The amount I’ve written about it does pathetically little to convey just how much time I’ve actually spent listening to Young Hunter‘s Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain EP. Now available as a split cassette with Ohioan (review forthcoming), the three-song collection by the Portland-by-way-of-Arizona outfit boasts an atmosphere and unabashed emotional heft like not much else out there. Whether it’s “Welcome to Nothing,” “Trail of Tears” or “Dreamer,” the whole thing clocks in at about 18 minutes and it’s more or less become a part of my daily routine to make my way through what’s a rather intense sonic ringer going from front to back, “Dreamer” closing with a launch into a driving rush that still sends a chill up the spine. Take the fact that I’ve included songs in podcasts over the course of three months (see here and here) as a sign of the enduring attention the release has received. Its tracks have yet to stray far from my consciousness.
“Dreamer” is the shortest of the bunch, and its finale speaks best for itself, so I’ll let it, but as you make your way through the video you’ll probably notice that it’s just frontman Benjamin Blake without the rest of the band represented. Blake moved to Portland last year, and presumably — at least judging from the misty forest treetops at the end — the clip was filmed there. Last I heard, he was looking to get a new lineup together for Young Hunter, though in January, he returned to Tuscon to play a release show with the desert-dwelling lineup for the tape. I don’t know what the future of Young Hunter might be, or where it might be, but Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountainhits with a resonant strike and is even more assured than was the the band’s 2012 debut full-length, Stone Tools(discussed here). If you haven’t yet checked it out, the video is pretty clearly a budget job, but still gives a good feel for how the EP hits its apex. Not to be missed.
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I like making these podcasts because I never really know where they’re going to end up once I get started. One song leads to the next leads to the next, and before you know it, you’re all spaced out on how cool some brand new acoustic At Devil Dirt sounds coming out of the brutal dead-sludge of Coltsblood, or deep into the ultra vibes of a second hour loaded with interstellar meanderings. Some of these go brutal. This one just went far out.
That At Devil Dirt EP was just released yesterday, so if you don’t recognize the title, that’s probably why. A lot of this stuff is pretty recent, and while some of the songs you might’ve seen around, whether it was the Conan song they did the video for or the Druglord track that was streamed here with the full album, still other cuts, like the Trilogy, Black Moon Circle and Mope are new to these parts. As ever, I think it winds up with a decent blend and I hope you agree.
Ogre, “Nine Princes in Amber” from The Last Neanderthal (2014)
Sun Shepherd, “Awaiting the Firepit” from Procession of Trampling Hoof (2014)
Trilogy, “Invade and Occupy” from Burned Alive (2013)
Young Hunter, “Welcome to Nothing” from Split with Ohioan (2014)
Sergio Ch., “La Familia y las Guerras” from 1974 (2013)
Hull, “Legend of the Swamp Goat” from Legend of the Swamp Goat 7” (2014)
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle (2014)
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus (2014)
Coltsblood, “Beneath Black Skies” from Into the Unfathomable Abyss (2014)
At Devil Dirt, “Mirame” from Dinner is Ready (2014)
Black Moon Circle, “Enigmatic SuperBandit” from Black Moon Circle (2014)
Eidetic Seeing, “A Snake Whose Years are Long” from Against Nature (2014)
Goya, “Death’s Approaching Lullaby” from 777 (2013)
Mope, “La Caduta” from Mope (2014)
Mike Scheidt, “Rake” from Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. II (2014)
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.
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The end of any year always brings a barrage of best-ofs. Lists, radio shows, award ceremonies, and even podcasts. What no one tells you about any of them is there’s no fucking way they can ever be comprehensive. My Top 20 list? It was damn good and I worked really hard putting it together, but was I toiling under the delusion that it was going to be an accurate and complete representation of everything 2013 had on offer? Hell no. That’s why we have the Readers Poll, the Albums Unheard list (still to come) and all the rest of the wrap-up stuff.
So as you check out this happens-to-be-the-last-of-2013 podcast, please keep in mind that though it does feature a sampling of some of 2013′s most killer songs from some of its most killer albums, it’s not at all intended to be a total roundup of this year. It’s a part of it, and I’m cool with that if you are.
It’s Xmas Eve as I put this together, and it’s looking like this’ll be my only post for today, so I’ll take another opportunity to wish you a happy holiday if you’re celebrating. Please be safe and enjoy time with family, gift-giving, and of course, good music. I don’t know if grandma would really get down to some Phantom Glue, but seems like it’s worth a shot.
Clutch, “D.C. Sound Attack” from Earth Rocker (2013)
Monster Magnet, “Last Patrol,” from Last Patrol (2013)
Church of Misery, “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” from Thy Kingdom Scum (2013)
Phantom Glue, “Bow in the Dust” from A War of Light Cones (2013)
Pelican, “The Tundra” from Forever Becoming (2013)
Young Hunter, “Trail of Tears” from Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
All Them Witches, “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at Your Door (2013)
Black Thai, “Doors to Nowhere” from Season of Might (2013)
Gozu, “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)
Geezer, “Ancient Song” from Gage EP (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Unsung Everyone” from Hell’s Half Acre (2013)
Fuzz, “One” from Fuzz (2013)
Wooden Shjips, “Servants” from Back to Land (2013)
Fever Dog, “Lady Snowblood/Child of the Netherworlds,” from Lady Snowblood (2013)
Samsara Blues Experiment, “Brahmin’s Lament” from Waiting for the Flood (2013)
Vista Chino, “Planets 1 & 2” from Peace (2013)
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Valley of the Dolls” from Mind Control (2013)
The Golden Grass, “One More Time” from One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)
Beelzefuzz, “Lonely Creatures” from Beelzefuzz (2013)
Posted in Features on November 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It happened at the start of last month that there was a Tuesday during which I was so overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of the releases available that I had no choice but to present a rundown of all of them. No choice. You would ask, “Couldn’t you just –” and I would cut you off to say, “No I couldn’t.” It had to be all of them.
So it is today. Last night, Young Hunter posted a new EP, and Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson released a new folk/Americana solo outing, and today has been more or less an onslaught of “out today!” and “don’t miss it!” and so on. Well, I’ve whittled what I’m sure is an incomplete list down to seven brand new releases currently available for download. Some of them — like the Stone Machine Electric and Tanner Olson — are pay-what-you-will, but even those asking for a cash deposit should prove well worth the investment. You can always get a sampling beforehand, and I’ve included players below to facilitate.
Here we go:
1. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
This one’s a gem. The North Carolina duo of guitarist/vocalist Kevin Clark and bassist/vocalist Michelle Temple teamed up with Caltrop drummer John Crouch and the result is a more patient collection and exploratory feel than that which reared itself on 2011′s On the Wings of Timedebut. Progressive but not pretentious, atmospheric but not letting go of its rocking side, it’s an album that begs for multiple listens and satisfies even more with them. Both Clark and Temple come off as more confident on vocals, and extended bookends “Lifeblood” (the 10-minute opener) and “The Dusk/Invisible Figures” (the nine-minute closer) showcase a burgeoning affinity for heavy psych mindgaming. It’s as much fun as it is a journey. Get it here.
Black Skies, Circadian Meditations (2013)
2. T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross
If you haven’t yet started to obsessively keep tabs on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp page, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Olson is a prolific and experimental songwriter, and as much as he works in the traditional forms of country twang and Americana spaciousness, so too does he bend those elements to the will of his material. His latest outing, The Bad Lands to Cross, is a relic waiting to be unearthed. Recorded live with one Shure SM57 microphone, it’s an hour long collection as prone to beauty as tragedy, songs like “Return from the Brink” hovering somewhere between the canyon sides of the anxious and secure. He sings, which he doesn’t on all of his solo releases (see The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar), and one might consider The Bad Lands to Cross a spiritual companion to Across Tundras‘ 2013 outing, Electric Relics(review here), but it more than stands on its own, whether it’s the minimalist folk of “Rarefied Blue” or the harmonica-laden melancholy of the Gene Clark cover, “Some Misunderstanding.” Get it here.
T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)
3. Sandrider, Godhead
Sandrider are the antidote to stagnation. Their second album for Good to Die Records, Godhead (review here), pummels with reckless glee and abandon, but don’t let that lead you to believe it isn’t also precise. The post-Akimbo three-piece of drummer Nat Damm, guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski and bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts returned to Matt Bayles to record the follow-up of their clarion 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and the continued partnership found Sandrider all the more gnarly and aggressive, but also with a development in their melodic sensibility to match. Songs like the opener “Ruiner” and punkish “Champions” are an unabashed good time — get loaded and call them “epic” — and cuts like “Godhead” and the closer “Traveler” work in more complex terrain, showing the dynamic at work between all three members of the band, each of whom proves essential in crafting the atmosphere of the whole. Listen to it for a party or for thinky-thinky bludgeoning. Either way you don’t lose. Also available on gatefold vinyl. Get it here.
Sandrider, Godhead (2013)
4. Second Grave, Antithesis
They call it an EP, but it eats like a full-length. Fronted by former Warhorse guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder and featuring Black Pyramid/The Scimitar bassist Dave Gein along with guitarist Chris Drzal and drummer Chuck Ferreira, Second Grave revel in doomed atmospheres and heavy metal stoicism. Their AntithesisEP follows last year’s self-titled debut outing (review here) and over the course of its two tracks, “Mourning Light” (6:37) and “Drink the Water” (11:41), it showcases what’s working in the band’s quickly solidifying approach, whether it’s the solo and riff interplay of the two guitars, undulating heavy grooves in the bass and drums, or van Guilder‘s propensity for throwing in ripping screams along with her melodic clean singing. The more rocking “Mourning Light” and “Drink the Water” play out the duality shown on the Cory John Heisson artwork, and recording by Black Pyramid‘s Clay Neely at Black Coffee Sound and a mastering job from Revelation‘s John Brenner wrap Antithesisup as a doom metaller’s delight in style and affiliation. Get it here.
Second Grave, Antithesis (2013)
5. Stone Machine Electric, 2013.02.07
When Arlington, Texas, riffers Stone Machine Electric released their self-titled full-length (review here) in January 2013, they had recently added third member Mark Cook on Warr guitar. Cook didn’t appear on that album, which was produced by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump, and is seemingly since out of the band, but was on board alongside guitarist/vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer Kitchens for this recorded show, which as the title would indicate was taped on Feb. 7, 2013. They were at The Grotto that night in Ft. Worth, and they played a considerable set. 2013.02.07clocks in at 53 minutes, and extended pieces like “Carve” and “No/W/Here” give the trio plenty of space to jam out. Naturally, they take advantage, and though the lineup was new and the recording is rough, what purports to be the first in a series of free live albums from Stone Machine Electric seems to come as a document of an already bygone moment. One hopes their lineup issues get sorted soon one way or another so they can follow 2013.02.07 and the self-titled in good time. Get it here.
Stone Machine Electric, 2013.02.07 (2013)
6. Summoner, Atlantian
Didn’t I just write about this album? Well yes, yes I did. Summoner‘s second offering under the moniker and third overall, Atlantian (released by Magnetic Eye Records), is an ambitious and unrepentantly proggy heavy rock record. You’ll find some riffy thrust on “Horns of War,” but notice that they lead with “The Gatekeeper,” a track which couples its big-bigger-biggest plod with some of Summoner‘s most accomplished melodicism to date. Atmospheric explorations like “Changing Tides” (presumably the end of side A on the vinyl) and peaceful closer “Taken by the Sea” show the Boston foursome branching out beyond the reaches even of 2012′s Phoenix, and while the crushing progressions of “Into the Abyss” and the forward rush of “The Prophecy” offer contrast to these sleepier stretches — too substantial and precariously placed to be interludes — the full-album flow that runs across Atlantiandemonstrates in no uncertain terms just how far Summoner have come since starting out as Riff Cannon with 2009′s Mercury Mountain. Get it here.
Summoner, Atlantian (2013)
7. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
With no more ceremony than a quick, “Hey this is out now,” Young Hunter casually released a three-song follow-up to their wildly impressive 2012 full-length, Stone Tools (discussed here). I’ve gone back to that album often since I first heard it, and Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountainis a terrifyingly solid answer to the formative work the doubly-drummed seven-piece did on their debut, whether it’s the mountain gothic stomp of “Welcome to Nothing” or spacious sway of the ensuing “Trail of Tears,” which is dark and otherworldly but tied to the cold clarity of a desert night all the same, picking up in its second half to a joyous guitar-led ritualizing that legitimately earns a Neurosis comparison more than most of what gets compared to Neurosis these days. Rounding out with the moody, percussion-led “Dreamer,” Young Hunter showcase a bit of drama to go with the intensity presented elsewhere, launching into full-bore thickness and fervent, desperate shouts. Someone needs to sign this band immediately. Tee Pee? Hell, Neurot? Someone’s gotta step up. This is too good. Reportedly a new lineup is in construction as guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Blake (and maybe others) has relocated from Arizona to Portland, Oregon (of course), and these tracks will be used as part of a split tape with Ohioan, but they’re free now, so go to. Get it here.
Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
Happy listening. If there’s anything I missed, please let me know in the comments.
You can kind of see it, but the image above is of the envelope in which the CD pressing of recently On the Radar-ized Tuscon, Arizona, harvest doom outfit Young Hunter‘s full-length debut, Stone Tools, arrived. Click the picture (or any in the post, or any in any post) to enlarge. Stamped in black ink on the back in a sort of Native American geometric is a ram’s skull. Oh, what the postman must think of me.
Young Hunter was kind enough to send me one of the 300 physical copies of Stone Hunter, and one look at the packaging of the album and the obvious work that went into making it and it’s hard not to appreciate the effort, attention to detail (like the envelope above) and the effect that a physical presentation can have on what’s more often than not thought of these days as non-physical media. Take a look.
The CD itself comes in a black paper sleeve. Nothing really special about it, but on the front is the band’s logo stamped in silver ink. Obviously this isn’t to scale with the envelope above, but here it is:
Also included in the package, as well as some stickers, is a newsprint poster. Now, I’ll grant that I have and will probably always have a soft spot in my heart for newsprint owing to my time working for publications who utilized it, but as the Stone Toolsposter unfolds to a whopping 34″ x 21″, it’s impressive even if you don’t have emotional baggage related to the media.
Inspired to do so by a shot on the band’s Bandcamp page, I left the CD (and the stickers) there for scale, but that’s the darker side. On the right there are words in a vertical all the way down, and on the left a wolf design in shades of gray. Some of the ink bled on the poster — hazards of the trade with newsprint; also something that makes each one unique — but it still looks great. The other side is a horizontal design:
Arranged into a pyramid are the lyrics to Stone Tools‘ nine tracks, and they rest atop a barren desert mountainscape appropriate for the atmosphere of the music. On each side, lines come together in a fade toward the middle and there’s a steer skull at the top. Here’s a closer look at the pyramid:
All told it’s a pretty gorgeous design and a great package that, from envelope to unfolding, really fits what Young Hunter are doing musically. If you want more info on this version of Stone Toolsor to get it as a pay-what-you-will download, hit up Young Hunter‘s Bandcamp page. Thanks to the band for sending the album over.
Posted in On the Radar on August 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
There is a lot that Tuscon, Arizona, heavy psych rockers Young Hunter do right on their self-released 2012 debut full-length, Stone Tools. Foremost, tone. The seven-piece band nail glowing-tube tonal warmth in their guitars and bass — and rightfully so to go along with open, laid back grooves, perfect for the post-Cisneros folk-harmony vocals that only add to the classic vibing and airy atmospherics. For a comparison point, Across Tundras revel in a similar big-sky ritualism, but Young Hunter let you hear more of the vibrating cones in their cabs and the material feels more specifically of its desert home for it. Arbouretum also covered some of this hard ground on their underrated 2011 outing, The Gathering.
Stone Toolsopens strong with “The Harbinger.” Aside from earning immediate points for being the longest track on the album, Young Hunter‘s leadoff introduces the multi-singer vocals and I don’t even know how many layers of guitar. Info on personnel is vague at best (they’re on Thee Facebooks here), but the sound is full enough to make seven players believable, and even as the subsequent “Young Leaves on Ancient Branches” and “Cities of Black Mesa” get more aggressive — the latter’s opening riff could easily pass for black metal as much as anything Wolves in the Throne Room did on their first album, though they soon bring in a smoked-out psych blues coo – Young Hunter hold to a sense of pastoral bliss. It’s the desert at night, echoing canyons, an infinity of stars, lonely, but the dirt on the ground is still hot on the bottoms of your bare feet.
So what’s the holdup on my overly image-based slathering of appreciation? Mostly the mix. The vocals initially come through too high and while obviously the organic recording adds to the effectiveness of Stone Tools overall and by the time “Black Candles” comes on I’ve forgotten these and several other woes in favor of Young Hunter‘s sweet ritualizing, there are still some pieces of the songs that pull you out of the overarching hypnotic effect in ways that don’t seem purposeful.
That said, Stone Toolsfollows a 2011 tape release called Children of a Hungry Worldand is Young Hunter‘s first record, so that they’d give the impression of still getting their bearings isn’t really all that surprising. More to the point, I dig Stone Toolsas it is and thought I’d post it here in case you might do the same. The band have a couple shows coming up in Tuscon and I don’t know what their plans are after that, if they’ll get to work on a follow-up to Stone Tools or what, but the kind of desert reverie they put into “Drought,” I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before they answer back with another release. In the meantime, Stone Toolsis available on the dirt cheap from their Bandcamp page in a screenprinted sleeve that comes with an awesome-looking poster, as seen above.