On Wax: Wo Fat, The Black Code

Posted in On Wax on January 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve had Wo Fat on the brain lately, ever since I found out they’d have a new record out this year and they got announced for Small Stone‘s showcases in Boston and Brooklyn this March, as well as playing Freak Valley in Germany this coming May, so with a ton going on, it didn’t seem outlandish to pay their 2012 fourth full-length, The Black Code (review here), another visit. Small Stone put the thing out on vinyl last year in a first run of 500 split up among three color variations. Gone. Second pressing comes limited to 250 copies in 180g vinyl, either solid yellow or transparent orange. The one I got is solid yellow, which I think sits pretty well next to the Alexander Von Wieding album art, playing off the greens of the cover itself and in the gatefold and accenting the band’s logo and the sand of the otherworldly desert landscape. Call me superficial if you want, but in addition to being a fuzz-drenched glory-jam of a full-length, it’s also a nice-looking find.

As to the record itself, well, if you didn’t hear it when you came out, not to be a prick about it, but you’ve been missing out on some of the finest heavy fuzz the US has to offer. As the folks — myself included — who caught Wo Fat at Roadburn last year, they’ll tell you. Wo Fat tap into classically hairy tones and fit them to whatever proportional gag about “Texas-sized” you might want to make. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump drives the formidable groove of “Lost Highway” and “The Black Code” on side A, opening things up a bit to let drummer Michael Walter tie up purposefully-left-loose ends on “Hurt at Gone” while bassist Tim Wilson adds bottom end heft to the languid-but-swinging push. The Black Code was self-recorded, but wants nothing for production in either its clarity of natural vibe, and Wo Fat lock in their riffy grooves like the unpretentious heirs to Fu Manchu, saving plenty of room to jam in these long, spacious-sounding tracks.

That’s true all the more on side B of the vinyl, which feels all the more like a wall of fuzz with the CD-closing duo of “The Shard of Leng” and “Sleep of the Black Lotus” flowing one right into the next. One factor that particularly stands out in revisiting The Black Code is that although it’s the jammiest outing Wo Fat have released to date, the songs also hold tightly to memorable choruses, whether it’s “The Shard of Leng” building from its slow-groove intro into more straight-driving riffy crunch or “Lost Highway” kicking the record off with one of its most resonant hooks back on side A. As a power trio, Stump, Wilson and Walter are dead-on and their transitions run accordingly smooth. “The Shard of Leng” stomps its way through swaggering riffery, comfortably paced but irresistibly grooving, with Walter backing Stump‘s vocals in the chorus before breaking out the cowbell and signaling the move into The Black Code‘s longest jam, Echoplex and all.

“Sleep of the Black Lotus” keeps a similar vibe in its okay-this-is-the-song-and-then-we-jam-the-crap-out-of-these-riffs mentality, and though both sides are about even time-wise, the second feels longer with the two more extended tracks. Still, they make an excellent pairing even more on vinyl for being isolated from the rest of The Black Code, righteous and exploratory as they are. Whatever Wo Fat might have in store for their fifth album, and whenever it might arrive this year amid their touring first to the Northeast from Dallas and then overseas, it comes on the heels of their most accomplished full-length to-date — anyone further fiending for their fuzz should explore their 2013 split with Egypt (review here) — and for as great as The Black Code looks and sounds on wax, I can’t wait to hear how they follow it up.

Wo Fat, The Black Code (2012)

Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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Wo Fat Update on Spring Gigs – Roadburn, Desertfest, SXSW and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I love a bit of fuzz in the springtime. Okay, really any time of the year, I’ll take it when I can get it, but either way, I’m glad to read the news that Texas trio Wo Fat are heading overseas to act as fuzz ambassadors. Following gigs at SXSW and the inaugural Fuzzed Out! fest in Fort Worth, they’ll stamp their passports and hit up Roadburn, Desertfest London and a slew of other European outlets. Living the dream as it were. Always glad to see things coming together for bands who kick ass, which Wo Fat most certainly do.

They sent an update down the PR wire:

Upcoming Spring Gigs!

Wo Fat has got a number of great shows coming up and we wanted to make sure you knew about them. In March we will be doing a weekend Texas tour that will start with a performance at the Small Stone Records showcase at SXSW in Austin with a killer lineup of our labelmates, followed by a mini Small Stone showcase in San Antonio with Freedom Hawk, Lord Fowl and doom masters Las Cruces. Then we’ll finish up the weekend at the first annual Fuzzed Out! Fest in Fort Worth, which features a great lineup of bands that are part of the new wave of stoner rock, including Ape Machine, Mothership, Freedom Hawk, Lord Fowl and Been Obscene.

Coming up in April is our “Lost Highway Across Europe Tour” which includes stops at Roadburn and Desertfest London. We won’t be able to hit as many places in Europe as we would have liked this time around due to commitments at home, but we hope to do a more extensive European tour in the future.

Check out the dates below. We hope to see you at one of our shows!

Mar 14, 2013 – Small Stone Records SXSW Showcase – Headhunters, Austin, TX with Mellow Bravo, Supermachine, Luder, Freedom Hawk, Lord Fowl and Suplecs
Mar 15, 2013 – Small Stone San Antonio Showcase – Nightrocker Live, San Antonio, TX with Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk, Las Cruces and Maneaters of Tsavo
Mar 16, 2013 – Austin Heavy Music Showcase – Special afternoon show at the Spiderhouse Ballroom, Austin, TX. Wo Fat plays at 1:15pm.
Mar 16, 2013 – Fuzzed Out! Festival 2013 – The Grotto, Fort Worth, TX
The new wave of Stoner Rock with Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Freedom Hawk, Southern Train Gypsy, Ape Machine, Been Obscene and Mothership
April 12, 2013 – Boiler Room, Dallas, TX with Mothership, Hawk Vs. Dove and Mount Salem
Apr 20, 2013 – Roadburn Festival – 013, Tilburg, Netherlands
Apr 21, 2013 – White Trash Fast Food, Berlin, Germany with Abrahma
Apr 22, 2013 – Vera, Groningen, Netherlands
Apr 23, 2013 – Les Combustibles, Paris, France with Witch Mountain, Cough and Abrahma
Apr 24, 2013 – L’Usine, Geneva, Switzerland with Abrahma
Apr 25, 2013 – Vortex, Siegen, Germany with Maserati and Abrahma
Apr 26, 2013 – De Pit, Terneuzen, Netherlands, Terneuzen is On Fire Pre Party with Abrahma, Swamp Machine and Idealus Maximus
Apr 27, 2013 – Desertfest London, The Underworld, Camden, United Kingdom

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Wo Fat Release The Black Code on Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

You can’t argue with pretty, and Wo Fat‘s The Black Code vinyl is most certainly that. The Dallas-based riffers have their Small Stone debut (review here) available on LP as of now, and they’ll be playing a release show on Dec. 8 with fellow Texan upstarts Venomous Maximus and Mothership. More info on that is here, and in addition to sending on word about the vinyl release, Wo Fat also updated on the progress for their Kickstarter campaign to find their European tour, which includes a stop at next year’s Roadburn.

Dig it:

Black Code vinyl has arrived!

We now have “The Black Code” on vinyl available in the Wo Fat Hoodoo Shop.  It is of the finest quality 180 gram vinyl and comes in a beautiful gatefold sleeve. You have 3 color choices for the vinyl:  Black, Opaque Orange and Transparent Blue.  Take a look at the photo below.  If you buy the vinyl directly from Wo Fat,  it comes with a download card for a free download of the album (you don’t get this anywhere else).  Get yours now while they last.

Also, we’ve got 20 days left in our Kickstarter Campaign that is raising funds to help us cover the cost of going to Europe for a tour next spring.  This tour is being entirely funded by the band, which is why your help is so important and tremendously appreciated.  You can reserve an autographed copy of vinyl through the kickstarter page if you like.  Yes, it costs more, but that donation will go directly to cover the costs of airfare.  There are also other bitchin’ rewards for your donations that are available only through this campaign.

Check out the Wo Fat Kickstarter Campaign!

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Wo Fat Bring Their Black Code to Roadburn 2013 Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

My reasons for posting the news that fuzzly Texas trio Wo Fat have been added to the lineup for Roadburn 2013 are triple-fold: First, Wo Fat kick ass, as their new album, The Black Code (review here), so clearly demonstrates. Second, it’s Roadburn news, and posting it is something I very much enjoy. Third — and this one’s the kicker — the poster is probably the best use of a comic-style dialogue bubble I’ve seen since my days slobbering over the latest issue of Batman. Well played, Roadburn.

And congratulations to the band on being added. When last I interviewed Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, he said European touring was something they very much wanted to do, so way to go on making that happen and all the best to him and the band.

Here’s the news (and that poster):

Wo Fat Confirmed For Roadburn 2013

We are very pleased to welcome Texas riffmasters Wo Fat on SaturdayApril 20th2013 with their blues-infused version of psychedelic doom. Tearing through the speakers like a swamp monster summoned from some dark cosmic morass, they rose from the deep and began their psyche-doom-adelic quest in 2003, with the goal to make music that remained within the paradigm forged by Black SabbathHendrixZZ Top and the other greats of the 70?s, but that was also crushingly heavy and at the same time stayed true to the haunting blues that moan and wail deep within their souls.

Through their sonic journeys, they have managed to find a compelling balance between monolithic, cyclopean riffing and spaced out, psychedelic jamming. Structure and improvisational freedom being equally important elements to their music.

Three albums and nine years later, Wo Fat has joined the Small Stone Records roster and is offering up a new epic album, The Black Code, which contains five hefty slabs of classic Wo Fat analog fuzz, but this time with a more sci-fi related motif, full of cyber-visions of evil code and premonitions of digital horror and is maybe their heaviest work to date. It’s heaviness in groove, sound and feel as well as riff. This is organic, earthy metal. This is a pure, expertly cultivated, homegrown strain of Texas riffage.

Roadburn Festival 2013 will run for four days from ThursdayApril 18th to Sunday, April 21st2013 (the traditional Afterburner event) at the 013 venue in TilburgHolland.

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Wo Fat, The Black Code: Oh the Places the Riff Will Go

Posted in Reviews on August 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following two strong releases in last year’s Noche del Chupacabra and 2009’s Psychedelonaut after their 2006 The Gathering Dark debut, Texas fuzz rockers Wo Fat make their debut on Small Stone Records with The Black Code, a self-recorded five-track full-length that serves as a loud and clear heralding of their arrival in the up and coming class of American heavy riffers. While furthering the semi-jammed ethic that Noche del Chupacabra (review here) began to solidify, guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump leading through sections of jazz-hued fuzz improv, The Black Code also further refines the crispness in the band’s songwriting and highlights more sci-fi thematics than its horror-from-the-swamp-minded predecessor. The five component tracks of The Black Code total 46 minutes, and through that time, Wo Fat show basically two modes of operation. They’re either riffing or they’re jamming. The distinctions are clear. If you’re listening to the part of the title-track that has an absurdly catchy chorus in the tradition of their own prior highlight cuts “El Culto de la Avaricia” from Psychedelonaut (review here) and “Descent into the Maelstrom” from Noche del Chupacabra, then that’s the structured first half of the song. If Stump is ripping out a righteous classic rock solo while bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter (who also contributes backing vocals) hold down a thickened funk rhythm, that’s the jam. It’s not hard to tell when the one starts leading to the other, and opener “Lost Highway” is really the only song that doesn’t break into an extended instrumental section, but just because Wo Fat telegraph their moves doesn’t make The Black Code any less enjoyable. Bolstered by Stump’s engineering job which captures analog warmth (though I’m pretty sure it’s a digital recording listening  to Walter’s toms later on, and I don’t inherently view that as a negative) without sacrificing either clarity or sonic professionalism – that is, the album doesn’t sound amateur and clearly Stump’s recording skills have developed no less than his songwriting over the last couple years – The Black Code offers payoff to the potential Noche del Chupacabra displayed, working off similar ideologies in a more solidified, clear presentation. I have no scruples saying it’s Wo Fat’s best and most arrived work yet.

The album starts in medias res with “Lost Highway,” a song that underscores the band’s ascent to the distortion-caked fore of next-gen American heavy rock with a mid-paced stoner groove and a strong chorus hook. For those who’ve never encountered Wo Fat before, there really isn’t anything revolutionary in their approach – it’s heavy riffs, thick grooves, gravelly vocals and classic rock structures leading to extended instrumental jams – hardly reinventing the wheel. What makes The Black Code work so well, however, is both the power trio chemistry between Stump, Wilson and Walter, and the skill with which the familiar elements they’re working from are combined. Wo Fat are unabashedly fuzzy, and that fuzz well earns a Fu Manchu comparison both in terms of its thickness and the way it seems to slow down every riff that comes through it. The opener is the shortest track on the album at 5:25, and it’s a solid lead-in for the more expansive material that follows, the 10-minute title-track keeping its verse and chorus in mind for the first half – it is the strongest chorus of the album and so well picked to represent the whole – and then there’s a ring out just before five minutes in and the instrumental jam begins. By now, these guys are more than adept at sounding natural and keeping a flow going in a jam without sounding forced, and the progression of “The Black Code” is no exception, but you pretty clearly get two pieces instead of one unified whole, or even two pieces and then something to tie them together structurally like a revised verse or chorus. In the end, they come out on the right side of “Not all who wander are lost,” but for a band so obviously adept at heavy rock songwriting as to come up with the chorus to “The Black Code” in the first place to then willfully abandon the premise they’ve set for themselves seems incongruous on a conceptual level. Somehow, the song works.

Read more »

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13 Before ’13 — Albums Not to Miss Before the End of 2012

Posted in Where to Start on July 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.

In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.

And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.

Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:

1. Colour Haze, She Said (Sept./Oct.)


I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Said is on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.

2. EnslavedRIITIIR (Sept. 28)

The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIR is the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.

3. Mos Generator, Nomads (Oct. 23)

Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which Ripple Music unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone AxeHeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.

4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter (Sept.)

No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Light route and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.

5. WitchcraftLegend (Sept. 21)

I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.

6. Wo FatThe Black Code (Nov.)

After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.

7. Blood of the SunBurning on the Wings of Desire (Late 2012)

As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.

8. SwansThe Seer (Aug. 28)

This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seer is loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.

9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird (Sept. 4)

Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.

10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)

Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of God in its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010’s Tri (review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.

11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (Aug. 28)

Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.

12. Hooded MenaceEffigies of Evil (Sept. 11)

You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.

13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)

Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.

Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.

Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.

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