Posted in audiObelisk on June 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m not sure what prompted Dallas trio Wo Fat to produce an instrumental version of their latest and fifth album, The Conjuring(review here), taking away the vocal work of Kent Stump and Michael Walter to leave just their guitar and drums, respectively, and the bass work of Tim Wilson, but if you want to apply the old stoner rock cliché, it definitely fits: “It’s all about the riffs, man”
That’s been the case, more or less, all along for the heavy fuzz-rocking three-piece, but this instrumental take on The Conjuringbrings into focus more than ever before just how righteous Wo Fat‘s nod is, how fluidly they roll from groove to groove. Even a shorter song like the just-under-seven-minute “Read the Omens” — which in its vocalized incarnation is among the record’s catchiest pieces — works smoothly as an instrumental moving between its riffs. Wo Fat have developed their jammy side particularly over the course of their last two albums, 2012’s The Black Code(review here), which was also their debut on Small Stone, 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra(review here), but whether it’s an airy Stump lead, smooth fill from Wilson or perfectly placed crash from Walter, the instrumental The Conjuringhighlights just how dynamic and powerful a trio they’ve become.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 17-minute closing title-track, “Dreamwalker,” which feels all the more open without the verses or chorus to ground it, but of particular note as well is the centerpiece “Pale Rider from the Ice,” which, without its bluesy intro, launches with a solid 90 seconds of right-on tone, an utter wash of fuzz courtesy of Stump, before moving into a heavy psychedelic flow that, while satisfying on the regular edition, is an utter highlight here, and all the more so moving into the swaggering “Beggar’s Bargain.”
It’s not an official title or anything, but I’ve been referring to it as The Voiceless Conjuring. So, if you’ve ever wanted to do Wo Fat karaoke — I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t — The Voiceless Conjuring is your chance. Fuzz on:
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Wo Fat‘s The Conjuringwas recorded at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas and is available now on Small Stone Records. The band recently returned from a European tour alongside Mothership that included a stop at Freak Valley. More info and updates at the links.
Posted in Features on June 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s custom around here to do a Top 10 of the First Half of the Year, in advance of doing a Top 20 of the Year in December. The idea is that the later list will basically build on the earlier one. That’s never really how it works out — albums always drop off or appear unexpectedly depending on what gets listened to most, what gets reviewed late, etc. — but it always works out to be a good time anyway, and that’s really what it’s all about.
The difference this year is that instead of doing a Top 20 in December, I’m planning on expanding to a full Top 30, so to do a Top 10 of the stuff from January until now makes less sense. So here we are with a Top 15. A slightly longer list, but still the same basic idea as years past otherwise. These are albums I’m expecting will turn up again at the end of the year on the final Top 30, and though some will and some won’t and almost all of them will move around, there are more than a handful — particularly if we’re counting by fingers — of essential records released over the last six months recounted here.
If you missed something, I hope it’s something cool you get to check out, and if I missed something (as I inevitably did), I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Please note that this is full albums only, no EPs, splits, singles or demos.
I’ll freely admit I was more than a little thrown off by the change in approach on Greenleaf‘s fifth album. Where prior outings like 2012’s Nest of Vipers(review here) and 2007’s megatriumph Agents of Ahrimanhad been lush heavy rock affairs helmed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa with a slew of guests on vocals, organ, etc., Trails and Passesdialed back the “extras” in favor of a more stripped down, stage-ready approach. Holappa‘s songwriting alone would likely be enough to have Greenleaf on this list one way or another, and Trails and Passesis one of the year’s best. The turn was just unexpected and I feel like I’m not caught up to it yet.
Initially put out in a limited tape run in late 2013 (review here), the Enter Venus full-length from Richmond-based sludgers Druglord codified the noisy murk of their prior outings into one devastating wave of lurching riffage and echoing shouts. The Virginian three-piece recorded with Garrett Morris of Windhand and the STB vinyl topped off with artwork by W. Ralph Walters, making for a package both visually and sonically devastating, and though it’s short for an album at under a half-hour, the 12″ still earns the nod for the unmitigated heft its four songs carry. It’s one you can either dig or miss out, but Druglord show there’s more room for invention in sludge.
There really isn’t much left to say when it comes to Wovenhand and their driving force, frontman David Eugene Edwards. Their first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate is the latest document of one of this generation’s most accomplished songwriting progressions. It follows a brilliant record in 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and likely precedes one in whatever they decide to do next, and the enduring fascination on Edwards‘ part with tonal weight and groove continues to push Wovenhand into a creative territory that is without genre. Nobody else comes close.
Quick-working Danish jammers Papir made a strong impression with IIII early in the year, offering a progressive take on the style of heavy instrumental jamming that has flourished throughout Europe over the last half-decade or so. Immediately individualized, the Copenhagen three-piece carried across four intricately constructed pieces, most open with the 21-minute “III” but never lacking for twists and turns that were an utter joy to follow. A band that has already collaborated with the even-jammier Electric Moon and who’ve aligned themselves with Causa Sui‘s El Paraiso Records, they seem like a safe bet to continue to grow into reliable purveyors of high-quality instrumental heavy psychedelia.
Its arrival was heralded by the righteousness of a Lego video for “Nine Princes in Amber,” though even that was little preparation for the classic doomery that would take place on the return long-player from Portland, Maine’s Ogre. The trio of guitarist Ross Markonish, bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham and drummer Will Broadbent broke up in 2009, got back together in 2012, and with their fourth album, they made it clear they still had plenty to offer those who worship trad-style riffing, Sabbathy grooves and the kind of hooks that stay with you for days. The Last Neanderthalhad plenty of those, and “Warpath,” the aforementioned “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Bad Trip” and “Son of Sisyphus” tapped into what makes the best of doom so ready for repeat listens.
Another reunited trio, Floor had it tough coming into their first album in a decade, Oblation. The legacy of their 2002 self-titled would loom large over anything they put out, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had since gained a huge following as the spearhead of Torche, but four years after they started playing shows again, Floor met the challenge head-on with Oblation‘s 14 tracks, showing a natural progression from where they left off so long ago without seeming like they were trying to recapture a past that inevitably would prove irretrievable. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a course for continuing to develop as a band, and though Torche have a new album expected out this summer on Relapse and doubtless that will take some time and focus away from Floor, hopefully they keep pursuing that growth.
I’ll claim no impartiality when it comes to Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock purveyors Mos Generator or the craftsmanship of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, but if half the point of a list like this is to nerd out over albums you dig (and I’ll gladly argue that it is), then Electric Mountain Majestyis right where it should be. Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson are clockwork-reliable when it comes to putting out high-grade material, and their second record since getting going again after Reed‘s few years in Stone Axe pushed beyond the considerable accomplishments of 2012’s Nomads(review here) and brought their sound to new and at times surprisingly doomed places while still keeping their core in a love of classic heavy rock songwriting. From where I sit, new Mos Gen is never one to pass up.
Not that I didn’t expect a new Blood Farmers release to be cool, but Headless Eyes was still a surprise when it arrived earlier in 2014. Who was to say what the New York trio would concoct after a 19-year studio absence? Of course, what they came out with was dead-on horror-loving doomly plod, cuts like the instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and the deceptively catchy “Headless Eyes” not only worthy of Blood Farmers‘ substantial legacy but building on it. Void of pretense, Headless Eyesresonated with a brooding atmosphere capped by the surprising closer, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” a cover of the theme from The Last House on the Left and positioned the three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist/bassist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Léger among the fore of traditional doom’s practitioners.
After seeing them live late last year (review here), digging their 456th Div. tape (review here) and putting their debut single on the best short releases of 2013 list, I had little doubt that their self-titled debut full-length would deliver a satisfying listen. Sure enough, the five-tracks of the quality-over-quantity release did precisely that, the Brooklyn three-piece harnessing unashamed positive vibes to mesh with a burgeoning psychedelic feel, catchy hooks and classic-style road songs serving as a reminder of the good times that rock and roll both provides and complements. Now that summer is here, I expect to revisit The Golden Grassplenty of time over these sunny, hot months, since it would seem the year has finally caught up with the band’s warmth and day-long spirit. The Golden Grass are reportedly headed to Europe later this year, so more to come on them for sure.
Every time I think I’m out, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz pulls me back in. The third full-length from Argentina trio Ararat seems to hit me with a different song each week. This week, it’s the six-minute “El Hijo de Ignacio,” with the insistent, punkish drums from Alfredo Felitte, backing noise and later keyboard eeriness from Tito Fargo and the low bass rumble of Sergio Chotsourian (ex-Los Natas), whose vocals seem to hover over the rest of the mix as though piped in from someplace else entirely. The whole album had a hypnotic effect that pulled the listener away from how diverse it actually was, moving into and out of heavy psych atmospherics with expert smoothness, but the more attention you paid, the more rewarding the experience became, as Ararat defied any expectations that might have come from their 2012 sophomore outing, II(review here), and boldly pushed toward new avenues of progression.
Who’s heavier than Conan? The superlative UK trio have spent the two years since the release of their full-length debut, Monnos (review here), solidifying their dominance, and their first album for Napalm Records plays out like a victory lap over the skulls of lesser riffs. Opening with the near-10-minute lumber of “Crown of Talons,” Blood Eagle solidified the two-sidedness of Monnos into a back-breaking doom assault, and their pummel remains unparalleled as they continue to grow as players and songwriters. This year has also seen producer Chris Fielding join the band on bass, and as badass as Blood Eagleis — one would rarely think of a song called “Gravity Chasm” as being so aptly-named — I can’t help but look forward to hearing what Conan do from here and how they continue to refine one of doom’s most bludgeoning approaches.
It’s the songs. I really, really dug Dwellers‘ 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) as well, and I won’t say a bad word about that album, but Pagan Fruit is in a different class altogether. And you know, it’s not just the songs. It’s how the songs play next to each other, the mood they create, and the hooks that Dwellers bring to the table with so much stylistic poise, calling the bluffs of any number of heavy psych blues rockers on “Totem Crawler,” or “Creature Comfort,” or “Son of Raven” or “Spirit of the Staircase.” The Salt Lake City-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis brought new levels of cohesion to their sound throughout Pagan Fruitand it remains an album that I have yet to get enough of hearing, one that seems to offer more each time I put it on and let my mind drift to its patient, open spaces.
From here on out, on any given day, any one of these is my album of the year. What a thrill it was to put on Fu Manchu‘s first album in five years, Gigantoid, and have it roll out such a tight-knit collection of heavy rolling excellence. The West Coast stoner riff gods of gnarl stripped down their production inspired in part by a reissue campaign of their earlier work on their own At the Dojo Records label, and the punkish feel suited them better than even they likely could’ve expected. With its opening four-song punch, the no-frills shot of “No Warning” and the closeout jam at the end of “The Last Question,” Gigantoid felt like more than one could’ve reasonably asked from a Fu Manchu long-player 20 years on from their debut, but the vitality they showed in its tracks, paired with the efficiency with which the songs were executed, showcased a timeless, perpetual appeal. They know what they’re doing and how they want to do it, and just because there was no doubt going into Gigantoiddoesn’t make the end product any less of a payoff.
I’ve gone on at some length about what I find so appealing in the second full-length from Bordeaux trio Mars Red Sky, so even putting aside the deft hand with which they incorporated further heavy psych soundscapes into their songwriting, let me just focus on how memorable Stranded in Arcadia actually is. That was true as well of Mars Red Sky‘s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but these songs are more ambitious, from the eight-minute opener “The Light Beyond” to the gorgeous melody-wash in the chorus of “Join the Race” and the stomp in the de facto closer “Seen a Ghost” before the leadout/refrain “Beyond the Light” calls all the way back to the first track. The development of Mars Red Sky‘s take isn’t necessarily such a surprise — the debut had its psychedelic, jammy feel as well — but the fact that the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz managed to elicit such development while remaining true to the warm tones and humble, unpretentious vibe of the debut only makes Stranded in Arcadiamore remarkable. I wouldn’t stop listening to it if I could.
It wasn’t easy to hold off on reviewing the fifth album from the Texas power trio for as long as I did, but I thought the record was too good to jump the gun on, and so yeah, it’s a pretty recent writeup, but I feel comfortable putting The Conjuring at number one here because I’ve actually had a while to live with these songs. Or maybe “live in” them would be a better way to say it, since the dense wall of fuzz and jammed-out distortion Wo Fat create across this record is basically thick enough to take up residence. Recently back from a European tour, Wo Fat hit the road supporting their finest work to date, and as the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are more or less self-sustaining in their own Crystal Clear Sound studio in Dallas, there’s no reason they can’t just keep developing along the path they are. The Conjuringboasts their best jams yet but also holds firm to the already-planted-in-your-consciousness hooks that Wo Fat have long since established a penchant for, and one could just as easily put the band at the fore of traditional heavy rock riffing as of American heavy psych jammers. Any way you look at them, they’re at the top of their class.
Quick honorable mention goes to Radio Moscow, The Wounded Kings, 1000mods (review forthcoming), Eyehategod, Abramis Brama, Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun, the live Causa Sui record and Alcest. Been a hell of a year so far, and I’m already putting together a list of anticipated records for the next six months, so there’s much more to follow.
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The apparent hubris I showed in bragging last time around at the silly method by which I transferred audio editing software from one laptop to another came back to bite me in the ass as I put this podcast together. Finally, last night, I turned to Thee Facebooks for assistance and received an amount of input that was both useful and encouraging on a personal level. Thanks to everybody who took the time to help and to recommend alternative programs to the one I was using. I’m by no means technically inclined, so it is very much appreciated.
So yeah, there was a bit of drama in the making maybe — it was right around the Buzzo track that everything went to hell — but I don’t think you’ll get any clue of that from the audio, which has a few unexpected turns in its progression. At least in the first hour. Hour two is huge jams, because basically there was no way I wasn’t going to put that 17-minute-long Wo Fat song in there and I wanted to have some other stuff to stand up to it, but hour one takes a couple different avenues toward heavy rock and I guess I was feeling some bluesy psych this time as well. I won’t spoil it any more than I already have. Hope you enjoy.
The Scimitar, “Babylon” from Doomsayer (2014)
Moab, “No Soul” from Scion A/V Presents Billow (2014)
Monobrow, “Cicada” from Big Sky Black Horse (2014)
1000mods, “Horses’ Green” from Vultures (2014)
Mat McNerney & Kimmo Helén, “Blood and Bone Revival” from The World is Burning OST (2014)
The Atlas Moth, “City of Light” from The Old Believer (2014)
Highlands, “Your Let Down” from Dark Matter Traveler (2014)
Blues Pills, “River” from Blues Pills (2014)
Sea Bastard, “Door Sniffer” from Scabrous (2014)
Major Kong, “Acid Transmission” from Doom for the Black Sun (2014)
Buzz Osborne, “The Ripping Driving” from This Machine Kills Artists (2014)
Prisma Circus, “Napalm” from Reminiscences (2014)
The Heavy Company, “One Big Drag” from Uno Dose (2014)
Mope, “Doomed to Feed the Ground” from Mope (2014)
Idre, “Witch Trial” from Idre (2014)
Harsh Toke, “Weight of the Sun” from Light up and Live (2013)
Wo Fat, “Dreamwalker” from The Conjuring (2014)
Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
To those already familiar with Dallas riff forerunners Wo Fat, their fifth album, The Conjuring, will likely hold few surprises. It is foremost the next stage in the Texas heavy rock trio’s ongoing progression, captured at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound studio by guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, it runs a sonically consistent thread forward from their last several records even unto its Alexander von Wieding artwork, the German artist having contributed the last two covers as well, to 2012’s The Black Code (vinyl review here, CD review here), which was their debut on Small Stone, as well as 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), released by Nasoni. But as that collaboration has yet to yield a piece of such impact as that which adorns The Conjuring, so too do the album’s five songs/47 minutes find Wo Fat at their most developed yet, be it the smooth tempo shifts in “Read the Omens,” the hooks in the opening title-track or the boogie-strong “Beggar’s Bargain,” the bluesy humor of “Pale Rider from the Ice,” or the extended jam in the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” which looms large over the rest of the tracklisting. Wo Fat have only become more spacious and jammed-out over time, so these things are natural progressions, and they very much remain a heavy rock band, but to trace their development since their 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark, and its follow-up, 2008’s Psychedelonaut(review here), is to understand the roots of the utter mastery of their sound they show in these tracks, the power trio dynamic between Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter shining through the dense wall of fuzz and riffed excellence they’ve crafted. I consider myself a fan, but I think even the most impartial of ears would have to admit they’ve outdone themselves again.
Listening to “Dreamwalker,” one can only wonder how long it will be before Wo Fat jam out a single-track LP, one vital piece that brings their voodoo tales and rolling grooves to bear across a massive, 40-minute exploration, but as much as that cut is bound to be a focal point for anyone who takes on The Conjuring, that’s not to underplay the quality of songwriting that precedes (or, really, that contained within it; as stretched out as that song is, it’s also got a hook). The album opens with a sample culled from 1957’s Curse of the Demon, the quote, “I know the value of the cold light of reason, but I also know the deep shadows that light can cast,” topping a mounting swell of feedback that least to the first riffs of “The Conjuring,” which unfolds patiently but clearly announces its verse riff upon arrival. Immediately Wo Fat are in their element: Vital, natural-sounding, not forcing the song but enjoying the trip they’re taking with it. Between songs like “Shard of Leng” and “Lost Highway” from The Black Code, “Bayou Juju” and “Descent into the Maelstrom” from Noche del Chupacabraand “El Culto de la Avaricia” and “Analog Man” from Psychedelonaut, there’s no question Wo Fat have a history of mixing a few choice hooks into each record, the kinds of choruses you hear immediately in your head upon seeing the name of the song, but The Conjuringbalances this impulse best of all with their predilection for jamming, extended tracks bookending the album while “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” hold true and further the methods they’ve established as their own over the course of their decade-plus tenure. I don’t know how many layers of guitar there are by the time “The Conjuring” wraps its near-10-minute run, but I know they’re all put to good use, and I know “Read the Omens,” which follows, continues the momentum with no letup and a raucous wash of cymbals to accompany.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’ve got a calendar, you might want to mark June 17 for the release of Wo Fat‘s new album, The Conjuring, or failing that, get your preorder ready to roll. However you go about it, the point is the fifth record from the Dallas fuzz explorers is one you don’t want to let slide. The artwork, release date and bio I wrote were already premiered here a little while back, but a reminder from the PR wire never hurt anybody, and in addition to the preorder link, this one also comes with confirmation of Wo Fat‘s European tour alongside Mothership, whose new album was just recorded with Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas.
That tour includes a stop at the Freak Valley festival, which looks awesome:
WO FAT: Dallas Psychedelic Haze-Bringers To Unveil The Conjuring Next Month Via Small Stone; European Takeover Announced
You can wade through as many WO FAT press quotes about being “Texas-sized” as you want or see how many top-whatever lists the band has made since the Dallas trio began raging in 2003, but none of that is going to be the same as staring down their swampadelic fuzz groove for yourself. If you want to know the monster, shake its hand.
Next month, WO FAT will release The Conjuring, their fifth full-length and second via the volume perpetrators at Small Stone. Much like their last two works — 2012’s The Black Code and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra – The Conjuring is a heavy-riff/heavy-jam blast of a time, the sort of record that turns the vaguely interested into converts and makes the corners on squares look even sharper.
Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are jazz-combo tight and their roll is easy and natural, much like Fu Manchu, but far bigger and in the case of The Conjuring, far darker. There’s been a creature lurking in the woods since WO FAT’s 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark. Their second album, 2009’s Psychedelonaut, pulled back on the threat some to lighten the mood, but whether it’s the motor-driven rush of “Read The Omens” or the you’re-already-lost-in-it riff-exploration of seventeen-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” The Conjuring is indeed a backwoods ritual. Bluesmen have sold their souls for less.
Veterans of Roadburn, slated for Freak Valley 2014 and self-sufficient with Stump handling the recording at his own Crystal Clear Sound on their home turf, WO FAT pushes their jams farther than they’ve ever gone before on these five tracks. Topped off with a mastering job from Nolan Brett at Stump’s studio and an otherworldly cover courtesy of Alexander Von Wieding, the beast that WO FAT’s tectonic riffage calls to earth has never seemed more real or more alive than it does on The Conjuring.
The Conjuring Track Listing: 1. The Conjuring 2. Read The Omens 3. Pale Rider From The Ice 4. Beggar’s Bargain 5. Dreamwalker
The Conjuring will drop via Small Stone on June 17th, 2014 on CD, vinyl, and digitally. Preceding the release, WO FAT will take their smoky stoner rituals overseas on a twelve-date trek. The games begin on May 27th in London. From there, the band will spread their jams through France, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Spain, including an appearance at the illustrious Freak Valley Festival sharing the stage with Truckfighters, Blues Pill, Solstafir, Mothership and more!
Preorder The Conjuring today atTHIS LOCATIONwhere you can also sample fourth track, “Beggar’s Bargain.”
WO-FAT Live 2014: 5/27/2014 The Black Heart – London, UK 5/28/2014 Le Glazart – Paris, FR 5/29/2014 Little Devil – Tilburg, NL 5/30/2014 Freak Valley Festival 2014 – Netphen, DE 5/31/2014 Jagerklause – Berlin, DE 6/01/2014 Fonobar – Waraw, POL 6/02/2014 Chemiefabrik – Dresden, DE 6/03/2014 Chemiefabrik – Munich, DE 6/04/2014 Kinski – Zurich, SW 6/05/2014 Le Volume – Nice, FR 6/06/2014 Rocksound – Barcelona, ESP 6/07/2014 Peyote Fest – Madrid, ESP
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had some pretty landmark good times at Small Stone showcases over the last 10 or so years. Some of them — admittedly, the more recent ones — I’ve even remembered. The last one in Massachusetts was 2012 at Radio in Somerville (review here) was a monster, and as my first time in the upstairs room at the Middle East in Cambridge, I can’t imagine a more fitting occasion. A six-band bill with a shared love of riffs and a record label in common, it was a front-to-back night of volume, distortion, and groove, and from Neon Warship through Roadsaw, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat and Mellow Bravo, there was no letup. No moment when you’d want to go outside and smoke or get some air. No moment when the place to be wasn’t in front of the stage.
That’s rare enough when three acts are playing, let alone twice as many. The same lineup minus Mellow Bravo and plus Geezer would play the next night at St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, but as I had family coming north Saturday and zero dollars for gas, this was my fix. Parking in Cambridge on a Friday night is a singular joy between what’s campus housing for this or that elite-perpetuation factory and other sundry restrictions, but I found a spot and made it into the Middle East well enough in advance of Neon Warship starting off the night. Here’s how it went down from there:
Of all the acts who’d take stage Friday night, Neon Warship were the most recent addition to the label’s roster. Picked up late in 2013, the Dayton, Ohio, three-piece gave a taste of Small Stone to come with their steady rolling riffs and the post-The Sword vocal stylings of guitarist Kevin Schindel, who when he hit into his higher register made up for some of Freedom Hawk‘s absence from the bill. It was my first exposure to them live, though their 2013 self-titled debut had made an impression, and though they’ve been a band for three years, they came across initially as still getting their feet under them on stage. They were well received by what was rightly a friendly crowd, however, and flourished as their set progressed, getting more comfortable as they went on. It was short sets for everybody, however, so just as Neon Warship were hitting their stride, they were also wrapping up. I doubt it’ll be my last encounter with them, and I’d be interested to see them go longer and have more of a chance to engage the audience. They seemed to be headed in that direction.
I knew when I left the house that it was going to be an evening of top-notch guitar work. What I didn’t realize was that Ian Ross of Roadsaw was going to meet the quota on his own. Don’t get me wrong — situated as early headliners no doubt to bring in the local crowd early and get them drinking; a nefarious plot that worked wonders — all of Roadsaw was on fire, including new drummer Kyle Rasmussen (Phantom Glue) who recently came aboard to replace Jeremy Hemond for reasons yet undisclosed, but Ross seemed particularly to rise to the occasion that the night presented, and whether he was tearing ass through “The Finger” from 2001’s Rawk ‘n’ Roll or leading the way through the undulating stonerism of “Black Flower,” if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen him play, it was certainly close. They finished out with two from their 2011 self-titled (review here) — which at this point is begging for a follow-up — “Long in the Tooth” and “Weight in Gold,” and were nothing if not in headliner form, frontman Craig Riggs sharing a mic with bassist Tim Catz after swinging his enough to dislodge its cable and all four bringing their still-too-short set to a monstrously noisy finish. Sometimes earplugs just don’t matter.
Never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being this night marked the end of Gozu‘s three-guitar experiment. Lead player Jeff Fultz, who’d pull double-duty with Mellow Bravo, is reportedly on the move out of the area, so there goes that. And while his farewell with Mellow Bravo would be drunker/more emotional later on — he’d been in Mellow Bravo five years, a few months playing with Gozu — it was nonetheless a stellar sendoff. For me, they seemed to affirm the potential for Gozu as a five-piece they showed when I saw this lineup make its debut at the Great Scott back in January (review here), songs like “Irish Dart Fight” and “Meth Cowboy” benefiting both from the extra heft and and still nascent dynamic between Fultz and Doug Sherman‘s soloing. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney brought his own edge via a Gretsch hollow-body guitar — I don’t play, but if I had the money to spend I’d buy one just to look at it — and Joe Grotto, his foot up on the monitor, was duly animated holding down the low end, while still-relatively-new drummer Mike Hubbard made himself comfortable in the slower, more swinging terrain of “Alone,” the closer from 2010’s Locust Season(review here) and a rare enough inclusion in the set that I don’t think I’d ever seen them play it before. Certainly not since 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) was released, anyway. They didn’t get to “Meat Charger,” but “Ghost Wipe” had been a raucous enough opener that all was well. They’re ready to hit Europe next month.
Oh, it had been too long. Too long. Not quite a year since they headlined the third Eye of the Stoned Goat fest in Brooklyn (review here), but still, that’s too long to go without seeing Lo-Pan. They played a set comprised almost entirely of new material, songs from the fourth album, Colossus, they’re recording with Andrew Schneider in Brooklynthis week, some I’d heard — “Colossus,” “The Duke” — others that were completely new. Hearing a runthrough of something once live is no way to judge how it will sound on record, but as guitarist Brian Fristoe nestled into the open, winding grooves of his own riffs backed by bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz while vocalist Jeff Martin soul-man crooned behind, Lo-Pan sounded like Lo-Pan, and yes, I mean that as a compliment. It means the Ohio four-piece have established their sound and know what sides of what they do they want to develop and they’ve set to the work of that. I pulled my earplugs about halfway out for “El Dorado” from 2011’s Salvador(review here), but even the stuff I hadn’t heard before was easy to appreciate. As the hardest-touring band on Small Stone, Lo-Pan lack nothing for presence on stage, and though I almost got cracked in the head by Thompson‘s bass once or twice and when the night was over, I’m pretty sure it was Bartz‘s crash cymbal ringing in my ears, they silver-plattered a reminder of how vital an act they are. It would be premature to say their best days are ahead of them since Colossus is just now in progress, but they showed the room at the Middle East that anything’s possible, even topping Salvador.
Getting to see Texas trio Wo Fat play a packed room was one of the highlights of my Roadburn 2013 (review here), and with their second Small Stone outing (fifth overall), The Conjuring, on the way, brief as it was, their set was no less enjoyable here. At the same time they’re probably the best advertisement for Texan tourism I can think of, it’s probably also a good thing they’re from so far away, otherwise I’d probably wind up saying something like, “Oh, it’s only 10 hours. That’s not too far to drive to see Wo Fat again.” The TSA had rifled through guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump‘s gear, so they had to set everything up from scratch before they got going, but once they did, it was a weekend’s worth of fuzz condensed and served in a three-song can. Bassist Tim Wilson was dug in deep for “The Conjuring,” which took hold following a noisy transition from “Nameless Cults” from their 2013 Cyclopean Riffs split LP with Egypt (review here) and in turn shifted via jam into “Sleep of the Black Lotus” from 2012’s The Black Code(review here), the whole set coming across as one consistent riff and fuzz fest, grounded by the plod of drummer Michael Walter. Wo Fat are masters of getting the most out of a slow stoner groove and pushing it into or out of a faster rush (“The Conjuring” does this really well), and the swamp-voodoo lyrical themes they’ve paired with their Fu Manchu-worthy tonality fits perfectly. They don’t have Lo-Pan‘s road experience, but like their Ohio compatriots, Wo Fat clearly know what works in their approach. They wrapped up with a big rock finish — no other way to do it, really — and suddenly the night seemed too short…
…But the fact of the matter is when you want to round out a party in Boston, Mellow Bravo are the way to go. As noted, it was guitarist Jeff Fultz‘s last show with the band, and they were in top form to say goodbye. Irrepressibly outspoken frontman Keith Pierce warned the audience that they were going long in his honor, and while the local six-piece left the room thoroughly entertained — aside from borrowing my camera to take a house-lights-up shot of the crowd, I also saw Pierce at the bar at one point, and he finished the set in the audience — it was readily apparent that for them this was more than just another show or even a label showcase. For Pierce, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins, guitarist Andrew Doherty, bassist/vocalist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, they were losing a bandmate and a friend and paying him bittersweet tribute. That’s how it felt watching, anyhow. I’ve seen Mellow Bravo a few times at this point, as well as Collins and Pierce in their acoustic side-project, Tastefulnudes (live review here), and while this was hardly the tightest, crispest set I’ve watched from them, they gave the night a suitable finale, more or less starting an afterparty while they were still playing. To say the very least of it, it was worth sticking around for.
Other bands had started to pack up, but there was still a good deal of milling about, drinking, band-bonding, etc. going on. It was just hitting two in the morning, which had the bar in get-the-fuck-out mode, so I hiked the several blocks back to my car made my way home, more than a little bummed to know what I’d be missing the next night in Brooklyn but feeling fortunate to have been able to see the show I did.
Today I have the extreme pleasure of premiering the artwork for Wo Fat‘s forthcoming fifth album, The Conjuring. Set for release on June 17 through Small Stone – though from what I hear it’ll be available at the merch table on the Dallas trio’s upcoming European tour — the cover art to The Conjuring arrives courtesy of none other than Alexander von Wieding, who has outdone himself in capturing the album’s brooding and dark psychedelia. Von Wieding did the cover as well for 2012’s The Black Code(review here), and of course counts Karma to Burn, his own Larman Clamor, Black Thai, Manilla Road and many others among his clientele. Samples of his work are available at his website.
Click the image below for a more detailed look, and just for kicks, I’ve also included the Wo Fat bio for The Conjuring, which I wrote:
Wo Fat – The Conjuring Bio
You can wade through as many press quotes about “Texas-sized” as you want or see how many top-whatever lists Wo Fat have made since the Dallas trio got started in 2003, but none of that is going to be the same as staring down their swampadelic fuzz groove for yourself. If you want to know the monster, shake its hand.
In 2014, Wo Fat will release The Conjuring, their fifth full-length and second through Small Stone. Like their last two, 2012’s The Black Code and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra, it’s a heavy-riff/heavy-jam blast of a time – the kind of record that turns the vaguely interested into converts and that makes the corners on squares look even sharper. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are jazz-combo tight and their roll is easy and natural, like you remember Fu Manchu being, but bigger-sounding and in the case of The Conjuring, darker as well.
There’s been a creature lurking in the woods since Wo Fat’s 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark – their second album, 2009’s Psychedelonaut, pulled back on the threat some to lighten the mood – but whether it’s the motor-driven rush of “Read the Omens” or the you’re-already-lost-in-it riff-exploration of 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” The Conjuring is indeed a backwoods ritual. Bluesmen have sold their souls for less.
Veterans of Roadburn, slated for Freak Valley 2014 and self-sufficient with Stump handling the recording at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, Wo Fat push their jams farther than they’ve ever gone before on these five tracks. Topped off with a mastering job from Nolan Brett at their studio and an otherworldly cover courtesy of Alexander Von Wieding, the beast that Wo Fat’s tectonic riffage calls to earth has never seemed more real or more alive than it does on The Conjuring.
The Conjuring tracklisting: 1. The Conjuring 2. Read the Omens 3. Pale Rider from the Ice 4. Beggar’s Bargain 5. Dreamwalker
Wo Fat: Kent Stump: Guitar/vocals Tim Wilson: Bass Michael Walter: Drums/backing vocals
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 Codelooks and sounds on wax, I can’t wait to hear how they follow it up.
They’ve been out for a minute at this point, but I had to get these up. Small Stone Records will host showcases in Boston and Brooklyn March 28 and 29, respectively. Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Gozu, and Neon Warship will play both in Boston at the Middle East and in Brooklyn at the St. Vitus bar, and both shows also mark the Northern debut of Texas fuzz-giants Wo Fat! The Dallas trio will be touring to herald the coming of their fifth album, due in June. If you couldn’t tell by the exclamation point, I’m excited to be seeing them again.
Mellow Bravo (whose lead guitarist, Jeff Fultz, will now be pulling double duty as a member of Gozu) also feature in Boston, while Geezer will add some New York heavy blues to the Brooklyn lineup. Both posters come courtesy of Chris Smith, whose DeviantArt page is here. As you can see below, the two posters are set up to complement each other, and the Boston one is angrier. That more or less sums up the relationship between Boston and NYC as I currently understand it. Extra kudos to Smith for the subtle social commentary.
Click either poster to enlarge, and check out the lineups and other sundry information about both shows below, along with the Bandcamp stream of Wo Fat‘s The Black Code (review here), just for the hell of it:
Small Stone Showcase Boston- March 28th
THE MIDDLE EAST RESTAURANT & NIGHTCLUB www.mideastclub.com/ 472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Mellow Bravo Wo Fat Lo-Pan GOZU Roadsaw Neon Warship
Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been trying to get this one on the page for a couple weeks now — really since last year if you want to go back that far — and I finally just decided to do it. Granted, it’s already 2014, but I’m pretty used to being behind the times, so I hope you’ll indulge me on this one.
The thing is, of course we already did the Top 20 Albums of 2013, but that leaves an awful lot out in terms of quality shorter releases. Demos, singles, EPs, splits — whatever it might be — there’s a lot more to the story of a year in music than who’s putting out what full-length. That might be true now more than ever, with digital releases and artists having the ability to more or less give a song-by-song feed of new material should they so choose. Since this is the first time I’ve done this list, I’ve kept the presentation pretty basic, but there’s a lot to dig into here anyway in terms of the quality of the music and what people were able to accomplish in, in some cases, just one or two tracks.
My basis for judgment here is basically the same as with the full-albums list, and by that I mean how much I listened to something played a huge role, and it’s not just how important I think an EP or a split or a demo was that got it included on this list — though of course that stuff matters as well. Like spelling, repeat listens count. And it goes without saying these are my picks and have nothing to do with the Readers Poll, the results of which are here.
Okay, let’s do this:
The Top 20 Short Releases of 2013
1. The Machine/Sungrazer, Split
2. Dozer, Vultures
3. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide
4. Black Thai, Seasons of Might
5. Wo Fat/Egypt, Cyclopean Riffs Split 12″
6. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
7. Shroud Eater, Dead Ends
8. Steak, Corned Beef Colossus
9. Geezer, Gage
10. The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado 7″
11. Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground
12. King Buffalo, Demo
13. Groan, Ride the Snake
14. Crypt Sermon, Demo MMXIII
15. Stubb, Under a Spell b/w Bullets Rain 7″
16. Salem’s Pot, Watch Me Kill You Tape
17. Undersmile/Coma Wall, Wood and Wire Split
18. Second Grave, Antithesis
19. Sinister Haze, Demo
20. Olde Growth, Owl
Honorable mention has to go to the Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man split, C.O.C.‘s MegalodonEP, which was right on but which I didn’t really hear enough to include. The Gates of Slumber‘s Stormcrow as well.
Just a couple notes: In the case of Olde Growth, putting them last was actually more about not being sure when the official release date of Owlwas than anything else. I actually listened to that quite a bit, and “Tears of Blood” remains my favorite work of the duo’s to date. In terms of demos, it was a good year for doom debuts, with Crypt Sermon and Sinister Haze both showing some malevolent classicism, and King Buffalo‘s demo grew on me almost immediately upon hearing it and right away made me look forward to whatever might come next from them.
I was a little hesitant to put a split in the number one spot, but The Machine‘s riff for “Awe” alone made it necessary. I’ve kept this disc on my person for almost the entire year and continue to have no regrets in doing so. For Dozer, yeah, it was a collection of older material, but I still enjoyed the crap out of it. Both Mars Red Sky and Black Thai signaled considerable creative growth in four-song EPs, and the Wo Fat and Egypt split more than lived up to its mission. The riff lives in bands like that, and as we get further into stylistic nuance and subgenre development, it’s those groups who are holding on to the Heavy.
Young Hunter are one of the most promising bands I’ve heard in the last three years. Flat out. Killer release. Ditto that in a much different context for Shroud Eater, whose take on heavy only got more sinister and more effective with Dead Ends. Steak emerge as tops among the five British bands — a quarter of the list! — here. Their Corned Beef Colossus also had the best title I heard all year, and though Trippy Wicked, Groan, Stubb, and Undersmile/Coma Wall (the latter earning bonus points for putting out a split with themselves) all thrilled, Steak‘s potential got them that spot. Time for a full-length, guys.
Not to leave out New York — though the geographical alignment is a coincidence — Geezer‘s Gagetapped into a jammier feel that I thought suited the band remarkably well, and The Golden Grass‘ debut single offered one of the most charming irony-free good times I’ve heard in a long while. The Salem’s Pot cassette was one of my most-listened-to tapes this year, last mentioned but not at all least, Second Grave‘s Antithesisprobably would’ve clocked in higher if I’d had more time with it, but was definitely one I wanted to put in here anyway.
As I said, a lot of really astounding shorter outings, and worthy of attention in their own right. If I missed anything, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally announced at the beginning of September, the first volume of the Myelin Constellation MS benefit comp has been released. You can see below all the artists who took place in the thing with previously unreleased material, but seriously, it’s the $6 price tag that should be catching your eye. To shell out so little cash, have it go to a good cause — because, really, fuck MS — and get 20 tracks from killer bands, including Sleestak, whose own Matt Schmitz put the whole thing together can’t be seen as anything but a bigtime win if you’ve got ears and six dollars to your name.
Schmitz sent the following down the PR wire:
Myelin Constellation Vol. 1 is released!
I’m just gonna make this quick because I’ve been fairly busy with a handful of different things.
Myelin Constellation Volume 1 is out now (actually released October 1st but only got around to doing an email for it now). Please go tohttp://mconstellation.bandcamp.com/to download your copy. 20 bands, $6 or more if you can. Every bit helps us out over here and I appreciate everyone who has downloaded it so far! Thank you! Bands that appear in this first edition include:
Northless Sons Of Otis Gates Of Slumber Backwoods Payback Coltsblood Wo Fat Stone Magnum Apostle Of Solitude Sons Of Alpha Centauri Sleestak Black Capricorn At Devil Dirt Confused Little Girl Abrahma Narcotic Luxuria Asatta Headless Kross Myopic Empire Switchblade Jesus Albatwitch
Make sure to read the liner notes on the Bandcamp page please! Visit our Facebook page athttp://facebook.com/mconstellationand stay tuned for news regarding Volume 2. As always we are constantly accepting submissions from bands who have live, unreleased, alternate version, remixed, demo, rare, or just plain brand spankin’ new songs in their archives and want to be a part of this benefit comp for Multiple Sclerosis.
Thanks to all the bands who have helped, all the blogs, radio stations, and individuals that have helped with promoting this project!
Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Texas fuzz mavens Wo Fat and resurgent North Dakota riff rockers Egypt join forces on a new limited-to-500 split LP released via Totem CatRecords. Dubbed Cyclopean Riffsperhaps because the two bands see through one eye or as a play on the fact that the parts work in cycles, the 12″ smoke-colored splatter vinyl features two cuts from each trio. So, to go by the numbers it’s one eye, one release, two bands, two songs each, three members in each band. If you want to keep it going, there’s four songs total and each band has five letters in its name. To draw further correlation, each three-piece also recorded and mixed their own material, with Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump playing the role of engineer for the extended “Nameless Cults,” which starts off their side, and “Electric Hellhound,” while Egypt‘s own six-stringer, Neal Stein, helmed “Blood Temple Hymn” and “Ancient Enemy.” Both have done their own recordings before — Stump has grown into his own as a producer over the course of Wo Fat‘s four albums and Stein proved himself up to the task earlier this year on Egypt‘s comeback LP, Become the Sun(review here) — and with a little over 18 minutes apiece, both bands give a firm sense of where they’re coming from sonically while making a surprisingly good pairing for each other. It’s not necessarily a shock that two fuzzy, heavy rock bands would go together well — that happens all the time — but front to back, Cyclopean Riffsmakes the most of a palpable stylistic kinship between Wo Fat and Egypt, its songs based around top quality riffing and classic jamming swagger.
There aren’t sides, per se, but Wo Fat are given top billing, and they launch Cyclopean Riffswith “Nameless Cults,” a song that plays into a similar kind of swamp-mystic thematic that has presented itself across their last two full-lengths, 2012’s The Black Code(review here) and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra(review here), while remaining consistent on a musical level as well. One thinks of 10-minute-plus jamming excursions like “The Shard of Leng” from last year’s outing or the title-track of the record before it and it seems Wo Fat‘s penchant for improv-style fuzz wandering has remained strong in the time since they put The Black Codeto tape. They continue to hone a blend between that side of their approach and a knack for memorable choruses, as both “Nameless Cults” and the considerably less open-structured “Electric Hellhound” offer a hook worthy of their reputation, the former using a straightforward verse/chorus beginning as a springboard for an instrumental jam that holds sway for the entirety of the second half of the track — Stump taking leads here and there while bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter (also backing vocals) keep a sense of motion and build rolling along — while the latter works largely the same, only without the departure from its initial base structure. An increase in stomp from Walter and build throughout the song itself would make an extended jam almost redundant, not to mention the fact that they just did one and would run out of room on the side of an LP.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re just 10 days out from the fist-ever Bayou Doom Fest, set to take place May 11 in Houston, Texas, with a killer lineup of native and regional acts who run a gamut of heaviness from the thrashing Warbeast all the way to the heavy rock of Orthodox Fuzz with no shortage of doom in between. I know Las Cruces have been working on new material — they’ll also play Doom in June 3 in a couple weeks — so maybe they’ll have something on tap for the setlist, and with Wo Fat just back from Europe and Mothership just off the road with Gypsyhawk, you know these guys are going to deliver an awesome night.
Details came down the PR wire:
Warbeast and Venomous Maximus to Headline Inaugural Bayou Doom Fest
Presented by the Houston Doom Brigade, the inaugural Bayou Doom Fest, to be held at Fitzgerald’s in Houston, TX on May 11, 2013, will be headlined by DFW thrash-masters Warbeast and Houston’s occult metal kings, Venomous Maximus. The show marks the first time that Warbeast and Venomous Maximus have shared the stage since a run of shows in January supporting the legendary Down. The show will also be Warbeast’s first since returning from a successful tour supporting GWAR and Venomous Maximus’ first hometown appearance since signing to Napalm Records. Making the festival even more special is the fact that it will be a free event for those 21 and up ($10 under 21).
Joining Warbeast and Venomous Maximus on the bill are psychedelic fuzz rockers Wo Fat (fresh off appearances at Roadburn and Desertfest), Maligno (Mexico), Sanctus Bellum (Houston), Mothership (DFW), Las Cruces (San Antonio), Project Armageddon (Houston), Orthodox Fuzz (DFW), and Serpent Sun (Houston).
Houston Doom Brigade Presents: Bayou Doom Fest I Saturday, May 11, 2013 Fitzgerald’s 2706 White Oak, Houston, TX Doors, 5:00 – Show 5:15 Free for 21+ (under 21: $10)
Warbeast (Housecore Records) Venomous Maximus (Napalm Records) Wo Fat (Small Stone Records) Mothership (Ripple Music) Las Cruces (Brainticket Records) Maligno Sanctus Bellum Project Armageddon Orthodox Fuzz Serpent Sun
Posted in Features on April 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.21.13 — 00.25 — Sunday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
Before Black Magician went on at Het Patronaat to start off day three of Roadburn 2013 and the final day of the fest proper (the ceremonial Afterburner is tomorrow with two stages instead of four-plus), there was a showingof Costin Chioreanu‘s animated short film, Outside the Great Circle, which made its premiere earlier this weekend. The Romanian guitarist has played with a ton of bands and did the soundtrack for the film as well with help from Attila Csihar, whose vocals were immediately recognizable, and a host of others. Pretty heavy on the visual metaphors and there were a couple points where the digital animation style seemed awkward, but apparently it was Chioreanu‘s first time out as an animator, so I’m not about to rip on the effort.
If nothing else, it made the wait for Black Magician significantly less grueling than the one for Dread Sovereign was yesterday, though sleeping later also eased some of that burden. In any case, I was there in plenty of time to catch Black Magician‘s set, which followed in post-Cathedral suit with some of what Witchsorrow got up to last evening and had me once again thinking about what it is that makes British doom British and American doom American. One of these days I’m going to sit down with a piece of posterboard and a list of bands — Trouble and Death Row here, Cathedral and Pagan Altar there — and get it figured out. In any case, the Liverpudlian fivesome belted out weighted riffs and trudging nod, earning the support of both the UK contingent in the crowd, which was sizable, and the rest.
Their 2012 debut, Nature is the Devil’s Church, which I was hoping to buy but will have to pick up next week in London, was well represented, and frontman Liam Yates underscored the classic influences while prevalent organ — Matt Ford played on the album, presumably it was also him live — complemented Kyle Nesbitt‘s guitar and offered a distinguishing factor for the band. Yates is a charismatic presence up front. As they took the stage, he announced in no uncertain terms, “We are Black Magician and we play doom metal,” in the we-are-we-play Motörhead tradition, and before a new song which he dedicated to, “all you Catholics out there,” he announced that Black Magician‘s next release would be on Svart Records, so I guess congratulations are also in order, both to the band and to Shaman Recordings in getting their name out.
No shocker, they lived up to the “We play doom metal” promise, and though Nesbitt seemed less comfortable in the extended solo that started their final song, the extended “Chattox” that also closes the record, than he did while riffing out, they still came out of that long intro and crashed into the slowly unfolding verse unscathed. Over at the Main Stage of the 013, French post-black metal trailblazers Alcest were getting ready to go on. Fronted by 2013 artist-in-residence Neige, they also played in 2011 (review here), and put up a much, much better performance than I recall the last one being. Part of it has to be the fact that their 2012 third full-length, Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here), was superb — I mean that — and gave Neige a little more space to change things up, adding screams on “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” while also generally sounding like a stronger singer as well.
Backing him was the same second guitarist/vocalist who had been with Les Discrets alongside Fursy Teyssier while Neige played bass, and here as with the other act, he also added a lot to the lush melodies. Drummer Winterhalter set up on the side of the stage and had a laptop open for the synth parts and other ambient whathaveyous — it was, I believe, the first laptop I’ve seen all weekend — and it was put to good use on “Beings of Light” from Les Voyagesand its memorable bookends, opener “Autre Temps” and closer “Summer’s Glory.” Perhaps most impressive of all, Alcest managed both to capture the serene melodic wash of their studio output and still give an engaging live show, striking a difficult balance and providing a sound follow-up/answer-back to Les Discrets‘ set at Het Patronaat. They were an unexpected highlight of the day.
While they played, Camera were getting ready to go on over in the Green Room. I only watched a couple minutes through the door, and though they had a laptop, they put it to much different use, setting a space-jammy tone and fleshing it out via personal computing. I’d get my fix of cosmic improv later with The Cosmic Dead and Endless Boogie, so I jive-turkeyed my way into Stage01 for the first time of the whole fest, managing to get in just after Raketkanon finished in order to see Texas fuzzers Wo Fat. Of everything that Roadburn 2013 has had to offer over the last three days, the balls-out stoner rock contingent has been relatively quiet (though I hear good things about Candybar Planet) in favor of doom, heavy psych, black metal and that specific kind of “other” that has become Roadburn‘s bread and butter these last few years, so I knew there was going to be a good crowd for Wo Fat, who rose to the challenge and dug right into the dirt with the title-track of last year’s excellent fourth album, The Black Code(review here), well representing their home state, American heavy rock, and well-spirited riffage. I can’t speak for everyone, but for my tired ass, they were an existential tonic. A pick-me-up like the espresso I’d soon grab from the machine in the merch area.
The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter didn’t exactly shy away from jamming on The Black Code, and their set followed a similar ethic, Stump taking extended solos while Wilson absolutely nailed the grooves underlying and Walter held all the pieces together. They were glad to be there, everyone seemed to be glad they were there — it was awesome. I immediately had “The Black Code” stuck in my head and figured that if I had to spend the rest of the night with that groove on mental jukebox perma-repeat, I had no problem with that. “Descent into the Maelstrom” from 2011’s Noche del Chupacabrawas preceded by “Hurt at Gone,” which featured a few highlight leads, and they rounded out with the last two tracks from the latest LP, “The Shard of Leng” and “Sleep of the Black Lotus,” which meant they played the whole record, just not in order, plus “Descent into the Maelstrom” and “Enter the Riffian,” from 2009’s Psychedelonaut. This being their first European tour, and first real tour in general unless they went to Japan without telling anybody, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out of it a much tighter, different band than they came into it. Clearly they were relishing every second of the Roadburn experience.
And while I watched them, so was I. I felt refreshed on my way to see Victor Griffin’s In~Graved in the Green Room, making sure to get there in plenty of time to get up front. Griffin, of course, is American doom nobility as much as anyone can be, with a pedigree that traces back through Place of Skulls to Pentagram to Death Row, but as he’s joined in In~Graved by bassist Guy Pinhas (Goatsnake, The Obsessed, etc.), keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson (former Trouble drummer) and drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell (Sixty Watt Shaman and Place of Skulls, among others), it’s something of a supergroup. Their recently-released self-titled debut (review here) for sure is Griffin doing what he does best, singing and playing guitar with his unmistakable tone and professing his faith in song. He was in his element at Roadburn 2013, and said it was good to be back. I saw him here in 2010 with a Death Row reunion and again in 2011 with Pentagram, and he’s got his thing and it works well for him. He led In~Graved in such a manner as to be fitting of having his name in front.
“Digital Critic,” which also started the record, opened. My issues with the subject matter notwithstanding (because if anyone needs a good shitting on, it’s bloggers; actually, if the song was about poor syntax and needless hyperbole, I’d be down with it), they were tight, and “What If” followed, immediately establishing the dynamic of the band, with Olson‘s keys playing a major role in enriching the melodies and underscoring the grooves of Griffin‘s riffs. It seemed to me that’s where the real potential for In~Graved lies. Here Victor Griffin has this awesome band that’s out on tour. Pinhas on bass is a rhythm section unto himself, and he and Campbell were locked in from the first note, so what I’m left wondering about In~Graved is what happens next? Where do they go from here? Is it a real band or a Griffin project with a revolving door membership? Seems to me that this lineup could yield some fantastic material if they wrote together. I don’t know how feasible that is — last I heard, Pinhas lived in California, and everyone involved seems to have plenty going on besides, so scheduling could be a nightmare — but they had potential to be a real band and not just a touring lineup. We live in a universe of infinite possibility. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe they’ll do this European tour and never speak again. Who knows.
High on Fire delivered their second set of the weekend on the Main Stage. Thursday night’s headlining slot was Art of Self Defense-only, so this one replied with selections from the rest of the trio’s catalog, launching with the rush of De Vermis Mysteriisopener “Serums of Laio” and weaving a vicious blood trail through material from Surrounded by Thieveson, cuts like “Devilution,” “Frost Hammer” (Jeff Matz joining Matt Pike on vocals), “Rumors of War,” “Madness of an Architect” and “Eyes and Teeth” melding together in a career-spanning sampler that may have been missing the first album’s highlights, but in the context of the other spot still made sense. It hadn’t been that long since I had seen them do most of this material, late last year in Philly, but they never disappoint live and this was no exception. Who could complain about two High on Fire sets in one weekend? Not me, not this weekend, though I knew with Elder still to come there was much more of the day to be had, and so I took a quick break for dinner — fish, rice, salad — and to pick up some Cosmic Dead tapes from the merch area. More espresso was the right choice as well.
I sat outside Het Patronaat for a few minutes to get caught up on my notes and drink said coffee in the fresh air — actually it kind of smelled like old potatoes, but that’s still fresher than inside — but wound up going in to see a bit of UK black metal progressives A Forest of Stars, who wound up being probably the most elaborate act of the whole fest, between the double-guitars, violin, flute, keys, extra percussion, ebow, multiple vocalists, shirts and ties, and so on. It was a far cry from High on Fire, to be sure, as screamer Dan Eyre stood almost perfectly still to seethe when he had a break as the band around him continued their well-received onslaught. The people there knew who they were — Roadburn‘s a pretty hip crowd anyway — but I didn’t, so for just being something different, it was exciting even though what they were doing, black metal tinged with psych and folk influences, isn’t really where my head is at. Very atmospheric, very complex, very intense, mixing clean vocals and screams and everything else. I can’t imagine getting seven people to agree on anything, let alone be in a band, so kudos are in order.
The reason I was there, though, was for Elder, who played next. What a fucking blast. Seriously. That’s what it says in my notes: “What a fucking blast.” It’s a direct quote. Probably the best thing I can compare it to is when Black Pyramid played the Afterburner in 2011 and were given such a warm reception, but this was bigger, both in room size and in that reception itself. Similar to Goat last night, people were lined up out the door and down the alley to see Elder‘s Roadburn debut, and the crowd was cheering before they even started the first song. They waved and people cheered. It was a lot of fun to see, and as it was the 10th show on their 15-date European run with Pet the Preacher (who played earlier at another club down the way as a kind of annex to the festival), they also handed the place its collective ass. Both cuts from the Spires Burn/ReleaseEP were included, as well as “Dead Roots Stirring” and a host of others, and for the umpteenth time in the last couple days, I felt lucky to be there. I know for a lot of people, this was the first time they’re getting to see them live, but even for the several times I have, this one was something special. I’ve got my train booked to London in time to see them in Camden Town on Monday. Fingers crossed it actually works out.
My thought was to catch Mr. Peter Hayden at Stage01, but didn’t get there in time and so missed it. Drowned my sorrows instead in a few Electric Moon CDs — there are so many! — and ran back to drop them off at the hotel before heading back to the Main Stage for Godflesh. While I’m feeling lucky, I felt lucky to see Godflesh do Streetcleanerfront-to-back two years ago, so I guess I’m twice-over lucky as regards the seminal Justin Broadrick-led outfit for having now seen them do 1992’s sophomore full-length, Pure,as well. If it comes to it, I wouldn’t object if Broadrick and bassist B.C. Green wanted to go year-by-year through the whole catalog and wind up at 2001’s Hymns, but I doubt it will come to that. I had been wondering whatever became of the new record he alluded to when interviewed here for the last Jesu full-length, but nobody seemed to mind a roll through Pure — at least I didn’t hear any groans, “Oh, this again,” and so on — and from the sheer damage that material can inflict, it’s no real wonder why. Apparently one of the byproducts of being so ahead of your time is that later on your output is still vital. Go figure.
Now, I’m not going to claim to be the biggest Godflesh fan in the world. To me, they’re a band I’ve appreciated more in hindsight — hearing their records years after the fact and recognizing the parts that others have ripped off; there’s no shortage — but I don’t honestly think they would’ve worked as anything but the headliner for this final night of Roadburn. The energy and the volume they bring, Broadrick, Green and the drum machine, didn’t really leave room to be built upon. Robert Hampson, who played on Pure and the preceding 1991 Cold World EP following the dissolution of his band Loop that year and who also did a solo set on Thursday, joined them on second guitar, so that the three were spread out across the stage, Broadrick on the right, Green on the left and Hampson in the middle.
It only got louder and more pulsating from there. I made my way over to Stage01 to watch some of Mr. Peter Hayden through the open door — I had really wanted to see them — and even then, the sounds I was getting was a mixture of their heavy-as-hell psych freakout and Godflesh‘s dissatisfied industrial frustrations. Figuring that I was going to want to work my way up anyway for The Cosmic Dead‘s 23.15 start, I started through the crowd as Mr. Peter Hayden did a sort of space rocking baptism rite on the front row that involved a tinfoil-covered hand. Seemed like a great set, and it certainly ended riotous enough, but having missed them, there was no way I was letting The Cosmic Dead go unseen. I got to the front of the stage just in time to see Mr. Peter Hayden sell a DVD to the dude standing next to me for 10 Euro that I’m pretty sure was the visuals that were playing behind them and not, as I’m relatively sure this guy thought it was, a live video of what they’d just played. The day had been long for everyone.
But The Cosmic Dead were something of an arrival for me. You see, I knew this day was going to end jammy and spaced out, and so when I got up front at Stage01, it was the proverbial home stretch. My feet were sore, my back was sore, I smelled like other people’s smoke and the fish I ate for dinner, but dammit, I wanted to see the Scottish band bring their heavy space to life. I didn’t have much time, because New York’s Endless Boogie were going on the Main Stage at 23.50, but I’d get in what I could. This was fine until The Cosmic Dead made it apparent they were running on SRT (“stoner rock time”). They started closer to 23.30, which meant I had all of five minutes before I had to head out and see the last band. In my head, the voice of Lana from Archer made a “womp womp” noise, though what I saw of The Cosmic Dead was right on. The bassist set up facing away from the audience, and they were so densely fogged up from the smoke machine that one almost had to take the sound’s word for it that they were there in the first place, but they made it known that they’re in it for the jams. What little I got to see was a boon.
Earlier in the day, I was asked why I wouldn’t just go see Endless Boogie in New York. They’re from New York and I live in New Jersey, about an hour away. It makes sense. Well, the thing is some of the shows they play in New York are terrible, and I get bummed out at terrible shows. If you’re ever going to see a band live, no matter who they are or what they do, in my experience, there’s no better place to see them than at Roadburn. I’ve seen some awesome shit in my day, and when it came to me and Endless Boogie, I knew that if I was gonna run into their low-end moody improv, this was how I wanted it to happen. Asphyx were playing at Het Patronaat, but I didn’t care. I watched guitarist/vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major preach impromptu about whatever the hell he felt like while Endless Boogie smoothed their way into an all-flavor/no-filler groove that I think was loosely based on one of the cuts from this year’s Long Island(review here) but ultimately headed somewhere else.
The same could be said for me. I’d stayed later than the last two nights to at least get a glimpse of The Cosmic Dead and Endless Boogie, but with this ahead of me, I knew my time was limited and that I needed to get back to the hotel and start with the clacky-clacky. Tomorrow is the Afterburner — like Roadburn‘s (relatively) laid back way of transitioning its audience back into real life. There’s always a cool vibe throughout the day and from Sigh and Nihil to Golden Void and Electric Moon, I’m sure tomorrow will be no exception. First though, sleep. I lost track this morning of what day it actually was and started doing work that needed to be in by Monday — and post time after sorting through the 80 pics with this post is 06.30; I have not slept — so maybe I’m a little frayed, but nothing I’ve thus far encountered has made me regret any of this.
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