Buzz Osborne Announces Solo Tour; This Machine Kills Artists out June 3

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

True to form of his main outfit, the Melvins, guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne has announced that he’ll be supporting his forthcoming solo debut, This Machine Kills Artists — out June 3 on Ipecac — with an extensive, 38-show coast-to-coast, north-south-and-in-between tour. It’s an intimidating list of gigs, and it starts out May 17 at the Scion Rock Fest before launching in full on June 10. If he’s not a singer-songwriter yet, chances are he will be by the time this run is finished.

I defer to the PR wire:

THE MELVINS’ BUZZ OSBORNE ANNOUNCES EXTENSIVE THIS MACHINE KILLS ARTISTS SUMMER TOUR

THIS MACHINE KILLS ARTISTS SET FOR JUNE 3 RELEASE

Melvins’ front man Buzz Osborne has confirmed a seven-week U.S. tour, which kicks off June 10 at The Casbah in San Diego.

Osborne previously announced the release of his first solo, acoustic release, This Machine Kills Artists, which is set for a June 3 release via Ipecac Recordings. Rolling Stone recently premiered the song “Dark Brown Teeth”, describing the track as “doomy, ill-angled” and with the “Beefheartian edge his band is renown for.”

Osborne will document the solo outing through an ongoing travelogue on Noisey.com.

May 17 Pomona, CA Scion Rock Fest

June 10 San Diego, CA The Casbah
June 11 Echo Park, CA The Echo
June 12 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory
June 13 Fresno, CA Strummer’s
June 14 Sacramento, CA Assembly
June 15 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
June 17 Eugene, OR Wow Hall
June 18 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
June 20 Seattle, WA Neumo’s
June 21 Bellingham, WA The Shakedown
June 22 Spokane, WA The Hop
June 23 Missoula, MT The Palace
June 24 Billings, MT The Railyard
June 26 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
June 27 Minneapolis, MN Grumpy’s
June 28 Milwaukee, WI Shank Hall
June 30 Grand Rapids, MI The Pyramid Scheme

July 1 Columbus, OH A&R Music Bar
July 2 Detroit, MI Small’s
July 3 Cleveland, OH The Grog Shop
July 6 South Burlington, VT Higher Ground
July 7 Portland, ME Portland City Music Hall
July 10 Allston, MA Brighton Music Hall
July 12 Hamden, CT The Ballroom at The Outerspace
July 13 New York, NY Santos Party House
July 14 Brooklyn, NY The Wick
July 15 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
July 17 Baltimore, MD Ottobar
July 18 Charlottesville, VA The Southern
July 20 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle
July 22 Atlanta, GA The Basement
July 23 Birmingham, AL The Bottle Tree
July 25 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s
July 26 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
July 27 Austin, TX Red 7
July 28 Sam Antonio, TX Limelight
July 30 Tucson, AZ Club Congress
July 31 Pioneertown, CA Pappy and Harriet’s

Tickets will be available this Friday, April 4.

www.facebook.com/melvinsarmy
www.themelvins.net

Buzz Osborne, “Dark Brown Teeth”

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On Wax: Mystery Ship, Bridgeburner b/w Chinatown 7″

Posted in On Wax on March 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’ve got a mind to dig it, Mystery Ship don’t skimp on the vibe. Their straightforwardly-titled EP II (review here) was an attention-getter last year, and though it comes accompanied by Adam Burke artwork of a much different style (that sleeve is white, despite any shadow in the picture), the new, subsequent Knick Knack Records 7″ single, Bridgeburner b/w Chinatown, follows suit in continuing the development of Mystery Ship‘s retro grooving. There’s an awful lot of heavy ’70s loyalist rock and roll out there, but an awful lot less of it comes from the States, and on “Bridgeburner” and “Chinatown” — both of which are denoted on back of the record sleeve as being the A side — the Seattle four-piece make a solid argument for American contribution to the form of classic heavy rock.

Unpretentious and unaggressive, but still weighted in tone and forceful in their push, their take isn’t wholly unlike that of like-minded East Coasters The Golden Grass, though Mystery Ship have an inherently bluesier style and get down with some post-Graveyard shuffle, particularly here on “Bridgeburner,” which sets out on a warm bassline from Alex Hagenah (also vocals) that sets an organic tone for the entrance of guitarist Josh Kupferschmid, lead guitarist/vocalist Michael Wohl and drummer Travis Curry, none of whom disrupt it. Like both songs are listed as the A side, both also start with some in-studio mention of whether or not the tape is rolling, so that live feel is no accident as “Bridgeburner” moves from its strong hook into a Wohl led break that’s somewhat airy despite the tension held in Curry‘s toms. A boogie good for the soul, and not the last they have to offer.

Hagenah and Wohl trade who takes the lead vocal on “Bridgeburner” and the more swing-heavy blues of “Chinatown,” but neither song is wholly one or the other up front, and that works to the benefit of both and the distinction of one from its flipside. “Chinatown” only feels like it’s missing snaps to be complete in an alternate-universe lounge kind of way, but it makes due with its classy-in-spite-of-itself feel and offers a chorus somewhat more in the pocket than that of “Bridgeburner,” but making sly use of clean tones in the verse only to feed to dirtier leads later on, of course bookending with a last refrain, delivered more fervently.

They’re in and out in under eight minutes — unless it takes you 10 to get up and flip the record — and since both “Bridgeburner” and “Chinatown” were recorded in Jan. 2013, they more or may not show where Mystery Ship are now, more than a year later, but the quality of the songwriting makes Bridgeburner b/w Chinatown a significant-enough stopgap that it’s worth digging into. I’ll be interested to hear how Mystery Ship‘s penchant for variety plays out over the course of a debut full-length, and just how bluesy they’ll go when given the opportunity to really meander. Could a 10-minute psych/blues freakout be in the works? Got my fingers crossed.

Mystery Ship, Bridgeburner / Chinatown (2014)

Mystery Ship on Thee Facebooks

Mystery Ship on Bandcamp

Knick Knack Records

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Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty: Enter the Fire

Posted in Reviews on March 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

To look at the grim cover art for the two full-lengths Mos Generator have released since guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed got back together with bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson, one might expect rambling, depressive miseries. Their 2012 return, Nomads (review here), on Ripple Music, boasted a cawing black crow on a gravestone silhouetted against a red sky, and though its tones are brighter in beiges and yellows, the trio’s follow-up, Electric Mountain Majesty — which also serves as their Listenable Records debut — features an Adam Burke painting that’s striking and ultimately no less mournful, cavernous skull eyes staring directly at the viewer while a totem eagle drawn on hints at some lost sense of ritual. If that’s the titular majesty that waits on top of the Electric Mountain, we’re boned, however, within the 10 tracks of the album itself one finds a much different picture being crafted by the Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock specialists, though Electric Mountain Majesty is a bleaker album thematically and in its execution than was Nomads. Well comfortable in his role as auteur, Reed once again engineered, mixed and mastered the album himself, but in so doing seems to have pushed the sense of physical space in the recording much further than the last time out, giving tracks like the bass-heavy “Enter the Fire,” richly grooved “Neon Nightmare” and even the speedier title-track an open-air feel. It’s a bigger sound, but it suits the songs well, and as ever for Mos Generator, it’s the songs themselves that come across as the primary concern.

Whether in Mos Generator, Stone Axe, HeavyPink or any number of the other bands and projects he’s had along the way, Reed‘s genius has always rested in the crafting of memorable, structured songs, and no, I don’t think “genius” is too strong a word. He’s a natural and practiced songwriter, and over Electric Mountain Majesty‘s press-it-to-vinyl 43 minutes, there resound in songs like “Black Magic Mirror,” “Nothing Left but Night” and opener “Beyond the Whip” the kinds of choruses one anticipates from an artist of such accomplishment. The chief distinction is in the character of these songs. In “Nothing Left but Night,” which is the second cut behind “Beyond the Whip,” Reed intones, “You may find me on the edge of the light/But deep inside me there’s nothing left but darkest night.” This after one of the album’s several already-impressive solo sections. It’s a long way from Nomads‘ “I’m a traveler in a cosmic ark,” and more along the lines of some of the sorrowful lyrical ground Stone Axe covered in its heavy ’70s style, leaving an underlying moodier side to what still remain upbeat heavy rock numbers. Maybe Electric Mountain Majesty was to be Mos Generator‘s doom album, and if so, fair enough in their pushing stylistic bounds, but musically, “Beyond the Whip” still shuffles, and “Breaker” and “Electric Mountain Majesty” have a motoring rush, all the more so the latter, that works in contrast to lines like, “You can believe what you want to believe/But we all die in the end/Don’t waste your time trying to save my life/I’m dying now the way I want to,” from “Breaker.” Taken as a whole, it’s hard to decide where the real heaviness on Electric Mountain Majesty lies, in the music or the lyrics.

Read more »

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In the Round: Reviews of Hobosexual, Midryasi, Operators, Pylar and System of Venus

Posted in Reviews on March 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a big world and there’s a lot to review in it, so I won’t do much to delay. This time around covers both coasts of the US as well as Europe and even Australia, proving once again that heavy knows no borders and seems to be at home wherever it goes. It’s a pretty varied batch this time as well, but should provide some fun along the way.

Hobosexual, II


Billing themselves as “Seattle’s only rock duo” — which is charming if unlikely — guitarist/vocalist Ben Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva self-release their second album as Hobosexual (I see what you did there…) in the aptly-titled 12-tracker, II. It’s a record that brims with attitude from the chugging, semi-Melvinsian opening of “Switchblade Suburbia,” but there’s a depth of tone and swagger to back up the smacktalk in their songwriting. The 38-second “Ghettoblaster” is Hendrix-style feedback and soloing, playing directly into “Hostile Denim”‘s lead-obsessed Rolling Stones hook ‘n’ push. Topped off with striking artwork from Adam Burke of Fellwoods, II proves very much of its Pacific Northwest origins — a magical land where everybody has a beard and they all listen to stoner rock — and while the tongue-in-cheek snark of “Sex Destroyer” might be over-the-top to some, Hobosexual avoid the minimalist aesthetic some duos use as a crutch for lazy songwriting, make old riffs new again and showcase some melodic depth in Harwood‘s vocal layering, positioning songs like “The Black Camaro Death” and the penultimate “BMX” highlights arguing against style over substance amid party-ready riffing and don’t-have-a-fuck-to-give panache. Their 2010 self-titled debut worked in similar stylistic parameters, but II strikes as more confident overall, and it’s a record that you’re either going to fall prey to its sleaze or shoot down early and go about your night. If the album’s a party, I feel at times like my invite must have gotten lost in the mail, but Hobosexual provide a decent reminder nonetheless that there are those capable of turning heavy rock into a good time and put it on the listener to ask why they should take it so seriously in the first place. FOAD: Fuck off and dance.

Hobosexual, II (2013)

Hobosexual on Thee Facebooks

Hobosexual on Bandcamp

Midryasi, Black, Blue and Violet


Strange things are afoot throughout Italian four-piece Midryasi‘s third album, Black, Blue and Violet. The multifaceted heavy outfit run a gamut from Pentagram-esque riff doom to Pink Floyd-infused progressive texturing, all the while keeping a clarity of sound that can likely be traced to the metallic roots of bassist/vocalist Convulsion, who aside from having played in DoomSword can be traced to a number of more extreme outfits. His brother, DoomSword vocalist Deathmaster, shows up on opener “The Counterflow,” but Black, Blue and Violet never goes quite so far into one subgenre or another, the keyboard work of Umberto Desanti always adding an edge of prog to whatever else might be happening, whether it’s the otherwise doomed “Diagonal” or the dramatic verses of the title-track. Released through My Graveyard Productions, Midryasi‘s third ultimately finds its atmospheric crux in an intelligent construction, but perhaps feels somewhat distant in its performance, coldly executed. That’s an inherent tradeoff for the complexity of its arrangements, maybe, and there’s something to be said in argument for the skillful calculation at work across these seven tracks that run smoothly with the underlying drum work of Sappah and fluid guitars of Paolo Paganhate and hit their high-point with the rumbling “The Nuclear Dog,” which provides the most memorable hook of the long-player and seems to revel most in the psychedelic and progressive weirdness that the whole album moves within. The six-and-a-half-minute “Hole of the Saturday Night” closes out with a heavy rock riff and vocal delivery from Convulsion that moves in some of the same (stone) circles as Venomous Maximus, though that’s likely a coincidence of common influence between the two, and with a smooth, consistent production, Midryasi wind up sounding most of all like a band working on its own level. And successfully.

Midryasi, Black, Blue and Violet (2013)

Midryasi on Thee Facebooks

Midryasi on Bandcamp

Operators, Contact High


Raucous Berlin six-piece Operators made an impression in 2012 with the unabashed new school stoner rock of their self-titled debut (review here) now a little older, a little wiser, a little more drunk, the band returns with Contact High, a record that wears its influences on its sleeve in much the same manner as the Satellite Beaver, Neume and Stonehenge patches grace the varsity jacket of the figure on the album’s cover. “Kiss of De Ath” resides at the end of side A of the eight-track/39-minute offering and offers some of Operators‘ most satisfying boogie as Konni‘s organ and the guitars of Jacky and Dirk align for an intricate but still-rolling groove of a midsection build while Stonehenge‘s Enni steps in as a guest singer, but it’s vocalist Eggat who makes the first impression on opener “Terra Ohm,” setting up a strong hook for the rest of Contact High to live up to. The album plays out unpretentious and riotous in kind, and while they haven’t necessarily settled down since their first outing, it’s easy enough to hear Operators as having solidified their approach somewhat. Konni‘s keys work just as well alongside the rhythm section of bassist Dän and drummer Säsh as with the guitars, and Eggat proves a formidable enough presence on cuts like “If I Burn,” “Bring on the Spice” (I don’t know whose guitar solo that is, but kudos) and the driving “Contact High” to reign the rest into cohesion. The six-and-a-half-minute “Arrows” shows a more subdued side that, somewhat surprisingly, never quite explodes into the noisy chicanery found elsewhere. Could it be that Operators are growing up right before our ears? I don’t know, but the results are fascinating and display more even potential from these Desertfest veterans.

Operators, “Terra Ohm” from Contact High (2013)

Operators on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzmatazz Records

Pylar, Poderoso Se Alza en My


Grand soundscaping, an underlying sense of ritual, and a pervasive experimental bent — it shouldn’t really be a surprise that Spain’s Pylar boasts some manner of allegiance to forward or at least side-to-side thinking doomers Orthodox and the avant extremists Blooming Látigo, but the unit’s Knockturne Records debut, Poderoso Se Alza en My, strikes as a decidedly more conceptual work, with one song spilling into the next, religious themes crossing through minimalist atmospheres and a periodic lurch emerging that’s as much a trip aurally as mentally. Two longer cuts, “El Pylar Se Ha Alzado” (13:49) and “Al Fin Te Contemplo Entre las Ruinas del Tiempo (Pentagrammaton)” (12:11) sandwich five not-quite-as-extended segments as the opener (the longest on the record; immediate points) and closer of the 68-minute behemoth, which one would be thoroughly mistaken to dub a “compact” disc. It is, instead, expansive and challenging, rife with droning tension, vague shouts in Spanish seeming to describe some torment either physical or spiritual amid art-jazz percussion in another dimension’s time signatures. Will not, will not, will not be for everyone, but Pylar‘s first is a fascinating and dense work that one could easily spend any number of months dissecting, only to still come up with an incomplete picture of its scope, and for those with a high tolerance for the experimental and indulgences of noise, the intense swell of “La Gran Luminaria” could easily prove essential as the culmination point for what seems to be an album-long drive toward enlightenment and the sundry terrors it might carry with it. If you think you’re bored of the mundane, Poderoso Se Alza en My is ready to pull back the veil and toy for a while with what you used to think of as “your” consciousness.

Pylar, Poderoso Se Alza en My (2013)

Pylar on Thee Facebooks

Pylar on Bandcamp

System of Venus, System of Venus


I remain a sucker for Aussie heavy. System of Venus guitarist/vocalist/graphic designer Fatima Baši? gets into a doomly melodic range that reminds at times — as on “Dancing in Hell’s Garden” — of Alunah‘s Soph Day, but the rough edges in her guitar and Amanda‘s bass add a more distinct ’90s feel to the seven-track/36-minute proceedings on their full-length debut and first release, as the crunch in “Monster Ego” will further attest. Drummer Matt Lieber shows himself comfortable with the quick tempo changes in that song and elsewhere on the self-titled, self-released offering, and though the centerpiece “Dr. Dumb” works quickly to earn its position in the CD’s tracklist, ultimately the opener “Blackrock” and the closing duo of “Nothing” and “Beast” are the strongest statements the album has to make in showcasing the diversity nascent in System of Venus‘ approach, “Beast” rising to an apex that though satisfying feels somewhat shortlived in providing the payoff for the record as whole while “Nothing” holds to a quieter, brooding sentiment that plays off the foundational bassline of “Gannets Drive,” giving what might’ve otherwise easily turned out to be a demo an LP’s overarching flow and speaking to an early awareness of quality construction from the Melbourne trio, though “Gannets Drive” seems to cut out early, building to a hit that’s snapped mid-crash, so perhaps there remain some kinks to work out one way or another. All the same, taken as a whole, System of VenusSystem of Venus satisfies as the debut of a band feeling out where they want to be sonically, and bodes well for where they might grow their sound somewhere between grunge, doom and heavy rock.

System of Venus, System of Venus (2013)

System of Venus on Thee Facebooks

System of Venus on Bandcamp

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Mos Generator’s Electric Mountain Majesty Coming April 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

An update off the PR wire today brings a solidified April 15 release date for Electric Mountain Majesty, the new album from Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers Mos Generator. With preorders available through Listenable Records, the reinvigorated trio also have a video planned for the title-track to the follow-up of 2012′s Nomads (review here), and while I’m looking forward to that and to the album as a whole, past experience tells me that when Mos Generator decide to cap an album with a song called “Heavy Ritual,” it’s going to be one worth hearing. You might recall “This is the Gift of Nature” from Nomads was one of that record’s many high points.

One or two songs have started to leak out from the record, and you’ll find “Enter the Fire” under the news below. Cheers:

MOS GENERATOR to Release New Album “Electric Mountain Majesty” April 15

Highly Respected Power Trio Returns at the Very Top of Its Game with Fuzzbombing New LP

Washington state hard rock heroes MOS GENERATOR will release their new LP Electric Mountain Majesty on April 15 via Listenable Records. Recorded at HeavyHead Recording Company by guitarist / vocalist and renowned engineer Tony Reed (who co-produced SAINT VITUS’ return album Lillie: F-65), Electric Mountain Majesty is the follow-up to MOS GENERATOR’s 2012 release Nomads. Electric Mountain Majesty is available to pre-order now at this location.

A sprawling celebration of heavy amplification, fretboard psychotropics and kick ass heavy rock, Electric Mountain Majesty is unquestionably MOS GENERATOR’s finest hour of its decade-plus existence. From chest-beating metal salvos like the massively loud “Nothing Left But Night” and “Black Magic Mirror” to more nuanced, slow-burning fare like the spellbinding “Enter the Fire” through to colossal closer “Heavy Ritual”, the album is an amalgam of nasty and effervescent, alternating between ugly doom tones and lofty emotiveness, resulting in an epic, colorful listen brimming with richly-nuanced, timeless music that drips with melody, muscle and cool.

“Electric Mountain Majesty’ is an attempt to fuse our live energy and our usual controlled studio sound into something that I think is a nice forward step in the Mos Generator sound,” says Reed. “We didn’t over think the writing and recording process and we let more of our unconventional influences creep into the songwriting. In both composition and recording technique, this is the most diverse Mos Generator album to date.”

Track listing:
1.) Beyond the Whip
2.) Nothing Left but Night
3.) Enter the Fire
4.) Spectres
5.) Neon Nightmare
6.) Breaker
7.) Early Mourning
8.) Electric Mountain Majesty
9.) Black Magic Mirror
10.) Heavy Ritual

https://www.facebook.com/MosGenerator
http://www.listenable.net/
http://shop.listenable.net/category.php?id_category=165

Mos Generator, “Enter the Fire” from Electric Mountain Majesty (2014)

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 4: El Corazon, Seattle, WA

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.23.14 — 12:47AM Pacific — Sat. Night — El Corazon, Seattle, WA

“High drama…” — Steve Murphy

I’m going to try to make this quick, because my laptop clock says 3:47AM and I can’t help but feel like that’s accurate. Tonight at El Corazon in Seattle. First night of the tour. Weather as advertised. Volume as advertised. Doom of many shapes. Place filled up as the night went on. A special cheers to the giant who decided it was fun to dig in elbows up front during Pentagram.

Tonight was a five-band bill. One of several that I know of on this run. Front to back and jetlagged, it was a hell of a way to start the tour. Good crowd though, unless you count the aforementioned giant. Which I do. In bruises.

Here’s how it went down:

 

Ancient Warlocks

I know the deal is the tour and the touring bands, and I’m way down with that or I wouldn’t be here in the first place, but I was really glad I got to see Ancient Warlocks play. I also got to meet guitarist/vocalist Aaron Krause and guitarist Darren Chase and it was good for the soul. Their easy-rolling fuzz and trad-stoner grooving must have been a good match tonally for Mars Red Sky a few years back when they teamed up, but they were locked in and not at all out of place on the stage. When I asked Chase if they had any copies of their album to buy, he said they were sold out. It was easy to see why when they played.

Lesbian

They were a late add to the lineup, but a welcome one. Lesbian crossed genre lines fluidly and touched on black metal, doom and even some thrash with natural ease. They’re the kind of band that, if I lived in this town, I’d probably go see a lot, but as it is, this was the first time. Even after Ancient Warlocks loaded their gear off the stage, there was a considerable wall of amps, and I think an entire layer in that wall belonged to Lesbian. Hard to argue with the density of sound they were able to elicit from them, two guitars and bass running in gleeful aural excess. Bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous said their last song — unless I’m mistaken about this — was about a “really horny dinosaur.” I didn’t catch the title, but it fucking ruled.

Kings Destroy

At this point, I feel comfortable saying I’ve seen Kings Destroy more than any band in the last three years. If that’s not true — and it is, by a mile — then it certainly will be by the end of this trip. Tonight was the first night of the tour, and it took them a song or two to click, but somewhere right around a new song called “Embers” that has, among other things, the most complex vocal melody I’ve heard from the band, they locked it in and were full-throttle the rest of the five-song set. “The Mountie” into “Casse-Tete” worked well to open, but once they slammed into “The Toe,” I think they made a lot of new friends. Leaving the rest of the band on stage, vocalist Steve Murphy hopped down into the crowd for closer “Blood of Recompense,” walking away when the song was over and handing the mic to a random guy in the crowd who, as he told his friends after putting it back on the stage, was tempted to make a dick joke, but decided against it.

Radio Moscow

Radio Moscow had the leg up. On the universe, it seemed, but at least on the other two touring acts, since they’d already had a couple gigs under their belt over the last few nights. It’s a crazy change in vibe to have the San Diego-based trio playing between Kings Destroy and Pentagram, but they hit into “I Just Don’t Know” from 2011′s Brain Cycles and the room, which by then was packed out, was theirs. They also brought the Mad Alchemy light show with them, though the oils were going for all the bands and I guess will be for the duration of the tour. Not going to complain, and it works especially well for Radio Moscow, who tossed in a new song full of intricate starts and stops that served as a reminder of how ridiculously tight the band’s rhythm section, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone are, though it’s guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs who takes the bulk of the solos, each one earned and soaked in wah.

Pentagram

I don’t care who you are or what you’ve seen, watching Pentagram play “Forever My Queen” is one of the great joys of doom. When I came back from dinner before the show started, I got to watch some of their soundcheck, so I knew “Be Forewarned” was coming — you might say I was forewarned — but “8″ from Last Rites and “Dying World” from the self-titled were cool to hear alongside staples like “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “All Your Sins” and “When the Screams Come.” While they were setting up their gear, someone in the crowd looked up and said, “Holy shit, it’s Victor Griffin!” and that about sums it up. His tone and Bobby Liebling‘s frontman presence are a rightfully legendary combo, and even though it was the first night of their tour as well, they sent the Seattle crowd into the evening well aware of who and what they had just seen. The current Pentagram lineup, with Griffin, Liebling, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley already sounded like pros, but I’ll be really interested to see where they’re at by the time we roll into San Francisco.

We loaded out the gear from El Corazon about as fast as we could and on the way back out to the Red Roof Inn, I asked Jim Pitts to stop the van so I could jump out and take a picture of the Space Needle. No regrets. Tomorrow morning, 11AM, we head to Portland. It’s after 3:30AM now. I think everyone was a little more relaxed with the first show down. Myself included.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 3: The Hills Have Eyes

Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.22.14 — 4:16PM Pacific — Saturday — El Corazon, Seattle, WA

“You could auction this moment…” — Chris Skowronski

Woke up at about seven this morning (on this time) and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and went downstairs. Had some coffee and sat for a bit in the Red Roof Inn lounge, which was where the muffins probably would’ve been if there’d been any. Back upstairs to bed until after 11AM, shower, then waiting to come here, basically. Rewatched last week’s episode of True Detective and some of the long-since-jumped-the-shark second season of Twin Peaks while Carl and Chris warmed up their guitars by jamming first along to Carl’s iPad and then on some new riffs. I’m not coming into this trip with any great romantic ideal about life on tour. My impression is it’s a lot of waiting, a lot of driving, and then shows. Dudes are out getting drinks and I’m sitting at the venue listening to music and waiting. Rob and I miss our dogs. Load-in was 4PM. With seven people, it didn’t take long.

Jim Pitts is a fucking pro. He seems like a good-natured guy on first impression and he definitely came prepared: Hand sanitizer, Febreeze, baby oranges, work gloves. Dude has it together. I have no idea how the Kings Destroy dudes got in touch with him, but he’s stepped into a wrangler mode that he’s obviously comfortable with. The van’s pretty cushy, which is fortunate because there are some long drives coming up. The one from the hotel was not much to speak of in length, but a first look at Seattle was interesting. People knew what they were doing with building a town by the time they got out here. Cities in the Northeast, — Philly, Boston especially, New York too once you’re out of Manhattan’s grid — feel like they just kind of happened. I guess because they did. There’s a reason states out here have square borders and the East Coast is shaped like fuckall.

No sign yet of anyone from the Pentagram or Radio Moscow camps. It is early. There are a few other vans around outside, but I don’t know who’s who. Ancient Warlocks go on at eight. El Corazon looks like a cool room. Wider than it is long, which I like. Big stage. Spirit Caravan are coming through here and the flyer has a picture of Shrinebuilder on it. Had a laugh at that, but the space itself is right on. Blue floor in the bar, black in the stage area, and there’s a smaller side room. I think there’s a six-band bill in there tonight. Five in here, so that’s a total of 11 bands in two rooms. I was trying to buy a bar in Boston over the last several months but it fell through. I could run a place like this. No prospects for doing so (anymore) or funding to make it happen, but if I could end up with a space like this, I’d do it forever.

We’re staying again at the Red Roof Inn. Not sure if there will be room for luggage in the back of the van with the amps and such, but if we have to rent a trailer, tomorrow’s the day to find it out with a relatively short trip to Portland. I feel anxious for the first night of the tour, which is odd since I’m not actually playing.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 2: Take it Slow

Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.21.14 — 11:30PM Pacific — Friday — Red Roof Inn, Seattle, WA

“On official review…” – Rob Sefcik

They say you find interesting things when you travel. I’ve found the neatest headache! Hit me about an hour into the flight and I immediately flashed back to Last Night Me, who, when he was packing his bags, couldn’t imagine any reason he might need the ibuprofen in his carry-on. What a jerk. Add your stereotypical screaming kid, some cramped quarters and flight attendants of all stripes and preoccupations bumping my shoulder on way by, and that’s basically the story of the flight. I put on the Young Hunter EP while we were landing and I was pretty sure it was going to crash the plane. At that point, I was ready.

I sat in a row with Carl and Steve from Kings Destroy, having met the band at the gate at JFK. Rob and Chris were a couple rows up and back, respectively, and Aaron was on the other side of the aisle from me. We were late taking off, but the sunset was expansive out the gate window, so you take the good with the bad. They’ve all gone off to a bar somewhere down the way. 13-something-or-other it’s called. I’ve turned on the AC and will shortly get myself some ice water and I dug out the ibuprofen and had a protein bar and I think that’ll do it for me. On their way out, Chris reminded me that “this is where the stories happen.” He’s not wrong, but something tells me I won’t be light on stories.

Carl had left his bag on the plane. The picture above was him after going back to get it. Spirits are high, laughs were had. Jim Pitts, who’s reportedly driving the van, was stuck in traffic and is due to arrive here at the Red Roof Inn shortly. I’m looking forward to meeting him. Steve informed he’s an oldschool hardcore dude. When I asked, “Who isn’t?” he rightly said, “You.” Touche. We took a shuttle over from the airport. I’ve seen no needles from space, no Robbie Cano. Tomorrow, I figure. Need to hit a bookstore as well. Forgot a book. Fucking amateur hour.

Back east, it’s coming up on three in the morning. I don’t know what the plan is for tomorrow, but then, I didn’t know what the plan was for tonight. I’m here though. I’ve never been in this city and I’m looking forward to seeing it by daylight, and I’m hardly out living it up, but at least I’m here. Feels like an accomplishment.

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Friday Full-Length: Earth, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Earth, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (2008)

If Earth had decided after their 2005 comeback studio album, Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method, to put out another full-length of similarly-minded Dead Man-inspired Americana desolate soundscapes, I doubt there would’ve been many complaints. I think in some ways the heavy underground is still coming to grips with that album, now almost a decade later, and it has served as a point of influence for many in a wide variety of subgenres probably even more than something like Earth 2 – Special Low Frequency Version did for the band in the early ’90s. Maybe that’s overstating it. Still, you get the idea. No one would’ve argued with Hex Pt. 2.

That’s not the band’s nature, it seems. None of their albums or even their bevvy of live releases splits, etc., really makes any effort toward retreading past ground, and when they released The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull on Southern Lord in 2008, all you had to do to realize how different its character was from its predecessor was look at the artwork. It’s like the color wants to punch you in the face. And the elaborate font of the band’s logo — or the huge one, if you have the vinyl — left a much different, much fuller impression than the stark, grainy black and white of Hex. The music on The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull proved similarly colorful, richly thematic, patient as ever and no less evocative than was the record before it, if somewhat harder to place in time and atmosphere.

More open, in other words. The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull was a powerful development of the ideas presented on Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method, and while the album hasn’t had the same kind of sonic legacy in the half-decade since its release, it continues to resonate and radiate a rich, human beauty, and I continue to like very much the places it takes me when I put it on, as now.

Tonight The Patient Mrs. and I drove south to Connecticut to have dinner with her mother and grandmother ahead of her birthday, which is next week. Two hours each way and we just got back a little while ago, so yeah, the Earth record is about fitting with my energy level right now. It was a hell of a week, and I feel like I could really, really stand to get out to a show in the next couple days, so I’m going to look around and see if there’s anything I can make happen in that regard. It’s been a while at this point. Feels like too long.

I’ll review whatever it is, should I prove successful in finding something, and look out next week as Ben Smith from The Brought Low will answer The Obelisk Questionnaire, and I’ll have reviews up of Slough Feg and maybe that SunnO)))/Ulver collaboration, since this drone seems to be hitting so right. I’ve done two weeks in a row now of review roundups; one went over decently well and this week’s seems to have fallen utterly flat. Okay then. I’ll give it another go this week and see what happens.

Also look for a writeup on Blackwitch Pudding‘s new vinyl if I can find a way around showing the needlessly sexist album cover, and though I’ll be traveling south (yes again) next Friday and won’t have much by way of posts during the day, I might get a podcast ready to go up so at least there’s something. Hopefully things shake out that I have time.

It also looks like I’ll be going to Roadburn after all. More on that in the weeks to come.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream, because they kick ass.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

 

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Friday Full-Length: Alice in Chains, Sap EP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Alice in Chains, Sap (1992)

I don’t think I really need to go out of my way to justify including Sap as a heavy work. Sometimes I wonder what I would’ve thought of Alice in Chains had I been 15 or 20 years older than I was when they broke big, if the whole thing would’ve seemed as ridiculous to me then as a lot of modern alternative and pop hard rock seems to me now. Like Primus, of whom I’ve expressed a similar enduring affection, Alice in Chains hit me at just the right time. Dirt came out in Sept. 1992, and that would be the first of their albums that I heard. I was 11 years old.

Their post-reunion stuff hasn’t really interested me — I bought a used copy of Black Gives Way to Blue not so terribly long after it came out, but hardly listened to it. I heard part of one song from the one they did last year on the radio and it had that computerized wall of sound guitar anti-tone thing going for it, like Nickelback with a pitch-corrected Jerry Cantrell harmony. A futuristic nightmare in which something that once seemed so pure, on Facelift, Sap, Dirt, Jar of Flies, and the self-titled (which gets written off a lot but was actually really, really dark), comes back as unaware self-parody. Robots impersonating flowers. Food: Now with more flavor. Somewhere in a nameless city, Rowdy Roddy Piper puts on a pair of sunglasses.

But this. Beautiful. At least for the four songs of Sap proper, and then they get into the silly bonus track lest they be taken too seriously. I had this on earlier this week, turned up loud, was singing along to notes I used to be able to hit I guess before I turned 30 and finally hit puberty. My intention was to close out this week with something else, something a little more “the norm” as much as there is one, or at least something that’s not such an unrepentant downer, but this was more honest to where my head’s been at the last few days so there wasn’t really a choice. If it’s not your thing, or maybe it didn’t get into you when you were the right age, I’d be happy to hear about it in the comments.

Sorry about that whole “no posts” thing yesterday. I try to avoid that whenever I can, at least get something up. Yesterday The Patient Mrs. and I were on the road all day coming back from a mid-week trip south to Jersey. There’s a good chance this will come up again. I’ll try to give some notice or post what I can. I do my best.

Lots of news this week. Lots of videos. Not a lot of reviews. Here are the next five album reviews I’m going to write for this site. Ready? Weedpecker, Colour Haze (the Ewige Blumenkraft reissue), Conan, Mammatus and Papir. I really fucking hope it’s not a month before I get those done, but if it is, fuck it. That’s what I want to write about so that’s what I’m going to write about. I spend an awful lot of time feeling obligated and like I’m behind on shit. Well, I am behind, a lot, but when it comes to it, I do this to have a good time and write about music I enjoy, so if you’re not one of those next five reviews, I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to wait a little longer. Please know that your patience is appreciated.

I did a killer interview the other day with Rev. Jim Forrester about the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion. I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to transcribe it — Conan is next, then Alcest — but I’ll get there. I wish I had more time. Also money. Also abdominal definition. Also the ability to express emotions beyond frustration. It’s a long list. I wish and wish.

But life is what happens while you sit around and wish on bullshit you either can or can’t make real, so fuck it. I hope your week was incredible like the first time you heard Sabbath and it clicked, and I hope your weekend follows suit. If you stick around, I’ll have a new podcast coming either Sunday night or Monday morning, and there’s a lot of other silly nonsense to come as well next week other than whatever reviews I can get done. I hope you’ll hang out.

Thanks all, enjoy Sap, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Wolves in the Throne Room to Release New Album in 2014

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Not much by way of details at this point, but I figured any news about a new Wolves in the Throne Room album would probably be better than none. Reportedly more info is coming next month on the Washington outfit’s fifth album and the follow-up to 2011′s Celestial Lineage, but as a preliminary, the PR wire sent initial word that writing is almost completed. Groovy.

So maybe a spring or summer release? I don’t know. Either way, it’s good news:

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM: Recordings Penned For 2014 Release

Barring the recent release of their BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini live 12″, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM have been keeping a low profile since the conclusion of the world-spanning tour that supported their most recent LP, Celestial Lineage. Now, word comes that the band, along with producer Randall Dunn, has been quietly cultivating the next chapter in their ongoing musical evolution. While little else is known of the impending recordings as of now, the brothers Weaver have confirmed that, the music is currently in the final stages, being prepared for release in the first quarter of 2014. An official communiqué on WITTR’s impending 2014 actions will be announced very early in the New Year.

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM’s BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini was released in late November, once again via Southern Lord Recordings, who also unveiled the act’s acclaimed second LP, Two Hunters (2007), the Malevolent Grain EP and Black Cascade LP (2009), and most recently the triumphant Celestial Lineage LP (2011). The BBC 12″ contains the massive “Prayer of Transformation” and “Thuja Magus Imperium” — pieces culled from Celestial Lineage and recorded live at the BBC’s storied Maida Vale Studios while WITTR was in the midst of a tour of the UK. While far from a full length LP, BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini served to tide anxious fans over, while new production was still being organized.

Immediately after their 2004 inception, Olympia, Washington’s WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM have been leaders in the forward advancement of American metal, and have since been a worldwide force in pushing the boundaries of the black metal genus into new realms. The band’s trance-inducing delivery of their anthems has been witnessed by fans internationally in the live setting, as WITTR has trekked across most of the habitable continents over the past decade. While they’ve performed at massive festivals including Roadburn, Hell Fest and Roskilde, the band also veers far from the well-trod paths, booking shows at unconventional venues and art spaces in addition to performing in barns, on beaches and in forests, bringing their wholly underground and uncompromising ethos to fruition with their fans.

http://www.wittr.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wolves-In-The-Throne-Room/48294546133

Wolves in the Throne Room, BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini (2013)

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Michael Wohl, Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar

Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a release home-recorded entirely with instrumental acoustic guitar, so yeah, it should probably go without saying that Michael Wohl‘s Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar has an intimate vibe. Nonetheless, Wohl, who also serves as guitarist/vocalist in Seattle rockers Mystery Ship – their EP II (review here) was one of my favorite short releases this year — manages to explore a range of emotional expressions within the decidedly minimal atmosphere, from the toe-tapper “No Ticket Blues” to the open-spaced folk of “Lonesome No More.”

Calling it primitive feels like underselling it, but fortunately there’s very little of the cloying-at-authenticity in what Wohl does that one often finds in neo-Americana folk. And it’s not simple by any means. Each of the titular eight pieces has a concept at work, as Wohl himself elucidates in a track-by-track accompanying the digital release even as he gives the tuning info:

Eight instrumental acoustic guitar songs recorded in my apartment between January 2012 and May 2013. Remastered July 2013.

1. Sheepmanblues: drone blues with a nod to Murakami, played in CGCGCE tuning. The SHEEPMAN is ever-present and cryptic in his instruction & aim.

2. No Ticket Blues: Played in DADF#AD. An original composition, indebted to Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Skip James. Ain’t got no Ticket, ain‘t got no ride.

3. Moonfeeder: nocturne played in DADFAD

4. Poor Boy Long Ways From Home: adapted from an arrangement from John Fahey who I think adapted primarily from Barbecue Bob and Booker White. This is one of the oldest songs. No one wrote it but it floats in the firmament of American music. Rev. Robert Wilkins secular song “That’s No Way to Get Along” became “Prodigal Son” when he took up the cloth and this song bears much similarity. Adapted by the Stones on the Beggar’s Banquet album.

5. Melatonin Blues / Fever Dream: I stayed up for way too long and improvised this arrangement of a couple ideas and figures I had been playing for a while.

6. Rainin’ Sideways: came up with on the couch while visiting my home, played in Open C. Recorded in Seattle on one of the ugliest days in history.

7. Long After We Are Dead: one of the first instrumental songs I wrote. It came together after visiting Antietam, Gettysburg, and other Civil War sites.

8. Lonesome No More: In E Standard tuning, capo’d 2nd fret. A foray into spatial composition…echo & distance.

Naturally, having a direct discussion from Wohl on the intent and meaning behind the songs gives the 27-minute album a different context, but even without it, it’s easy to get a sense of where the divide in “Melatonin Blues/Fever Dream” lies, the former staying somewhat in line with the rootsy style of “Sheepmanblues” and the latter wandering into more intricate changes, still keeping a down-home twang, but come into a folkier place.

The overall spirit of the songs is humble — a far cry from some of the swagger Wohl shows in Mystery Ship — and deeply personal, and in some cases, immediately and unconsciously familiar. The take on “Poor Boy Long Way from Home” gives a bare-bones look at where Masters of Reality picked up some of the melody for “John Brown,” and “Rainin’ Sideways” takes even more appeal from the fact that it seems like it’s about to come apart at any given moment.

Wohl has a tape version of Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar out and a 7″ coming that’s also set to feature “Moonfeeder,” but because it’s something that might catch people off guard in listening, I thought it would be perfect as well for The Obelisk Radio. You can hear it there now as part of the regular streaming rotation and check it out on the Bandcamp player below. Enjoy:

Michael Wohl, Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar (2013)

Michael Wohl on Thee Facebooks

Michael Wohl on Bandcamp

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Mos Generator Announce Electric Mountain Majesty Details and Stream Track

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Who’s gonna argue with some Mos Generator album news? Not me. And maybe a new track to boot? Yeah, I won’t fight that one either. My list of 2014 gotta-haves is getting longer every day, and Mos Generator are definitely on it. Their 2012 return outing, Nomads (review here), was a joy to behold, and if the boogie of the curiously-unembeddable title-track is anything to go by, Electric Mountain Majesty – also the Washington-based trio’s Listenable Records debut — seems to just be waiting to follow suit.

The PR wire takes it from here:

MOS GENERATOR Release New Song; Reveal New Album Details

Northwestern U.S. stoner rock gurus MOS GENERATOR, who recently inked a deal with Listenable Records, has announced that their forthcoming album will be entitled Electric Mountain Majesty. The band’s first release since joining the Listenable Records roster, Electric Mountain Majesty is scheduled for a Spring 2014 release. Plans are currently being laid for a European tour in May.

To give fans a taste of what Electric Mountain Majesty has to offer, MOS GENERATOR and Listenable Records are now streaming the album’s title track. Listen at this location.

MOS GENERATOR guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed comments on the new song,Tony Reeds comments the track :”ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN MAJESTY was riffed out and recorded in about 15 minutes. Shawn and I did a demo of it and when i sat down and started to work on it the next day i realized that the drum track on this demo was killer! It had all of the fire and expression that Shawn would have live. I tracked the guitars and performed the vocals over the course of the next day and here it is. Our love for heavy rock, metal, and melody all come together in this tune.”

Track listing for Electric Mountain Majesty is as follows:
Beyond the Whip
Nothing Left but Night
Enter the Fire
Spectres
Neon Nightmare
Breaker
Early Mourning
Electric Mountain Majesty
Black Magic Mirror
(Interloping: Heavy Ritual)
Heavy Ritual

Electric Mountain Majesty was recorded at HeavyHead Recording Co. in Port Orchard, Wash. and was produced, mixed and mastered by T. Dallas Reed.

MOS GENERATOR music and merchandise, along with materials from other Tony Reed-related acts can be found in Reed’s own HeavyHeadSuperStore. Check out the great selection of t-shirts, CDs, rare & limited-edition vinyl and more at http://heavyheadsuperstore.storenvy.com.

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Sandrider, Godhead: Of Beasts and Tides

Posted in Reviews on November 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There was little to argue against on Sandrider‘s late-2011 self-titled full-length debut (review here). The first outing from the Seattle trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts and drummer Nat Damm was intense, intricate and at times pummeling — a lethal churn of controlled chaos, deceptively tight for how loose its grooves seemed to swing. Good to Die Records, who also issued the first album, releases the follow-up, Godhead, this month, and it finds Sandrider in much the same straits, taking a more rock-based approach to the explosive charge Weisnewski and Damm brought to their former outfit, Akimbo, while sounding even more like their own unit thanks to further cohesion as a trio with Roberts, whose own experience with swagger and abrasion in The Ruby Doe has made for an easy transition. The three-piece returned to work with Matt Bayles (IsisMastodon, many others), likely with the thought that if it wasn’t broke it didn’t require fixing, and they were right. Godhead develops Sandrider‘s approach as they showed it their first time out, with the title-track, “Overwatch” and “Beast” ranging further melodically than they might have dared with their initial run, and sticks to the upbeat push that made the self-titled both consistent with Damm and Weisnewski‘s later work in Akimbo and so irresistibly engaging. This second album isn’t a huge leap in sound, but it didn’t need to be. It’s a step in what thankfully appears to be an ongoing progression, and the growth they show in these 10 single-word-title songs feels natural, whether it’s Weisnewski‘s guitar leading a quiet, tense ambience in “Overwatch” — which of course precedes a relaunch to full volume — or the excellent vocal interplay with Roberts.

At just under 45 minutes, Godhead is about five minutes longer than was Sandrider, but nothing here reaches as close to the 10-minute mark as did “The Judge” from that album, the closest being “Godhead,” at 6:52, with the rest varying fairly widely from the West Coast punkish brevity of “Scalpel” — is Weisnewski saying, “This is my lucky pencil?” — at 2:31 to the more comfortable four-to-five-minute range in which reside “Castle, “Overwatch,” “Champions,” “Beast” and closer “Traveler.” As one would expect or at very least hope, Godhead is settled and cohesive in more than just the runtimes of its component tracks. They suggest listening loud, and they’re not wrong, but the record provides a few landmark hooks along the way that remain vital at any level they might be encountered, opener “Ruiner” being exceptionally well chosen for its position for both its “We Will Rock You” introductory buildup from Damm on drums or Weisnewski‘s pushing himself to hit a high note over a stop only to resume the crunching riff made all the more nod-ready by Roberts‘ low end. As Sandrider continue to establish themselves beyond the work of members’ other outfits, they do so without sounding forced. Damm features heavily on “Castle” and his snare and kick both sound as massive as any of the tones in the guitar and bass — he’s a whirl of insistent fills in the song and elsewhere, but finds resolution in more open and grooving moments, in the pocket of Roberts‘ bassline on “Tides,” for example, or driving the forward rush of “Champions.” Being longer than its predecessor has taken away some of the immediacy and the feeling that by the time you’ve caught up to it, it’s over, from Godhead, but hardly all of it, and Sandrider are capable of quick turns in rhythm and meter both within and between songs — see “Gorgon” and how it leads into the quieter start of the title cut — that give the material a vibrant, live feel despite the crisp production.

Read more »

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Duuude, Tapes! Mos Generator, Live in Europe 2013

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on October 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with Mos Generator‘s new Live in Europe 2013 cassette until I flipped the case over and saw three crucial words written all in caps: “STEREO AUDIENCE RECORDING.”

In a way, that tells a large part of the story with the Lame is Me Records release, which is the second recorded document to emerge from the Washington trio’s European run earlier this year with Saint Vitus behind the Lay Bare Recordings vinyl, In Concert (review here). It is an audience recording. Where In Concert had professional production, a crisp, clear sound and a vibrant mix, Live in Europe 2013 is much rawer in sound and execution. It’s a solid pickup for fans of the band and no doubt makes a decent option on the merch table, but its intent is clearly different from the other live outing. More or less, it’s a bootleg.

And once I realized that, my entire context for it changed. The tape compiles two sets — one recorded in Aschaffenburg, Germany, and one recorded in Vienna, Austria — and puts one on each side, a slightly varied setlist setting them apart as changing out a jamming “Step Up” for “Beyond the Whip” marks out one night from its companion. Immediately I was reminded of being in the musty shop where I used to buy my bootlegs, scanning the spines of cassette cases for dates and places to see which copied shows from which tours I could get on the cheap. Audience recordings, straight from master to the tape or stripped through further generations of recording-to-recording transfer of what little fidelity they had, are always a tricky prospect, because so much depends on the equipment. Mos Generator‘s material comes in pretty clearly, considering, but if you go into Live in Europe 2013 thinking it’s going to be hitting the same kind of standard as In Concert, let me be the first to tell you that’s not what’s going on here and it doesn’t seem like it was meant to be.

One of the big arguments I hear against the “tape revival” is that it’s needless. Why bother with a tape for anything other than ’90s sentimentality (including, as you can see in the paragraph above, my own)? Well, a release like this, with its transparent green cassette, limited run and for-fans-only vibe, makes a perfect tape. You wouldn’t press either of these shows to a CD, and the expense of doing a vinyl run for an audience recording — let alone a 2LP to get both shows in — is ridiculous. But with a tape, anyone interested in getting more of a taste of Mos Generator‘s 2013 European tour can do so with a sonic feel that, in its own way, is as classic as the rock itself. I’ve got some audience-recorded Sabbath bootlegs and other stuff. It’s a very specific sound, and again, once I saw those three words, Live in Europe 2013 made a whole lot more sense.

If, like me, you’re a fan of what Mos Generator do — especially if, like me, you’re a fan who’s never seen them live — then Live in Europe 2013 legitimately has something to offer that even In Concert can’t by its very nature. If you want to call my digging on a raw-sounding tape pointless nostalgia, well fine, but you could just as easily apply the same critique to people delving into heavy ’70s riffing in the first place, and that’s not an argument I hear very often. Dig it or don’t, if it’s one more way to get a feel for what these guys can do on a stage, then the only complaint I’m about to make is that neither show has “Cosmic Ark” on it. Beyond that, my issues are nil.

Mos Generator, “This is the Gift of Nature” Live in Vienna, Austria, March 22, 2013

Mos Generator’s official store

Lame is Me

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