New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: stoner metal

Heavy Psych Trio River Cult Make a Twisted Live EP

Heavy psychedelic trio River Cult spun off of an excellent, similarly loud and underrated Brooklyn postrock band, Eidetic Seeing. Their debut ep got the thumbs up here; their latest one, Live at WFMU is up as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp. More bands should be making live albums – if you’re paying for studio time, it’s infinitely cheaper, and you can capture what the band really sounds like. Do it right and it’s the best advertising you could have. They’re bringing their cinematic, unhinged, doomy sounds to the Cobra Club in Bushwick on May 27 at 11 PM; cover is $10.

They open the album’s first number, Likelihood of Confusion with a syncopated sway and then straighten it out, drummer Tav Palumbo’s nimble flurries under guitarist/frontman Sean Forlenza’s sunbaked blues riffage in tandem with bassist Anthony Mendolia. “Sobriety! In the breeze,” Forlenza sneers. “I can’t get by…it just gets boring.” But this doesn’t, through a Stoogoid wah solo, a bit of finger, then an echoing pulsar interlude that Palumbo eventually crashes the band out of.

They segue out of that epic into the even longer, practically ten-minute Temps Perdu, stomping their way through what could be the early Dream Syndicate playing Sir Lord Baltimore. Mendolia goes up the scale as Forlenza holds his notes, bends the walls, shivers and then descends toward a mournful abyss as the rhythm slows and then falls away.

The longest, most twistedly picturesque and final cut is Shadow Out of Time. Forlenza plays echoey slide over a dirgy sway, then all of a sudden they pick up steam and they’re into Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth with offcenter bass/guitar harmonies. And then into galloping post-Sabbath: “It gets hard to breathe when you know you just wanna be dead,” Forlenza snarls. The studio version collapses into its own grave; the slow lights-on-lights-off outro here is even better and just as creepy. On the floor, headphones on, you know the drill. Is that just ash or is there something in there?

Desert Flower’s Menacing Heavy Psychedelic Debut: One of 2016’s Best Albums

Desert Flower are one of the half-dozen best bands in New York right now. The heavy psychedelic quintet spice their wickedly tight, menacingly careening, darkly individualistic sound with punk, stoner blues, 70s boogie and echoes of gothic rock. They’re also notable for being one of the few psychedelic bands out there fronted by a woman, powerful bluesy wailer/keyboardist Bela Zap Art. What Jefferson Airplane were to San Francisco, 1967 or what Siouxsie & the Banshees were to London, 1985, Desert Flower are to New York in 2016. Their debut ep – streaming at Soundcloud – instantly vaults them into contention for putting out the best album of the year. Right now they’re back in the studio – watch this space for future NYC dates.

Much as Zap Art has Ann Wilson power and intensity, the studio setting here gives her a chance to project far more subtlety than she typically gets a chance to do out in front of the marauding twin-guitar attack of Migue Mendez and Paola Luna. Likewise, bassist Seba Fernandez and drummer Alfio Casale get to show off dynamics that sometimes don’t make it into their high-voltage live show.

The first track, Darketa opens with a wash of guitar sitar before Fernandez’s slinky bassline kicks in and the band sways along, Mendez’s lysergic echoes ringing out against Luna’s gritty attack, Zap Art rising from a wounded, guarded intensity, to trippy lows that she runs through a phaser. As the song builds toward a pulsing peak and Fernandez’s catchy bass hook pans the speakers behind Mendez’s searing lead, it suddenly becomes clear that it’s just a one-chord jam!

Longest Way is a brisk mashup of downstroke postpunk and classic Motor City rock: “Let me take you to the secret place, where nobody can see your face,” Zap Art intones enigmatically. The majestic, haunting Sube sways along over an uneasily pouncing 6/8 groove, an orchestra of guitars channeling ornate Nektar-ish art-rock and MBV dreampop, “Going down on the grey skies,” Zap Art belts ominously.

Tango follows a creepily pulsing southwestern gothic trajectory, fueled by Mendez’s slide guitar and Luna’s lingering, brooding lines. The catchiest of the originals here, Warrior stomps along over an incisive, sarcastically faux-martial groove, with tongue-in-cheek trombone and some tasty, purist blues playing from Mendez.

The centerpiece of the record is Traveler, a towering 6/8 anthem by a friend in Buenos Aires. Zap Art plays macabre washes of sound on her organ as Mendez alternates between fat, vibrato-laden lines and a menacing growl, Luna anchoring it with her murky, watery broken chords. Look for this on the best albums of the year page in December if we make it that far.

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – The Ultimate 2015 Halloween Soundtrack?

The opening track of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats’ latest album The Night Creeper- streaming at Spotify – is Waiting for Blood. What makes this band so macabre? The slow, creeping tempos? The burning, distorted minor-key guitar progressions? What might set this group apart from all the post-Sleep, third-generation Sabbath-influenced stoner metal acts is the vocal harmonies. And when lead guitarist Kevin Starrs finally sends his hammer-ons spinning through the channels, right to left and back in a second, that’s just the icing on the cake. Track two, Murder Nights, opens with a noxious swirl of distorted roto organ and three-part vocal harmonies that evoke the Move circa 1970 as much as they put Sabbath to shame: “People creep like poison in the mind.”

Downtown takes a lurid ba-bump stripper riff and makes stalker metal out of it: the Wytches come to mind. Pusher Man springboards off of Iron Maiden off their most scorching, wide-angle minor-key mid-80s intensity and strips it down for a searing, unrelenting sway that’s impossible to turn away from, Starrs adding one of the many tantalizingly brief acid-metal guitar solos that permeate this album. He’s the rare lead guitarist you want to hear more of.

Yellow Moon makes for an unexpected respite from the horror with its slowly unwinding early King Crimson-style psychedelia…until the reverb guitars of Starrs and Yotam Rubinger build to a terrified starscape and then fade out. Starrs gets the twisted Melody Lane going with his macabre organ over the stomp of bassist Vaughn Stokes and drummer Itamar Rubinger, a twisted tale of desire whose object “pulls a knife when she loves in the dark” and leaves a “bloody remark.”

The album’s swaying, menacingly crescendoing title track is the most retro – if you can imagine a collaboration between the late Carl Wayne and Tony Iommi. But then it picks up with an even more enveloping Iron Maiden sweep peaking with a searing rise to the rafters.

Stokes’ growling, pouncing, propulsive bass propels Inside, a mashup of Arthur Lee, the Kinks and maybe ELO at their most disturbing. The album’s most original track is Slow Death, which opens as a Move-like anthem but slowly builds to a volcanic, lingering peak that cruelly fades out. The album winds out with the unexpetedly subdued Black Motorcade, a Doors-influenced dirge that wouldn’t be out of place in the Frank Flight Band catatog. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats’ current European tour continues with a gig at the University of Stuttgart on October 24.

Blackout, Slow Season and Mondo Drag Join Forces for NYC’s Best Triplebill So Far This Year

This has been a great year for doublebills, but the hottest triplebill this blog has witnessed this year happened on the hottest day of the year so far, this past Saturday the 18th at St. Vitus. Blackout opened. They do one thing and one thing very well: slow, doomy, pounding anthems. The Melvins seem to be an obvious influence, but where that band goes for sneering humor, Blackout go into the abyss. Bassist Justin Sherrell ripped crushing, stygian chords from his downtuned J-bass while frontman/guitarist Christian Gordy launched steady, precise, chromatic mortarbomb hits from his Gibson, with an appreciative nod to Tony Iommi, but not in a blatantly derivative way. For such a heavy band, drummer Taryn Waldman is a refreshing change, staying low to the ground, coloring the slow, stalking dirges with smoky cymbal washes instead of the expected brontosaurus thud. And just when it seemed that this band is all about relentless gloom, they’d pick up the pace, doublespeed or triplespeed toward hardcore territory, both Gordy and Sherrell bellowing over the maelstrom. As with the next two bands on the bill, it would have been fun to hear them play twice as long as the barely thirty-five minutes they got onstage.

Slow Season‘s rhythm also went in an unexpected direction, 180 degrees from Blackout. Their unhinged stoner attack looks back to 70s proto-metal, which usually doesn’t have the crushing olympic impact that drummer Cody Tarbell brought to their blistering set. As searing as the guitars of frontman Daniel Rice and David Kent were, it was Tarbell who stole the show with his nimble yet bunkerbuster-scale assault, closing the set with a flurry that matched brute force to completely unexpected elegance. Meanwhile, Hayden Doyel’s blue-smoke, nimbly bluesy basslines and eye-popping octaves enhanced the purist NoCal skunkweed vibe. They opened with a boogie groove that went unexpectedly halfspeed, driven by twin guitar riffage hellbent on setting cities on flame with rock & roll.

Boogies were a major part of the rest of their tantalizingly brief set, like a northern Molly Hatchet taken back in time ten years, and with a snakier rhythm section. Kent’s acidic wah riffs, hazily menacing fuzztone bluesmetal lines and the occasional haphazard Hendrix reference reinforced the 1969-73 ambience: the only difference was that this crowd was vaping rather than smoking up – for the most part, anyway. Kent hit one false ending with a nails-down-the-blackboard slide that was one of the night’s highest points, kicking off the next number by himself, taking his time as he built to an aching, screaming peak before a smirky ba-bump groove kicked in. They wound up with an epic that galloped and swayed through his best and most relentlessly searing solo.

Mondo Drag made a towering, epic, majestic headliner. It was like seeing Atomheart Mother-era Floyd and Nektar on the same bill – although it was Slow Season who blasted through the night’s lone wry quote from the David Gilmour riffbook. Mondo Drag’s signature sound loops a hypnotic, vamping groove, with endlessly shifting, richly dynamic segments from frontman John Gamino’s organ and keys along with the guitars of Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley. The band’s new rhythm section is killer and maybe even an improvement over the old one, who were pretty damn good: bassist Andrew O’Neil played meticulously circular, catchy hooks pretty much nonstop while drummer Ventura Garcia channeled a period-perfect, muted 1975 stoner gallop across a surreal, sometimes menacing landscape.

One dynamic that the group worked for a towering, dynamic intensity was Gamino’s smoky, gothic chords grounding the music a la Richard Wright while the guitars played aching, searing, angst-fueled sheets overhead, taking on the Gilmour role. Other songs were fueled by punchy, galloping Nektar-style triplets. That band’s influence – the hard-charging crescendos of Remember the Future, the distantly crushing elegaic quality of It’s All Over and the swaying steamroller attack of Journey to the Center of the Eye – made itself apparent everywhere. Creepily twinkling night-sky Fender Rhodes interludes, tersely biting Arabic-tinged guitar-and-organ passages and endless vamps punctuated by mournfully airy guitar atmospherics and some neat call-and-response between guitars and keys were just part of the picture. As the show went on, an atmosphere of slightly restrained panic and subdued horror underpinned everything. as tempos and metrics shifted, the bass circling like a vulture. At the end of the set, Gamino’s vocals finally took on a somber, resigned, apocalyptic quality. All this justified risking death by dehydration: just try powerwalking through the Greenpoint ghetto all the way back from Clay Street to the L at Bedford, weighted down with a heavy toolbag and workboots in 110 degree heat, and see how you hold up.

Ruby the Hatchet Headline a Killer Triplebill at the Acheron

One thing that jumps out at you when you take a look at what’s happening out of town is that New York hardly has a monopoly on good multiple-band bills. For example, back on the 17th, intense Philadelphia psychedelic metal band Ruby the Hatchet played on a hometown quadruplebill with a couple of the bands – Slow Season and Mondo Drag – who SLAYED at St. Vitus this past Saturday. More about that inspiring night here momentarily. In the meantime, Ruby the Hatchet have moved on to a kick-ass triplebill, headlining at around 10 at the Acheron on July 24. Excellent retro 70s stoner band the Golden Grass – who add boogie and some unexpected blues to their riff-driven attack – play beforehand at around 9. The eclectic, interesting Iyez – who blend dreampop and noisy postrock into their reverbtoned lo-fi assault – open the night at 8. Cover is $10

Ruby the Hatchet’s new album, Valley of the Snake, is streaming at Bandcamp. It opens with Heavy Blanket, Sean Hur’s organ rising out of the mist, introducing Michael Parise’s galloping bass, then the rest of the group – guitarist John Scarps, drummer Owen Stewart and frontwoman Jillian Taylor – kick in. The vibe brings to mind early Maiden, back when they were more straightforward, less artsy. That, or Deep Purple without the hippie-dippy bullshit.

The second track, Vast Acid goes in the same direction, a catchy, swaying anthem fueled by Scarps’ terse multitracks. Taylor’s vocals are strong, with a bent, bluesy edge, but not going over the edge into Janis Joplin cliches. “I will cut you down, down, down,” is the mantra.

Tomorrow Never Comes, the album’s best track, is a haunting, apocalyptic, practically nine-minute epic, teasing the listener with a flamenco-tinged guitar intro before Scarps’ crushing riffage takes over and then eventually hits a cruelly stampeding pulse. Hur’s atmospheric keys are a neat touch. Mos Generator’s classic The Late, Great Planet Earth is a good comparison.

The Unholy Behemoth looks straight back to Sabbath, slow and doomy before it picks up with Iommi-style, bludgeoning blues riffage: it’s a trip to hear a woman singing this stuff. Ozzy, eat your heart out! Likewise, Taylor’s ominous harmonies max out the ethereal menace in the briskly pulsing, Blue Oyster Cult-ish Demons. It would make a good, heavier segue with, say, Burning For You. The album’s final cut is the title track, wryly making jangly psych-folk out of a very familiar Beatles theme before it rises toward Led Zep grandeur. One of the coolest things about this is that you can get it on cassette for the bargain price of $6.66. No joke.

Edgy, Brilliantly Original, Heavy Psychedelic Sounds from Eidetic Seeing

Brooklyn Band Eidetic Seeing play a smartly tuneful, unpredictable, defiantly original mix of noise-rock, third-generation post-Sabbath stoner metal and postrock, veering from a focused Mogwai attack to sunbaked, fuzztone Kyuss riffage, to uneasy interludes that echo Goo-era Sonic Youth. Their new second album, Against Nature, is angry and dirty, haphazard but intricate, packed with catchy hooks and abrasive noise. Tempos shift and unwind as guitarist Sean Forlenza and bassist Danilo Randjic-Coleman plunge from restless jangle to a roar over the artful and richly dynamic, even understated drumming of Paul Feitzinger. His individualistic, coloristic groove is one of this band’s most instantly distinguishing features, with a heavy, echoing snare sound in contrast to his nimble attack on the kick drum and intricate cymbal work. The whole album is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

Dial up the opening instrumental, A Snake Whose Years Are Long and name that riff: it’s something iconic from the 80s or 90s. The band quickly takes it from there to an uneasily jangling, slashing pulse, then shifts into a fuzztone rumble, then back and forth with shrieking SY-ish guitar and up-and-down dynamics. Like the rest of the tracks here, it’s a long one, but because it’s so unpredictable it never loses your interest. White Flight morphs from atmospherics to a bolero beat to an undulating stoner groove with all kinds of tempo and timbre shifts, from early 70s bluesmetal to squalling noiserock.

The sarcastically titled Froleuse works the tension between fuzztone riff-rock and lingering, apprehensive, 80s-tinged lo-fi sonics, acidic chords, endless metric trickery and finally a screamed, anguished hardcore outro. Ashplant Blues is sort of their Electric Funeral, a ten-minute epic that begins as a macabre, chromatically-charged dirge that once again gets abrasively noisy, then morphs into janglerock, then leaps around before falling away into atmospherics. The longest and final track is K2, which seems to be an account of murder high above the treeline. Again, it opens as a dirge, the most anthemic thing here. The way Feitzinger keeps the menacing groove going even as the guitar and bass fuzz out and recede toward the horizon is one of the album’s high points. There’s so much more going on in these songs; this is just the Cliff Note version. This is one of the most consistently original and interesting albums of 2013. You can catch Eidetic Seeing (the band name means photographic memory) on January 23 at Grand Victory in Williamsburg.

Mighty High’s New Album: Still Smoking

The follow-up to Brooklyn band Mighty High’s hilariously classic, satirical Mighty High in Drug City, from 2008, is hardly what you might expect. That one stumbled with a spot-on wooziness through a stoner universe populated by pilfered Ted Nugent riffs and every drug ever invented – as a Brooklyn counterpart to This Is Spinal Tap, it’s priceless. Mighty High’s latest album, Legalize Tre Bags – actually, let’s not stop at the little ones, let’s legalize ’em all! – is available on green vinyl (duh) from Ripple Music along with a download card for all the vinyl virgins. At heart, this is a punk rock record, beginning with I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes, which from its cruel intro and the slurry Motorhead riffs the band leaps into afterward is sadly over in just a minute and sixteen seconds. Despite their metal cred, guitarists Chris “Woody” MacDermott and Kevin Overdose, bassist Matt “Labatts” Santoro and drummer Jesse D’Stills have a lot in common with the Dead Kennedys: they like short songs.

Mooche, a surprisingly straight-up punk tune, chronicles the ultimate freeloader weedhead who won’t get high on his own supply unless you’re paying for it – and if you’re going with all the way up to 241st St. in the Bronx to score with him, he wants an extra hit! The Ram, a riff-rocking tribute to “25 years of toking…I won’t quit til I take my last hit, kill off what’s left of my mind” has a twin guitar solo and then a Spinal Tap hammer-on attack. Speedcreep goes for a blend of hardcore and Motorhead, with an amusing halfspeed interlude; Tokin’ and Strokin’ has a cowbell intro and a musical joke that’s painfully obvious but still too funny to give away here. Cheap Beer, Dirt Weed shows you how much mileage you can get out of one chord and a couple of sticky riffs: “The perfect high is in my reach,” the poor guy stuck in the industrial wasteland of New Rochelle, New York insists. Likewise, Come On! I’m Holdin’, a tribute to the superior weed you find in Brooklyn, at least compared to “That weak shit in Washington Square, I had to live and learn!”

They go back to UK Subs-style punk for Drug War – “Your weed against mine!” – complete with sampled Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush “quotes” to underscore their point. Then the mockery kicks in, first with Loaded Loaded, a Molly Hatchet spoof, then the longest track here, Chemical Warpigs, an irresistible if completely over-the-top mashup of Slayer’s Chemical Warfare and Sabbath’s War Pigs. The album ends with High on the Cross, a twistedly spot-on contemplation of the ultimate drug – and the most lethal one – religion. If you like New York-centric weed jokes (“High Street/Brooklyn Bridge, Jay Street is next”), funny songs that make fun of heavy metal cliches, and purist guitar sonics – the production here is bubonically good – you’ll love this album. Can you listen to it without being high? Yes. Well, make that affirmative: as Mighty High wants you to know, Yes sucks!

Dark Riffage from SuperGiant

You like good, tuneful, smart metal with an oldschool early 70s edge? Get to know aptly titled New Mexico band SuperGiant. Their latest album is Pistol Star, best experienced as a whole – as the band says, “just let your mind flow.” With big epic riffs, they like to build a hypnotic ambience: what they’re going for is a more straight-ahead take on what Sabbath and the MC5 were doing 40 years ago. The first track, Tres de la Manana builds off a slow, methodical, ominous fuzztone riff with fat resonant bass and steady straight-ahead drums that kick it out at the turnaround. “Downtown darkness, take a puff on a cigarette, go on be proud, do what you wanna do it doesn’t matter…dontcha know it’s three in the morning.” This band tantalizes you – where’s the sunbaked bluesmetal solo? They keep you waiting.

The second track, Emotion adds a funky edge but keeps the hypnotically gritty minor-key intensity going. Revolution starts as a march and explodes on the chorus – “Deep down you want it, because we need it” – and builds to a deliciously machinegunning peak. Rosey Posey works murky variations on a sexy MC5ish Murder City riff-rock theme, and finally an elegantly bleeding bluesy guitar solo that’s way way overdue. Aries, one of the standout tracks here, comes across as something of a missing link between Sabbath and Nirvana but in reverse: fast verse, slow crunchy chorus, loaded with evil chromatics. Mexican Radio (an original, not the cheeseball Wall of Voodoo new wave hit) takes lazy mid-70s ZZ Top album booginess and turbocharges it. The title track, which closes the album, builds from creepy, skeletal atmospherics to a murderously prowling theme that takes on a mighty, echoey, surreal grandeur. Check out their stuff at their Bandcamp site.

Hard-Hitting Stuff from SuperGiant

Here’s a case where the free download is ok but the other track is completely kick-ass. SuperGiant hail from Albuquerque, and they’re not exactly unknown: they’re well-respected in stoner metal circles. They’ve got a couple of recent cuts streaming at their bandcamp site. The first one, Emotion (that’s the free download) kicks off with the drums, a nasty pickslide and then the riff kicks in. And keeps going. And going. And going. Which is a popular move in this type of stuff since it puts you in a trance…and then it’s over. But the killer cut here is Aries. It’s the missing link between Sabbath and Nirvana. In fact it’s Nirvana in reverse: fast verse, slow crunchy chorus, evil chromatics and something about the spring of 1976. From their Pistol Star album; give a listen here.

Two Classic Metal Albums by Mos Generator Back in Print

When there’s so much great free music out there, the obvious question is why anybody would want to pay for it. Answer: when it’s worth owning. One recent example is the new double reissue from Mos Generator. Marketed by boutique retro metal label Ripple Music as a 10th anniversary package (and available on double gatefold vinyl!!), it combines the band’s 2001 studio debut with their fantastic but little-known Live at the Manette 8/24/02 album. Of all the second-wave Sabbath types, these guys were and remain by far the most original, with tricky prog tempos, tunefully sludgy Tony Iommi-style lo-register riffage and a sense of humor to rival their sense of purpose. Frontman/guitarist Tony Reed can play supersonic blues licks with anybody, but he’s all about the riff, and hammering it home. And what a great rhythm section – Scooter Haslip’s bass functions as a second lead guitar, while Shawn Johnson’s drumming has an agility and swing sadly missing in most post-70s metal.

The live record comprises most of the tracks from the first album, along with a couple of very tasty tunes that were new at the time. What’s most impressive about this is how full the sound of the live stuff sounds without the studio overdubs. They slam into the stoner anthem Lumbo Rock – a mix of funkmetal and Blue Oyster Cult boogie – with Reed playing just a hair ahead of the rest of the band, he’s so amped to rip the hell out of this. Their homage to moonshine running, Stone County Line, could be Black Oak Arkansas if that band had a good drummer. Somehow they manage to contain themselves through the mellow 70s FM blues verse of Acapulco Gold (supposedly the primo bud of that era) before the paint-peeling chorus kicks in, then let it all hang out with an especially sarcastic version of Sleeping Your Way to the Middle. “You saw me on the way out; I saw you on the way down,” Reed rasps at the gold-digger who wants a piece of him.

The version of Pentagramagraph is a lot more straightforward, and also overtly sarcastic, than the studio version with its Pink Floyd-ish slide guitar and ambient interlude. You Bring the Wine, I’ll Bring the Weather is as funny, both lyrically and musically, as you would expect from a cross between Bon Scott-era AC/DC and Sabbath; they go back to the meaty Stonehenge hooks with Opium Eyes, another dis to somebody who aspires to being a “motherfucking concubine.” The concert’s last track, On the Eve works its way down from doomed ferocity to a dirge and then back up again but with a tricky time signature, Haslip’s growling bass running the hook as Reed flips the script and gets more subtle and nimble than most guitar heavyweights can muster. “We had a drunken good time,” he tells the crowd at the end. If metal is your thing and you slept on this stuff when it first came out – and a lot of people did, this was before myspace, let alone youtube – now’s a good time to rediscover them. Also recommended: their apocalyptic 2005 masterpiece The Late Great Planet Earth.