidence. This being my first time seeing them, what I got was exactly what I’d hoped to get. For having just two EPs out, their sound is remarkably mature, and that speaks to Ferrier, McAllister and Boyer having a clear idea of what they want to do musically, which can only serve them well leading into their next studio outing. Good band, man. A name to watch for.
In another flashback to this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom, the three-piece incarnation of Washington D.C.’s Borracho — or, as I’ve come to call them, Borratrio — took the stage at Fontana’s with barely so much as a hello. Led by guitarist Steve Fisher (who seems to have an inexhaustible supply of classic rock t-shirts — awesome) in the absence of guitarist/vocalist Noah, who is out of the country on what I can only assume is a dangerous spy mission, they once again let the riffs do the vast majority of the talking, though vocals showed up in what would otherwise be the backing lines toward the end of “All in Play” and in “Concentric Circles,” which remains viciously catchy no matter who’s fronting it. Overall, Borracho were much tighter here than at SHoD, not only for the lack of technical difficulties, but in general on the level of chemistry between Fisher, bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano, who seemed only too happy to pick up the gauntlet Aaron Boyer threw down in Valley of the Sun‘s set. The two bands are reportedly headed back to D.C. tonight for another gig. They worked well together, so hopefully this isn’t the last time they join forces. Despite Noah‘s continued MIA-ness, Borratrio have new songs in progress as well.
Ultimately, I think that’s what made last night special — the fact that Borracho, Summoner, Valley of the Sun and Eggnogg all have new stuff on the horizon that hasn’t yet been released. Maybe Shock Radar too, I don’t really know, but to have everyone on board playing fresh material alongside a few familiar tracks was awesome, and in true showcase fashion, I felt like I was watching acts each in their own way poised to hit the next level in what they do. Kudos to Heavy Planet for putting together an excellent bill (I got to meet Toby at the show and he seemed like a good dude), and to the bands for kicking ass.
Fuck yeah, Valley of the Sun. Ohio’s own Slo Burn — although maybe that’s not fair since the song “Riding the Dunes,” despite the titular commonality with Slo Burn‘s “Pilot the Dune” actually has way more in common sonically with Soundgarden — but still, it’s desert and it’s rock, and this video offers plenty of both. Six righteous minutes of HD nature footage and fuzz warmth sounds like a great way to end a long week to me, so here we are.
And fitting that it would be coming up on one in the morning too, or that I’d be posting this having already tried once to go to sleep tonight, as that seems to have more or less been a theme for this week: Working late. I shudder to think of the typos that made it past my tired-ass eyes, but I figure it’s the internet and hopefully you’ll indulge me the occasional misspelling or grammatical flub. Hope so, anyway. I’d hate to find out that’s why the numbers were down from last month. Ha.
Friends week reviews were fun, and I hope you enjoyed reading those reviews as I enjoyed writing them, right up to Mos Generator tonight, which made for a pretty raging Friday, to be sure. Okay, maybe not, but still, I appreciate you reading if you did. Kind of a fuzzy line, but we’ll get back to normal-type reviewing next week with The Disease Concept, and I say the line is fuzzy since Tommy Southard‘s in that band, he writes for this site and I’ve known the dude for the better part of a decade. So yeah, while it was friends week, that wasn’t exactly exhausting the supply of connections, it just happened to be all those records were up for review around the same time and I thought I’d have some fun with it. Again, hopefully you enjoyed as well.
It’s raining pretty hard here in my humble river valley — feeding the river — and I’ve had a few glasses of wine, but I think it’s fatigue that has me more than that. Some quick plugs. Next week I’ll have my interview with Leif Edling of Candlemass posted about their new and allegedly last album ever, Psalms for the Dead (review here), and I know I plugged it when I did the numbers, but going up Monday is a full album stream of the new SardoniS record complete with a giveaway for their latest 7″, so please have your comment posters at the ready if you want to join in on the good times, which hopefully you do because you either have an affection for free vinyl or heavy tones. SardoniS has both, and much appreciated in advance to those guys for letting me host all that nonsense.
Nonsense, though, seems to be my specialty of late. But that’s enough of it for one week. Thanks again to everyone who checked in. I’m out most of tomorrow and overnight, but I’ll still be pulling spambot duty on the forum, so feel free to drop in over there and post about the impending zombie apocalypse, the heavy metal band name chart or whoever’s boobs you saw on Facebook. Always guaranteed some entertainment, one way or another. Whatever your plans, I wish you a great and safe weekend. Much respect, much appreciation, see you back here Monday. Right on.
Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
With the widespread availability and relative affordability of recording software, it’s pretty easy for a band to make a decent-sounding record these days. You hear a lot of albums that sound clear, but ultimately flat; albums that give little more than a general sense of what the personality of a band might be. It’s all the more encouraging, then, when a band like Cincinnati, Ohio, trio (they may have been a foursome at the time) Valley of the Sun present a collection of tracks like their five-song The Sayings of the Seers EP. Without a label backing them, the rockers aligned themselves with producer John Naclerio, who’s worked on albums for the likes of Bayside and My Chemical Romance – say what you want about those bands, despite being wretched, they’re professionally produced – and put The Sayings of the Seers to press in a limited vinyl edition of 250. Then, to support, they booked a run of American dates alongside Truckfighters, pairing themselves with one of the most potent heavy rock acts today. You have to really believe in what you’re doing to partner with a band like that, and with the professional presentation of The Sayings of the Seers, it’s clear Valley of the Sun stand behind what they do. In short, they’re going for it.
That’s respectable in itself, but what’s even more noteworthy are the songs they’re going for it with. Valley of the Sun’s 2010 EP, aptly-titled Two Thousand Ten, had clarity of sound and formidable stoner rock fuzz – more of the latter even than does The Sayings of the Seers – but what “Hearts Aflame,” “Deep Light Burns,” “Mariner’s Tale,” “Aquarius” and “Riding the Dunes” lack in genre tropes, they make up for in excellence of songwriting and execution. Guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier leads the charge on “Hearts Aflame” with a John Garcia-esque vocal dexterity, and though that track is more Hermano than Kyuss in how modern it sounds, there’s no question that Valley of the Sun are placing themselves at the forefront of the new generation of American heavy rock. And in the case of “Hearts Aflame,” the distinction between heavy and stoner rocks feels like it needs to be highlighted, because it’s definitely the former over the latter. Where fellow Ohioans Lo-Pan have taken up the fuzz mantle and injected the sound with a soulful edge, Valley of the Sun, take the groove and are less reliant on tonal weight than catchy hooks and riffy drive.
It seems like a fine line, and I suppose it is, but on a cut like the stripped-down barn-burner “Deep Light Burns,” it’s virtually a world of difference. Valley of the Sun might share their countrymen’s penchant for upbeat, energetic songwriting, but they take it in a different direction altogether. With the straightforward punch of bassist Ryan McAllister and drummer Aaron Boyer propelling the song, Ferrier offers madman riffs and another Garcia-inspired inflection (the most Kyussian moment of The Sayings of the Seers is yet to come) vocal, but the appeal of the song is more the overall movement of it than any single performance within. It allows Valley of the Sun to up the momentum from “Hearts Aflame,” so that by the time “Mariner’s Tale” kicks in – only about nine minutes into the EP – you’re already locked into it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Fact: I fucking hate the summer. The heat and humidity make me want to curl in a ball and die. One of very few things I’m looking forward to about summer 2011 is getting to see Truckfighters on their first US run. Valley of the Sun are joining them for most of the dates (I’ll be at NYC for Kings Destroy, Borracho and Blue Aside opening), and the official tour poster has just been released. Here it is, just for fun:
Valley of the Sun also have a new EP called The Sayings of the Seers you can check out at their Bandcamp page. Review forthcoming, but the short-form version is it rules.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
America needs Truckfighters. If you live in one of the cities below and can help put a show together for one of the best Swedish fuzz rock bands going, do it up. Ohio rockers Valley of the Sun are working on putting the tour together and sent me an email with their info and the potential routing they want the 10-day trek to take. They’ll be joining Truckfighters for the portion of the dates listed below. Let’s make this happen!
Fuzz rock powerhouses Truckfighters are bringing their groundbreaking brand of stoner rock to the US July 13-23.
Truckfighters will be joined for most of their US dates by Cincinnati, Ohio, band Valley of the Sun. The tour will stay on the East Coast/Midwest. Booking of the tour has just begun, any inquiries should be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
07/13 New York City
Truckfighters w/ Valley of the Sun