Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Actually it’s more like five weeks that West Virginia’s Karma to Burn will spend on the road across the US supporting their 2014 full-length, Arch Stanton (review here). The Morgantown instrumentalists, now with guitarist Will Mecum as the sole remaining founding member alongside bassist Rob Halkett and drummer Evan Devine, will head out right after New Year’s, starting Jan. 7 in Ohio and ending with a hometown gig on Feb. 13.
Those lineup changes have taken place and Karma to Burn have released a self-titled EP and a split with Sons of Alpha Centauri since their last round of North American touring in 2011, so it seems reasonable to expect some difference in stage presence given the different players, etc., but Karma to Burn‘s no-frills core might as well be carved in marble it’s so permanent, and they should be nothing if not recognizable.
Looking forward to finding out:
Karma to Burn on North American tour!
1/07 AKRON, OH @ RIPPERS ROCK HOUSE 1/08 PHILADELPHIA, PA @ KUNGFU NECKTIE 1/09 PITTSBURGH, PA @ 31ST ST PUB 1/10 TORONTO, ON @ HARD LUCK 1/11 MONTREAL, QC @ CASA DEL POPOLO 1/12 BURLINGTON, VT @ HIGHER GROUND 1/13 PORTLAND, ME @ GENO’S 1/14 BOSTON, MA @ TT THE BEARS 1/15 MANCHESTER, NH @ THE SHASKEEN 1/16 NEW YORK, NY @ SAINT VITUS 1/18 BALTIMORE, MD @ METRO GALLERY 1/19 RICHMOND, VA @ STRANGE MATTER 1/20 RALEIGH, NC @ THE POUR HOUSE 1/21 ATLANTA, GA @ THE EARL 1/22 NEW ORLEANS, LA @ SIBERIA 1/23 HOUSTON, TX @ MANGOS 1/24 AUSTIN, TX @ MOHAWK 1/25 DALLAS, TX @ DOUBLE WIDE 1/27 ALBUQUERQUE, TX @ LAUNCHPAD 1/28 PHOENIX, AZ @ NILE THEATER 1/29 SAN DIEGO, CA @ BRICK BY BRICK 1/30 LOS ANGELES, CA @ LOADED 1/31 SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ BOTTOM OF THE HILL 2/01 SACRAMENTO, CA @ STARLITE LOUNGE 2/03 SEATTLE, WA @ EL CORAZON 2/04 VANCOUVER, BC @ RICKSHAW THEATER 2/06 PORTLAND, OR @ HAWTHORNE THEATER 2/07 BOISE, ID @ SHREDDER 2/08 SALT LAKE CITY, UT @ AREA 51 2/09 DENVER, CO @ LOST LAKE 2/10 LAWRENCE, KS @ REPLAY 2/11 ST. LOUIS, MO @ FUBAR 2/12 CHICAGO IL @ RED LINE TAP 2/13 MORGANTOWN WV @ 123 PLEASANT STREET 04/23 Berlin Germany @ Desert Fest 04/26 London UK @ Desert Fest
Posted in audiObelisk on November 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
West Virginian trio Rhin will release their second album, Bastard, Dec. 1 through Grimoire Records. It is a noisy barrage of a record, taking cues in aggressive and abrasiveness from Unsane and Sourvein and concocting a vicious churn from them that seems to spit at you even through speakers. Songs like “Bull Doze” and the quicker “I Want More” tread heavy on the line between punk and heavy noise, taking root with a nasty sort of drive that takes on different forms throughout Bastard‘s seven tracks, but never seems to relent no matter where it turns.
“Consumed,” which closes, is the culmination of all this tension. Rhin‘s late-2013 self-titled debut was also seven tracks that rounded out with a closer extended in comparison to what surrounded it, but Bastard feels more assured, the trio of bassist/vocalist Dominic Gianninoto, guitarist Tucker Riggleman and drummer Ben Proudman storming their way through “Ted’s Shed,” “Gravy” and the penultimate furiousness of “Man is Bastard” (not to be confused with powerviolence pioneers Man is the Bastard) with immediacy and confidence. In that it’s 10 minutes long and the rest of the album’s tracks are less than half that in runtime, and takes more of a building approach rather than unleashing its onslaught all at once, “Consumed” maybe doesn’t represent the entirety of Bastard as much as another cut might, but I think after you make your way through it, you’ll be able to get a decent sense of what Rhin are going for and you’ll have a hard time arguing it doesn’t live up to its title.
After climbing to a midpoint apex, “Consumed” opens up to a more languid groove, calling to mind an East Coast answer to some of Akimbo‘s swaying explorations and never losing its sense of purpose as the adrenaline gradually returns, measure by measure until the final chugging, feedback, sample and fade take hold. “Consumed” is not a light undertaking, but it serves to demonstrate that the entirety of Rhin‘s scope can’t necessarily be summarized either by noise rock or sludge. If you let it carry you, it will:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Rhin‘s Bastard is out Dec. 1 on Grimoire Records and is available now to preorder. More info at the links.
Posted in Reviews on July 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
What’s really surprising about Arch Stanton, the new full-length from Karma to Burn, isn’t how the trio goes about its business. Led by West Virginian guitarist Will Mecum, the method is essentially the same as it’s been since 1999’s sophomore outing, Wild Wonderful Purgatory, in that the band cut a straight line, sans frills, to riff-led heavy rock and roll. Tracks are numerically titled, there are no vocals save for a bit of sampling on closer “Fifty Nine” (also as high as the numbers go this time around), and they stick so firmly to their approach that six of the album’s eight tracks are between four and five minutes long, and neither of the other two top six. For anyone who’s listened to them before, the ideas and the barebones feel with which they’re presented will be familiar. What’s really surprising about Arch Stantonis how much Karma to Burn can say without saying anything at all. Not counting a 2012 reworking of their famously vocalized 1997 self-titled debut (their label at the time, Roadrunner, forced them to take a on a singer; it didn’t last), dubbed Slight Reprise, the FABA and Deepdive Records-released Arch Stantonis Karma to Burn‘s sixth album, the follow-up to 2011’s V(review here) and their 2010 return, Appalachian Incantation(review here), as well as a slew of splits, EPs and singles. It is consistent with those two and with the output from Karma to Burn‘s first run on the aforementioned Wild Wonderful Purgatoryand 2002’s Almost Heathen, but it’s also their first long-player to feature bassist Rob Halkett and drummer Evan Devine alongside Mecum.
Although it doesn’t manifest sonically in any massive stylistic shift — Mecum seems to be calling the shots either way — his guitar is certainly the defining presence in the band at this point if it wasn’t before, and it probably was — it’s still a big change. Former bassist Rich Mullins and ex-drummer Rob Oswald, aside from being there during the first run prior to their split after Almost Heathen, were a considerable presence in the band’s creative growth. Mullins having taken part in the band Year Long Disaster particularly led to the two groups essentially combining forces for a time, but that’s gone on Arch Stantonas well. Those days, it would seem, are over, and Karma to Burn have returned to the core of what they’re all about, which is Mecum‘s riffs and a straightforward instrumental heavy rock drive. They dip as far back as “Twenty Three” — which by the numbers comes from the Wild Wonderful Purgatory-era — but the rest of Arch Stantonis between “Fifty Three” and “Fifty Nine,” arranged over the album’s 37 minutes to maximize overarching flow over what I imagine breaks cleanly in half to form two vinyl sides, and “Fifty Seven” leads off with Devine‘s drums and winding feedback leading to a classic motoring boogie, thick, groovy and in heavy motion. As ever, Karma to Burn waste no time in reminding their listeners who they are and what they do, even if they’re introducing some new faces in the process. “Fifty Six” has a metallic feel in the initial guitar line, and “Fifty Three” slows the proceedings down for a time, but they cap the first half with a return to the swagger in “Fifty Four” that shows off some airy layering at first before the central riff emerges to mark the nod-ready progression, building efficiently before a somewhat understated payoff rounds out.
The grooves get larger on “Fifty Five” and “Fifty Eight” on side B, but the mood and overall vibe keep steady, though the fact that the chugging “Twenty Three” seems to have a simpler spirit than what surrounds could be taken as indicative of the creative growth of the band or at very least Mecum‘s songwriting. Karma to Burn have long been haunted by the specter of vocals, partially because of their debut, partially because, in collaborations with John Garcia and Dan Davies, they’ve flirted with the idea, and partially because the songs are so straightforward it seems there’s room for a singer. I don’t know if that feels less true on Arch Stantonbecause something has changed in Karma to Burn musically or if it’s interpretation based on how otherwise uncompromising the album feels, but it remains the case either way. True to the album’s title which also references the film, some snipped dialog from the closing moments of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – famous Morricone score included — is worked into “Fifty Nine,” and that seems particularly fitting, though somewhat ironic since that was a European film set in the American west and Karma to Burn are an American band who at this point have found greater success touring in Europe. Nonetheless, they end with a big push, and bring Arch Stantonto a finish sounding refreshed in their purpose and clearheaded about what it is Karma to Burn should be some 20 years on from the band’s founding. Whether or not Mecum‘s bringing in Halkett and Devine will signal a new period of productivity — two live albums, an EP and a split with Sons of Alpha Centauri all being released since the start of 2013 would hint that perhaps it will — it’s hard to say for sure, but if Arch Stantonproves anything, it’s that like their goat mascot on the Alexander von Wieding cover art, they ride tall and destructive through whatever battle may be raging around them.
Posted in audiObelisk on July 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
On Aug. 5, West Virginian classic doom four-piece Brimstone Coven will make a self-titled debut on Metal Blade Records. The retro-fied, boogie-ritualized, 69-minute monster with which they’ll do it is available now to preorder and made up of 17 tracks — the sum total of their discography prior to inking the deal. Their original 2012 self-titled EP (which STB Records released as a 12″ last year) appears here as bonus tracks, and 2013’s II, comprises the meat of the album proper. But with the combination and a remaster comes a change of title, and Brimstone Coven‘s Brimstone Covenit is.
In whatever context one might want to view it, Brimstone Covenis an album that righteously engages the tenets of classic doom. There’s an early ’70s sway to the material, a looseness in the rhythm section of bassist Andrew D’Cagna and drummer Justin Wood, that gives the chugging, grooving riffs of guitarist Corey Roth both meat and movement, and vocalist “Big John” Williams meshes with this modus perfectly, the layers of his voice harmonizing and calling to mind the natural feel and melodic range of grandiose ’70s prog, working with the music surrounding to give cuts like “Behold, the Anunnaki,” “The Black Door” and “The Seance” a mystique without sounding overblown or needlessly theatrical. It’s a careful balance and Brimstone Coven execute it well.
While the newer material (which appears first on the new collection) has a clearer production value than the original EP — though the remaster and an intro track provide an easy flow from one section into the next — that only makes it easier to hear the progression Brimstone Coven have undertaken. As a summary of the album’s appeal, “Behold, the Anunnaki” holds up more than ably in giving a sense of their progressive side while nailing down a steady rolling groove and building to a bigger finish. If it’s your first taste of what Brimstone Coven have to offer, you’re likely in for a pleasant surprise.
Brimstone Coven will release their self-titled full-length via Metal Blade Records on Aug. 5. The album is available to preorder here. They’ll also join Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger for select shows on their upcoming tour, and on July 21, they’ll play with labelmates Mount Salem in their home state. More info from the PR wire and at the links below:
Brimstone Coven is a retro-hard rock / doom band that hails of out Wheeling, WV. They began brewing their own blend of “dark occult rock” in the early months of 2011. Corey Roth (Guitarist) wrote the first five songs, which would later become the band’s self titled album. Roth went on to handpick three seasoned musicians from the local scene. Andrew D’Cagna (Bass), Justin Wood (Drums), and “Big John” Williams (Vocals) were recruited to carry out Roth’s plan for sonic domination. Echoing the eerie reverberations of hard rock heavyweights such as Black Sabbath and Pentagram, mixed with the classic rock style of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Brimstone Coven strive to preserve a vintage rock sound mixed with a style all their own.
After many shows, one album, the band added new drummer Dan Hercules, released their second album, simply titled “II”, which was released in November of 2013, and signed with Metal Blade Records! Since signing with Metal Blade, original drummer Justin Wood has returned to the fold and has rounded out the seminal chemistry the band had been looking for. Metal Blade Records will begin their new partnership with Brimstone Coven by releasing the band’s latest album combined with their debut EP, complete with new mastering and brand new artwork. Artwork was completed by Creighton Hill, the same mind behind the band’s first two releases. The newly packaged and mastered set 17 tracks will serve as a solid introduction to Brimstone Coven for new fans. On August 5, the album will be available digitally and physically in North America.
In looking at his work over the course of their collaboration, you can tell that German artist Alexander von Wieding is a fan of Karma to Burn. Not just because he does such excellent work for them — see his prior covers to their V and Appalachian Incantation full-lengths and splits with Sons of Alpha Centauri, ÖfÖ Am, etc. — but to the creativity he brings to their established goat mascot and the level to which he captures what the instrumental West Virginian outfit is all about. The latest partnership between Karma to Burn and von Wieding is the three-piece’s forthcoming album, Arch Stanton, set to release in August.
The album takes its title from the name on the grave in the Sergio Leone classic, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where a fortune of gold is buried, and almost certainly, if riffs were treasure then Karma to Burn would be millionaires. Von Wieding‘s cover departs from the spaghetti west in favor of the American Civil War, which occurred before the events imagined in the film, and we see Karma to Burn‘s mascot — who’s well on his way to an Eddie-esque number of interpretations — storming a battle line of Union and Confederate soldiers, the flags of both sides represented. All around is chaos and fire and death, rendered with a frightening and otherworldly glow, and both armies recoil in bloody horror as the cigar-smoking beast devastates with a whip for each side.
Karma to Burn‘s Arch Stanton is out this August through Deepdive Records and FABA Records. More to come about it, I’m sure, but until then, check out the tracklisting, take a listen to the prior single “Fifty Three,” which will appear on the record, and click the image below for a closer look:
1 Fifty Seven 2 Fifty Six 3 Fifty Three 4 Fifty Four 5 Fifty Five 6 Twenty Three 7 Fifty Eight 8 Fifty Nine
When you need an ass kicked and you need it kicked in a hurry, call Karma to Burn. Led by guitarist Will Mecum, the West Virginian outfit has been stomping mudholes with their particular brand of straightforward heavy rock and roll for 20 years now, and as “53” from their new H42 Records split 7″ with UK rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri shows, there’s no slowing down in their point-A-to-point-B, no frills, no bullshit approach. The instrumentalists have seen no shortage of changes along their way — Mecum is now joined in the band by bassist Rob Halkett and drummer Evan Devine, and Karma to Burn have had bassists, drummers, and even vocalists come and go — but their core ethic remains steady and there’s no getting around the fact that it continues to work.
The video features art by Alexander von Wieding and old war footage, but of course the draw is the song itself. “53” is a solid refresher of just what it is that has always made Karma to Burn such a righteous outlier. They never quite seem satisfied, never want to rest, and at what I’m sure is a coincidental four minutes and 20 seconds long, the song “53” hits with an underlying intensity of purpose that’s like listening to grinding teeth. Whatever they do, it’s their unwillingness to compromise their sound and the central riff-led take that has earned them such respect over the last two decades, but no matter how many bands they influence or what acclaim comes their way or passes them by, Karma to Burn keep their heads down, keep working. It’s easy to admire that.
Enjoy “53” below, followed by some more info on the Sons of Alpha Centauri split vinyl courtesy of H42 Records:
Karma to Burn, “53” official video
Karma to Burn’s ’53’
’53’ is also part of the new Split 7″ of Sons of Alpha Centauri & Karma to Burn! This is the second 7″ featuring both bands and follows up the immense popularity of the first vinyl and captures the raw energy and driving rock fury of both bands yet again. This release will only be available on vinyl through H42 Records Artwork & Layout: Alexander von Wieding.
First Edition: 500 – 130 on orange-black vinyl – 130 on white-blue vinyl – 240 on black vinyl
Posted in On the Radar on January 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Okay, stay with me on this one. Way back at SHoD XI in 2011, I caught a band called Nagato from West Virginia who kicked my ass a more than fair amount and whose demo I grooved on thereafter. Dark, ambient, bluesy, really heavy and moody but without making a show of it. Good stuff that warranted a follow-up and hasn’t gotten one yet. Nagato were playing shows as late as June 2012, so what their status is, I’m not really sure.
In the meantime, though, guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle – whose tone and delivery was a major source of my appreciation for what Nagato were doing — has put together a new project called Black Blizzard. Joining him (he’s the one right on the camera in the pic above) is Brooklyn-based drummer Ben Proudman. The two were formerly bandmates in the punk outfit Vox Populi and got going as Black Blizzard in the middle of last year, playing a show the same night they decided they were a band. Nothing like a quick start.
The duo have just put out their first release, a three-song EP called Broken Hands, Broken Heartsthat sets a surprisingly diverse course in a short span of time. All told, “Light up the Night,” “Loss” and “Black Blizzard” top out around 16 minutes, but in that time, Cogle and Proudman move fluidly from rocking riffage and a catchy chorus offset by distorted crunch to sullen instrumental guitar minimalism with some obscured layers of noise low in the mix, rounding out with Conan-style low end on their eponymous closer, a tide of guitar leading the course for a build that might have been what Helmet turned into had they decided early on that they liked kicking ass and wanted to keep doing it. Vocals on the closer are wetter with reverb than on the opener and stand up to the thump and crash in the guitars and drums, leaving an impression though the track is still mostly-instrumental.
Broken Hands, Broken Hearts culminates with a vicious dug-in groove that gets louder before cutting out and though I don’t know how often they’re going to be able to get together for writing purposes — West Virginia to Brooklyn or vice versa is a long way to go for band practice — the material on the EP, like Nagato‘s demo, deserves subsequent explorations. Let’s hope it gets them. Until then, here are the three tracks in full courtesy of the Black Blizzard Bandcamp page, also available for a free download:
Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though the position of “instrumental riffers from West Virginia” has been filled to varying degrees of figurative and literal permanence by Karma to Burn, with a more subtle touch and laid back groove, Beckley’s four-piece Seven Planets make a solid case with their self-titled sophomore outing. Residing somewhere between Clutch’s pocketed-rhythm-section grooving and the sweetly honed tonality of My Sleeping Karma, what stands Seven Planets out is their looking to the European sphere for influence as few American acts seem to want to do, for better or worse. That’s not to say a few songs on Seven Planets aren’t recognizably derived from Clutch tunes – “Maish Done Wrung Me Out” and “Prime Mover” are striking in that regard and even initial the drumbeat of opener “Up on High” is suggestive of the Maryland band’s self-titled outing – but Seven Planets do well to both keep this homage forward and conscious-feeling (for the most part) while still putting their own stamp on the work within the album’s eight component tracks. Ten-minute second cut, “Objects in Space,” which is by far the longest on the 36-minute release (do they get points for putting the longest song second, rather than first? Yeah, alright), wants nothing either for patience or natural feel, the production smoothing the dual-guitars of Jim Way and Leonard Hanks – the latter of whom also recorded, mixed and mastered the album – without sacrificing depth of tone. Together with drummer Ben Pitt and bassist Mike Williams, the guitars keep a humility to the jams that works well in their favor, following 2008’s also-self-released Flight of the Ostrich with a purposefully heady vibe that never quite loses its direction entirely, no matter how far into the psychedelic stratosphere it may go. They may not be exactly innovating either in their grooves or spaced-out flourish, but for a band to self-release an instrumental album in a full jewel case these days, to hire Alexander Von Wieding (Larman Clamor, Karma to Burn, on and on) to do their artwork and really give it a push in more than just a, “Hey we got a Bandcamp” kind of way – though the album is also on Bandcamp – shows dedication on the part of the band to their own cause and warrants deeper consideration than just, “It sounds like this and this, check it out.”
Additions like organ, extra percussion and backwards guitar bring out a burgeoning sense of complexity on “Up on High,” “Maish Done Wrung Me Out” or the penultimate “Locus,” but on closer “Lamont Starfield,” it’s Robot Hive/Exodus-era Clutch start-stops just waiting for the vocals. Way and Hanks, however familiar the base they’re working from, do leave room for plenty of dynamic interplay, and whether it’s a shared bluesy lead, as on that song, or the earlier, Ween-style swirling of “Maish Done Wrung Me Out,” and Williams (presumably no relation to the EyeHateGod vocalist with whom he shares a name) delivers a standout performance on bass, so whatever else the album has working for or against it, it has a secret weapon in Williams. That’s true at least until “9th Time,” on which he comes forward to drive the initial progression while Way and Hanks echo out behind, at which point his presence and performance are undeniable. Pitt’s drumming leans a bit on the snare, but does so interestingly enough that it doesn’t feel so much like a crutch as much as the march is just a major factor in his favor. When the guitars pick up the lead in “9th Time,” Pitt is right there alongside, opening up a straightforward beat on his hi-hat to push the adrenaline of the track forward. Williams seems to disappear for a time, but returns with a striking fill toward the end, and though there’s a quick machine sample before the following cut, “Circuit,” begins, the atmosphere remains laid back despite the inorganic interruption. Pacing-wise, Seven Planets do well to keep mostly in the middle, allowing the songs to retain their sense of structure while keeping an exploratory vibe about them, which “Circuit” certainly has despite its open coolness. That song is more their own, and though they put timed volume swells and shifts into it, “Prime Mover” nonetheless returns them distinctly to the Pulaski Skyway, which though it’s less theirs entirely, nonetheless gives the rhythm section a chance to shine, which it seems to relish, particularly in the case of Williams.
Okay, so maybe these two bands are stand-ins for bigger ideas, but think about it this way: The central question in looking at defunct Dutch psych proggers 35007 (on my mind following their inclusion in this month’s podcast) and reborn West Virginian riff bashers Karma to Burn is what do you want from an instrumental band? Do you want extensive musical exploration born out of freeform or structurally open jamming, or do you want head-down, driving rock, just without some singer guy blathering on about motorcycles and hey whoa baby yeah?
By way of examples, let’s take 35007‘s 2005 swansong, Phase V, and what was then Karma to Burn‘s second album, 1999’s Wild Wonderful Purgatory, which was the record that established them as an instrumental act following their 1997 self-titled debut. The 35007 made a bed of odd time signatures and underlying experiments in synth, resulting in a varied, eclectic presentation, where Karma to Burn‘s sophomore outing is among the most straightforward stoner rock albums, period. If it was any more stripped down, they wouldn’t be playing.
I’m not necessarily championing either as the best in the band’s catalog (though I’ll argue for Phase V in that regard), but looking to get a discussion going on what you want when you listen to instrumental heavy rock. Karma to Burn and 35007 — both pivotal and highly influential bands who got started around the same time in the early/mid ’90s — stand for very different things musically while still roughly residing in the same genre. So let’s do this:
Is it the expanded creative realm of 35007?
Or the balls-out, bullshit-free classicism of Karma to Burn?
You know the drill by now. These posts are always about having some fun, so wherever you stand, make sure you leave a comment below. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one turns out.
Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I don’t get down that way as often as I used to, but once every year and a half or so, Asbury Park does me just right. Last night was one such occasion. I left the office a bit after 8PM, sloshed my way through the rain Southbound on the world famous Garden State Parkway, down to admirable Asbury mainstay The Saint, where West Virginian instrumental riffers were joined by Jersey‘s own The Atomic Bitchwax and The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels, who were about halfway through their set when I forked over my $12 and got in.
Despite having On the Radar-ized them as far back as last April, and despite my fandom of guitarist Mike Schwiegert and vocalist Kevin LeBlanc‘s prior bands (Lord Sterling and A Day of Pigs, respectively), and despite living a mere 90 minutes away, it was my first time catching The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels live, and I was glad to have the chance to do so. They’ve got some classic crossover in their sound that they offset with noisy crunch and thick tones, and with their first full-length reportedly in the can, there seems to be much more to look forward to.
The five-piece were something of a standout on the bill for how aggressive they were, but there was no denying the formidable presence they brought to the stage. LeBlanc is a natural frontman who plays to the strength of his screams, and Schwiegert — joined on guitar by Dave Anderson — excellently displays his hardcore roots without giving in to East Coast chest-thumping cliche. The material they played was pummeling, and it looked as though they were having fun finding out just how heavy they can be.
The Atomic Bitchwax, on the other hand, seemed just to be having fun. Not counting the couple minutes I saw at Roadburn, it was the first I’d seen them since the release of their latest album, The Local Fuzz (review here), and while they capped their set with about 20 minutes of that 42-minute instrumental riff-fest, they ran through a handful of other songs first, including “So Come On,” “Shitkicker” and the Core cover, “Kiss the Sun,” which served as a reminder of just how much a part of the Bitchwax guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan has become since coming on board prior to the release of 3 in 2005.
Rightfully so since he used to be in Core, Ryan took lead vocal on that song as per usual, but bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik seems to have stepped back on some of the material from 3 and 2009’s TAB4 as well — “Destroyer” from the former comes to mind — though both had smiles on their faces for “Gettin’ Old” from the band’s classic 1999 self-titled debut. The Atomic Bitchwax being rounded out by “Monster Bob” Pantella on drums, Kosnik is the only remaining founding member, but without hesitation, I’ll say their set at The Saint was among the tightest I’ve ever seen them, and I’ve seen them plenty.
Kosnik and Ryan were completely locked in on bass and guitar, their fingers rapidly making their way through the band’s signature winding riffs with speeds approaching Slayer levels at times during “The Local Fuzz.” That album probably took some flack for moving so far away from 4‘s pop-based songwriting modus — it’s easy to see it as a kind of “diarrhea of the riff” — but live, it made more sense, and it seemed almost as though the band were stripping everything down to the essential parts, and answering those who likewise denigrated 4‘s hyper-accessibility by saying, “Well, you want fuzzy riffs, here they are.” And there they were. For about 20 minutes solid.
And I guess if Karma to Burn is going to get a lead in, there probably isn’t one more appropriate than that. The trio’s anti-bullshit stance is long noted, most recently evinced on their second album for Napalm Records, V, but as they ran through a set of their numerically-titled instrumental pieces, it became increasingly clear that something was amiss, particularly with guitarist Will Mecum.
When drummer Rob Oswald (ex-Nebula) came around his kit early on to fix the foot of his bass drum, Mecum cursed audibly and with frustration. I don’t know what the situation is with the band, if he was pissed at Oswald for something or if he stubbed his toe — I refuse to speculate or spread rumors needlessly — but something had him off his game. He played much of the set like some men operate heavy machinery: with his ballcap pulled down over his eyes and his shoulders slumped in contempt.
And though he spent a significant amount of time facing the wall to the side of the stage, leaving Oswald‘s near-flatly-set toms high cymbals and bassist Rich Mullins with the task of acknowledging the audience in a manner not unlike someone trying to explain away a domestic disturbance to the cops the neighbors called, (prior to their going on, Mullins had told me the tour was, “a lot of work”), they sounded really good. It was almost in spite of themselves.
They’re clearly three very different individuals — Mecum with his grit and seemingly endless supply of riffs, Mullins with his gaunt rocker’s looks and stage presence, and Oswald the beardo wizard in back launching into impossible-looking fills — and again, I don’t know what the situation is in the band, but Karma to Burn has become so influential in heavy rock because there’s a special chemistry among the players, and that came through in the songs. They cut the set short, nixing “41” from 2009’s Appalachian Incantation among others, and obviously it was a bad night for the band, but I didn’t leave The Saint disappointed.
The music was right on and I got to see a new band for the first time, a local staple who were mind-bogglingly tight, and an act who’ve left an indelible mark on their genre. It was a good night, I got to see some good people. For $12 on a rainy Tuesday, you can’t reasonably ask much more than that. It was a bummer that it was a bummer for Karma to Burn, but hopefully they’ll make it up on the rest of the tour, which hits Boston tonight (Sept. 7, with formidable locals Black Thai and Ichabod) and Brooklyn tomorrow, once again with The Atomic Bitchwax on the latter bill as a replacement for the apparently-defunct Black Pyramid.
More pics after the jump. Thanks to The Saint for being so brightly lit.
Posted in Reviews on May 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Among the many routes to take, Karma to Burn has always been one of the most direct lines to the riff. The West Virginian trio’s instrumental approach is among the most bullshit-free in all of heavy rock, and that has remained the case following their reunion in 2009. With the release of Appalachian Incantation last year (review here), guitarist Will Mecum, bassist Rich Mullins and drummer Rob Oswald (ex-Nebula) joined forces with Napalm Records and successfully began to incorporate the vocals of Dan Davies of Year Long Disaster, in which Mullins also plays, essentially merging the two bands into one, pulling double duty on joint tours, etc. Appalachian Incantation marked a successful reunion, and the aptly-titled follow-up, V, which sure enough is Karma to Burn’s fifth album overall, takes on the weighty task of re-beginning a creative development on the part of the band.
It’s not an easy thing to do. One reunion album is hard enough to pull off, but by getting back together and releasing a second full-length, you’re more or less saying that this thing has stuck and you’re rolling with it. You’re no longer a reunion band, you’re just a band. The second return album completely does away with the novelty of the first, and you reopen yourself to judgment based not on the fact that people are glad you’re back together again, but based solely on the merit of the work itself.
I doubt it’s anything Karma to Burn has lost sleep over, and if V is any indication, they’re keener on affecting a decent presentation of their sound than doing anything outlandishly new with it. No question that V is the band’s most produced album to date. Recorded by John Lousteau (who’s previously worked on albums by Motörhead, Foo Fighters and Danko Jones) at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606, the songs are crisp and clear – Mullins’ tone in particular sounds better than it ever has on a Karma to Burn record – but still in possession of some measure of the band’s original grit. There’s enough separation to enjoy Mecum’s guitar and Mullins’ bass in equal measure, and Oswald’s drums may have been replaced digitally, but if they were, it’s not offensively synthesized sounding. His snare is low and deep and serves as excellent punctuation for many of the tracks, including the sort-of-centerpiece, “The Cynic,” which is one of the three songs included on V with Davies on vocals.
Posted in On the Radar on November 22nd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Boy oh boy, Morgantown, West Virginia, must really have something against vocalists. First Karma to Burn has to basically be ordered to get one for their first record, only to swear them off forever afterwards (only to eventually merge with Year Long Disaster and employ one more regularly), then Treasure Cat comes along wanting no part of any singer’s ego, and now the bruising trio Hovel likewise can’t be bothered. Don’t get me wrong, I know first-hand what a pain in the ass singers can be, but there’s got to be at least one in West Virginia that the rest of a band would be willing to put up with. West by God has one. Maybe they’ll share.
It’s easy to get into the grooves Hovel proffers, what with the familiarly American doom riffs and quality bass fills of a song like “Taking off the Guv’nor,” or the decidedly Iommi-esque bent of “26 Inch Sonic Witch” — both audible at the band’s MySpace. The second of those tracks comes off Hovel‘s Fuzzbuster/26 Inch Sonic Witch 7″ (you can also hear the first on there), released by Seattle‘s Flotation Records in a limited edition of 500. Hovel also has a six-song self-titled EP they’re selling on the MySpace that one presumes the cuts “GammaMinusMachineMinder” and “Taking off the Guv’nor” come from.
For being from an area rich in this kind of rock — could Morgantown be the official home of instrumental stoner riffing? — Hovel fit right in with a second generation of quality guitar-led jammers like Admiral Browning and Nitroseed in losing nothing of the doomed experience for lacking in throat. Ah hell. Whoever was singing would probably just blather on about cars and chicks anyway. Might as well let the crowd enjoy the riffs unencumbered. Take a listen to “Taking off the Guv’nor” and see if you don’t agree:
I set myself a couple rules for this one: No farther west than Texas, nothing north of Virginia and if a band features members of Down, they’re out. That means no Crowbar, no C.O.C., no Eyehategod or any of their other offshoots. Those are great bands, don’t get me wrong, but you get into that territory and next thing you know the whole podcast is full — ditto had I included Maryland — and I think once you take a look at the tracklist, you’ll see I was aiming for something else entirely.
When the idea was originally suggested, it was an exploration of the new Southern metal, bands like Baroness and their post-Mastodon Southern prog ilk. Later it was expanded to include a wide breadth of Southern rock and metal old and new. Well, the first was a little too narrowly focused (there just aren’t 30 bands — yet — playing Masto-prog), and the second was a little too wide ranging, so I took a middle course between them. You still get the bands like Baroness, Torche, Mastodon, and Zoroaster, and you also get some more straightforward rock-type stuff from the likes of Texas acts SuperHeavyGoatAss, Amplified Heat and Orthodox Fuzz.
I’m pretty sure you’ll agree it’s a killer mix of bands, and that it covers a wide ground, from the humid sludge of Sourvein and Ol’ Scratch, to the wide-eyed psych bliss of Tasha-Yar. All but one of the included tracks are from the latter half of the last decade (I’d argue the song from 2004 and the album from which it came were a big inspiration for many of the other bands present), and that was definitely on purpose, since this is a vibrant scene happening right now. I tried to be as timely with it as I could.
In that spirit, you’ll find new music included from Torche, Kylesa (finally found Spiral Shadow at an FYE; let the record show I tried two legitimate indie stores first), Elliott’s Keep, US Christmas, Kin of Ettins, Orthodox Fuzz and The Crimson Electric. To honor readers Josh and Jason who first presented and then expanded the idea, we start off with Weedeater, who are possibly the most Southern band on the planet.
Click here or the image above to get the file, or stream it on the player above. Full tracklist with timestamps and years of release is after the jump. I hope you enjoy it.
Posted in Features on May 13th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Instrumental Los Angeles (by way of West Virginia) trio Karma to Burn have just released their first full-length since 2002 in the form of Appalachian Incantation, and are set to kick off their first US tour in support of the record tomorrow night in Brooklyn. For most bands, that would probably qualify as “busy enough,” but Karma to Burn, who officially reunited in Spring 2009 and have since had a bevvy of releases, seem to prefer their collective plate when it’s full.
Drummer Rob Oswald, guitarist Will Mecum and bassist Rich Mullins, in addition to playing as Karma to Burn, will now also be pulling duty as the band Year Long Disaster — of which Mullins was already a member — and in turn, Year Long Disaster vocalist Dan Davies has (sort of) joined Karma to Burn as their first singer since RoadrunnerRecords pressured them into having vocals on their self-titled album in 1997. Oh, and they’re apparently planning more work with John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn et al), who shows up on the Appalachian Incantation bonus track, “Two Times.” So there’s that as well.
If that seems like a fuck-load of information, and confusing information at that, it is, and rest assured, I don’t have any better grasp than you do, but Mullins, at least as he manages to keep it all straight in the interview conducted this past Monday, seems to have a hold on it, and that’s probably what’s most important. In our relatively short conversation (at least compared to how it usually goes around here), he not only confirmed the above, but revealed that Karma to Burn will likely be touring with The Sword in September, Monster Magnet sometime thereafter and recording a new album before the end of the year. Information abounds.
Please enjoy the interview after the jump, and if it helps, feel free to take notes. I did.
Posted in Reviews on May 10th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
I always have to marvel at fans of Karma to Burn who can stand at a show and get into an argument about which was a better song, “Eight” or “Twenty Six,” as personally, I’ve never managed to sort out which numbers — since that’s how the West Virginia unit name their instrumental pieces — were which. Maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention. Maybe I’m an asshole. All these things are possible.
In any case, after doing the reunion thing in 2009 following the release of a boxed set in 2007, two splits, a live album and a live DVD, Karma to Burn have officially begun the cycle anew with their first full-length since 2002’s Almost Heathen, Appalachian Incantation (Napalm Records). The album will no doubt delight those who’ve missed the band’s bullshit-free take on riff rock, balancing its lack of frills on the edge of minimalism without ever crossing over or coming off as pretentious in any way. It’s this balance, which no other instrumental stoner outfit has pulled off as well before or since, that Karma to Burn has been able to maintain on Appalachian Incantation, and their rock is as potent as ever for it.
Interestingly, the core trio of guitarist William Mecum, bassist Rich Mullins and drummer Rob Oswald (now ex-Nebula) chose to split Appalachian Incantation in half by means of a track with vocals, the album single, “Waiting on the Western World,” which boasts a guest appearance from Year Long Disaster’s Dan Davies. Despite the memorable riffs that permeate “41” and opener “44,” “Waiting on the Western World” comes off as an accessible nod that, yes, sometimes Karma to Burn’s methodology can be hard to keep up with. Whether it was the label or the band that put it where it is, it works and serves to give Appalachian Incantation a landmark just where one is needed.