Would you believe I’ve never closed out a week with the Melvins? Granted, I’m not the hugest fan of the band in the world, but you’d think it would’ve happened one way or another at some point anyhow, two or three times over, just through the sheer process of elimination. After all, they’re the frickin’ Melvins. If heavy rock and roll has a given, a constant presence, a relentless influence under which it works, it’s theirs. Consider this post correcting an oversight on my part.
In picking one of their 250-or-thereabouts studio offerings to actually feature, I decided to not go the obvious route, which would’ve been 1993’s Stoner Witch, 1994’s Houdini or 1996’s Stag – the three landmark albums they released on Atlantic Records – but instead dig a little deeper. Not much deeper, admittedly. It’s not like I went for Colossus of Destiny or anything, but 1992’s Lysol, with its Flipper and Alice Cooper covers, its drawling riffing from a group who were just about to set the patterns they’d continue to follow for the next 20 years and counting, and its unmistakably off-the-rails songwriting, makes a good fit without necessarily being so totally obvious as to be a Melvins cliché. Or not as much of one anyway. Whatever. You know what I mean. Maybe I just felt like hearing them do “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” and Joe Preston‘s bass on “Sacrifice,” all the songs lumped together as one CD track, apparently for the hell of it because it was a relatively new format then and that was a thing people did as a reaction to track-by-track listening.
Anyhoo, there are way worse manners in which to dispose of half an hour. Boner Records, which originally released Lysol, oversaw a vinyl reissue that came out Jan. 20 that couples the album with 1991’s Eggnog – they have one for Ozma and Bullhead as well — so I guess this wound up being a topical choice without my even realizing it. Whatever your preferred format, hope you dig it and have a good time listening. That’s the whole idea.
The power stayed on during the blizzard earlier this week, for which I’m thankful. You never really know when you’re in a new place until it either does or doesn’t happen, and I could probably buy 15 houses before I’d think to ask, “So hey, does every wind over five miles an hour knock out the electricity?” We had some good gusts to go with the circa-two-feet of snow that came down — a little more earlier today, and more to come on Monday just in case I missed my shot to put on sad-era Anathema or that brilliant Sólstafir record from last year; I didn’t — and still, the lights persisted. I’ll take that. If you have to be snowed in, having a working charger for the laptop helps.
My big news this week, in case you missed it: I’m going back to Roadburnin April, and this site is six years old. Thanks to you for reading, because that’s the only reason either happened.
I had wanted to review Black Moon Circle‘s Andromeda LP this afternoon, but after doing the Radio adds, I’m good and burnt out and the record deserves better than to have me search Dict.org for synonyms for the word “lysergic.” Should be able to pick up with that on Monday, and next week also look out for reviews of Killer Boogie and Abbot. Elder is next after that, but I’m not sure I’ll get there by next Friday. We’ll see how it goes. Also trying to set up a premiere of one sort or another for that Garden of Worm record that was reviewed today, because it hit me hard enough that I think it’s worth featuring again. I’ll keep you posted. A Lords of Beacon House video premiere is set for next Friday, too.
I also spoke to Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man yesterday and I’m going to try really, really hard to have that posted by the end of next week as those bands head over to Europe soon to tour and I don’t want to miss my chance. Currently seeking an intern to transcribe interviews if anyone’s in need of some college credit. Yes, I’m serious, and yes, you can work remotely.
The Patient Mrs. promised sushi takeout to celebrate the site’s anniversary, so I’ll be taking her up on that and clearing out my overtaxed sinuses with wasabi. Stoked.
Whatever you might be up to, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Two more adds to Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 this afternoon, and they expand the festival’s reach just about as far as it can go and still be in the continental US. The fest, which is set for June 12 and 13 in Amityville, Long Island, has just announced that Seattle’s Wounded Giant will make their first appearance and that Connecticut’s Curse the Son will return for their second time to the Eye of the Stoned Goat‘s migratory stage after taking part in Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 last May in Worcester, Massachusetts (review here).
What the bands have in common — besides riffs — is an allegiance with New Jersey-based STB Records. The label oversaw a long-awaited vinyl issue of Curse the Son‘s spectacularly stoned 2012 outing, Psychache (review here), last year, and a second pressing is already in the works for Wounded Giant‘s newly-released-and-gone split with Goya (review here) through STB, which as ever is giving the heavy due treatment in an assortment of limited pressings and special editions.
Wounded Giant will so far be traveling the farthest to attend Eye of the Stoned Goat 5, the lineup of which also features East Coast acts like Lord Fowl, White Dynomite, John Wilkes Booth, Weed is Weed, Gozu, Kingsnake and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, but I wouldn’t be surprised if fest organizer Brendan Burns has a couple tricks up his sleeve still to come for the two-day event. We’ll see what comes, I guess.
Announcements came through thusly:
You people ready for some more heavy hitters..?
Of course you are…
It’s a honor to have with us on this years fest, the blistering monstrous sounds of Seattle Washington’s very own Wounded Giant!!! Also on board for their second ‘Stoned Goat is Connecticut’s own, and STB Records stalwarts Curse the Son!!!
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, due out Feb. 17 on Neurot Recordings, is on the shortlist of albums that I’m most dying to hear for the early part of 2015. Six years after their demo and five after a split with Mico de Noche, the Tad Doyle-led three-piece will finally be issuing their first full-length, and if the preview audio that’s made its way out so far is any indicator, it’s going to be an intense experience. Can’t wait to hear how it all turned out.
A second, longer preview for the record has come out via the label, this one with some comment from Doyle on the album’s making and the philosophy behind it. Video follows the PR wire info below:
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH: Seattle Doom Weavers Featuring Tad Doyle Reveal Second Video Teaser; Debut Full-Length To See Release Next Month
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH is the sound of earthly decomposition and planetary demise; a slow, entrancing dance towards a looming apocalypse… thick, monolithic, deliberate and devouring. Fronted by Seattle’s legendary guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle — formerly of TAD and Hog Molly — BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH is a trio of longtime rock soldiers that includes veteran bassist Peggy Doyle and drummer Dave French (The Anunnaki) and their forthcoming full-length debut maintains a long-held tradition of conjuring some of the heaviest music from the darkest depths of the Pacific Northwest.
Slated for release next month via Neurot Recordings, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth was captured at Robert Lang Studios and Doyle’s own Witch Ape Studio in Seattle, Washington and mixed by Billy Anderson (Sleep, High On Fire, Melvins et al). Thrusting forth five hauntingly heavy tracks, with two bonus hymns included on the CD edition, the offering serves as Doyle’s first recorded release in nearly fifteen years. BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH’s audio manifestations are welcomingly unfamiliar, splicing thick, jagged riffs through chilling post-punk drumming and hulking compositions that blow soulfully hot and desolately cold, sometimes within the confines of one track. Their longform pieces present the kind of mature ideas and expansive progressions that outpace the listener’s short-term memory leading them off the proverbial map; familiar landmarks like sludge, post-metal, rock all but disappeared over the horizon. Authentic and authoritative, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth is as much a persistent thudding body punch of sonic destructive force as it is a thoughtful statement of awareness and the inescapable raw condition of life.
In celebration of its imminent unveiling, today Neurot Recordings is pleased to bring listeners a taste of the heavy with a five-minute video teaser that finds Doyle giving an in-depth look at the impetus in creating BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH, the tracking process and the weighty themes that bind the record.
Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth will be released February 17th, 2015 via Neurot Recordings with further album clips to be released in the weeks to come.
Seattle heavy rock trio Curse of the North are gearing up to released their debut full-length, I, later this month. The self-produced, self-released, Kurt Ballou-mixed long-player will follow 2011’s Revelations EP, which was recorded by Matt Bayles, and to herald its arrival, the three-piece have put together a video for the track “Sleep While You Can” that features an impressive array of Marshall stacks, headbanging, up and downlighting and the band themselves rocking out right in the middle there. Can’t miss ‘em.
I haven’t heard the record yet, but “Sleep While You Can” has some touches of metal and hard rock in with its heavy riffing, giving the song a kind of clean feel, but kicks up some dirt in its midsection, so it’s worth the time to dig in. If it hits you right and you’d like to make it yours, Curse of the North have made “Sleep While You Can” available name-your-price-style on their Bandcamp page, the link to which follows the info that follows the video below. You know how this goes.
It goes like this:
Curse of the North, “Sleep While You Can” official video
“Sleep While You Can” is the first release off Seattle, WA band Curse of the North’s self produced LP “Curse of the North: I” mixed by Kurt Ballou(High on Fire, Skeletonwitch, Black Breath) at God City Studios.
Curse of the North is a no frills heavy band from Seattle, WA featuring members Christiaan Morris (Guitar/Vocals) Nick Cates (Bass, 3 inches of blood) and Burke Thomas (Drums, Duff McKagan’s Loaded). COTN will be releasing their first full length LP “Curse of the North: I” Spring 2015. The band self produced the album and it was mixed by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Black Breath, SkeletonWitch). Curse of the North released their first EP “Revelations” in summer 2011 which was produced by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, The Sword, Botch). COTN will be touring in support of “Curse of the North: I” throughout 2015.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Reviews on December 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Phoenix duo Goya and Seattle’s Wounded Giant make fitting partners. Their new split 12″ on STB Records finds them distinct enough to be immediately distinguished one from the other, but still with enough in common in their proliferation of plus-sized riffery not to be mismatched. In the case of Goya, the split follows their late-2013 full-length debut, 777, and the preceding 2012 demo (review here), and the (now) duo of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Jeff Owens and drummer Nick Lose have already seen fit to issue a follow-up EP, released Dec. 9, called Satan’s Fire. Their inclusion is the 14-minute plodder “No Place in the Sky,” where Wounded Giant deliver two tracks, “The Room of the Torch” and “Dystheist,” totaling a minute less. The Seattle three-piece of bassist Dylan A. Rogers, guitarist/vocalist Bobby James and drummer Alex Bytnar put out their debut full-length, Lightning Medicine, last year and supported it with an appearance at this year’s Hoverfest in Portland, Oregon. All told, the split is a 27-minute showcase for two up-and-coming acts who by all accounts have their sounds together and who’ve been met with no shortage of “whoa no shit heavy riffs bro!”-type hyperbole. Fair enough.
STB‘s endorsement is noteworthy in itself. The label has rightfully earned a reputation over the last two years for both its ear and the quality of its vinyl product. I don’t think they’ve put anything out that hasn’t been gone shortly thereafter, and releases from Ancient Warlocks, Geezer, Curse the Son and Druglord have put them on the map as a considerable presence in American underground heavy proffering a new wave of stoner rock in which it seems only right to count Goya and Wounded Giant as participants. The former are granted side A of the split, and they use their time wisely, “No Place in the Sky” building from a fade-in of feedback fuzz to a languid march that takes hold in full tone at 1:40. Their album and new EP are less so, but Goya‘s demowas almost singly indebted sonically to Electric Wizard, bringing a rawer feel to the Witchcult Today style, and “No Place in the Sky” works in a similar vein, its rhythmic swing and Owens‘ buried-under-a-wall-of-distortion echoing vocals both seem to be culled from Jus Oborn‘s book of spells. They’re hardly the only band out there at this point working under that influence, and they bring more to the presentation than many on “No Place in the Sky,” which lumbers through verse and chorus hooks en route to a bridge of Iommic layered soloing that very subtly hints at the level of construction at work in their sound. Their songwriting, likewise, finds a sense of accomplishment in returning after that jam to the verse and chorus — the lines “It doesn’t really matter/Nothing fucking matters” standing out — before jamming its way into oblivion and a finish of over a minute solid of sustained amp hum and feedback. Take that, ears.
Classic metal is the first vibe Wounded Giant give off on “The Room of the Torch” (7:07), James‘ guitar riffing out a declaration reminiscent of Iron Maiden, but that’s really only part of the story. Half-time drums give the beginnings of Wounded Giant‘s first inclusion a nod of its own with a punchy bassline and an emergent, airy lead that adds to the languid feel. A slowdown before two minutes in marks the transition into a doomier verse — not quite as Wizardly as Goya, but that’s still a factor — with shouts echoing over downer riffs that pick up to a more upbeat thrust of a chorus. The back and forth plays out until shortly before five minutes in, Bytnar‘s kick, double-kick only seconds before, provides the shift to the faster progression serving as the apex of the track. Like Goya, they rein it back in to finish out, albeit more subtly with just a slowdown instrumental reference to the verse riff that gives way to fading feedback and start of “Dystheist” (6:08), which sounds like a crowd shout but is gone soon enough into neo-burly chugging and more restrained vocals, compressed and following the riff. A more open chorus arrives underscored by more double-kick and a metallic feel met head-on with heavy rock tonality, the flourish of the preceding cut stripped away in favor of a more forward attack, which Wounded Giant handle well. A rawer shout, almost a scream, finishes the chorus and that will be the endpoint of “Dystheist” as well on the second cycle through — the structure no less frill-less than the sound, capping the split in strong, commanding form.
As the goal of the release, already noted, is to highlight what Goya and Wounded Giant have going sonically and to keep their momentum in motion, I see no way in which the split doesn’t meet that target. Both Goya‘s track and Wounded Giant‘s tracks deliver heavy-hitting, solid genre-minded executions and, paired up, they offer each band’s quickly-massing audience to encounter the other, which, you know, is the whole idea. The temptation with splits is always to pit one act against the other, to determine a “winner” like they’re in competition. Fine. That’s a lot of fun, but truth be told, nobody here loses, and it doesn’t seem like Goya or Wounded Giant have any interest in duking it out so much as allying themselves to further their individual causes. Score one for riff diplomacy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
You could say I’m very much looking forward to the February release of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s self-titled debut on Neurot… and you’d be correct. I’d be like, “Wow, you’re right. Thanks for pointing that out.” It would probably be a weird conversation if it stopped there.
Nonetheless! The realization of a Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length more than half a decade after their demo (review here) and split with Mico de Noche (review here) is welcome and sure to result in one of early 2015’s heaviest pummelings. Aside from being the best t-shirt I own — seriously, it’s long enough and the sleeves come down past my elbows and it’s good, thick quality cotton that’s worn in well; everything I could ask in a shirt — the project led by Tad Doyle is a long time headed toward fruition, and while they probably won’t come east, the simple fact that they’re putting out a record means there’s a chance I could at one point ever possibly see them live, and I like that thought.
The PR wire works for a living and brings the album art, tracklisting, info and a teaser:
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH, CRUSHING TRIO FEATURING SEATTLE LEGEND TAD DOYLE REVEALS FORTHCOMING ALBUM DETAILS; TEASER VIDEO POSTED
RELEASE DATE: 16 FEB 2015
Keeping up a long-held tradition of bringing forth some of the heaviest music from the darkest depths of the Pacific North West, Seattle’s legendary Tad Doyle – formerly of TAD, and Hog Molly – delivers his strongest songwriting and playing to date with his latest manifestation, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Boasting a trio of musicians with Doyle on guitar/vocals, veteran bassists Peggy Doyle and drummer Dave French (The Anunnaki), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will release their long-awaited, self-titled debut full-length February 16th, 2015 via Neurot Recordings.
Recorded at Robert Lang Studios and Tad Doyle’s own Witch Ape Studio in Seattle, Washington and mixed by Billy Anderson (Yob, Sleep, High On Fire, Melvins et al), Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth delivers five immense hymns, with two bonus tracks on the CD edition and fuses the collective and extensive rock histories and experience of its three members in the worlds of punk, hard rock and metal. The threesome’s sonic craftings is welcomingly unfamiliar, splicing serrated riffs through chilling post-punk drumming and hulking compositions that blow soulfully hot and desolately cold. Their longform pieces present the kind of mature ideas and expansive progressions that outpace the listener’s short-term memory leading them off the proverbial map; familiar landmarks like sludge, post-metal, rock all but disappeared over the horizon.
The record begins with an ominous eruption of riffs forged from deep within the earth, with “Lava,” and continues on this path throughout; a mammoth, relentless spirit on a timeless journey. Authentic and authoritative, this album is as much a persistent thudding body punch of sonic destructive force as it is a thoughtful statement of awareness and the inescapable raw condition of life.
Elaborates Doyle of the band’s creation: “After almost fifteen years without putting out a record, much time was spent woodshedding, riffing and writing new material. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was originally a recording-only project and creative outlet for me playing all instruments on early unreleased demos but I quickly realised that I wanted the music to be played live so I would have to enlist other like-minded players. Peggy was an obvious choice with her enthusiasm and energy that made her an asset right from the start of integrating the band with other musicians. Dave French was a guy we both related to on a musical and deep spiritual level. We had played shows together with our respective bands, Peggy and I in Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Dave who played bass in his band The Anunnaki. Dave completed the circle when he offered to play drums and his joining was this last piece that solidified the band. We are very honored and excited to have this release on Neurot Recordings whom with their legacy goes a fierce integrity that we are proud to be a part of.”
Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth Track Listing: 1. Lava 2. Empires Of Dust 3. Unnamed 4. La Mano Poderosa 5. I Am 6. The Immutable Path 7. Outro
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was never a huge Jane’s Addiction fan, but I’d be willing to bet that Seattle’s Sandrider have a pretty interesting take on “Mountain Song,” all punked out and shouty and heavy. Good to Die Records will have that song and two originals out on a split with fellow Seattleites Kinski in Feb. 2015. For Kinski, the split arrives ahead of a new full-length to be released in April on Kill Rock Stars, and for Sandrider, it’s the first new studio material to be heard since 2013’s riotous sophomore album, Godhead (review here).
By all accounts, the split will be LP/download only, so if you’re into CDs, you’re SOL, but if you needed one more for your list of releases you’re looking forward to in 2015, it seems an easy bet regardless of format. The PR wire has word from Good to Die:
We are very excited to officially announce and reveal the artwork for an upcoming split LP with SANDRIDER and KINSKI, set for release February 17th, 2015 on vinyl and digital formats.
The SANDRIDER side was engineered by Matt Bayles (Russian Circles, KEN Mode, Mastodon) at Red Room Studio in Seattle and features 2 originals and 1 cover. The KINSKI side was engineered by Phil Manley (Les Savy Fav, Rye Coalition, Oneida) at El Studio in San Francisco and features 2 new tracks with a run time over 15 minutes.
Side A: SANDRIDER 1. Rain 2. Glaive 3. Mountain Song (Jane’s Addiction cover)
Side B: KINSKI 1. Beyond in Touch With My Feminine Side 2. The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo
Both bands have a couple of performances booked before the end of the year. Check the dates!
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Washington rock purveyors Mos Generator and Italian four-piece Isaak have set a Jan. 12, 2015, release date for a new split 12″. Heavy Psych Sounds will be handling the release. Earlier this year, the label got together Naam, White Hills, Black Rainbows and The Flying Eyes for a split that was promised as the first in a series, but I’m not sure if this is a continuation of that same idea — it’s half as many bands, for one thing — or a whole new deal. Either way, new Mos Generator and Isaak is nothing to complain about, however it might be positioned in the label’s catalog.
Mos Generator already have a couple recent releases under their collective belt, between their 2014 Listenable Records label debut, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here) and the self-released demo compilation Electric Nomads covering material from their last two full-lengths (review here). For Isaak, they’ve spent much of the year supporting their 2013 Small Stone release, The Longer the Beard the Harder the Sound, and they’ll hit the road in December once again, this time with copies of the new split in tow.
Some preliminaries on the pressing from Heavy Psych Sounds:
Mos Generator/Isaak Split Album is the new Heavy Psych Sounds Records release printed in Black Vinyl and 150 copies
LTD Red Splatter Black Vinyl Awesome Album Artwork by SoloMacello
release date 12/01/2015
We are proud and honored to announce our upcoming new split album with the amazing Mos Generator!
It will be released on a very limited edition 12″ vinyl by the great HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records on January 12, 2015 but you can grab a copy during our European Tour in December. Here you can find a sneakpeek of the stunning artwork made by our brother SoloMacello.
We really can’t wait to let you ear it, we’re sure you’re gonna dig it. SEE YOU SOON ON TOUR, STAY HEAVY! \M/
Posted in audiObelisk on October 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are three tracks included on He Whose Ox is Gored‘s forthcoming Rumors 7″ (out Oct. 28 on Bleeding Light Records), and of them, “Buried Twice” is the shortest at 2:45. I was given my choice of any of the three for streaming, and while normally my impulse in that kind of situation is to go with the longest cut possible — in this case that would be the B-side, “Rumors,” at 5:18 — for the Seattle four-piece, I think “Buried Twice” is a crisp summary of the intensity that’s so central to their sound and their ability to balance that with a still-focused songwriting that ignores neither structure nor atmosphere. In picking one of the three, “Buried Twice” couldn’t help but stand out for how well all that is crammed into less than three minutes and how memorable the song is for passing in what’s essentially a flash.
Comprised of Lisa Mungo on synths/vocals guitarist/vocalist Brian McClelland, bassist/vocalist Mike Sparks and drummer John O’Connell, the band released their Nightshade EP earlier this year — it was also compiled with 2010’s OP AMPS II: Into the Ether on a tape by Breathe Plastic Records — as the latest in a slew of short releases, and their drive toward efficiency is no less prevalent on Rumors. With Mungo out front on vocals, they run a line of melody through what in other contexts would be fuzzed-out noise rock, but the emphasis there should be on “run.” “Void Assault,” “Buried Twice” and “Rumors” keep a steady sense of movement through them, not only making the material exciting, but giving it a sense of unpredictability as well. “Buried Twice” might catch you off guard, but let it. That only makes the effect more satisfying.
Five-hundred copies of the vinyl will be pressed by Bleeding Light. The band have a bunch of West Coast dates lined up starting right after the release, and you’ll find them after the player below, along with some more info from the PR wire:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
HE WHOSE OX IS GORED and Bleeding Light Records have joined forces to release the Seattle doom alchemists’ upcoming new 7″. Entitled Rumors, the three-song EP will see a digital release October 28, 2014, with a limited 500-strong vinyl pressing to follow. HWOIG have built a dedicated fanbase through DIY acumen and the irresistible pull of their heavy, fuzz-drenched, progressive-minded and thoroughly intriguing take on proggy rockin’ doom, all bolstered by Lisa Mungo’s powerful, windswept pipes.
The band will be hitting the road immediately after, tooling down the West Coast. They’ll arrive back home in Seattle at the Sunset Tavern on 11/16 to end it all in blaze of glory and prepare their imminent full-length for eventual release. There’s no rest for the wicked…
HE WHOSE OX IS GORED WEST COAST TOUR 10/30 Portland, OR @ Club 21 w/ Sioux & Towers 10/31 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge w/ Eyehategod, Today is the Day, Power Trip, Iron Reagan & Plague Widow 11/1 Oakland, CA @ Golden Bull w/ Dimesland, Cormorant & Barren Altar 11/2 LA, CA @ Complex w/ QunQ, Facial & Half Goon 11/3 Las Vegas, NV @ The Dive w/ Uzala & Demon Lung 11/4 Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room w/ Uzala, Cardinal Wyrm & Sorxe 11/5 Tucson, AZ @ Flycatcher 11/6 San Diego, CA @ Merrow w/ Deep Sea Thunder Beast 11/7 Lancaster, CA @ Lancaster Moose Lodge w/ Child Brides, Sona, Litaoa & Cactus 1994 11/8 San Francisco, CA @ El Rio w/ Worship 11/9 Reno, NV @ Holland Project w/ Sisters Doom 11/16 Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern
Posted in Radio on October 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yeah, it’s been a couple weeks since I added records to The Obelisk Radio playlist, mostly because these posts are a pain to set up, but once again, I’ve been keeping track of stuff to go up and this time around we’ve got 24 new albums joining the ranks. Some of it is stuff recently covered — 35007, Ice Dragon, Truckfighters — and some has yet to be — Nick Oliveri, Brant Bjork — but as ever, it’s a lot of good stuff, so if you get the chance to hit up the playlist and updates page, you should find plenty there for your perusal, in addition to the running tab of the playlist, which from where I sit puts the whole stream in a different league of enjoyable. Hope you agree.
A lot to cover, so let’s get to it.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Oct. 3, 2014:
The Melvins, Hold it In
Sometimes I have to wonder how it is that for a band who are so off the wall and experimental one can still basically approach any Melvins record no matter who’s involved in making it and have a decent idea of what to expect. Yeah, guitarist/vocalist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover have hooked up with JD Pinkus and Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers, and yeah, “You Can Make Me Wait” sounds like it would play over alternate universe credits to The Breakfast Club, but a lot of Hold it In (released by Ipecac) — “Bride of Crankenstein,” “Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad,” “Sesame Street Meat,” “Nine Yards” — is pretty much in the Melvins wheelhouse. It’s in moments like the jangly “Eyes on You,” trucker rocking “Piss Pisstoferson,” spacious seven-minute jammer “The Bunk Up” and sprawling noise finish “House of Gasoline” that Hold it In really distinguishes itself, but there are stretches even in those where the Melvins just continue to sound like the Melvins. I know they’ve got a fanbase that will eagerly snap up everything they do, and after 30 years of busting their collective ass on tour and in the studio without major commercial success, I’ll far from begrudge them their following, it just seems like for as much praise is heaped in the direction of every new Melvins release, there’s not nearly as much genuinely new ground being broken as time goes on and that even the gleefully weird territory Hold it In covers is starting to feel an awful lot like a comfort zone. The Melvins on Thee Facebooks, Ipecac Recordings.
Slow Season, Mountain
Whichever of Cali four-piece Slow Season‘s parents introduced them to Led Zeppelin, thanks. The Visalia outfit will release their second album, Mountains, this November on RidingEasy Records, following-up a 2012 self-titled, and by way of advance notice, the thing’s a ripper, echoing out Plant-style vocals and Bonham stomp with an underlying skater-rock groove that fits well with the label’s output in bands like The Well, Electric Citizen, and so on. Of course, there’s more than thatat play — second cut “Synanon” reminds of some of The Flying Eyes‘ heavy psych rollout — but from the oohing and ahhing that cap “Damo’s Days” to the bombast that comes to the fore in “Wasted Years,” Zeppelin are a central influence, bolstered throughout by touches of early Soundgarden and forays into mega-swagger for “King City” and acoustic psychedelia in “Apparition.” Mountains‘ bread and butter, though, is the meaty riffer fare of “Shake” and closer “The Defector,” the sheer arrogance of which impresses, let alone the fluidity of the riff or the obvious aesthetic drive of the production. Slow Season on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
Beak, Let Time Begin
Not to be confused with Beak>, who are a different band entirely, post-metal four-piece Beak are based in Chicago and Let Time Begin (released by Someoddpilot Records) is their chugging, growling, atmospherically ranging debut full-length. Chicago has proven a hotbed for the genre, and Beak seem well aware of the tenets, trading off crushing riffs for atmospheric post-rock airiness, the lineup of Chris Eichenseer, Jason Goldberg, Andy Bosnak and Jon Slusher taking an Isis influence to unexpected synthy weirdness on “The Breath of Universe” — a vocoder early bringing to mind some of Cynic‘s post-reunion proggism — after the lumbering of “Light Outside.” Longer songs like “Into the Light” and “Carry a Fire” flow well, incorporating some blackened guitar squibblies and echoing screams between them, and the penultimate “Over the Shelter, the Morning” moves from abrasive feedback to contemplative ambience ahead of “Fiery They Rose,” which meters out weighty pummel but ultimately caps Let Time Begin on a subdued note that’s both satisfying and emblematic of a burgeoning will toward individuality. Beak on Thee Facebooks, Someoddpilot Records.
GravelRoad, El Scuerpo
Seattle blues rockers GravelRoad get the vibe just right on “Waiting for Nothing,” which opens their fifth album, El Scuerpo (Knick Knack Records), rocking out quiet, unpostured blues to lead the way into the record’s varied takes, from the boogie-woogie shuffle of “40 Miles” to the psychedelic fluidity of “Green Grass,” straight-up heavy rock of “DD Amin,” languid roll of “Asteroid” and upbeat finish of “Flesh and Bone,” which is among the happiest songs I’ve ever heard about cannibalism. My chief issue with some of their past work has been a tendency toward disjointedness and a modern blues production style that hones in on clarity and the brightness of the guitar and gives up some of the malevolence of the low end — something more related to my own perspective listening than the actual mission of the band — but El Scuerpo flows well and a mix by Jack “Yes, That Jack Endino” Endino treats eight-minute heavy jam rocker “Asteroid” with its due reverence, and the more I hear it, the more I want to hear it. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks, Knick Knack Records.
Lords of Beacon House, Lords of Beacon House
Los Angeles heavy rockers Lords of Beacon House serve notice of their arrival this fall via a three-song EP on Homhomhom that takes loose, Graveyard-style ’70s worship and adds a touch of Western flair in the snare march of “Seven Days” and Sabbathian string pull on “Cool Water Blues.” The EP (they call it an album, it’s really more of a demo, but whatever you want to call it) runs shortest to longest, and opener “Distant Thunder” is the most straightforward of the bunch accordingly, but even in its 8-track chug, Lords of Beacon House showcase natural tones and a penchant for writing strong hooks that continues right through until the last repeat of the line “I asked for water/She gave me gasoline” in “Cool Water Blues,” which rounds out with familiar if welcome nod. They’re a new band and so far as I can tell, this self-titled is the first audio they’ve made public, but they seem to have a handle on what they want to do, and that’s never a bad place to start working from. More to come, I’m sure, and thanks to Bill Goodman for steering me their way. Lords of Beacon House on Thee Facebooks, Homhomhom.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, we knew Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were going to end up somewhere. The Tad Doyle-fronted trio had finished mixing their album back in June and their long-awaited debut long-player was closer than ever, but as I understood it, part of the delay in actually getting the record out stemmed from finding a label through which to release it. Neurot handling the release goes in the if-you-gave-me-three-guesses-I’d-have-probably-gotten-it file, but that doesn’t make the news any more welcome, particularly since it means we’re actually that much closer to hearing the record.
That album, incidentally, is set for an early 2015 release. Not sure about the exact date, but the label makes it official below with some comment from Steve Von Till:
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth Sign to Neurot Recordings and Plan Long-Awaited Debut Full Length Release in Early Spring 2015
Keeping up a long-held tradition of bringing forth some of the heaviest music from the darkness of the Pacific NW, Seattle’s Tad Doyle (formerly of TAD, Hog Molly), delivers his strongest songwriting and playing with his newest band Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth. This powerful trio of musicians, with Tad on guitar/vocals, veteran bass player Peggy Doyle and drummer Dave French (The Annunaki) shall release their long-awaited debut LP in early 2015 on Neurot Recordings. Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth bring together the collective and extensive rock histories and the experience of the three members in the worlds of punk, hard rock and metal.
Steve Von Till says of the signing: “All of us at Neurot Recordings are so incredibly fired up about having the opportunity to be a part of this release. For me personally, Tad has been responsible for some of my favorite guitar driven noise of our generation not to mention the fact that it is an absolute pleasure to be working together with such great human beings. Witness the return of Tad with Brothers of the Sonic Cloth! “
We shall be revealing more album details over the coming months, as well as audio samples from the album. Stay tuned for more news soon…
Posted in On Wax on September 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are a couple lessons to be learned from Electric Nomads, the first arrival in Mos Generator‘s “Heavy Home Grown” series of DIY releases. First, swirl wax is pretty. This is something we already knew, but it comes into relief even more with Electric Nomads since, but for a sticker on the front, liner notes sheet inside (click here to see it) and a handwritten tracklist on back with the numbering — I got #14 out of the 100 pressed — autographs from Tony Reed (guitar/vocals), Scooter Haslip (bass) and Shawn Johnson (drums) and a handwritten ‘A’ on the label of the vinyl itself to show which is the first side, there’s no cover to stare at. Second, even Mos Generator‘s demos are impeccably produced. Hell, Reed even double-tracks his vocals on some of these songs. For a demo! I guess it’s handy when your guitar player is also an accomplished engineer, but still, if you’re thinking the long-running Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock trio were going to just cobble together a bunch of rehearsal tapes recorded on somebody’s iPhone, that’s not what Electric Nomads is all about. Culling together songs from Mos Generator‘s last two albums, this year’s Listenable Records debut, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here) and 2012’s return from hiatus, Nomads (review here) — you can see where the title comes from — Electric Nomads presents followers of the band with a look at their material in progress, but still basically brings finished versions of the songs. “Enter the Fire” from the latest record isn’t as elaborate melodically as the album track, and “Beyond the Whip,” which appears here at the end of side A, is one of several songs that feels faster than its album counterpart. They cap side B with a raucous jam, and there are some flourishes of psychedelia in the soloing that got stripped down by the time Reed recorded them for real, but structurally and in the clarity of their sound, a lot of what you get on Electric Nomads is finished work.
I suspect that has to do with the band’s writing process, and that by the time they’re ready to do pre-production for a studio offering, they’ve already worked out the kinks in a song like “Cosmic Ark.” That track opened Nomads, essentially announcing Mos Generator‘s resurgence from several years away while Reed worked with his Stone Axe and HeavyPink projects (the latter released on The Maple Forum), and it opens Electric Nomads as well — some psychedelic keyboard accompanying the guitar solo — starting a mirror version of the salvo that began Nomads itself: “Cosmic Ark” into “Lonely One Kenobi” into “Torches.” Three immediate, irresistible hooks put next to each other for maximum immersion. It worked well on Nomads and works well here. The break into sides isn’t clean in terms of Nomads on one side Electric Mountain Majesty on the other, but after the first three and “For Your Blood” from the earlier record, “Enter the Fire” and “Beyond the Whip” move into the later album material, which continues on side B with “Breaker,” “Spectres” and “Early Mourning,” which feeds directly into the concluding jam, aptly titled “Jam.” Reed harmonizes on the chorus of “For Your Blood” much like the finished version, and the classic metal boogie was apparently there early on as well, and I could be wrong, but the demo seems a little more uptempo even than the final was. Mos Gen are no strangers thrashing out when they want to, and they show that here, but the point is there are subtle differences on Electric Nomads in these songs, and for fans of the band — a category in which I’m glad to count myself — it’s an interesting piece to get a sense of how these tracks were built. They must have been tempted to keep Haslip‘s bass recording on “Enter the Fire” from this demo, and I wouldn’t argue with them if they had. Kind of funny to think that without this release, these recordings, into which clear effort was put and which sound crisp and clean and professional, would just be sitting around, probably on some hard drive in a closet at Reed‘s Heavy Head studio. Wild.
“Beyond the Whip” digs into speed-boogie and over on side B, “Breaker” picks up the theme and runs with it. Mos Generator‘s propensity for catchy songwriting is certainly on display, but perhaps the most closest look at that comes with “Jam,” which hints at the process of creation from which cuts like “Breaker” and “Torches” emerge, the three players all locked in and moving through different parts, seeing what works, what doesn’t, what to keep, what not. I would not at all doubt Reed has an archive of such excursions, but “Jam” represents its ilk well, his own solo a ripper coming off of “Early Mourning” as Johnson and Haslip hold the rhythm. Particularly after “Breaker” and “Early Mourning” — some of Electric Mountain Majesty‘s moodier lyrics — the rawer glimpse at Mos Generator‘s process is welcome, though “Spectres” might be my pick for highlight of the release. The Electric Mountain Majesty cut slowed down some of the rush on that record, and on Electric Nomads, it sits well between “Breaker” and “Early Mourning,” Reed announcing “solo” where one isn’t written yet and dropping out to let Haslip‘s bass cover that spot for a few measures. Many of these songs start out with an off-mic “we’re rolling,” or some other announcement that the recording has started — “Enter the Fire” has a few electronic beeps — but they’ve also been mixed, additional vocals layered in during their making, and mastered for this vinyl release — “Early Mourning” is an “oof” of a fuzz punch to the gut but it’s especially interesting to have “Jam” take off from it and close out. That’s about as raw as Mos Generator get on Electric Nomads, and it seems to be speaking to more nascent material, whereas by the time they recorded these versions of much of the rest of these songs, they were already solidified. I’d be interested to hear the missing link between the two — what comes in the middle with the trio screwing around on one side and a finished song on the other — but it might just be parts hammered out, and while an interesting academic piece, that rarely makes for fun listening. Electric Nomads, on the other hand, doesn’t need me to sell it to Mos Generator fans. The band’s reputation for delivering quality product is well established by now, and as they continue down the road with the “Heavy Home Grown” series, I’ll look forward to seeing just how deep into the vaults they go.
Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The headline for Earth‘s 10th album, Primitive and Deadly, will always be that it was the one where they brought back vocals. It’s inevitable. That was the story of the record even before anyone heard it. And not even just that there were vocals at all — Earth‘s last with them was 1996’s Pentastar: In the Style of Demons – but that they were bringing in guests to perform: Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and The Mark Lanegan Band fame and Rabi Shabeen Qazi of psych rockers Rose Windows. This turnabout in methodology is made much more than novelty by the execution of the songs themselves, but even if one hasn’t heard them, interest is bound to be piqued. In fact, there’s much more to Primitive and Deadly (released, as ever, by Southern Lord) than the human voice. While sections of it are flat-out beautiful in their lush, tonally rich sprawl, guitarist/founder Dylan Carlson leading the way through the six tracks with his trademark slow rolling drone rock riffs as bassist Bill Herzog rumbles in time to Adrienne Davies‘ drums, it’s also Earth‘s heaviest offering in over 15 years and certainly since they made their return with 2005’s landmark Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method. That record has been the foundation point for their progression throughout the last decade, subsequent outings like 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, 2010’s reinterpretation of their earliest work, A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction (review here), and the 2011/2012 improv two-parter, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I (review here) and II (review here), and on a certain level it is for Primitive and Deadly as well, but as the title seems to hint, there’s a wiping-the-slate happening across these six extended tracks/49 minutes that leans back to something rudimentary in Earth‘s sound. That’s not to say the album lacks ambience, just that the ambience feels like it’s punching you in the face — relatively speaking.
That’s true immediately on opener “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon,” which crashes into its chugging central riff with a jarring immediacy. Primitive and Deadly is clearly structured for a 2LP, with two shorter songs on sides A and C and one longer song on sides B and D, but anywhere you go and from whatever angle you might want to approach it, the sound is much bigger than one might be used to from Earth. Herzog is a deep-toned bassist and the production — the album was recorded at various points with Mathias Schneeberger, Dave Catching (who assisted) and Randall Dunn (who also mixed and contributed Moog) — brings out a rawness in their sound that their most recent output seems to have pulled away from. If these songs are Earth hitting reset, they’re not by any means forgetting the lessons they’ve learned over the last 10 years, and their sound is as evocative and atmospheric as ever, even if given a more pointed direction with the inclusion of vocals, the first of which arrive from Lanegan on the revivalist themed “There is a Serpent Coming.” His gravelly voice is perfect for Pentecostal forebodings, and there are a couple awkward syllabic turns, but there’s no denying the pairing works. Lanegan is given two songs, side A’s “There is a Serpent Coming” and side C’s “Rooks across the Gate,” which as tracks two and five lead the way into and out of the meat of the album, and Qazi is given one, side B’s 11-minute “From the Zodiacal Light,” but it’s her cut that turns out to be the highlight of both the vocalized half (cleverly spread out through the tracklisting) and of Primitive and Deadly as a whole. Her voice fits the material more smoothly, and she rides the groove of the song — as quintessential Earth as Earth get — in such a way that as the listener, being carried along by it is inevitable. That’s not to mention the resonance of Qazi‘s voice itself, somewhere between breathy and masterful. Hers is the prevailing impression of the album, and she reminds us that the only element missing from Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light – which Carlson positioned as Earth‘s homage to classic psych-folk — was the human otherworldliness.
Late in “From the Zodiacal Light,” Carlson swirls out a psychedelic lead that presages some of what’s to come with side C’s “Even Hell Has its Heroes,” a slightly more gradual start to the second LP’s opener than appeared on the first. Two guest guitarists appear on Primitive and Deadly, Brett Netson and Jodie Cox. I don’t know which of them it might be having a blues jam over the 9:43 “Even Hell Has its Heroes,” and frankly, if you told me it was both I’d probably believe you as there are a number of different tones layered in particularly as the song approaches its midsection, but it’s as close to classic heavy rock as Earth has ever come. The slow progression maintained by Davies, Herzog and Carlson might be a dirge were it not for the extra guitar — a languid march is punctuated by well-mixed bell hits — but as it stands, “Even Hell Has its Heroes” is more glorious than mournful. It is complemented on side C by Lanegan‘s second appearance, “Rooks across the Gates,” a more subdued roller on which he offers a traditional sort of ballad storytelling amid rising tides of guitar and the steady rhythm. He appears for two verses to recount the tale and is gone again, an echo disappearing into a singularly hypnotic moment in the second half with undulating waves of amp noise rumbling out the conclusion on a fade. It seems by the time they get there that there can’t possibly be much for closer “Badgers Bane” to say that Earth haven’t already expressed at one point or another, but in addition to complementing “From the Zodiacal Light” on guitar, the closer also seems to be most tying Primitive and Deadly to Earth‘s modus of this past, productive decade, unfurling its 12:28 runtime patiently as always and continuing to find room to experiment as a long fadeout past the four-minute mark leads to an ambient midsection of vague echoes grounded only by Davies‘ drum march until the song eventually makes a return, shortly after seven minutes in, and carries through past the nine-minute mark, at which point the final chord is sustained into a section of noise and straight droning that closes out. In the final minutes, Earth demonstrate that not only are they willing at this point to most directly engage with their audience — i.e. by adding vocals — but also to continue to push their material well beyond the point of accessibility. It’s ultimately the blend of both that makes “Badgers Bane” such a fitting wrap for Primitive and Deadly, since it underscores the unceasing creative impulse at the heart of what Earth has done. Their influence has spread far and wide from their Seattle roots, but Earth have never stopped progressing or pushing themselves, and even more than who’s singing on what tracks, that’s what stands out about their 10th full-length.
Posted in Features on August 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait, what? These people are going to be on Earth‘s next record?” I don’t know. I doubt it. This is a wishlist. It goes like this:
Earth release their new album, Primitive and Deadly, Sept. 2 on Southern Lord Recordings (preorders are here). I’ll have a review up in the next week or two, but if you’ve ever listened to the massively-influential Seattle mainstays, you know they’ve been instrumental for the bulk of their run to date. For the first time, the new album brings in guest vocalists — the venerable Mark Lanegan (ex-Screaming Trees, etc.) and Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows) — on a few choice selections. The results, as you’d expect and as you’ve probably heard by now, are stellar.
I had the record on just now and was daydreaming about what a new avenue Earth – founding guitarist Dylan Carlson, longtime drummer Adrienne Davies and bassist Bill Herzog – have opened for themselves. Of course, if time has proved anything, it’s that Earth work best following their own creative whims and drives, but it wasn’t long before I had a handful of voices I thought would work really well if they wanted to continue pursuing a partially vocalized approach.
Should you have a name to add, please feel free to leave a comment. Here’s who I came up with:
1. Ann Wilson
Okay, so maybe I’m breaking out the big guns right way, but how badass would Ann Fucking Wilson sound on an Earth track? Then and now, her voice is so powerful, moving and I just think she’d nail any part given to her and bring the spaciousness in Earth‘s signature drone-rock approach to an operatic level. I know she’s done most of her work in more traditional structures — Heart could be pretty out there, but still — but you can’t tell me she wouldn’t absolutely kill it in collaboration with her fellow Seattle-ites. Plus you might convince her to break out some flute, and that’s a bonus.
2. Marianne Faithfull
I admit this one’s kind of a reach, but one-time Rolling Stones collaborator Marianne Faithfull shares one thing in common with Earth‘s sound, and it’s a lasting resonance. Faithfull‘s voice can be so uplifting or so, so sad, and either side that she brought to Earth, it would work. It really would. It sounds really crazy, but I’m telling you straight up, it would absolutely work and be amazing, and you’d call me up or text me or whatever and like, “Dude, you were right, this is killer,” and then we’d get together and high-five about it, which would also be awesome.
3. Mark Lanegan
But wait, doesn’t Mark Lanegan already sing on Primitive and Deadly? Yeah, he does. It’s fucking great. They should do it again sometime.
4. Sera Timms
The former Black Math Horseman and current Ides of Gemini vocalist seems to carry an ethereal sensibility with her wherever she goes. Certainly that was the case on Field of the Host (review here), the 2013 debut outing from her solo-project Black Mare, and I’d say it holds up on Ides of Gemini‘s new one, Old World/New Wave (review here) as well. Timms does a lot of fascinating work with echoing effects and layering, and has a lot of experience in open structures and droning sounds, so even aside from the otherworldly folkishness of her approach, she seems like a natural fit.
5. Dylan Carlson
Stay with me on this. Yeah, he sang on 1996’s Pentastar: In the Style of Demons, but after almost 20 years of going the other way, Earth have switched it up and decided to incorporate singers. As the founder of the band, doesn’t Dylan Carlson deserve a say? I think he’s more than earned it, and I don’t even care if he doesn’t want to sing. Let him do a spoken word retelling of his grocery list, it doesn’t matter. It just seems to me that if this is something Earth are going to pursue for any amount of time going forward, it’s as worthwhile for them to look inward as outward in challenging themselves.
Earth‘s Primitive and Deadlyis out Sept. 2 on Southern Lord, and they’ll begin a US tour with King Dude two days later (dates here). More info at the links.