Posted in Whathaveyou on April 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Now located in Portland, Oregon, Young Hunter have launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish work on their new album. With a goal of $4,444 — the full-length will also be their fourth release since their first single in 2011 — they’ll need to mix, master and press the record, which is their second long-player after 2012’s Stone Tools (discussed here) and has been tracked with Adam Pike at Toadhouse Studios.
I’ve been anxious to hear what frontman Benjamin Blake and the rest of Young Hunter had to offer with for their sophomore LP since their 2013 EP, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (review here), pushed their aesthetic so much forward from the debut, with elements of Americana and goth rock and doom blended both stylishly and coherently into three memorable songs that, to be perfectly honest, I was just listening to this past weekend. So, you know, staying power and all.
Here’s the info on the campaign and the Kickstarter video, which has a preview of some new audio:
///\\\ Young Hunter Album ///\\\
It has most likely been awhile since you have heard anything from us. That is because we’ve been busy moving to Portland, reincarnating into a new form, writing and recording a new album. It has been a long road, full of hard work, doubt, joy, and glory, and has ultimately lead us back to the heart of what Young Hunter’s mission in the world is.
It is hard to put a pricetag on music, and we have often released our music for free. We’ve debated long and hard over whether or not to use crowdfunding for this release, and came to the conclusion that to do this album justice, we simply can’t afford to pay for it all ourselves. So we have put together a variety of what we think are pretty awesome rewards, and now we stroll forth into the risky world of a Kickstarter campaign, with hope in our hearts that this will come to fruition. So if you have enjoyed our music in the past, we ask that you check out our page, and consider helping us make this happen, because without you, it simply won’t. We have 30 days from today, the clock is ticking.
We have finished tracking our album with Adam Pike at Toadhouse Studios, and it sounds great. We’ve been paying for the project out of pocket, and will continue to cover roughly half of the costs even if this Kickstarter is successful. We just feel so good about what we have already, we want to make sure that we continue to take the right steps to give this album the resources it needs to fully manifest. But without financial assistance, we won’t be able to make it happen. Only you, dear reader, can help us achieve this great and noble goal. Our next steps include:
-Mixing with Ephriam Nagler here in Portland, OR. An old friend who we have worked with before, who knows how to make things simultaneously huge and delicate.
-Mastering with Golden Mastering. Trustworthy and industry-standard bearers in mastering and making vinyl masters.
-Printing 1000 LPs, with a full color jacket and printed sleeve, as well as a smaller run of CDs with the same artwork.
-Artwork for the album, which will include hiring a professional photographer for an epic album cover.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, we hope your world is full of love, light, and rock’n’roll.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Oregon-by-way-of-Arizona outfit Young Hunter announced over the weekend that they have begun tracking their next full-length at Toadhouse Recording in Portland. At this point, not much more has been said than that as regards a title, tracks, or even who is in the band, which was a seven-piece when their debut, Stone Tools (discussed here), was released in 2012, prior to guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Blake relocating to the Pacific Northwest from the desert he’d previously called home.
The band’s last release was the three-song Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain EP that arrived first on its own digitally late in 2013 and then as one of 2014’s best short releases in a limited split tape with Ohioan (review here), whose drone-folk experimentalism and Swansian bitterness complemented the emotional depth of sonic weight of Young Hunter‘s “Welcome to Nothing,” “Trail of Tears” and “Dreamer,” which built on the distorted desert impulses Stone Tools laid out while also sounding fuller and more assured, the three songs bleeding together as one longer, dynamic work, as smooth in its flow as it was ranging in its impact. Whether that material is an indication of where Young Hunter might go sonically on the upcoming full-length is unknown; that EP was a significant-enough shift from the prior full-length that it seems pointless to hazard a guess.
Those who’ve been fortunate enough to see them over the last few months in Portland might be better able to speculate. Young Hunter have been playing shows with increasing regularity taking time to put together the new band. Two dates in January found them alongside Galatea, Lamprey and Johanna Warren, and on Feb. 24 — presumably after the recording is done — they’re set to take the stage with Disenchanter as part of Portland’s “Heavy Tuesdays” series at Rotture. One assumes more will follow once the album, whatever it’s called and whenever it lands, comes out.
Hopefully more to come as they continue the process leading up to the release. Their statement, recounted in full below as posted on Jan. 31, is suitably minimal:
Some part of me feels like I just need to finally have it out with these songs. Late last fall, when Tucson, Arizona’s Young Hunter issuedthe three tracks “Welcome to Nothing,” “Trail of Tears” and “Dreamer” online as the Embers at the Foot of Dark MountainEP, there was no doubt in my mind that it was one of 2013’s best short releases. The 18-minute collection has become a staple in the months since its release, perfect for killing late night silences, and in Ohioan‘s Tetralogía Lavaplatos, it has a match. The two recordings share personnel, a spirit born of the land from whence they come and some lyrical themes — albeit manifested differently in texture — so it’s only fitting they’d wind up together, Ohioan‘s four songs, “Madrugada Sonora,” “Fat Children (with Privilege),” “Herida de Llorona” and “Dogshit in Plastic Bags” showcasing American drone-folk of varied intent and poetic critique to complement Young Hunter‘s emotionally-resonant spiritual weight.
The tape arrives in a hand-made package, the cover on front, a quote from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road on back that reads, “People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.” A piece of black tape seals the cardboard, which unfolds to various stamped symbols and the tape itself, black with gold paint, accompanied by a download card and folded sheet with lyrics for Young Hunter‘s songs and the two of Ohioan‘s that have them. The sides on the outside have “YH & OH” stamped on them, and it’s a fitting answer to Young Hunter‘s 2012 CD outing, Stone Tools, which showed similar depth in presentation. For a format as maligned as tapes often are, this split (limited to 200 copies) is one more argument for the validity of them as an outlet for creativity. Still, once one puts the thing on and presses play, there’s very little else that matters.
Droning at the start, “Welcome to Nothing” bursts Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain to life with terrifying lucidity. Young Hunter frontman Benjamin Blake intones at the start, “Abandon those around you/Do not be afraid…” beginning a verse that plays out a subtle build over the song’s first minute-plus before the drums and full-breadth guitars kick in. Even on tape, the sound is huge, the pulse vital, the mood darkened by the continued drone that becomes the out-front riff of the verse. A chaos swirl is given push by pounding drums — both Adan Martinez-Kee and Matthew Baquet are credited on the three tracks, I don’t know who plays where — and “Welcome to Nothing” is at a running pace the tension and drama of which is contrasted by the subdued delivery of the vocals. Crashing drums and a lead line from the guitar provide a sort of instrumental chorus while the hook resides in the refrain of the verse, the line “Welcome back to the void,” serving as an anchor up to the cacophony that rounds the track out and cuts echoing into the beginning of “Trail of Tears,” a single, spacious guitar introducing the line that will be the song’s central figure as a series of drum hits slam home punctuation.
I do not mind saying that there are several “holy shit” chill-up-the-spine moments on the Young Hunter side of the tape, and the unfolding of “Trail of Tears” is one of them. The band reels back and then lets loose a staggering nighttime landscape, guitars doing coyote howls to set up the first verse, Julia DeConcini joining Blake atop the complex wash from guitarist Mike Barnett, guitarist/keyboardist Samuel Christopher (who, like DeConcini, also appears with Ohioan) and bassist Michael Huerta, all of them and the drums coming together to create this rumbling, presence that both consumes and grooves, “hey-heys” and “ooh-oohs” showing up for an understated chorus before the keys and guitars duke it out in multilayered solos. The stomp from the beginning of the track reemerges in the second half as the foundation for a build the culmination of which is the tape’s most singularly devastating moment of tonal largesse and impact — Neurosis worthy — the drums pulling back to half-time at just the right moment and immediately afterwards starting in on the beat that is the foundation for “Dreamer,” the shortest of Young Hunter‘s three inclusions on the split.
By this time, Young Hunter have crafted a dense atmosphere, dark but not cultish or silly and earning its heaviness through control and presence. “Dreamer” essentially breaks into three parts. Guitars match the drum beat step for step and develop from there in a tense push that opens wide for an airy verse before trading back. The major change comes with the line “See the bones left where the spirit wakes up,” which marks the beginning of a build that will lead to the split’s most driving payoff, Blake coming to the fore over the maddening drive to ask, “When you gonna wake up?/Are you gonna wake up when you die?” ending the apex in screams not black metal-influenced like some of those on StoneTools, but rawer, more primal. And just to show that even as they’ve gone so far out, Young Hunter aren’t so out of control as to snap back with a hit of the snare, return to the original guitar rhythm/drum beat and cap “Dreamer” with a bookend to underscore the accomplishment of its songwriting. The several minutes of silence that follow offer well-appreciated opportunity for recovery.
Ohioan‘s take comes from another angle. Both “Madrugada Sonora” and “Herida de Llorona” are instrumental, the first launching the dark-folk/Americana outfit’s side with a bed of drone. More even than Young Hunter, whose songs prove distinct almost in spite of themselves, Ohioan‘s material gives the impression of being meant to be experienced as a whole. Extended waves of guitar notes make for a minimalist beginning, layers weaving in throughout “Madrugada Sonora” in a subtle and cautious build that comprises the first five minutes of Tetralogía Lavaplatos — something I’ll readily admit I only know because of the digital version of the EP. On the tape, it blends together seamlessly, and even when more distinct feedback arrives, it’s hard to know exactly where “Fat Children (with Privilege)” starts, though there’s little obscurity once the vocals begin. O Ryne Warner (who also appears with Young Hunter and has contributed bass to Ghost to Falco, from Portland, Oregon) is credited with co-engineering and mixing, as well as “other shit” in the studio, and listed first among a host of others as “faculty” — all info online; no personnel info with the tape liner — so I’m relatively comfortable presuming its his voice recounting the tale in the lyrics of “Fat Children (with Privilege),” but don’t quote me.
He’s joined throughout Ohioan‘s four songs by the aforementioned Christopher and DeConcini, as well as Connor Gallaher, Andrew Collberg, Jeff Lownsbury, Jeff Grubic, Sasha, Geoff Saba, Ryen Egglestein, Jim Colby, Isadora Moreno-Frisby, Alexandra Cer and Benjamin Ford-Sala (who also did the art for foldout), though who’s doing what is a mystery and to delve into speculation seems like overkill. The lyrics of “Fat Children (with Privilege)” are less about the titular youths themselves than the cultural excesses of wealth and hubris they’re meant to represent. It’s Howl meets service-industry blues:
“I cleansed every dish That the rich tooth missed I fed their fat children With privilege On skin On organs And flesh With the skin Of my friends,”
And isn’t long in going on to talk about a “life, ever spent, paying rent” — something Young Hunter touched on as well in “Dreamer” with “Another life spent chasing paychecks” — the disillusion with adult consumerist life indicative both of creative restlessness and the core of resentment that bleeds through the remainder of the track. Where Young Hunter crashed and slammed, Ohioan seethe, though in Angels of Light-esque form, there’s a swell of volume and lurching heft as well near the end of the track, topped by strings (real or inorganic) and multiple vocals as it is. The song breaks back down to its root frustration and silence precedes the instrumental “Herida de Llorona,” a twanging, guitar of country’ed sweetness offering some contrast to the gnashing teeth in the prior cut’s finish.
That atmosphere of sentiment for the impossible — something other countries rightly shake their heads at but is nonetheless a core element of American culture — continues into “Dogshit in Plastic Bags,” though neither the title of the song nor its lyrics would draw one to that notion. If it was Ohioan‘s intent to toy with contrast, they did a more than able job of it, the words barely spoken in sweet, patient melody as the lines, “Our legacy will be dicks drawn on bathroom walls, empty windows and dogshit in plastic bags outside the mall” provide the capstone for what would otherwise superficially appear as a dreamy, wistful country exploration, complete with pedal steel and slow, soft drumming. They do not linger after those lines are delivered with cadence that seems to playfully distract from the message itself, and the split concludes in a fashion rather unassuming considering the scope of what’s played out over the course of the prior 40-or-so minutes.
Last I heard, Blake had moved to Portland, Oregon, so if there’s a future for Young Hunter or what that might look like, I don’t know. Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain remains a substantial contribution either way. Ohioan, nebulous as they are, have several other releases to dig into available via their Bandcamp — 2011’s Balls Deep in Babylon catches the eye — in some alliance with Infinite Front, which seems to be an artist collective as much as a record label. Fair enough. What remains true for both acts is the essential nature of the work they’ve given here. I’m not sure if a tape does it justice. I’m not sure what format would — some form of audio tattoo? But a tape makes sense coming from two groups who’ve obviously stood under a huge desert sky and realized how little it matters one way or another, so a tape it is. Recommended.
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.