Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If Lo-Pan do anything at all, they keep busy. The Ohio-based fuzz frontrunners — do I need to call them the best American heavy rock band going right now again what I do well okay they’re the best American heavy rock band going — will partner with Capital City riffers Borracho for what I’ve no doubt will be a long weekender of bro downs and fuzz outs. Pennsylvania seems to be the lucky state playing host to most of these shows, but fear not, rest of the country, as I seriously doubt this’ll be the last time Lo-Pan and Borracho pair up. They’re like stoner rock Superfriends.
I wrote this press release, so here’s me quoting myself:
LO-PAN: Ohio Rockers Announce Tour Dates With Borracho
They’re the hardest working band in fuzz, and on July 18, Columbus, Ohio’s LO-PAN will continue their mission to obliterate eardrums nationwide. Late in 2012, the foursome took to stages across the land with High on Fire and Goatwhore, and in June, they joined forces with Torche and KENmode.
As they prepare to headline the Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 fest in Brooklyn on July 27 at The Acheron, LO-PAN be taking Washington D.C. up-and-coming heavy trio Borracho along for a few dates along the Eastern Seaboard. Both bands have new material in the works and will be showcasing material from forthcoming releases.
LO-PAN will share the stage not only with Borracho, but also with Philly riff-slingers Kingsnake, Pittsburgh metallers Sistered and Supervoid and Virginia-based Southern metallers King Giant.
LO-PAN AND BORRACHO ON TOUR: Jul 18, 2013 Pittsburgh, PA Howler’s w/ Borracho, Sistered, Supervoid Jul 19, 2013 Washington D.C. Rock N Roll Hotel w/ Borracho, Kingsnake, King Giant Jul 20, 2013 Stroudsburgh, PA The Sherman Theater w/ Borracho, Kingsnake Jul 21, 2013 York, PA The Depot w/ Borracho
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Especially when it’s not for some falling out or some weirdo band drama, it’s a bummer to see a band go through lineup changes. In the case of Washington, D.C. heavy riffers Borracho, their guitarist/vocalist Noah has been out of the country for some time and will apparently continue to be for the foreseeable future, and the band has decided to press on with writing and recording in his absence, putting guitarist Steve Fisher in the vocalist role after playing for some time as an instrumental trio. I’ve seen Borracho three times since Noah left, and watched Fisher go from singing just a couple lines, to singing a little more, to filling a full-on vocalist position in March in Philly, the transition seems wholly natural and it’s all the better that Borracho got to work out the shift on stage, where it matters most.
Speaking of what matters most, Borracho have a beer coming! Beeracho! Okay, maybe they didn’t call it that, but the Port City Borracho Smokin’ Brown Ale will have an official release show May 18 in D.C. with Wasted Theory, Cortez and WeedisWeed. Details, links and music follow:
Port City Borracho Smokin’ Brown Ale coming May 18!
We’re proud to be working with Port City Brewing Company to create a limited edition beer — Borracho Smokin’ Brown Ale — to be released on May 18 at The Pinch in Washington, DC. The beer will only be available at the 18th of May show, so plan to be there if you want to taste it! Check out the Facebook event page for more info!
Changing of the Guard
It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Borracho will continue on for the foreseeable future without our brother Noah. Guitarist Steve Fisher has ably taken over vocal duties full time and our forthcoming releases will feature Steve on vocals. Get the full scoop.
Lots of cool shows coming up this spring and summer. We’re stoked to play with our buds from Boston Cortez for two nights, and we’ll be joined by a tremendous bunch of bands over two nights, including Infernal Overdrive, Weed Is Weed, and When the Deadbolt Breaks.
May 17, 2013, 8:00pm The Station, Philadelphia, PA w/ Cortez, Infernal Overdrive, When the Deadbolt Breaks & The Company Corvette
May 18, 2013, 8:00pm Borracho Smokin’ Brown Ale release show The Pinch Washington, DC w/ Cortez, WeedIsWeed, and Wasted Theory
June 23, 2013, 6:00pm Moving the Earth Festival – Day 2 The Windup Space Philadelphia, PA w/ Convocation, The 91?s, Lazlo Lee and the Motherless Children & more!
I don’t know exactly when this show was recorded, but judging from Wino‘s hair and the fact that they open with “Freedom,” I’d put it around 1990. “Self-titled era” is what I decided to go with — maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later, but somewhere in there — and I hope if I’m wrong or someone has a more specific date to put to it, they’ll please correct my ignorant ass. Either way, it’s a mostly full set, 28 minutes, of VHS-ready bootleg The Obsessed, and that’s awesome enough to justify it as a Wino Wednesday pick, details or no details.
The Obsessed‘s self-titled was re-released on CD in 2000 by Tolotta after its original 1990 issue through Hellhound, but it seems to be it’s overdue for one of those 180 gram-type LP deals, and with a sound so classic, perfect for one at that. Hell, at least put the CD out again, maybe Southern Lord could step up and handle it, or Roadburn, who put out the Live Music Hall Koln vinyl last year. Just appears to me to be an album worth another round of appreciation. This live clip, of its day in terms of grainy picture and compressed sound, nonetheless proves that. If it’s a museum piece, that’s a pretty heavy museum.
It’s been over 70 weeks that I’ve been doing Wino Wednesdays, and there have been a few times in that span (some laughably early) that I’ve thought to myself that I’m running out of things to post or that it’s getting boring. Then I stumble on something like this and it’s just a reminder of how much treasure there really is out there and just how impossible it is to even begin to get a handle on Wino‘s long and storied career. Someone should write a book about it. Him maybe. Or, you know, me. Ha. While I wait for that call to come in, here’s this.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
D.C. sound attackers Borracho will issue their sorta-new 7″ Mob Gatheringin a physical pressing of 300 copies, 100 marbled orange and black and 200 black, through No Balls and Ghost Highway Recordings on March 12. They’ve put it up for pre-order and streaming through the Borracho Bandcamp now. The two songs on the single, “Mob Gathering” and the B-side “Short Ride (When it’s Over),” are taken from their initial demo sessions, prior to the recording of their Splitting Skydebut full-length.
To support the new release, Borracho are taking to the road for a weekender that will have them thrice kicking out the proverbial jams alongside Austria’s Been Obscene and Pittsburgh burl-bringers SuperVoid. Dates and more info about the single came down the PR wire today. Think I might have to hit that Philly show:
Borracho dust off tracks from the vault for new 7″ release
Doom Capital fuzz fanatics Borracho today announced the upcoming release of the “Mob Gathering” 7″ single, to be co-released in a limited edition of 300 copies (200 black, 100 orange/black swirl) via No Balls Records (Germany) and Ghost Highway Recordings (Spain) on March 12. Both “Mob Gathering” and the B side track “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” are available for streaming, and the 7″ can be pre-ordered on the band’s Bandcamp site.
These tracks represent the first new material released by the band since they debuted in 2011 with “Splitting Sky.” Since then they have released a 7″ for “Concentric Circles” b/w “Circulos Concentricos,” a 10″ for “Plunge/Return,” and pair of broadcast quality videos for “Concentric Circles” and All in Play,” all from that debut. But, these tracks are not newly recorded material. They have a long history.
Back in the spring of 2009, Borracho began work on what was planned to be their debut studio release, recording in an old, abandoned Art Deco mansion nestled in the woods of Arlington, Virginia. These early “Mansion Sessions” wrapped up that summer, but the band opted to not release these recordings. In the end, only two tracks from the mansion sessions were used as publicly available demos, and some of the material was re-recorded for “Splitting Sky”. The rest never saw the light of day…
…until now. Dusted off and polished up with a brand spanking new mix by Frank Marchand — who engineered and produced “Splitting Sky” — these two tracks offer an historical glimpse into the early sound the band was crafting nearly four years ago. Shorter, faster, and with the requisite twists and turns, they offer something new for the Borracho fan and those new to the band.
“We never expected to do anything with these songs,” declared bassist Tim Martin. “There is an unbelieveable saga behind those sessions, and for Frank to have so spectacularly rescued the original mixes, we had to give them a proper release.”
On the road again! Catch the band on the road soon, teaming up with Been Obscene (Austria) and SuperVoid (Pittlburgh PA) for a trio of shows in March, with friends El Grande, Neon Warship, and Clamfight joining them along the way. Three great shows, and three opportunities to grab a copy of the new 7” from the band.
March 28, 2013 Velvet Lounge, Washington, DC w/ El Grande
March 29, 2013 Howlers Pittsburgh, PA w/ Neon Warship
March 30, 2013 Kung Fu Necktie Philadelphia, PA w/ Clamfight
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Washington D.C.-based purveyors of burl Borracho sent word earlier today that their awaited Plunge/Return 10″ on Strange Magic Records will be available starting November 27. The track, which was on the CD of their Splitting Skydebut, didn’t make the cut time-wise for the LP release, and not wanting to leave it out, the band is giving it a special look on this limited release.
On the flip side of the record is a live version of “Grab the Reins” that was streamed here way back in August. Here’s the latest:
“Plunge/Return” gets the vinyl treatment with limited edition 10″ release
Fans, collectors, and vinyl completists rejoice! Today Borracho announced that “Plunge/Return”, the epic closing track from their 2011 debut Splitting Sky, will finally see vinyl release on November 27 via Strange Magic Records. The track — previously unreleased on vinyl — will be available on this limited edition 10″ slab, after being excluded from the limited edition vinyl LP released by No Balls Records because of its length.
The B side is a previously unreleased live version of “Grab the Reins” recorded in December 2011 at the Velvet Lounge in Borracho’s hometown of Washington DC. Three color options will be available — clear, transparent blue, and solid white — all on high quality wax. Hand numbered gatefold sleeves seal the deal on this collector’s dream.
Splitting Sky, from which both songs on the 10″ come from, was met with praise both critical and organic. The album scored glowing reviews and high end-of-year rankings from Heavy Planet, The Sodashop, The Obelisk, The Ripple Effect, and The Sludgelord, among many others. Having the lone track that didn’t make the LP pressed to wax is sure to please fans and collectors, as it sure as hell pleases the band.
“We’ve been plotting to do this release for so long, and we’re really excited and proud to be able to get Plunge/Return onto vinyl. The amazing presentation is icing on the cake,” remarked vocalist/guitarist Noah Greenberg. And so, 13 months after Splitting Sky got the vinyl treatment, it’s crowning epic now gets the treatment as well. Preorder is now available via the band’s Bandcamp page or directly from Strange Magic Records.
Wax available early at shows!
TODAY November 16, 2012 Mojo 13, Wilmington, DE w/ Black Cowgirl, Wizard Eye, Behind The Ghost & Wasted Theory
December 8, 2012 Kung Fu Necktie Philadelphia, PA The Workhorse III w/ Kingsnake & Brain Candlew
January 28, 2013 DC9 Philadelphia, PA w/ Bible of the Devil & Above the Silence
For more information on the band, reviews, and music, visit their website at borrachomusic.com.
Posted in audiObelisk on August 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
“Grab the Reins” was a highlight of Washington D.C. heavy lifters Borracho‘s 2011 full-length debut, Splitting Sky. The album (review here) has continued to earn the band a reputation for thickened grooves and if this live version of the track proves anything it’s that the record was no fluke. Borracho will be heading out for a couple shows — in D.C., Philly and Boston — before appearing at day four of this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom fest in New London, CT, and to give a taste of their tourly wares, they’ve graciously granted me permission to host the song for streamy-type goodness.
And if you’ve got 11 minutes to dedicate to groove, I can think of few finer uses for that time than this one. The band, who also recently appeared on Ripple Effect’s digital anniversary compilation, will be using this recording of “Grab the Reins” on a Strange Magic Records 10″ as the B-side to the previously CD-only “Plunge/Return.” That’ll be out this fall, and until then, this is the only way to hear the song, so please enjoy the stream on the player below, followed by a press release with the tour info and more on Borracho‘s latest doings:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Borracho to tour Northeast US, play Stoner Hands of Doom XII, and premiere track
Capital city stoner rock torch-bearersBorrachowill end out the summer of 2012 on the road, kicking off a Labor Day weekend road trip in their hometown before visiting Philadelphia, Boston, and capping it off with an appearance at theStoner Hands of Doom XII (SHoD) festival in New London, CT.
For the unconverted, Borracho’s 2011 debut Splitting Sky made a strong impression, hauling in gushing review after review, and boasting inclusion inten end-of-year top album lists. Upon its releaseThe Washington Post, gushed “Borracho has mastered the delivery of an infectious hook. ‘Splitting Sky’ is bursting with catchy riffs and skilled playing.”Heavy Planetproclaimed it “an instant classic,” The Ripple Effect dubbed it “an epic, earsplitting fuzz-fest,“ and The Sludgelord predicted “This album is going to be a classic of the genre. No question about it.” The band has since released a 7” single andvideo for album standout track “Concentric Circles,” and an enchantingvideofor “All in Play,” and plan a 10” single/EP release for late this year.
This will be the band’s second appearance at the SHoD festival, and the Tres Hombres tour will bring them to the city of brotherly love and New England for the first time. They’ll be joined in DC and Philly byOne Inch Giant from Gothenburg Sweden, Philly and Boston byBlack Thaifrom Boston, and Boston and SHoD byFire Faithfulfrom Richmond VA. Rest assured, every single stop will bring a kinetic display of fuzz and fury, matching geographically diverse bands who can crush skulls in their own unique ways. Don’t miss this show when it comes to your town.
TodayThe Obeliskpremieres a previously unreleased live recording of the band’s epic solute to apathy, “Grab the Reins.” VisitThe Obelisknow for the exclusive stream. Borracho also contributed a track to a new digital compilation, “The Ripple Effect Presents: Volume One – Head Music.” A previously unreleased live version of“All in Play”is available exclusively on the comp, and the entire collection is a free download. Both tracks were recorded in Washington, D.C. in December 2011 by Frank Marchand, who manned the faders for the recording of Splitting Sky. These live tracks offer fans who have not had an opportunity to see the band perform live a chance to hear how they bring it on stage. Don’t miss them when they hit a stage near you!
BORRACHO ON TOUR:
August 30, 2012 – 8:00 PM DC9 Washington, D.C. w/ One Inch Giant & Auroboros
August 31, 2012 – 8:00 PM Gunners Run Philadelphia, PA w/ Black Thai & One Inch Giant
September 1, 2012 – 8:00 PM O’Brien’s Pub Allston, MA w/ Black Thai & Fire Faithful
September 2, 2012 – 1:00 PM Stoner Hands of Doom XII El n’ Gee Club New London, CT w/ Iron Man, Black Pyramid, Elder, & more!
Not something I usually recommend, but you might want to go full-screen on this one. The brand new video for Washington D.C. heavy rockers Borracho‘s “All in Play” was directed by Richard Bomgren, who you might remember as having put together the desert-minded clip for Valley of the Sun‘s “Riding the Dunes.” “All in Play” works with similar methods, playing long and short cuts of breathtaking HD nature footage off each other in time to the music of the eight-plus-minute song.
The chief difference is that with “All in Play,” there’s a progression in the video, gradually pulling away from the earth until, finally, you’ve left it. The song comes off Borracho‘s 2011 full-length debut, Splitting Sky — the gatefold vinyl cover art of which you can see above — and if you haven’t had the chance to check out the band, kick back and enjoy the perfect opportunity to get to know them and see the lava flows and the craters that so perfectly complement their work.
Dig it, followed by an update on the band’s doings, which are manifold:
Capital City fuzz fanatics Borracho today unleash the video for “All In Play” – the follow up to the first single from their debut long player Splitting Sky. The video’s imagery focuses on the elemental nature of the Earth, and provides a scenic backdrop to one of the band’s defining songs. Watch it now on the band’s YouTube channel.
Conceived and created by RichardBomgren, a fan of the band from the north of Sweden, the new Borracho clip takes viewers on a journey from the center of the Earth, around the globe, and out into space in the span of the eight-and-a-half-minute track. Brilliant, awe-inspiring footage of earth, air, water, fire, and ice collide in glorious high definition with soaring guitars, bombastic rhythms, and gritty vocals, creating an audiovisual experience that must be seen and heard.
The video drops on the eve of the release of a new digital compilation from The Ripple Effect,The Ripple Effect Presents: Volume One – Head Music, which will feature a live version of “All in Play.” Recorded in Washington, D.C. in December 2011, the live track offers fans who have not had an opportunity to see the band perform live a chance to hear them in their natural setting. The comp will feature a mix of new and more established bands, with previously unreleased tracks being contributed by Devil to Pay, VenominJames, and BlackEarth, among many others. Keep your eyes open for its release in the coming weeks.
But that’s not all. Borracho will be appearing at the 12th Stoner Hands of Doom Festival on Sept. 2, 2012, in New London, CT, and will join brothers-in-arms Black Thai for shows in New York and Boston leading up to the festival. These shows mark the first live dates for the band since February, and will include some surprises for fans and newcomers to the band alike. More details on all live performances are below.
08/31 TBD, New York, NY w/ Black Thai, TBC 09/01 O’Brien’s Pub, Allston, MA w/ Black Thai, FireFaithful, TBC 09/02 The El ‘n Gee Club, New London, CT, Stoner Hands of Doom Festival
After a week that was fairly heavy on the self-releasing bands — what with Arrowhead, Black Space Riders, Crystal Head, Biblical and Sanctus Bellum — it seems only fitting to cap off with the likes of Borracho, who are one of the strongest yet-to-be-aligned heavy rock groups in the US right now, at least as far as I’m concerned. They released the above video for the track “Concentric Circles” from their 2011 Splitting Sky full-length debut while I was away, so not having had the chance to post it yet, it seems only fitting to do so now. Better late than never, and so forth.
All the better better late than never too, because it just so happens Borracho have a ton going on right now. They’re playing SHoD again this year, driving north to Connecticut for it, and I very much look forward to seeing them there. And I don’t know who else is involved, but they’re slated to have a track on an upcoming compilation from the Ripple Effect blog, and they’re currently in the studio wrapping some other material. Meanwhile, the Splitting Sky track “All in Play” will also get the video treatment come next month. So there’s much in the works for the Washington D.C. outfit, who — again — are just a killer band. Splitting Sky grew on me something fierce and continued to do so well after I reviewed it. I didn’t think much of it at first, but it turned out to be an album I just couldn’t put down.
In fact, thinking of it now, I can’t help but wish I brought the record with me to Connecticut, where I am for the weekend as is often my wont (and my want) in the summertime. I’ll be here until at least Sunday, which is refreshing, as I worked late every night this week and slept poorly, etc. Hopefully over this long Memorial Day weekend, I’ll have a chance to catch my breath a little bit, rejuvenate some and maybe not be such a miserable bastard when forced to return to real life. I won’t hold out much hope for that last potentiality — damn these unrealistic expectations! — but the rest doesn’t seem out of reach. Not while I’m here, anyhow.
Wherever you are, please be safe this weekend. Every other commercial I heard on the radio on the way up here was like, “If you drive drunk the cops are gonna rape your soul,” so please, take care out there. I’ll be kicking around on the forum every now and again and I’ve got a ton of email I need to answer — a really pathetic amount; I’m sorry if you’ve gotten in touch lately and I haven’t yet responded — but in general I’m going to try to have a good time and I hope you do the same.
Next week I’ll have new audio from Wino (you’ll never guess what day) and Black Shape of Nexus and, provided I have time to transcribe it, a truly epic interview I did the other day with Stephen Flam of Winter. It was badass, and definitely worth staying tuned for. It’s also friends-reviews week, where I won’t even attempt to feign impartiality in reviewing buddies’ bands. That’ll be fun, and I hope for you too. Please feel free to keep in touch via comments, likes, shares, email, forum posts, or whatever your preferred method as we move through this thing, and most of all, thanks for reading this week. More to come.
Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
*ALERT: There be spoilers ahead.*
I’d read the email wrong. Perhaps it was my subconscious knowing how little I want to be in Midtown Manhattan, ever, but the address where the press screening of the long-awaited Bobby Liebling documentary, Last Days Here, was taking place was 1619 Broadway, and not 1616, as I swore up and down to The Patient Mrs. We still made it on time, and when I walked off the elevator on the fifth floor of the building — which, while we’re relating things to movies, I’ll say looked like something out of The Hudsucker Proxy — I awkwardly stumbled through identifying myself to the guy with the clipboard and the press list on it and we soon made our way inside, to the front row, and waited for the film to start.
Filmmakers Damien Fenton and Don Argott of 9.14 Productions — who between them directed, edited, produced and operated the cameras — also serve as the guitar duo for Philadelphia instrumentalists Serpent Throne, who released their third album, White Summer/Black Winter (review here), in 2011. Between this and the recent screening of the Southern metal doc Slow Southern Steel helmed by CT of Rwake (covered here), I’ve had occasion recently to think a lot about the nature of self-examination as regards heavy and underground metal and rock. Last Days Here was made my professionals, absolutely — Fenton and Argott crafted the documentary Rock School in 2005, prior to taking on this project — but professionals well inside the culture they’re documenting.
On an anthropological level, that’s bad science. Ideally, you would want someone outside of the subculture analyzing and reporting on its characteristics. One does not expect in watching one of his nature specials that David Attenborough should be a penguin, so why is it that no one but headbangers can be trusted to convey the ideals of the heavy metal lifestyle?
The simple answer — and what I’ve come to reconcile myself to in watching these movies — is they’d fuck it up. You couldn’t have Last Days Here filmed by a group of people without a direct appreciation for Liebling‘s contributions to heavy metal and more specifically to doom. It would either fall flat, ring hollow, or collapse on its own insincerity. It takes someone who knows not only what that appreciation feels like, but how much of your life it can consume and how much of your worldview it can shape. I don’t think heavy metal is alone in this regard, but had Last Days Here been produced by “outsiders,” it would have been condescending and cynical, and since the emotional investment is part of what typifies the culture, it has to be present on the most basic creative level for a film like this to work.
There are arguments to be made on either side of that, I suppose, but the notion of the “true” and underground heavy’s seemingly endless search for authenticity is an essential piece of understanding that Last Days Here takes as a given. It’s part of what revived Pentagram in the first place for the latest run that winds up as the triumph with which Fenton and Argott cap their film — well, that and the birth of Liebling‘s son in 2010 — and it’s what serves as the driving motivation that leads Philadelphia native and former Relapse Records employee Sean “Pellet” Pelletier to spearhead that revival.
We open on a toothless Liebling living in his parents’ sub-basement, smoking crack and promising not to die before the film is completed. Going into it knowing that Pentagram successfully completed tours of the US and Europe since this time, that Liebling was able to stay clean long enough to oversee the recording and release of the first album in a three-record deal for Metal Blade — 2011′s Last Rites (review here) — it’s obvious he keeps that promise, but if I wasn’t familiar with the band, it would be easy to see that as a foreshadow of his death to come. He looks neither long for the world nor particularly thrilled at having to spend another day in it. His arms are bandaged from what’s soon to be revealed as perpetual scratching and picking off his own skin as a result of crack-induced paranoia. He is a mess of injection scars and infection.
Last Days Here is ultimately sympathetic to Liebling, but at times brutally honest. We meet Bobby‘s parents, Diane and Joe Liebling, who’ve had to come to terms with their son’s failure at life and love him anyway. Their role as enablers of his lifestyle, such as it is, is touched on but never explored, and for a moment, it’s a bit like an episode of the tv show Intervention gone wrong. Before long, Pelletier (who is not to be confused with fellow Philly resident Chris Pelletier, the US label manager for Season of Mist; that’s a mistake I’ve regretted making a few times) is introduced as the second of the movie’s major focal points (that’s not to use the word “characters” to refer to people who actually exist), and he tells his story of discovering Pentagram‘s music at a record show with his then-girlfriend and having it change his life to the point of putting together the compilation of unreleased ’70s-era material, First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection), which was put out on Relapse in 2002 and instrumental in raising the profile of the band’s influence on doom, as well as somewhat ironically becoming one of their most influential releases in and of itself. All of a sudden, Witchcraft made a lot of sense.
A full history of Pentagram, its members, its legacy and its breadth of impact on the Maryland/D.C. doom style and underground and commercial metal is a project that the format of a feature-length documentary simply cannot cover, and Fenton and Argott must have either learned that early on or realized it going into the filming. Instead, Last Days Here crafts a narrative after giving a basic background from interviews with the likes of original drummer Geof O’Keefe, Joe Hasselvander, Victor Griffin, soundbyte-worthy journalist Ian Christie, Pelletier and others as well as telling the stories behind the band’s several failures — the audition for Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley they flopped, the lambasting Liebling gave Blue Öyster Cult engineer Murray Krugman (who appears to discuss the incident and the fame the band could’ve had in one of Last Days Here‘s several cringe-worthy segments) that unraveled their chance for a major-label contract — and laying much of the blame where it seems to belong: on the troubled singer writhing on his couch and rambling about parasites he needs to get out from under his skin, going to the hospital, signing a contract to turn over his record collection to Pelletier, Argott and Fenton if he ever smokes crack again.
He does, and so far as I know, keeps his records, and that’s one of the moments where the line between the filmmakers and the subject are the most blurred, but it’s also one of the most honest scenes in the movie, which one imagines is why it made the final cut and what must have been hundreds of hours of footage was cut. As regards the narrative that emerges in Last Days Here, it’s the story of Pelletier and Liebling — their troubled friendship (one gets the impression, particularly in hearing from O’Keefe, Hasselvander and Griffin, that Liebling knows no other kind) and Pelletier‘s attempts to get Bobby clean and put together a new Pentagram album with the original lineup. O’Keefe squashes those hopes after an entertaining trip down memory lane of some of Pentagram‘s negative reviews from their early days, but what shines through without any real outward mention is Pelletier‘s passion for the idea and for the band. As charismatic as Liebling is on camera — and even at his most addled, he is that; I had my own experience with it interviewing him early in 2010 — it’s Pelletier‘s belief in Liebling that drives the movie and serves as its emotional crux.
Liebling meets and falls for Hallie, a woman literally half his age (he’s 52, she’s 26), but though she eventually becomes his wife and the mother of their child, their own tumultuous relationship is seen more as an extension of Liebling‘s many addictions than the shot at redemption it ultimately wound up being. As Liebling moves to Philadelphia from the sub-basement to be near Hallie, it soon turns sinister (you can hear the musical shift in the Stars of the Lid drones that serve as a soundtrack when Pentagram‘s own music doesn’t) because of his drug use and Hallie dumps him, breaking his heart. We see Liebling as devastated, but it’s not heartbreak as much as it’s an addict needing a fix and she’s the fix. He pines, he moans, he gets tossed in jail for violating a restraining order she’s had put on him, and it’s Pelletier who puts his arm around Liebling and says how glad he is to see him after he bails him out. This is one of the most subtle and pivotal scenes of Last Days Here, because while Pelletier says this, he also adds that at least while Liebling was in prison, he knew where he was, reminding of an earlier confession that while Bobby was in jail, at least he could get some other work done.
Still heartbroken, Liebling returns to live with his parents and puts together a new Pentagram around the lineup of drummer Gary Isom, guitarist Russ Strahan and bassist Mark Ammen (all of whom would be gone by the time Last Rites came out). Its formation is somewhat nebulous, but Pelletier is nonetheless thrilled when he finally hears about it, only to be disappointed as Liebling continues using and mourning his loss of Hallie. Going to jail had cost Pentagram a deal with Phil Anselmo‘s Housecore Records — Anselmo shows up and appears as little more than a cartoon caricature of himself during his time on screen; I wanted to imagine the cameras shutting off and him asking in a perfectly clear and semi-British accent, “Shall we do another take, then?” — but Pentagram is moving forward anyway, mostly, from Liebling‘s perspective, as a means for him to prove to Hallie that he can not make it as a person more than a human being.
A sentimental pang went off in me when I saw the Metal Maniacs logo on the poster for Pentagram‘s 2009 comeback gig at Webster Hall. I didn’t go to that show (because that’s how much I hated working in New York), but seeing Liebling prevail on stage is Argott and Fenton‘s climax of Last Days Here. Off to the side of the stage is Pelletier, crying happy tears for Liebling‘s being able to pull it off this time as opposed to the several other flubbed comebacks mentioned as part of the buildup to the show, and in an interview shortly after their set, he says it was the best night of his life. His belief in Liebling, which doubtless came at the advice of those around him in his private life and, at times, himself, is validated, and the film fades to black after Bobby in repose and drunk on joy, quotes Forrest Gump in saying “life is like a box of chocolates.” As much as it kind of shot that moment in the foot to see it reduced to commodified film dialogue — the stuff of pop culture cliché — one almost has to applaud Argott and Fenton for leaving that in, unmanipulated. Muting him after the sentence before, which was poignant enough, and keeping him on screen in slow motion during the fade might have also worked, but it’s not really worth speculating.
Since it was finished before the album was released, Last Rites and Victor Griffin‘s return to Pentagram are never mentioned. Instead, an epilogue comes in seeing Liebling cooking breakfast and calling Hallie into the room. The two have gotten married, Liebling is living clean, and there’s a baby boy on the way. “There’s gonna be another me!” Liebling hams for the camera, while Hallie averts her eyes, clearly showing a preference for the man off-screen than the one on it. Nonetheless, this is grown up Bobby Liebling we’re being shown. Maybe 25 years too late, but grown up all the same. He has a bank account, he accompanies Hallie to the doctor to hear their son’s heartbeat for the first time, and in the very last shot of the movie, in a still photo, he and Hallie stand with their child, Robert Joseph Liebling, born in August 2010. He’s still posing for the camera, and there’s no guarantee that life is going to keep its serenity going forward — Argott and Fenton were wise not to make any such ridiculous promises — but you get what you get, and it’s certainly a happier ending than the opening promised.
After the credits rolled through, The Patient Mrs. and I joined the group of writerly-types in the hallway to head back downstairs and out. In the elevator, in a discussion between two critics in which I took part, one man told enough, half-laughing, that Last Days Here was well made, but that he had a hard time sympathizing with a pedophile — referring to the age difference between Bobby and Hallie Liebling — and I was astonished at how someone could so easily miss the point of the movie. Last Days Here isn’t the story of a musician who chases down a young girl and tricks her into bearing his seed, it’s the story of addiction, and each of Liebling‘s behaviors prior to getting clean as relates to Hallie can — and I’d gladly argue, should — be seen in that blue light more than any other.
The fact that at 26, Hallie – however sweet-faced or youthful she might appear next to her husband’s grizzled visage — was eight years beyond legal adulthood at the time of filming and at least deserves the respect of being allowed to make her own decisions on how and with whom to spend her days no matter how counter those decisions might run to one’s own perception of social norms and mores, is another issue altogether, but most importantly as regards Last Days Here, if Liebling proved able to correct his addictive behavior on all levels, including Hallie, and a healthy relationship was able to emerge from that, well, that’s more than a lot of people get. Hallie herself acknowledges the age difference and realizes that some people might think it’s weird. “If they think I’m only with him for his money, he doesn’t have any,” she says. And she’s right. If there wasn’t a strong emotional attachment there, why bother putting up with an addict whose track record of failures spans decades?
Hearing that, more than anything else, cemented for me the assertion above that you have to be within a subculture to fully understand it and that without the foundational appreciation for Liebling‘s creative work, no accurate portrayal of who he is and what he’s done as a person and as the leader of Pentagram, for better or worse, could be enacted. Last Days Here is that, and it’s a skillfully crafted, expertly edited narrative of friendship, love, failure and redemption in doom. I don’t know what the film’s appeal to those outside the sphere of the music will be, and I don’t have to care. If Pentagram have ever been anything, it’s been understood and embraced by a select group of people on whose lives they’ve made a serious impact. If that turns out to be the case with Last Days Here as well, the film can only be called more accurate for it. Doom on.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Doom Capitol heavy rock upstarts Borracho have two new offerings for your 180 gram pleasure, but even more telling than that is the fact that for two releases, they’re signed with three labels. Hey, by the way, your band is onto something. I can’t wait to hear what these dudes come up with for their next record, but in the meantime, here’s the news on the new fancy edition of their Splitting Sky debut and even newer 7″ single.
Local D.C. stonerrockers, Borracho, have added multiple vinyl releases to their offerings. As of today, Borracho’s debut full-length album, Splitting Sky is available on 180g blue-splatter-on-clear vinyl produced in limited quantities by Germany’s No Balls Records. The release will be accompanied by hand screened and numbered sleeves.
Adding another number to stable, Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and D.C.’s own Fandango Records have come together to release the first single off of Splitting Sky in both English and Spanish. “Concentric Circles”/”Círculos Concéntricos” is being released today on 180g gold vinyl in both the US and Spain and is accompanied by alternate English or Spanish sleeves.
These, along with the full-length CD and other releases, will be available Friday as the band brings their dirty and hypnotic brand of stoner rock to Comet Ping Pong in NW D.C. “It’s always great to see a new viable venue in town. We’re looking forward to rocking it,” reports bassist TimMartin. Borracho will be joined by D.C. legendary thrash and speed metal hounds Deceased and Richmond fuzz and doomslingers Windhand. It’s metal for the whole family.
All releases are available through the band’s website, borrachomusic.com. Comet Ping Pong is located at 5037 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., (202) 364-0404. Show starts at 10:00pm this Friday, Oct. 21.
A funny thing has happened since I reviewed Splitting Sky, the first full-length from Washington D.C. outfit Borracho. I haven’t listened to the record in a couple weeks — right up until I put it on just now to write this — and yet as recently as this morning before my daily caffeine load up, I had the chorus of “Grab the Reins” stuck in my head. Of all the debuts I’ve heard and reviewed this year, Borracho‘s may have left the strongest and most lasting impression.
For that alone, it’s worth featuring the band, but after I got to see them in-person opening for Truckfighters in Manhattan, I felt like I understood even better what it was about the songs that had stayed with me to such an extent. By combining Clutch-style riffy groove with just a touch of dirt-rock grit and burl into solid rhythms and topping it with truly killer lead work from guitarist Steve Fisher, Borracho have crafted a sound that’s like a nod to rock heads, as though, while they’re standing in front of you playing, they’re going, “Check out this shit I came up with. It rules.”
More than anything else, what Splitting Sky sounds like is the first statement from a band looking to leave a lasting mark on the scene. The reception has been huge, and aside from wanting to get the band’s take on that, I thought it would be interesting to find out their take on where they fit in the long-running D.C. legacy of heavy/doom rockers, and a bit more info on their basic bio and how they came together from the now-defunct units Assrockers and Adam West. Drummer Mario Trubiano was kind enough to field the interview on behalf of the band as a whole.
Borracho is Trubiano, Fisher, bassist Tim Martin and guitarist/vocalist Noah. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions, and expect much more on these guys in the future.
1. How did Borracho get together? What happened to bring about the end of Adam West and Assrockers, and was there a point where you knew Borracho was going to be the main priority?
We were all buds who played music together for years in Assrockers and AdamWest. In 2007, AdamWest did not go to Europe to tour for the first time since 2000, and Assrockers’ activity level was pretty low while we were looking for a new bass player. I kicked the idea to Steve and Noah about doing something with me on drums, Steve on guitar, and Noah singing, since the three of us have all been big fans of stoner rock for a long time. They both liked it in theory but we didn’t get right on it. As soon as Tim heard about it he wanted in, and he was in.
We had the Assrockers rehearsal space available, so one night we finally got together, Steve came in with his gear and the rest of us took up one of the others’ rigs. I think Noah had two or three songs he’d been working on, and Steve had a LOT of riffs, parts, and sections, and we just jammed that night. There was undeniable chemistry, but it was pretty rough.
In 2008, we got together regularly, and even cut a two-take, live-in-studio version of our song “Rectify” that we arranged to have on a split 7” with AdamWest to be available for what was to be the farewell AdamWest tour in Europe. But that year was pretty focused on the new AdamWest record ESP and that tour. Assrockers was still writing, playing a few shows, and rehearsing, with BruceFalkinburg on bass.
By 2009, with Adam West fully retired, Borracho began to hit a stride. We had a lot of songs ready to record, had played some cool shows with our buds from Ol’ Scratch, Cortez, and Sun Gods in Exile, but we weren’t playing out too much. We began tracking what we thought was going to be our debut in a fly-by-night studio in an old vacant mansion in Arlington, Virginia. We actually moved into the mansion for rehearsal during the same time. It was a super cool spot, but the outcome of the sessions wasn’t up to snuff for a bunch of reasons, and it actually was never finished at all. Some progress on the recordings continued into 2010, but we were all pretty disappointed with what we got and ultimate shelved it. We ended up with some reasonable demos of “Concentric Circles” and “Never Get it Right.”
During this period I started realizing I was becoming more of a drummer than a guitarist, which was a pretty startling revelation. Bruce left Assrockers, and the band moved to a space that we didn’t ever fully get comfortable in, and really just stopped playing with any endgame. 2010 was notable for Borracho only for launching our website, and getting together with more old friends we had shared the stage with before in our other bands. We loved bringing The Brought Low to D.C., Scott [Fuse] from Cortez came down here with his other band Black Thai, and we met and played with the guys in El Grande, who have become our local brothers in rock.
2. Tell me how Borracho’s sound developed to the point of Splitting Sky. The album has been so well received, and Borracho’s style seems to have a pretty diverse range of influence. What inspires a song like “Concentric Circles” as opposed to “Grab the Reins?”
Most of what ended up becoming Splitting Sky was material we all collaborated on. Our writing process became pretty fluid – usually starting with a riff and a jam. Steve is a riff-aholic!! I’d say the earlier days when we were all getting more comfortable with our instruments, we were more structured. We’ve built a much more collaborative process in the last year or so, and our newer material came together pretty quickly just from jams during rehearsals. Splitting Sky has a mix of tunes – from those that were brought in by Steve or Noah and some that we really wrote all together. I think that really is the reason why you can hear some of the difference in influences.
We actually have a bunch of great songs that didn’t make it onto the record, more because they didn’t mesh with other songs the way the eight tracks from Splitting Sky just work together. We actually have quite a bit of faster material – tunes that didn’t make the record, but that don’t lack in quality, just space/time. We’re hoping to put these tunes to good use soon!
We definitely all are huge fans of all kinds of music, and the area of overlap in our tastes is pretty much squarely the sound you hear from us. That being said, I wouldn’t expect our next record to sound a lot like this one. We don’t feel any pressure to be limited in our approach, and so far the new material we’re working on has its own vibe and we won’t know what the next song will sound like till we jump into it. I think we all feel fortunate to be able to play music with the same guys for five and 10 years, and be able to sustain the chemistry we all have even after changing instruments. Our sound just comes from clicking as musicians and friends.
3. How did you get hooked up with Frank Marchand, and how was recording with him? Did you do the album all at once? What was the time in the studio like?
Ah, we thank our boys from El Grande, who brought him along to do sound at a couple shows we played with them in D.C. and out in Maryland in their neck of the woods. Amazingly Frank asked us if we wanted to do some recording with him because he really liked our sound. The timing of it was just right. We had wasted a lot of time on our previous recording venture, and really wanted to lock down a time and place to do a proper recording session. We met Frank at the exact right time in December 2010, and immediately made plans to get in the studio in March to cut the record.
Working with Frank at such a nice studio that was literally minutes from all of our houses made for one of the best recording experiences any of us have ever had. Beforehand, we weren’t sure if we had the time to record everything we wanted to record. We talked about doing an EP. In the end we said fuck it – let’s do as much as we can. The energy was right, the sound was amazing, and we were well rehearsed. I cut all the drums in the first weekend and we ended up keeping most of the live guitar and bass tracks. We went in another weekend session to finish up guitar overdubs and track vocals, a day to mix and a day to master, and we were done. It all went extremely smoothly. You don’t want to be in a studio and feel like you’re working. I mean at times it’s laborious, but overall you want to feel like you are creating, you want to be psyched. We felt pretty quickly that we were onto something good, so we were in fantastic spirits. It exceeded our expectations as far as the experience and the outcome go.
4. The D.C. scene has been strong going back decades at this point. Do you see Borracho fitting in with the D.C. or Maryland pedigree of bands at all?
This is a fitting, but funny question that could be answered in a bunch of different ways. First off, we’re humble guys. We play music because we love it. It’s a flattering prospect to be considered a part of some pedigree. But it feels different in D.C. than maybe it did in Baltimore and the area of MD most known for the doom scene. The past 10 years in D.C. proper hasn’t been very nice to heavy bands. We’ve felt almost alienated in this town at times. I think there’s something to be said about the bands you’re referring to – Pentagram, Spirit Caravan, Clutch, Sixty Watt Shaman, etc. – actually all being guys from Maryland. Part of that scene was that a lot of kids grew up together, they were mostly all friends. It kind of nurtured itself.
Borracho is a bit different by nature because we’re all from all over the place. It’s interesting that we met here – our only shared experience is here and it’s been that way for years so certainly there is a good amount of Maryland dirt cooked in. But we all take something from our respective scenes in Boston, New York, Colorado, the Midwest, and even London, where Steve spent some formative musical years. We don’t have these influences of what our direct peers, who we grew up with and played in a bunch of other bands with would have.
5. You guys are playing Stoner Hands of Doom XI next month at Krug’s Place in Frederick. How did that come about and is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing?
We actually talked to Rob and Cheryl back in 2009 about playing, but it didn’t work out. As soon as I heard they were bringing it back this year I dropped a note to them to see if they still had any space. We pretty much picked up one of the last slots. The timing is actually just right. With our album just out we’re hoping that some folks will come with the intention of seeing us, but in the end there’s a huge potential for exposure that a regular show doesn’t get you. We’re looking forward to it. We definitely see a show like this and even the one we just played in NewYork as amazing opportunities to get in front of more fans of the this kind of music. If we can make some new fans opening up the entire festival Friday evening then we’ll have succeeded. So – if you are coming to SHoD please come early Friday to catch us!
I for one am excited to see Earthride who I haven’t seen in ages, ElectricMagma from Canada, and Gatesof Slumber who are playing Friday night too! But mostly we’re all stoked to just take in a ton of good tunes, meet and hang with the other bands, and get to be fans for a few days.
6. Any other shows coming up, plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’ve got some shows in the works in September and October, including a CD release show. We’ll be announcing each of them as they are confirmed, but we should have some shows in the D.C./Baltimore area, a trip up to the northeast, and a trip down south. The vinyl release ofSplittingSky is scheduled for early-September on NoBallsRecords, and we’ll be selling them at shows, on our site, and through NoBalls directly. We also have another announcement that we’ll be making soon about another vinyl release. You’ll have to wait for that one.
Lastly, thanks to everyone in the scene for all of the support, and for making this one of the best underground scenes for bands and fans. We look forward to delivering quality music long into the future, meeting a lot of great people – fans and bands – and continuing to nurture this scene with all of you!
Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a tricky proposition, playing in NYC on a Friday night. On the one hand, it’s pretty much the ideal, right? Get a bunch of people trapped in a small room on a small island — there’s really nowhere to go but to a show. On the other hand, there’s at least three shows for each of the eight million people on that small island, so it’s easy for a band to get lost in the mix. Truckfighters, on their first American run, made a landmark out of the Cake Shop on Ludlow St. Though I’ll certainly have other associations with it as well, it’s going to be a while before something comes to my mind when I think of the venue faster than, “Oh yeah, that’s the place Truckfighters played.”
A full 41 people took advantage of the “say The Obelisk and get in free” thing by the last tally I heard — which was about 38 more than I expected — and the vibe was insane. Like YOB/Dark Castle earlier in the week, it seemed like the people who were there were really glad to be there. And there were a lot of them. By the time Borracho were done, I turned around and the room was packed out. Weirdos, button-down yuppies and in-between-types came and went, but for most of the night, it was consistently hard to get to the bar for all the people standing around.
That has its ups and downs, which I probably don’t need to explain, but good for all the bands having heads to play to. The running order was Borracho, Blue Aside, Kings Destroy and Truckfighters headlining, and the show got going a bit before 9PM, allowing extra time for a crowd to arrive for Borracho, who were up from Washington D.C. solely for this one gig. Seemed like a haul, but if the bonus is you get to play with Truckfighters, I can’t imagine it wasn’t worth their time. They got a good response from the crowd too, played (unless I’m mistaken) four songs from their recently-reviewed Splitting Sky album, and were a fitting start to the evening.
I stand by the critiques I made of Borracho in that review, but it’s worth noting that as each song in their set began, I recognized it immediately. Sure, the record’s still relatively fresh in my mind, but I found myself anticipating the chorus of “Grab the Reins” and looking forward to what was coming next — even hoping for “Never Get it Right” — which I took as evidence of a certain level of quality in their songwriting. They have some growing to do yet, some smoothing out of their processes, but there’s something there. It’s not hollow stoner repetition, and while some of their parts wander, their potential as a unit is plain to see in the live setting. I bought a copy of Splitting Sky, and I think it’s going to be really interesting to hear how they develop with their next batch of material.
Their energy was infectious, in the meantime, which actually wound up not doing any favors for Blue Aside, who were decidedly more laid back and stoic in their on-stage presence. The Boston space doom trio started late following some technical problems with their bass head (an Ampeg SVT that they then put front and center on the stage), and shared vocal duties with an incongruence of atmosphere. Drummer Matt Netto had an almost frantic anxiousness in his playing that was contrasted by guitarist Adam Abrams and sandal’ed bassist Joe Twomey, both calmer and more methodical. Nonetheless, they gave a decent showing of material from their The Orange Tree EP, even if they were the odd men out on the bill.
Blue Aside also managed to separate the yuppie chaff, which was fine by me. It’s not that the band was bad, just out of place, and most of the crowd, which was anticipating a rock show, probably wasn’t ready for the spaced-out excursions they had on offer. That, combined with the conflict between energies as noted, didn’t do them any favors. Still, taken on their own level, they did well with what they had. Would be hard for anyone to play those songs bouncing off the walls.
At this point, I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen Kings Destroy, but it was awesome to catch them as a part of this lineup. I missed them with Sourvein in Brooklyn, so this was my follow-up to their Santos Party House gig with Orange Goblin, and as ever, they did not disappoint. They locked in a groove with “The Whittler” from …And the Rest Will Surely Perish and held it down across their whole set. “The Mountie” was especially tight, and the same new song they played last time around — now graced with the title “Holy Dice” — fit right in with the rest of the selections: “Planet XXY,” “Medusa,” “Dusty Mummy” and “Old Yeller” to close out. Good times.
And I mean that. In talking to guitarist Chris Skowronski after they were done, he said he didn’t think they’d ever felt so on point, and having attended as many of their shows as I have, I can’t help but agree. Each time I see them, they’re better than the last, and whether it’s the raised stage of Santos or the declining floor in the Cake Shop basement, they bring it, plain and simple. They’ve reportedly got more new stuff in the works, so here’s looking forward.
It had already been a good night before Truckfighters took the stage. If it had been just Borracho, Blue Aside and Kings Destroy for the show, it would have more than justified the search for SoHo parking. But Truckfighters made it something different entirely. There was no irony to what they did, no cheeky self-awareness masking insecurity. They took the stage, the crowd and the whole damn place. It was theirs. No worries. They gave it back after an hour or so.
I can’t remember the last time I saw people dance at a show. Not even just rocking out — legitimately dancing. Of course, it might have helped that guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren only stopped jumping up and down to take the occasional stroll through the crowd. It might have been the best use of a wireless rig I’ve ever seen. As he made his way toward the back of the venue, soloing all the while, the fuzz in his tone was epic, and the set played out like the stoner rock ideal. You could have filmed it and used it as a promo video, people were so excited.
It was kind of odd timing for Truckfighters to come to the States, since their last album, Mania, was released in 2009, but if this is just how the timing worked out and this was when they could all do it, fine. They killed. They managed to keep their intensity up for nearly the entire set, and it was easy to understand what prompted Josh Homme to say they’re the greatest band he’s ever seen, since they showed much of the same fluidity in their songs as does the Queens of the Stone Age guitarist/vocalist when playing live.
That is, though the songs had their given structures, there was an element of freedom in the trio’s handling of them. Bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm had his parts to sing and obviously he, Dango and drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson weren’t getting up there and improvising for an hour, but each stop was held out longer for crowd interplay, and where most bands set a clear divide between themselves and their audience — “I’m here and you’re there” — Truckfighters engaged completely. You wanted to be a part of it, to go along with it, and they wanted to bring you. And in the case of Dango and someone’s girlfriend in the audience, they also wanted to make out a little bit toward the end of the set.
They had fun. It seems like such an easy thing, but it wasn’t about mocking something, or being rockstar assholes, or performing in some theatrical sense. They delivered a slew of material and closed with “Desert Cruiser” from 2005′s Gravity X debut, and they sounded like desert rock kings doing it. It was dangerous, out of control and completely fucking awesome. Motion was constant. For the second time in a week, I feel like everything I have to say about a show is hyperbole, but it’s absolutely true. Truckfighters paid off in full every bit of the anticipation I’d had to see them, and I have no idea when I’ll see a rock show that’s that good again.
I was handed a tray of drinks as their set wound down from the bar next to which I was standing, and I placed them on the stage next to Dango, like an offering. Of course, they got off stage preceding an encore and in that time some spoiled yuppie scumbag girls stoke their beers, but the sentiment of appreciation was there, anyway. The room cleared out on the quick after that encore, and I too was splittsville, not imagining any way the evening could possibly get better.
Who knows when they’ll have another album out, and who knows when and if they’ll ever come back. While they played, none of it mattered. All there was was fuzz and glory.
Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
On a conceptual level, there’s almost nothing new about a double-guitar four-piece from Washington D.C. getting down with riff-led groove, and yet, listening to heavy rockers Borracho – who make their full-length debut on the self-released Splitting Sky (released on No Balls Records in Germany) – there’s no denying the formula works. Fuzz guitars lead the way through eight tracks/57 minutes of burly, American riff rock, underscored with formidable bass thickness, crashing drum punctuation and topped with gruff vocals. Splitting Sky is among the dudeliest albums I’ve heard this year – I’m pretty sure my beard grew some just in listening to it for this review – and though Borracho don’t veer too far from their sphere once they establish it, the songs accomplish what they set out to do and then some, rocking with authority and providing at least superficial if not structural shifts to hold listeners in place.
Borracho formed in 2007 as a side-project from reshuffled members of Adam West and Assrockers, and issued their first release as a split with the former in 2008. The ensuing three years has brought demos and shows, and after a recording session with Frank Marchand (engineer for the varied likes of Unorthodox, Nothingface, Deceased and Bob Mould), emerged with Splitting Sky. It’s an album with melodic consciousness but more emphasis on riffs and grooves, and vocalist/guitarist Noah (first name only) delivers lyrics with a throaty “hey whoa yeah” inflection that, for the life of me, I can only refer to as “stoner rock voice.” He’s largely unipolar in his approach, keeping the feel even for a spoken part in 11:35 closer “Plunge” and waiting three minutes for “Never Get it Right” to amass sufficient heaviness before coming on with what is nonetheless one of Splitting Sky’s stronger performances.
Vocalist Neil Fallon of Clutch is an easy comparison point there, but even more appropriate for the earlier cut “Grab the Reins” – the only other song besides “Plunge” to top 10 minutes at 11:05 – where the riffing from Noah and lead guitarist Steve Fisher is even more suited to the “Big News I & II” conversational lyrical style. Marchand’s production seems to push everything as loud as possible, which is never a bad ethic for a rock band of Borracho’s ilk to have, but does so at the sacrifice of some of the dynamic range of the material. “Grab the Reins” and “All in Play,” which follows, each boast several movements, and though the band’s transitions between them are smooth, when Fisher begins his solo section “All in Play,” it’s easy to already be lost in the material so that the last few minutes of the track – which feature some underlying swirls and a payoff that night otherwise be among Splitting Sky’s most satisfying – pass unnoticed and don’t get the appreciation they deserve. That said, “All in Play” to “Never Get it Right” is the most seamless shift on the album, and if the tradeoff is I need to listen a few more times to fully understand what’s preceding, I’ll take it.
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Pentagram story is as long as the story of heavy metal itself. In 2011, vocalist Bobby Liebling marks 40 years since the inception of the seminal Washington D.C. (it’s the “Doom Capitol” for a reason) outfit, and with the much-anticipated release of Pentagram’s Last Rites – a title they’ve been tossing around since this latest inception of the band got going in 2009 – the start of their fifth decade could legitimately be a new beginning for them. Liebling, who has a legacy of drug abuse trumped only by his band’s influence, is reportedly clean and staying that way. Now married with a daughter (of doom), he’s also reunited once more with guitarist Victor Griffin (also of Place of Skulls and Death Row), whose mere presence goes a long way in making the difference between Last Rites being Pentagram, the band, and The Bobby Liebling Show. Together with bassist Greg Turley (also Place of Skulls and Griffin’s nephew) and Place of Skulls drummer Tim Tomaselli, Pentagram 2011 present the first new studio album under the moniker in seven years, and easily the best batch of new material they’ve had in more than a decade.
Of course, Last Rites isn’t all new material. Catchy single “Into the Ground” and hard-hitting closer “Nothing Left” date back to Liebling’s pre-Pentagram band, Stone Bunny’s 1970 album, Nothing Left, “Call the Man” dates back to demo tapes from 1971, and Last Rites highlights “Walk in Blue Light” and “Everything’s Turning to Night” were available in rougher versions on Relapse Records’ First Daze Here (2002) and First Daze Here Too (2006) collections of vintage ‘70s-era material. That still leaves six of the 11 total tracks unaccounted for in Liebling’s vast and sometimes murky catalog, and though a song like “Treat Me Right” has that classic Pentagram feel, it’s easy to hear the modernity on songs like “8,” “Windmills and Chimes,” “American Dream” (on which Griffin takes the lead vocal with Liebling backing during the chorus), “Horseman” and “Death in First Person,” which, while definitely still riff-based and in line with what one might expect from Pentagram, have more complexity to them – especially in Griffin’s guitar – than the older, more rudimentary material. I’ll add also that my estimation of what’s new and what’s not (apart from what can be found on prior releases) is speculative on my part and just based on what I’m hearing in the music. In a career as long and
The effect that mix of old and new has is that Last Rites comes across as a healthily varied collection of songs. “8” is perhaps the most satisfying of the new-sounding cuts, and the record as a whole isn’t without its missteps, but taken in the context of both the Pentagram history and 2004’s disappointing Show ‘em How outing, it’s hard to think of Last Rites as anything but a net victory both for the band and longtime fans. They make the right move opening with “Treat Me Right” and Griffin’s signature (and fucking excellent) guitar tone ringing out like a beacon letting you know this is, in fact, a Pentagram record you’ve just put on. The song is short, repetitive of its title line, and as I already noted, vintage Pentagram. I’d say it’s definitely older, but can’t find it on any previous release, so can’t be sure. In any case, it’s an excellent show of what this version of the band – over the years, more people have been in and out of Pentagram than almost any other of the Doom Capitol bands – can do. To be fair, they’ve had something to prove all along since Liebling got the band going again, and it’s obvious the intent behind starting Last Rites with “Treat Me Right” was in shutting up the better part of the doubters out there among both critics and the general listening public. There’s no arguing with it.
Second track “Call the Man” has, like most of the songs, an excellent solo from Griffin, but also a classic stomp in its central riff that seems to go further than the mere 3:49 it lasts. Liebling is one of the rare vocalists in metal who can give a sense of his showmanship on a studio album and not fall completely flat, and that’s clearly at play here, but when it comes right down to it, the lyrics leave me wanting and there are other cuts on Last Rites I think might have worked better to back up “Treat Me Right.” To the credit of the band as a whole, Turley doesn’t get lost in the melee of leads and crash hits, and the material across the board sounds thick and heavy. There’s something to be said for striking that balance, and even though there are some less than landmark moments throughout, the sound of Last Rites in general is perfect for what Pentagram should be doing after 40 years. They’re neither trying to ape their ‘70s sound (as many are), nor affecting some bizarre and wrongly interpreted take on “today’s metal.” The vision of Last Rites is that of an accomplished doom band claiming their due. As the album proceeds, they seem more and more likely to get it.
It’s the first of the two Stone Bunny inclusions and Pentagram played it on their most recent live shows, and sure enough, “Into the Ground” proves a high point of Last Rites as well. It’s an excellent balance of doomed atmosphere, classic heavy rock and Griffin’s added ringing notes to the chorus do well to blend it in among the newer of the songs. Liebling seems to relax a bit on the vocals as compares to “Call the Man,” and as he double-tracks the chorus, his voice seems to be in the best shape it’s been in, in a long time, and it doesn’t sound like studio trickery. Last Rites is unquestionably a modern production, and there are liberal effects put on Liebling’s voice, but the underlying performance is there to start with, as it has to be for him to be able to pull off the material. “Into the Ground” leads almost directly into “8,” which starts with Griffin playing subdued notes over Tomaselli’s tom work before launching into one of Last Rites’ most effective riffs. The verses return to that quieter feel, and Liebling plays to that, but a driving chorus ups the energy, and as the longest song on the album at 5:02, it’s also a highlight among the newer-seeming pieces. Griffin shows personality in his encompassing layers of guitar, and though it’s moodier than “Treat Me Right” or even “Into the Ground,” the lyrical chronicle of Liebling’s dark times feels heartfelt and is all the more compelling for it.
Posted in Features on March 15th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
To quote legendary Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling, speaking about himself, “I’m one of the original dinosaurs that made it through the ice age.”
It doesn’t really matter that the dinosaurs died millions of years before the last ice age, because Bobby‘s right anyway. Not only for a rock and roller, but for any human being at all to have survived the life he’s led so far into his existence is beyond fantastical. The stories he has to tell are guaranteed to blow your mind like the first time you heard “Forever My Queen,” and having spent an hour with him on the phone to conduct the nearly 5,400-word interview you’re about to read, I can honestly say that you don’t even have to ask him about them; he’ll just tell you. Bobby Liebling is an open book.
Three years sober, married to wife Hallie with a full touring schedule, a movie about his life, the prospect of a new album and a baby on the way, Liebling‘s drug years — decades, really — now serve him as vital memories of everything he’s come through to get where he is today. He says he’s blessed and I don’t know how many other explanations there are for it than that, because to hear him tell it, he probably should have died multiple times over by now.
Throughout the course of our conversation, Liebling went from laughing raucously about the mob guys in the Philadelphia neighborhood where he and his wife now live to audibly welling with tears talking about last year’s untimely passing of Blue Cheer bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson. And even as Pentagram guitarist Russ Strahan announced his departure from the band on March 14 (which Liebling hints at in our conversation), it leaves the door open for new lineup opportunities that will supposedly be announced soon. For now, Pentagram is rounded out by bassist Mark Ammen (Unorthodox) and drummer Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, Valkyrie).
What you’re about to read is probably the most fascinating and, again, open, interview I’ve ever had the pleasure to do (and I barely asked any questions!), and it is with great honor that I present it to you, as true to how it happened as possible, in Q&A form after the jump below. Please enjoy.