Friday, 30 November 2012

Weekly Mailbag for 11/26/12 - 11/30/12

A look at what came in the mail this week with quickie reviews ...

Bonzo Dog Band - Tadpoles - Finally it arrived!  The penultimate Bonzo collection and it features three of their best songs two mentioned below and "Mr. Apollo".  They were still a funny novelty act, but Neil Inness was writing some great songs towards the end.  "I'm the Urban Spaceman" in particular is one of my all-time favorite songs.  "Hunting Tigers [...]" is one of those songs that get stuck in your head forever.  They also do a cool cover of "The Monster Mash" here, which is a perennial favorite.  Ah, good band.  Highlights include "I'm the Urban Spaceman" and "Hunting Tigers Out In Indiah". Rating - 4/5

Deep Purple - Who Do We Think We Are - The seventh and final full-length from the orginal incarnation of Deep Purple, they were beginning to show signs of an ELP/Yes prog influence in places and hearkened back to the late 60s in other places.  They broke up after this, but that's okay because it led to other things like Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.  This is the last original era Deep Purple album for me to hear, it sounds like the band just going through the motions at times, it's also the one with "Woman From Tokyo".  Highlights include "Smooth Dancer" and "Super Trouper". Rating - 4/5

Mage - Black Sands - I had Mage's Bandcamp page tabbed for at least a week waiting to order this one and I couldn't wait for it to come in the mail and I wasn't disappointed.  Review to follow.  The CD came with three different stickers, some free download codes from Bandcamp (including their original EP), a button and a handwritten thank you note.  Very cool package from the band I'd most like in my corner in a bar brawl.  Find it here. Highlights include "Witch of the Black Desert" and "Degenerate". Rating - 4/5

Mountain - Nantucket Sleighride - Much of the same as 'Climbing', only there's nothing here to match the power of a "Mississippi Queen" or the groove of a "Never in My Life".  The more ballady material outweighs the heavy moments, of which there are a few but not nearly enough because they did it so well.  Still, there's a lot of good songs.  Highlights include "Don't Look Around" and "The Great Train Robbery". Rating - 3.5/5

1000mods - Super Van Vacation - One of the best fuzzed out stoner albums of 2011, it's one of those albums where each time you listen you come away with three new favorites.  Very improvisational desert rock, fuzzy, uptempo with tons of crash and though it's a relatively long disc, the jamming draws you in and the album is over too soon.  At 65 minutes and 10 tracks for 8 euros, it's a steal.  Find it here. Highlights include "Navy in Alice" and "Set You Free". Rating - 4/5

... And Now, LK Ultra's Virtual Mail Sack ...

Cultura Tres - El Mal Del Bien - Newly released for worldwide distribution on new label Devouter Records, this record has actually been out in their home territory for nearly two years now.  These Venezuelans billow forth a claustrophobically dark and muggy atmosphere of droney sludge.  For feasters of sludge, don't miss this one.  Find it here. Highlights include "Voices" and "Los Muertos De Mi Color". Rating - 4/5

El Straffo - Live​@​MespotineSessions - El Straffo is a drum and bass stoner rock duo from Tijuana, Mexico.  They play absolutely filthy with thick fuzz.  Their album "Hecho en Mexico" is a bit rough around the edges sound wise, this is a much improved recording of the band and gives the listener a better idea of what they sound like.  Find it here.  Highlights include "El Bandito Cannabico" and "Emanuel". Rating - 3/5

Galvano - Two Titans - Swedish duo Galvano has unleashed their heavy and atmospheric full length debut, also on Devouter records, they play a distant and calculated style of sludge metal.  Relentlessly thick, heavy and drony, there is a quality of sameness here from one song to the next throughout the album, but they are consistent.  Find it here.  Highlights include "Abysmal" and "Hyperion". Rating - 3/5

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Seamount - IV: Earthmother (album review)

Seamount is a Traditional Doom / self-described 'Dark Rock' band from Germany.  I discovered Seamount on the Soggy Bog of Doom podcast and when Soggy Bob mentioned that the great Phil Swanson, on-again-off-again vocalist of Hour of 13 (among others), was singing with this band.  The iPod was shut down and a leap of faith was taken at this album.

First off, the band plays a highly distinctive style wherein the guitar sounds very 1980s without ever really sounding directly like anything in particular.  A smattering of various metal bands, perhaps a little Scorpions, a sprinkling of Faith No More and the distinct impression of  having taken some cues from the era's horror film composers.

The album opens with the 'Fear is the mindkiller' mantra from Dune then kicks into the song "Surrender" a strong midtempo opening salvo that sets the table with the musical and lyrical themes to be laid out in further detail on the rest of the album.  Like most of what vocalist Phil Swanson does, he makes the song memorable with his catchy melodic hooks.  It's refreshing for an Hour of 13 fanatic to hear Swanson using different vocal melodies as he usually sings the Hour of 13 songs the same way, with the same delivery and largely, the same kind of melody.  With Seamount, there is variation in the vocal melodies, but he never loses that Ozzy-like timbre to his voice.  Follow-up track "The Fool" is also a strong number for Swanson, slightly more down tempo than the opener, it's honest and open lyrics draw the listener in to the world of 'Earthmother'.  Some tastefully understated keyboards create a terrific 80s horror film vibe.

"Echoes" gears things down another step or two and uses a highly emotive melody and occasionally quavering vocal performance to become the centerpiece of the album.  "Echoes" becomes the emotional epicenter that carries the story forward and into the driving next track "Just for Fantasy".  "Aphrodites Child" gives the band a different look, it's a shorter (the shortest of the original material), choppier number with a driving beat and guitar that just chunks and chunks.  "Isolation" features a bouncy riff and recalls more of the pre-grunge 'college rock' sound of the Minnesota trio or Seattle bands of the era.  The song would probably fit right in on a Sub Pop or SST records release of the pre-grunge era.

The album finishes strong as well.  The final two tracks "Everything Divine" and "Music" are two of the strongest on the album, the latter being a Witchfinder General cover, so you can't go wrong there.  The former is an uptempo blast of near Kyuss desert rock with a particularly exciting performance by drummer Jens Hofmann.

It's hard, if not contradictory, to make a positive or uplifting doom record and Seamount doesn't go for the big, slow, Sabbath-like devil's third riffs here, but instead threads their style and perhaps the genre itself into new, daresay brighter territory.  There are some dark clouds and some rough territory to navigate through along the way, but not much outside of some various Wino projects gives me that 'well, okay, life isn't all bad, all the time ... I guess' feeling within the genre, which isn't the point most of the time but that alone makes this a different kind of project and worth looking into.

Just one more note and I'll let the great Phil Swanson take it away with an explanation of the lyrical theme of the record in his own words (below).  A lot of bands will go for a 'retro' sound from various eras but there's something about this record that transcends the 'tribute to ...' or 'influenced by ...' feel of most retro type sounds and actually feels the 1980s.  That something is a combination of a lot of things but is largely due to the guitar sound and keyboard created atmospherics, little things not often heard since the 80s, but done well.  I don't think of the cliches or stereotypes of what the 80s were probably like but that I didn't actually get to see with my own eyes.  This record brings me back and makes the era come alive again with the everyday street sights and sounds.  The grassy fields that are now apartment complexes.  The old cars, the sagging and moldering store awnings, crumbling sidewalks and decaying fence posts that have long since been replaced ... by apartment complexes (yes, even the cars).  I can't say that this is what Tim Schmidt and Andy Kummer (guitars) were going for but I thank them for giving me this feeling nonetheless.  And now Phil Swanson:
This is the first concept record of sorts by Seamount. It was inspired by a friend and the change she made in me and how I look at life. Also by some revelations I had in a very deep and dark conversation with another friend when he helped me realize perhaps I have been hiding behind the negative because I had never witnessed the positive. 
Theres a simple tool to use when listening to this record. On the surface it plays like a spiritually themed storyline but if you replace the idea of faith and religion with and god with the one you love then you can read between the lines. It is dedicated to the greatest love something Ive always wondered about and admired. 
I have a better understanding of what it is now and how we ourselves own our love and make it as strong as we choose. Its how much we are willing to give and offer not how much we receive. That`s why it can be blind at times. We create love the same as we create God, its our faith in it that makes it what it is.
- Phil Swanson*
*lovingly clipped from the Church Within records website.

Highlights include: "Surrender" and "Everything Divine"

Rating: 4/5

1). Surrender (5:36)
2). The Fool (6:58)
3). Echoes (7:09)
4). Just For Fantasy (4:11)
5). Earthmother (5:39)
6). Aphrodites Child (4:01)
7). Isolation (6:40)
8). Do It Again (5:37)
9). Everything Devine (6:02)
10). Music (3:17)
Total Run Time: 55:07

From: Würzburg, Germany

Genre: Doom Metal, Heavy Metal

Reminds me of: Premonition 13, Shrinebuilder, Under the Sun, The 1980s, For some reason this makes me think of the Friday the 13th franchise

Release Date: November 9, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Go outside and maybe lie in a field of grass somewhere and realize that life is really pretty good (but try to avoid strangers, they are the worst).

Better Reviews
Cosmic Lava


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Doom Charts for 11/28/12

Top 20 Songs
#). Song Title (artist/album)
  1. Warhead (Heat / Old Sparky)
  2. I Am An Ugly Skin (At Devil Dirt / Chapter II "vulgo gratissimus auctor")
  3. 12 Skygods (Demonic Death Judge / Skygods)
  4. 13 Case of Fidelity (Greenleaf / Nest of Vipers)
  5. 10 Deconstruction (Witchcraft / Legend)
  6. − Hurt At Gone (Wo Fat / The Black Code)
  7. Neptune of Sorrow (Abrahma / Through the Dusty Path of Our Lives)
  8. 14 Feed On (Corrosion of Conformity / Megalodon EP)
  9. 19 Medicine Mirror (Owl / First Album)
  10. ↓5 Been Away Too Long (Soundgarden / King Animal)
  11. −11 Greed (Mara / Demo)
  12. − Lonely One Kenobi (Mos Generator / Nomads)
  13. ↓7 Uhrijuhla (Seremonia / ST)
  14. 17 Endless Night (Graveyard / Lights Out)
  15. − Tower of Skulls (Beastwars / 7" single)
  16. − Dying Earth (The Sword / Apocryphon)
  17. 18 The Red Death (Hornss / The Red Death)
  18. − Leaving You (Graveyard / b-side "Goliath" single)
  19. 20 Decibel Grand (Molior Superum / Into the Sun)
  20. − Levantado (Heavy Eyes / Maera Demo EP)

Sticky Digit - ST (album review)

Sticky Digit is a hard rock / stoner band from Ireland.  The guitar sound they go for is really grind-y and scratchy reminiscent of the heyday of grunge, but this is no 90s revival band.  They sing stoner melodies with the occasional harmony and play in jumpy, paranoid rhythms.  They are the lovechild of Alice in Chains and Queens of the Stone Age.

"One 2 Three 4" is a strong introduction to the band, a very good song that lets the listener know right off the bat what this band is all about: stoner grooves, big hooks, the occasional harmony, melodic and heavy rock and roll.  Handclaps count in the next track "Bothers Me" which, along with the follow up "The Day The Cow Went Woof", re-enforce what was established right off the bat in the opener.  "Bad Things" and "Oxtgenoestrogen" are also two no-nonsense stone and roll shit-kickers that showcase the band in their purest light.

"Crazy" ups the ante on the stoner grooves and introduces some Alice in Chains-like minor chord harmony to terrific effect.  It's a perfect statement of the marriage between the grunge and stoner styles this band imbibes and is a true standout track.  "The Day the Cow Went Woof" is like a tour of the best grunge bands of the 90s and almost creates a model of the kind of genetic recombination that goes into the influencing of a band.  "Don't Wanna Know" proves that the band is more than capable of handling the lengthier material, a 7 minute song that feels like a regular 4 minute one, a nice middle eastern freak out in the middle section splits this stoner rock and roller into two enjoyable halves.

The choruses of "Crazy" and album closer "Seep Out" really stand out by the terrifically mournful harmonies adding some minor chord counterpoint to a pair of otherwise jumpy songs.  It's a simple technique really, but it works so damn well.  "Seep Out" is the final track and ends the album on a tribal and highly resonant drum solo leading back to a brief restatement of the bridge, then stutters out.

Sticky Digit like to let the heavy out, especially during the hooks to wash their big melodic choruses in a wave of stoner groove, but it may just be the quieter, moodier moments that define the album.  Atmospheric lamentations serve as counterpoint to those big melodic choruses.  It's in these more contemplative moments that the songs are free to breathe and a lot of the creativity of this band comes to the fore.  'Sticky Digit' creates the impression that the band is brimming with ideas.  It's the little touches that provide a lot of extra charm on this album.  Handclaps and gongs, contemplative tribal drumming, some middle eastern flutes, double kick, the odd harmony here or there and of course, cowbell.  They don't overdo anything.

It's hard to find fault with any whole song, even if one may not like certain parts, each song will find a way to charm the listener.  There's plenty to chew on here.  Every song is potentially someone's standout track.

Highlights include: "Crazy" and "Bad Things"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 48:17

From: Wexford, Ireland

Genre: Stoner, Grunge, Hard Rock

Reminds me of: Alice in Chains, Nirvana, QOTSA, Satellite Beaver, Snail, Truckfighters

Release Date: November 14, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Walking into a carnival fortune teller's tent and receive good tidings only to come out the other side in a freak show cage.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Leaf Hound - Growers of Mushroom (classic album review)

RetRotation #2 - Leaf Hound

Simple riffs, solid rhythm section and soulful singing under the banner of funky Led Zeppelin inspired bluesy hard rock.  This is Leaf Hound's Growers of Mushroom.

I first heard this album five years ago on a warm summer night of degenerate drinking in the park.  After Black Sabbath 'Sabotage' had finished playing we wondered what to listen to next.  I had this one album I hadn't heard yet by a group called Leaf Hound.  They were a band I'd taken a flyer on after hearing the song "Growers of Mushroom", an unabashedl Cream pastiche.  I wasn't expecting much, maybe some stereotypical British blues noodling or some out there prog meanderings, along the lines of Soft Machine or even "Blue Condition" or some such.  I wasn't prepared for what blared out of my buddy's crappy little portable speakers.  As each song ended we kept finding ourselves stopping and saying "that was  a great song."  By the time "Stray" blasted through the speakers the conversation was over and Leaf Hound owned the night.

The riffs are absolutely perfect, weaving simplistic tapestries of filth funk and headbanging grooves.  They are the stuff that stoner rock dreams are made of, every bit as seminal to the genre as Sabbath's are to doom metal.  Riffs such as "Freelance Fiend" and "Stray" are what the stoner rock fan is always hoping to hear.  Without argument these are two of the best songs of all time.

By now the lore is familiar: 1 the band had already broken up at the time of this album's original release, 2 Peter French (vocalist) bounced from band to band never finding the stardom he so richly deserved, 3 original pressings of the LP sell for upwards of £2000, etc.  But 1+2 do not necessarily make 3, logically speaking.  What happened between 2 & 3?

Someone must have finally heard the damn thing.

"Freelance Fiend" is about as fine an opening statement as one will find on a hard rock album, it has all the classic ingredients of the band in full flight with a Hendrix-like guitar intro that cowbells its way into a power groove the likes of which one can only marvel at.  The chorus rings out in a very Zeppelinian fashion, cutting out and allowing vocalist Peter French the spotlight that was (according to lore) so unjustly denied him.  Add some phasing for the outro and you've got yourself one hell of a classic.

"Stray" is just simply put one of the best goddamn songs I've ever heard.  After a quick two measure solo guitar intro, the power groove stutters and struts in with dark and heavy footsteps.  The guitar sounds like danger coming and the drums are very Bill Ward inspired, especially during the chorus.  The funkiest white boy music one can ever hope to hear.  Peter French adds a ton of urgency to the song with his strained vocal delivery.

As mentioned above, the very Cream-y "Growers of Mushroom" was the first song I heard (I also discovered "Hot Smoke & Sassafrass" by Bubble Puppy at around the same time.  Check it out.) and it really didn't prepare me for what was to come on the rest of the album.  The song sticks out like a sore thumb when taken with the rest of the album, making you wonder not only why the shortest track on the album buried in the middle of side B became the title track, but why it was even included on the album in the first place.  It's structurally, stylistically and technically different from anything else found on the album.  It's a very good song, it's just curious and is symbolic of the kind of decision making that clouded this album and its posthumous issuance like a haze of stale dopesmoke.  "Sad Road to the Sea" and "Sawdust Caesar" also puts the band's Cream influences on display, particularly in the drums on the latter, the former track utilizes a Jack Bruce-like  vocal melody and sounds like something off of 'Wheels of Fire'.  They're both great songs.

"Stagnant Pool" is a perfect example of the kind of riff and the kind of song that one might expect to hear from a stoner rock album released today.  This track in particular seems to presage the sound of Kyuss with its driving riff, sudden tempo changes and urgent vocals.  Just another in a number of all-time classics.

This would be a perfect five album if not for "Work My Body" and "With a Minute To Go", two slower numbers that were pretty standard fare at the time for this kind of album.  "Work My Body" in particular proves that as good as the band were at crafting heavy blues funk, they weren't as capable as, say, a Led Zeppelin when handling the larger, slower compositions.  "With a Minute To Go" isn't really a bad song but it goes against the grain on this album, sandwiched between high energy "Stray" and the title track, this song doesn't make for a good follow up to "Stray".  It's like having desert first, what follows, though good, just won't measure up.  Maybe this would have worked better as a closing track.

Reminds me of: Cream, The Faces, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin

My Rating: 4.5/5

1). Freelance Fiend (3:11)
2). Sad Road to the Sea (4:16)
3). Drowned My Life in Fear (3:00)
4). Work My Body (8:12)
5). Stray (3:48)
6). With a Minute To Go (4:19)
7). Growers of Mushroom (2:17)
8). Stagnant Pool (3:59)
9). Sawdust Caesar (4:30)
Total Run Time: 37:28

From: Battersea, South London, UK

Genre: Stoner Rock (with hindsight), Heavy Metal (at the time), Hard Rock, Psychedelic, Southern Rock

Released: November 1971

More Info
Interview w/ Peter French

Suggested Listening Activity for fellow non-stoners: This is beer drinkin' music.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Lord of the Grave - Green Vapour (album review)

I forgot where I heard about this one but when I found it I previewed about 10 seconds from the first track, heard the excellent Sabbath-like riff and grabbed this sucker up immediately.  Lord of the Grave is a two-piece (guitar/drums) band from Switzerland (I believe this is the first Swiss release in my library), the band plays a filthy style of sludgified doom riffs and monster grooves built from a solid blues foundation.  Green Vapour is their second album and first with Sam Wart on drums.

It's hard to imagine a more demented title to an opening track than "Raping Zombies", but if that's how Lord of the Grave choose to introduce themselves on this album, then sonically speaking, they are not wrong to do so.  Thick, almost pungent, sub-Electric Wizard tones rumble in from a fog of feedback.  The track shambles and stomps like a putrefying corpse leading to the verse which takes a wonderful turn.  The guitar matches the vocal line in the best blues tradition.  Halfway through the tempo picks up and Rob Grave (guitar/vocals) does a blues solo which sounds great in those low tones.  What can you say?  At 15+ minutes it's a ballsy choice for an album opener, but after several listens it hasn't ever felt like a long song, it feels like a song half its length.  I just don't know why on earth anyone would want to rape a zombie.

The song ends in a wall of feedback and leads directly into the title track.  A ringing, eerie melody downshifts into a fuzzy doom anthem.  Drummer Sam Wart has his standout moment on this track, driving the song forward and lending some infectious momentum to the track that is soon matched by bandmate Rob Grave.

"Horsepuncher" is not only my favorite scene from Conan, it's also a hyper-aggressive, slow building, shit kicker of a track that would make the titular character of the aforementioned movie drink mead, thump his chest, and throw the horns.  The lyrics during the verse consist of a single couplet "Apologize and you spit on me instead / I raise my fist, and I crush your fucking head".

The final two tracks are essentially a single composition split into two tracks.  "Mountain Rites" is yet another fuzzed out doom-o-rama, more of what the listener has come to expect at this point, but "00/15" shows the band in a slightly different light, those big riffs are still there, but Rob Grave sings and builds a wall of guitar noise that is reminiscent of the expansive soundscapes of Hawkwind, and remember they had a lot more than two guys in that band.  The song isn't a complete departure but it does offer a slightly different look from a consistent band on a very consistent album.

Overall, Green Vapour is a solid album that maintains a consistent feel from opening feedback to closing fade out.  There aren't any truly weak moments to speak of but there are a ton of standout moments and the album should really be listened to in one sitting to get the right effect, but each track stands on its own.  If what you're looking for is some good aggressive doom with riffs along the lines of Electric Wizard and a fuzz tone more akin to bands like Goya and Tombstones then look no further.

Highlights include: "Horsepuncher" and "Green Vapour"

Rating: 4/5

From: Basel, Switzerland

Genre: Doom, Sludge, Blues, Fuzz Rock

Reminds me of: Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Hawkwind, Goya, Tombstones (NOR)


1). Raping Zombies (15:17)
2). Green Vapour (7:52)
3). Horsepuncher (6:40)
4). Mountain Rites (7:54)
5). 00/15 (6:15)
Total Run Time: 43:54

Release Date: November 10, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Please don't rape zombies, you're gonna catch something for sure.

Better Reviews


Ice Dragon - Tome of the Future Ancients (album review)

Ice Dragon may be the most interesting band in the world of stoner doom.  Eight releases (3 full-length albums, 2 split singles, one EP as alter-ego Tentacle, one double-sided single and a compilation appearance) under their belt for the calendar year of 2012 (so far) and each one lays out a completely different soundscape from the last one.  That being the case, not every release is going to appeal to everyone, they are a challenging band that does not compromise for expectations, they do their own thing and I may not love everything they do, but I love them for that.  This is one of those albums that I found difficult to get into.  The songs were too long, too slow, too drony, too repetitive.  Nothing really stood out and demanded my attention.  "The Bearded Mage", my lone 'single' did nothing in the Doom Charts.  But Ice Dragon was one of those bands that got me into this genre of music in the first place with their song "Hexagon Riders" and there's no denying the quality, dedication or genuineness of this band, so I stayed loyal  and followed every release with great interest.  Tome of the Future Ancients was quickly buried under the pile with very few plays and forgotten, collecting electronic dust on the virtual shelf.

Fast forward to November and the band changed the artwork on Tome from the boring 'placeholder' white text on black square with white border artwork to “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” (1905) by Edward Fitzgerald and suddenly the album came alive, it generated enough interest in the album that it was time to give it another spin.  Stupid as it sounds, artwork is often surprisingly married to how one feels about an album.  Cheap or crappy artwork is going to create the subconscious impression that the music is cheap and crappy.  Great or very appropriate artwork adds to the listening experience.  Some albums sound red (Master of Puppets) because they have a red motif in the artwork and some albums sound purple (Ride the Lightning) because the artwork is purple and so on.

One more note in this pre-amble.  Sometimes, a huge factor in whether or not one is going to be convinced by an album is whether or not their musical palette is simply ready for the new sounds.  When Tome came out, I wasn't 'ready' for this album.  My tastes and understanding were not sophisticated enough to appreciate this album.  I wasn't prepared for the wavering and ethereal nature of Ice Dragon's constantly changing output. That may sound like ass-kissing, but it's not.  It's still a difficult and challenging album because the songs really are a bit too long, slow, repetitive and drony for someone just looking for a hooky paranoid hit along the lines of a "Hexagon Riders".  When I look at the tracklist and see the length of songs, usually I'm expecting multi-textural variation in the longer recordings and that's not what you get here.

There are four pieces on this album that I would consider to be ambient 'interludes': "Man Sitting in a Field of Green Grass", "Astronomical Union", "Crystal Countdown Into Alpha" and closing track "Infinite Requiem".  Simply put, I did not dig these on first listen.  I wasn't expecting them.  Again, I'm always on the look-out for paranoid hits and when I saw the shorter length of these tracks I thought, these might be the songs I was looking for.  I couldn't have been further off and the fact that I was looking for something in particular compounded my disappointment.   I have learned throughout the year that if you try to pigeonhole this band, they will leave you choking on their dust because they're always five steps ahead of you.  Fast forward once again to Greyblackfalconhawk, another challenging album, and the ambient 'interlude' pieces are my favorite moments on the album.  Go figure, this is Ice Dragon.

It had been months since I pulled this album off the virtual shelf and gave it it's last spin.  I don't know what happened exactly in the intervening months, but a change had taken place.  Maybe it's just having heard a mountain of music of all shapes, lengths and sizes that was both good and bad that provided some much needed perspective.  Perhaps it was getting to know the band and understanding their classification-defying iconoclasm a bit better.  Or maybe my expectations were so low going back that I couldn't help but have my doors blown off.  Whatever it was that happened in the meantime, it worked in Tome of the Future Ancients' favor.

What this album does give the listener is a more than satisfying collection of good old fashioned doom riffs.  Slow, heavy, drony and repetitive.  The distortion is dialed way up and the tone is thick, heavy and pretty low.  When the riffs are this good, just let them run.  "Manuscript 408", "NATIAIWS", "Illuminations Foretold", "Night", "The Bearded Mage" and "Steal Away From Hell" are among the best of them.  "Steal Away From Hell" may feature the most lively guitar riff on the album and as counterpoint the drums are played at snail's pace, until the bridge and chorus speeds things up to a crawl that feels like light speed compared with the verse and the rest of the album.  "The Black Book of Hours" features a Gregorian chant type chorus, followed by a spoken word growl.  For those interested, the song was inspired by a 15th century illuminated manuscript called "Black Hours", a digital facsimile of which can be found at this link, courtesy of the band via their Facebook page.

The song "Night" is a great track, a new favorite from the album with yet another terrific dark doom riff, but it's the sample at the very end of the song that's been stuck in my head since I first heard it, now so many months ago.  A train is heard and a man shouts "Goodnight world ... Goodnight world, YOU MUTHAFUCKA!!!".  Don't know where the sample comes from, but I absolutely love it.  "The Bearded Mage" is still a standout too after all these months, a crushing riff that ascends like a roller coaster for the chorus and some nice improvised fretwork after the hook provides some extra color to a largely monochrome affair.

In the beginning, I disliked the album because the songs were too long, slow, drony and repetitive, but I wasn't meeting the band halfway.  They weren't doing what I wanted from them and I turned away.  In the end, the songs are long not because they are packed to the brim with complicated structures and multidimensional musical ideas, but because the band plays these monstrous riffs in a slow and absolutely crushing style.

Highlights include: "The Bearded Mage" and "Night"

Original Rating: 3/5 - New Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 1:16:09

From: Boston, Massachusetts

Genre: Doom Metal, Psychedelic, Sludge

Reminds me of: Tentacle

Release Date: March 20, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: spending a good portion of eternity in a cave with Alhazred, the mad Arab, manically scribbling tomes of future ancients as penance for wasting so many months without fully embracing this album.

Better Reviews
Broken Beard
Dr Doom's Lair

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Arkham Witch - Legions of the Deep (album review)

From the opening synchopated blasts of "David Lund", I get that good old time metal feeling.  I'm not talking about emotions.  I'm talking about physical sensations.  The symptoms of 'metalhead syndrome'.  The stiffness of sore necks and pulled muscles, a cold beer in one hand, horns raised in the other.  The stench of jean jacketed B.O.  The sensation of ears burning from getting too hyper and a slight trace of heartburn and nausea.  Welcome to the Legions of the Deep.

Arkham Witch is a traditional Heavy Metal band from Keighley, in northern England that is schooled in the doom idiom.  This is their second album and first on Metal on Metal records.  From the start they get their inspiration from occultists and H.P. Lovecraft, which makes them a winner when just looking at the song titles.  On the cover is Cthulhu himself, so the listener knows what they're in for.

The opening of first track "David Lund" is a blast from the metallic past and announces the band's style and musical intentions right off the bat.  A stuttering intro that spills into a big, slow, heavy riff and powerful singing.  Some smart organ during the chorus rounds the song out quite nicely.  Thee Claw (see link below) does a great job of researching the true story of the subject of this song, there's a terrific link at the bottom of their review for those interested in the occult history of 19th century Keighley and the rivalry between occultists.

"Infernal Machine" and "The Cloven Sea" continue to ramp up the Maiden/Priest Trad Metal.  The latter features an incredibly infectious chorus, "We fight! We strike! / We always survive! / Keen for the taste of war", made memorable by its rapid fire shouting style.  "On a Horse Called Vengeance" is another standout track that turns up the heavy and veers nearly towards early Metallica territory.  It's a great place to visit.

"Iron Shadows in the Moon" has one of those great early metal / doom riffs that get the blood pumping and it's also the original title of a skull-crushing good Conan story by Robert E. Howard called "Shadows in the Moonlight" (the original title is better, and is both literally and figuratively more Metal).  It's nice to meet a band that has similar literary tastes.  Can't go wrong with Weird Tales.  "Kult of Kutulu" is another great Weird Tales inspired song.  Lovingly nipped from Lovecraft's 'Call of Cthulhu', the chorus is the invocation of Cthulhu sang dexterously in the vowelless language of The Old Ones.  The title track features another Metallica like riff, and transmutates into a sea shanty during the chorus, then leads to a terrific doomy finish.  It's another Lovecraftian paean of doom.

It's so nice to hear shouted choruses.  And Arkham Witch choruses are often true choruses, not just the refrain but a choir of voices shouting 'in unison'.  "Gods of Storm and Thunder", "We're From Keighley", "Legions of the Deep", "The Cloven Sea" all feature these choruses.  There will be some sore throats the day after Arkham Witch rolls through town.

The best Metal is a complete sensory experience.  Not entirely cerebral, not entirely bestial, but cerebral and bestial at once.  It moves both the mind and body and Arkham Witch have fused some smart literary and musical influences to craft an album that is both thought-provoking and stupid heavy.  You learn something new then you headbang those brain cells away and come back for more.

Highlights include: "David Lund" and "The Cloven Sea"

Rating: 4/5

From: Keighley, West Yorkshire, England

Genre: BNWHM, Heavy Metal, Traditional Doom Metal

Reminds me of: Diamond Head, Ghost Tower, Hour of 13, Lord Vicar, Mercyful Fate, Natur, Witchfinder General

1). David Lund (8:42)
2). At the Mountains of Madness (7:13)
3). Iron Shadows in the Moon (4:00)
4). Infernal Machine (4:31)
5). The Cloven Sea (4:29)
6). On a Horse Called Vengeance (6:05)
7). Gods of Storm and Thunder (5:20)
8). Kult of Kutulu (3:21)
9). Legions of the Deep (6:03)
10). We're From Keighley (4:07)
Total Run Time: 57:28

Release Date: November 9, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Wiping bits of puke out of your beard with your jean jacket sleeve, then flicking those half-digested bits at your buddies / the chicks at the party.

Better Reviews
Thee Claw


Their first album was also posted on Bandcamp today. Thank Azathoth, my search is over.  You can find it here

Hour of Power 11/24/12 (playlist)

Highlights from the week of 11/18/12 - 11/24/12

  1. Crazy (Sticky Digit / ST) 2012
  2. Let It Flow (At Devil Dirt / Chapter II "vulgo gratissimus auctor") 2012
  3. Black Night (Deep Purple / Deep Purple In Rock) 1970
  4. The Ice Mammoth (Blue Aside / The Moles of a Dying Race) 2012
  5. Smoke and Fire (Sun Gods in Exile / Thanks for the Silver) 2012
  6. The Assassin's Song (Necronomicon / The Queen of Death) 2012
  7. You Don't Love Me (Groundhogs / Scratching the Surface) 1968
  8. Cosmonautical Mile (Harvester / The Blind Summit Recordings) 2012
  9. The Cloven Sea (Arkham Witch / Legions of the Deep) 2012
  10. Horsepuncher (live) (Lord of the Grave / Green Vapour) 2012
  11. Huckleberry (live) (Ichabod / Dreamscapes From Dead Space) 2012

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Doom Charts for 11/24/12

Top 20 Songs
#). Song Title (artist/album)
  1. Woman King (Lord Fowl / Moon Queen)
  2. Sweetish (Bison, Bison / ST)
  3. Warhead (Heat / Old Sparky)
  4. The Secret of the Owl (Mamont / Passing Through the Mastery Door)
  5. Been Away Too Long (Soundgarden / King Animal)
  6. I Am An Ugly Skin (At Devil Dirt / Chapter II "vulgo gratissimus auctor")
  7. Uhrijuhla (Seremonia / ST)
  8. Neptune of Sorrow (Abrahma / Through the Dusty Path of Our Lives)
  9. Häxagram (The Graviators / Evil Deeds)
  10. Deconstruction (Witchcraft / Legend)
  11. Greed (Mara / Demo)
  12. Skygods (Demonic Death Judge / Skygods)
  13. Case of Fidelity (Greenleaf / Nest of Vipers)
  14. Feed On (Corrosion of Conformity / Megalodon EP)
  15. Crows in Swine (Red Fang / single)
  16. Death of the Wizard (Mammoth Thunderpower / I Am Thunder EP)
  17. Endless Night (Graveyard / Lights Out)
  18. The Red Death (Hornss / The Red Death)
  19. Medicine Mirror (Owl / First Album)
  20. Decibel Grand (Molior Superum / Into the Sun)
Top 20 Albums
#). artist - album title
  1. Mos Generator - Nomads
  2. Ichabod - Dreamscapes From Dead Space
  3. Wo Fat - The Black Code
  4. At Devil Dirt - Chapter II "vulgo gratissimus auctor"
  5. Corrosion of ConformityMegalodon EP
  6. Demonic Death Judge - Skygods
  7. Abrahma - Through the Dusty Path of Our Lives
  8. The Graviators - Evil Deeds
  9. Mount Fuji - ST
  10. Greenleaf - Nest of Vipers
  11. Heat - Old Sparky
  12. Kadavar - ST
  13. Seremonia - ST
  14. Lord of the Grave - Green Vapour
  15. Necronomicon - The Queen of Death
  16. Mamont - Passing Through the Mastery Door
  17. Venomous Maximus - Beg Upon the Light
  18. The Wandering Midget - From the Meadows of Opium Dreams
  19. Blue Aside - The Moles of a Dying Race
  20. Harvester - The Blind Summit Recordings

Weekly Mailbag for 11/19/12 - 11/23/12

A look at what came in the mail this week with quickie reviews ...

Last week was kind of slow for discovering new music and I kind of over compensated for it on the weekend by catching up on some older stuff that I missed.  Then I found a bunch of new stuff that I had missed and more stuff came in the mail than I had originally anticipated.  So this week I was completely awash in new music.  In addition some labels and bands have started to send me stuff that wasn't even on my radar (which I thank them profusely for) so now I'm pretty backed up.  Then to top it all off, I got flooded with CDs in the mail way later in the week than I would have liked.  Some of these discs I haven't been able to get to yet, so some of the 'reviews' aren't exactly reviews as much as 'notes', but it's been a great week for music here and a great week for Paranoid Hitsophrenic (check out my interview with ICHABOD) ...

Abrahma - Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives - One of a trio of Small Stone albums that came in all on the same day, discovering this album has been a true pleasure.  The long Vodun suite comprising 8 tracks and some 30 minutes is a mini album within an album and is a real highlight but the non Vodun suite tracks are just as good and stand on their own.  Highlights include "Vodun pt. 2: I, Zombie" and "Big Black Cloud". Rating - 4.5/5

Arkham Witch - Legions of the Deep - I discovered this terrific band on Youtube quite a while ago and spent months trying to track down a copy of their debut album 'On Crom's Mountain'.  Luckily, I no longer needed to do so immediately as news came down they were releasing a brand new album.  I pre-ordered this sucker without hearing a note of it because I had faith in this band and after what felt like forever, it finally arrived in the mail on Monday.  Review to follow.  Highlights include "Infernal Machine" and "On a Horse Called Vengeance". Rating - 4/5

Barclay James Harvest - Their First Album - "Taking Some Time On" was a song I discovered while grasping for some new musical vistas and I decided to check out some prog stuff.  I remember this was at the same time "Electric Worry" was out and those songs were next to each other on a playlist.  This album is wimpy in places but the bonus tracks on this deluxe edition more than make up for any dis-appointment Highlights include "Taking Some Time On" and "Night". Rating - 4/5

Black Label Society - Stronger Than Death - I remember when this one came out.  I heard the song "Counterfeit God" on a 'Brave Words, Bloody Knuckles' compilation and I thought it was a great song.  Fortunately so did a lot of my metalhead friends and so I never really had to buy the CD at the time because it was another of those ones that was just 'around'.  The same went for their first album.  To me they are both classics.

Black Sabbath - ST (Deluxe Expanded Edition) - In Canada, for some reason, we have a really crappy audio quality, 5-track version of the album on CD where certain tracks are stuck together and there's no "Wicked World", so it was high time to upgrade.  So of course I was going to opt for the 2 disc deluxe edition.  Also comes with great liner notes and rare photos which is cool.  For like 10 bucks, how can you go wrong with this set? Highlights include "come on, do I have to tell you" and "seriously, you should really know by now". Rating - 4/5

Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean - Not nearly as heavy or proggy as their next album, Blossom Toes debut is full of progressive and interesting ideas for a typical British psychedelic pop album from the 60s.  It's highly influenced by Sgt Pepper, but it's still quite original.  The album also reveals the band's sense of humor.  I don't think they took themselves too seriously.  Highlights include "When the Alarm Clock Rings" and "I'll be Late for Tea". Rating - 3.5/5

Blue Aside - The Moles of a Dying Race - Heard about this one on the Obelisk, so I checked it out and liked what I heard and ordered the disc.  Just listening to it for the first time as I write this.  Slow, sludgy psychedelia and I like what I'm hearing.  The album comprises 8 tracks, three of which form the title suite and are spread out throughout the disc.  They also do a cover of "Interstellar Overdrive" for a closer!

Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum - A true monster fuzz classic, there are many out there who believe that this is the world's first heavy metal album.  I'm from the 'Sabbath were the first' school, but there's no denying the power and heaviness of Blue Cheer.  I'd say this is more stoner rock than metal, but that's with a great deal of hindsight.  There's a lot of jamming on this album but when they find a groove they find it well. Highlights include "Out of Focus" and "Summertime Blues". Rating - 4/5

Blue Oyster Cult - Tyranny and Mutation - In my possession is an old Return of the Jedi notebook from one of my uncles when they were in high school.  You can tell they were metalheads because there are no class notes taken, but band logos drawn on the inside front cover.  Names like AC/DC, Judas Priest, ZZ Top, etc.  One of the names written was BOC with umlauts over the O.  For the longest time I didn't know what that stood for.  I can't believe it's taken me the better part of 30 years to discover this 70s gem of a band.

Deep Purple - In Rock - My second favorite Deep Purple album, I actually already had this album on CD but there were no bonus tracks so I didn't have the song "Black Night" until now.  "Black Night" is arguably their best song, one of the best songs of the 70s and it's only because of an insane British custom at the time of not including singles on albums that the original album didn't feature the song.  Highlights include "Black Night" and "Into the Fire". Rating - 4.5/5

DSW - Dust Storm Warning -  The first two tracks on this album have become true highlights of the year, especially "Outrun", the opener.  The band is from Italy and vocalist Wolf Lombardi's (one of the great names in stoner rock) English skills aren't very well refined, so some of the funnest times my girlfriend and I had this summer was trying to decipher the lyrics.  The lyrics are printed in the booklet with excellent accompanying artwork.  Man, we were way, way off.  Also came with a fridge magnet! Highlights include "Outrun" and "Space Cubeship". Rating - 4/5

Seremonia - ST - What's great is the liner notes have the lyrics in both Finnish and English, which is something I touched upon in my original review.  This is the kind of album where you have to play it straight through, the individual songs don't always work on a mixed playlist because the band's so unique.  Once again, a great album from a highly original band.  Highlights include "Rock & Roll Maailma" and "Lusiferin Kaarmeet". Rating - 4.5/5

Skanska Mord - Paths to Charon - This has been one of my favorite albums of the year, three solid months and I'm still listening to it.  Each time I listen to this album a different song gets stuck in my head, as only the best albums do.  This will end up as a top 10 or maybe even a top 5 album of the year.  It has definitely been one of my favorite Small Stone releases of the year.  It's just a solid album full of old school rock with terrific hooks. Highlights include "Lord of Space and Time" and "The Ambassadeur". Rating - 4.5/5

Ted Nugent - Original Album Classics (5 album box set) - From the 'why the fuck not?' file, this sucker cost me about 12 bucks for 5 of the Nuge's first 6 albums (for some reason it doesn't have 'State of Shock').  Sure he's a gun toting bigot, but he has other good qualities as well, like the music.  The CDs come in LP replica slipcase covers.  I remember the Scream Dream LP tracked to my uncle's wall next to Maiden and Megadeth. Highlights include "Stranglehold" and "Cat Scratch Fever".

Thin Lizzy - ST - Thin Lizzy was always a mixed bag of big and funky hard rock and Irish folk ballads.  This album's no exception.  There's enough hard rock to keep the casual listener's attention and the ballads are typical of the lyrical depth of Phil Lynott.  I still have the same problem with this band that I've always had, which is that there just may be a few too many ballads. Highlights include "Ray-Gun" and "Return of the Farmer's Son". Rating - 3.5/5

Vanilla Fudge - ST - Unfortunately, I didn't get around to listening to this one this week and I haven't heard it in about 6 or 7 years.  I remember not liking it because it was all cover songs but I wonder what my reaction will be now that I know what to expect.  They took hit songs, heavied them up and slowed them down to a crawl.  Not everyone's cup of meat, but this, along with Blue Cheer, is one of those must have items for the heavy metal historian.  Pretty heavy for 1967.

Wo Fat - The Black Code - Glad to have this one on disc.  This album is closing in on top 25 of the year status and climbing.  Every song is an absolute gem and the lyrics inside the booklet (although hard to read due to contrast) are cool to read to get the overall concept of The Black Code in one easy sitting.  Like the other two Small Stone releases from this week this disc came with a Small Stone sticker. Highlights include "The Shard of Leng" and "Sleep of the Black Lotus". Rating - 5/5

I also got my Steak hat in the mail.  If you haven't heard this terrific band yet, you can find them here.  Word is they've got another EP in the works for 2013.  It came with some stickers and a flyer from their  UK mini-tour with Truckfighters! Dates below:
5th Dec w/Gonga at the Croft, Bristol
6th Dec w/Black Moth at the Cockpit, Leeds
7th Dec w/Desert Storm + Mother Corona at the Bullingdon Arms, Oxford
8th Dec w/Trippy Wicked at the underworld, London (Don't forget the aftershow party at the Black heart w/Black Moth)

Friday, 23 November 2012

Interview with ICHABOD

Ichabod is a rock band from Lowell, Massachusetts formed in 1998.  Their latest album Dreamscapes from Dead Space was released October 9 of this year and you can find it on their bandcamp page.  It's their fifth full length album and it has been one of the true highlights of the year (review here).  I've been listening to it for well over a month with no let up in sight.  Each song is a trip, a spiritual journey and a roller coaster ride of doubts and paranoia.   There's enough going on musically to keep even the most fickle listener interested but it's those catchy hooks that will bring you back every time.

It's also their first album to feature high energy second guitarist Jay Adam and new vocalist John Fadden whose presence is often striking because of the sweeping changes in vocal delivery within the songs.

I was fortunate enough to ask the band a bunch of questions and have them answered by band leader and guitarist Dave Iverson, bassist Greg Dellaria and John Fadden.  I asked questions about the past, the present and the future and I wanted to get a sense of what influences help shape the worldview and soundscape of Ichabod.

1. From everything I’ve read the new record has been extremely well received. Are you pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction? Because in a lot of ways it is a very different kind of record.

Greg-. I am very happy with the response. We wanted to create this time around a bit of a more straight forward rock approach and the inclusion of John helped us out tremendously.

Dave-We’ve always been fortunate enough to have gotten pretty good critical acclaim; however, that’s never translated into great commercial success of any kind. I agree, it’s a “different kind of record,” and that we’re a different type of band. Sometimes, critics love challenging music but fans find it frustrating to not be able to pigeonhole a band’s sound. We’re pretty rooted in styles that everyone is familiar with, but it’s our presentation and blend thereof that sometimes surprises people. “Stoner, doom, metal, psych, sludge, etc.” doesn’t really matter eh? At the basest level, we’re a rock band I reckon.

2. There has been an expansion of styles from the last one from a pretty much straight forward sludge/stoner sound to incorporate a more expansive psychedelic rock sound. How smooth was this transition within the band? I understand there was some resistance to this change and that this led to Ken MacKay. Is that correct?

Dave- Yeah, Ken was getting frustrated it seemed. I think he had wanted to go in a slightly different direction than the rest of us. He’s a great guy and still our dear friend though, no hard feelings. We were pushing him to do things that he just wasn’t within his personal comfort zone doing, and we totally relate and respect that.

3. “2012 Outro” was a really spooky finish to the last album. You used samples of Jordan Maxwell and Alex Jones on the track. Are you guys fans of Alex Jones?

Dave- We’re big fans of Alex and Jordan; really, we’re big proponents of podcasts like the Joe Rogan experience, Coast to Coast AM, Psychedelic Salon, Hour of the Time, Conversation for Exploration, etc., on which those guys are frequent guests. We get a lot of lyrical/conceptual ideas from such sources.

4. Speaking of outros, “Return of the Hag” has a nice gypsy feel to it. Of course, when I hear flute in rock music I think Jethro Tull. What (other?) influences were floating around when you were making this record?

Greg- Return Of The Hag just came out of nowhere. At practice we just started jamming and there it was. We liked it so much that in the studio, we did a longer version of it for the outro. We played a shorter version to open up the set of our live shows a couple of times also. It was rather fun to see the look on people's face's when we did it. They were not expecting that at all.

Dave- By “gypsy” do you mean like hippy/jam rock? Funny, because it’s really just a reprise of the verse riff in Baba Yaga, done in a slow-burn, funkified manner. We wanted to groove it out a little and just have fun with the improv aspect of it. We know an amazing flautist, Bonnie Rovics, and a monsterous hand-drummer, Andy Kaknes, and decided to bring them in on things to round out the jam and make it real ear-candy. Jethro Tull is awesome, though they’re just a grain of sand on the beach of our influences.

5. What non-musical influences (books, movies, life events, etc.) found their way into the writing and recording of Dreamscapes from Dead Space?

Dave-We all love bands you’d expect, like Down, Acid Bath, Kyuss, Cavity, Sleep, Cough, etc…but we equally love stuff like Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas is the Reason, and classic rock like Sabbath, the Stones, Doors, Cream, etc., and shoegaze like early Verve and My Bloody Valentine, and classic metal, 90’s grunge stuff, old school hardcore/punk, psych like Wooden Shjips, Black Angels, Hawkwind, etc….we’re really all over the map with what we like, and it all seeps through somehow. But for non-musical, more from John on that….

John ~ I spend hours reading and watching a combo of world news, conspiracy videos, documentaries and The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Shit I even thank Joe Rogan on the album, ha! I've also read books written by everyone from Nietzsche to Lao Tzu to Aleister Crowley and Terrence McKenna so I have absorbed a variety of different perspectives and observations of this life and I've tried my best still to bring my own views and experience to the fold. A lot of these inspiration made their way onto the notebook with the help of the rest of the guys in the band and the music which they had created and some high grade marijuana.

Greg - Music, movies, and a bit of gaming helps out a bit also.

6. “Baba Yaga” is one of those songs I find myself singing at work and while I’m singing it, I’m thinking about the Hellboy comic with the Baba Yaga counting the fingers of dead children sticking up out of the ground. Are any of you guys comics fans?

Dave-I worked as a comics manager at a store while in college. I love comics, but don’t have much time to follow ‘em these days. I’ve never really been a Hellboy guy, although I did enjoy the movie. Baba Yaga was taken more from the classic European folk tale, merged with elements of what is called “Old Hag” syndrome these days.

Greg- I was a big fan of Frank Miller and Dave was an avid collector. The world of Psychotronic movies always plays into my musical influences. When ever I'm sitting on my couch, watching a movie , I always have my bass with me practicing and what not.

7. I swear it took me five plays or so before I realized that the song “108” was not a duet! I say that because it illustrates how broad John’s range is. It’s a truly impressive vocal performance throughout the whole record. How did you find him? Did you know of him from before?

John ~ Oh stop it, I'm blushing! Thanks.

Greg - He has been a friend of the band for many years, even before I was in the band.

Dave-John’s an old friend. His old band Flatbed used to jam down the hall from us, and let’s just say that the drinking wasn’t contained to just one room or the other! There was some cross pollination going on!

8. What do you think John Fadden brings to the band?

Dave-His pipes, enthusiasm, and lyrical bent, along with our solid foundation in friendship made him the IDEAL replacement for Ken. It was seamless. He seems like he’s always belonged. The same is true verbatim with Jay Adam on second guitar.

9. John, there’s such emotional depth in the vocal performance and the lyrics are often like an exposed nerve. Are you comfortable being this honest and open?

John ~ I'd say I'm more than comfortable with being as honest and open as I am. I don't have much of a filter when it comes to making my opinions known and I know that sometimes comes with a price. I love listening to bands who tell fantastic stories of dragons, wizards, and demons but that's their escape and what they want the listener to be swept away into while they listen. I want people to listen to what I say and question their own motivations and opinions on the things I talk about. I won't lie though songs like "Baba Yaga" are fun as hell to play because I can almost step back from myself and just rock the fuck out.

10. I understand Ichabod has already started working on a new record (full-length or EP?), which is a surprise because the band has always taken a couple years off between records. Are the ideas just flowing now or were you guys backlogged with older material like “All Your Love”?

John~ Dreamscapes and the next album "Merrimack" were already partially recorded when Jay and I was asked to join the band. We've been working on these 2 projects since day one. For me DSfDS came easier to write because it was "Ichabod" from start to finish sans 108 of course. In the last few months started working on 5 or 6 new songs that all of us have collaborated on and that's going to come out late 2013/early 2014 but we haven't even thought of booking recording time for it yet.

11. I know it’s early, but what might we expect from the next record in terms of sound or theme?

John ~ 'Merrimack' is a "concept" album in spirit. It's their [our] tribute to the river and the spot of land we all have known and loved all our lives. Lowell, Massachusetts has a very special place in American History and in our hearts. There's definitely the signature Ichabod sound all over it but it definitely takes some musical risks that even Dreamscapes doesn't. I don't wanna give too much of it away, and if you read into that as we're going commercial boy are you wrong, 9 minute songs aren't very terrestrial radio fan friendly.

12. In classical music a composer is said to reach his “mature” period after 15 years of writing and performing. Do you guys feel that Ichabod is entering its “mature” period where it’s now easier to write or less difficult to say the things you want to say with the music?

Greg - Yes I do. Over the past year, the chemistry has been overwhelming. Aside from Merrimack, we have the framework for 6 new songs. The band has new life now and I am very happy about it.

Dave- I never thought of it this way, but I guess it’s true. We’ve certainly matured a long way since our inception. It seems easier than ever to communicate…sometimes it’s eerie, like there’s telepathy going on in the jam room!

13. Well, while we’re waiting for the new record to come out Dreamscapes from Dead Space is still very much fresh in our minds. Are there any plans in the works for a vinyl release of the album?

It's coming sooner rather than later. We have a lot of artwork left over that we want to share with people so a vinyl release will allow us to get that out there. Michael Kent is fantastic artist and a dear friend, we can't thank him enough for his visual contributions.

Greg - The only thing that is really selling no these days is Vinyl and mp3's. Vinyl for the collectors and mp3's for the more casual listeners. So I think it's a good idea to stay ahead of the game.

14. Dave, when you started Ichabod did you expect it to turn into a lifelong commitment?

Dave-No sir…we’ve always just taken it one album at a time, and focused on what’s next each time. I think that constant eye to the future is what has kept us around for so long. Lifelong is a relative term and I don’t want to jinx anything by getting into what the parameters for lifelong may consist of. But we’re still having fun and creating great art, so the train will keep rolling.

15. Do you think the internet has helped your band in terms of longevity?

Dave- I don’t know about the longevity part, but it’s definitely helped to facilitate communications with all facets of the industry, even each other. Email/texts have been glue for us. Getting show offers, reviews, etc. has been made much more efficient by means of the internet.

16. Are you wary of the internet’s longterm effect on the music industry in general?

John~ I'm not wary of it at all. Oh no! someone can download my album for free..pffft...GOOD is what I say. Yeah it sucks that we put up our money to record and press records but if we didn't love making the music and want to share it with people we wouldn't even do that much. For every person that downloads a free copy and shares it with their friends you inevitably sell a few, it's give and take. The internet is like "tape trading" on steroids but it doesn't make your balls shrink. I don't argue with musicians who see it differently and I don't try and sway them into my way of thinking, I'm too old for that shit and I don't care enough.

Greg- No. I see tons of people crying over it. Things change and you have to evolve. It has opened doors that we never had before. But with everything comes with a price, good or bad.

17. With so many great bands from the Boston / New England area playing in the stoner doom genre is there competition for venues and such or is there enough pie to go around?

John~ It's tough sometimes because some bands just get breaks that others don't but there's plenty to go around in Boston. You're always gonna say "why the fuck did those dudes get that show" or something to that effect but you don't mean it derogatorily. I love going to see a national headliner and your friends are opening the show almost as much as I would if we were the openers.

Dave-I hate “battle of the bands” mentalities on the part of some. We’re a tight network of bands that are always going out of our way to help each other AND out of state bands alike. I wouldn’t trade the New England music scene for any other. Great people abound. We raz our friends playfully when they get shows we’d have liked to be on.

Greg- There is an old joke in Boston on how many bands does it take to screw in a light bulb. One to screw the light bulb in and a bunch of other bands standing around saying how did they get that gig? You get out of it what you put into it. Being bitter about it will get you nowhere.

18. Got any shows lined up? 

We're headlining the Middle East upstairs in Cambridge, MA. on 12/14 with some killer bands: The Force, Das Muerte, Mammothor, and Frostbite. It's gonna be rad!

Ichabod, The Force, Das Muerte, Mammothor and Frostbite - Live at Middle East Upstairs

19. What are your favorite records right now?

John ~ Graveyard ~ Light's Out / Lord Fowl ~ Moon Queen / The Sword ~ Apocryphon

Greg- Pallbearer- Sorrow And Extinction
Dead Can Dance- Anastasis
My Dying Bride-A Map Of All Our Failures
Evoken- Atra Mors

Dave- Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers/ Electric Wizard-Black Masses

20. Thanks a lot for taking the time to hang out and answer so many of my damn questions. Dreamscapes from Dead Space is a killer record and I can’t wait to hear the follow up. But before you go, any parting words?

John ~ Thanks for wanting to talk to us

Connect with Ichabod:

Also, here's a great track by track rundown with John on Reverbnation here

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Harvester - The Blind Summit Recordings (album review))

Harvester is a high energy stoner band from Galway, Ireland.  They play balls out, charging through songs with an almost terrifying momentum.

Harvester kicks in the door and introduces themselves on opening track "Cosmonautical Mile", charging, chugging and squealing through almost seven exhausting minutes of heavy stoner groove only pausing momentarily five minutes in for an engine revving floor tom respite.  It's a rude introduction to the band but we'll get the door fixed after the album stops spinning.

"Circle Eater" picks right up where the first track leaves off with some powerful bass grooves courtesy of Steve Loughney and introducing some welcome Lynott-isms on guitar.  A theme and influence that will be revisited later on the EP.

On "Aberration" drummer Kenn Sweeney waxes Des Kensel-ian, letting his inner caveman out.  And that should read "letting his inner caveman out running, screaming, club held over head ready to strike a death-dealing blow".  The caveman spills out onto the next track "Old Blood", with rapid fire tom fills and rolls that rev like a Harley.  And you know a Harley ain't about nothing but power and intimidation.  Towards the end of this track twin guitars (Gavin Grealy [also on vocals] and Bryan Higgins) sound profoundly like some of Phil Lynott's best moments, a maze of rapid fire scales to make the head spin.

"Atom Splitter" is a slower, more sludgy, doomy number.  Grealy's yelled vocal performance recalls a particular brand of New England style of singing found in bands such as Black Pyramid, Summoner, Slow Mover and Set, among others, and I begin to wonder if this isn't an Irish thing (yeah, I know, not everybody from Boston is Irish).

Closing track "All Roads Led Away" is a melancholic and epic instrumental.  It's epic in the choice of chords.  A tune emerges from a fog of minor chords which builds until it fades away, dissipating into an acoustic refrain, whereupon the track and the album comes to a close.

Overall it's a kick-ass EP, and I mean that in an almost technical sense.  It's an uptempo and high energy recording that mixes some excellent influences and gives each member of the band his moments to shine.

Highlights include: "Cosmonautical Mile" and "Circle Eater"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 30:29

From: Galway, Ireland

Genre: Stoner Rock, Doom

Reminds me of: Red Fang, Snake Thursday, Steak, Summoner, Thin Lizzy

Release Date: November 4, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Turning off the highway and realizing you have no breaks.

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