Monday, August 27, 2012

Sleep Dopesmoker

Sleep Dopesmoker (reissue)

By: Chris Davison

There are some albums that just become the stuff of legends. The story of Sleep is already steeped in myth and the re-telling of truths and half-truths that have been embellished and have grown larger through the passage of years. We do know that Sleep seemed to be on the cusp of super stardom back in the nineties. I can recall seeing their name mentioned in mainstream rock magazines as being “the next big thing,” and “could Sleep be the new Faith No More?” A weird comparison to make to be sure, but one that exposes the nature of the mainstream press.

The story of Dopesmoker is labyrinthine, but let's cut it down to the constituent parts. Following the release of Holy Mountain, which had placed Sleep at the very edge of becoming a huge deal, not only in the stoner world but in the wider rock world, Sleep retreated back to the recording studio. Here, not only did they smoke truly astonishing amounts of weed, (in fact, myth has it that most of their budget was spent on it), they recorded their new album – to be named Dopesmoker. When they presented it back to the recording studio – a single track monolithic jam session that lasted almost an hour in length, they were horrified. Sent packing, they were told to come back with another album – essentially a very slightly trimmed version called Jerusalem. It wouldn't be until 2003 that Dopesmoker would eventually emerge – at which point the band was already defunct, and their successors (OM and High On Fire) established.

This reissue of Dopesmoker from Southern Lord Records– complete with brand new artwork of some kind of cross-desert weed-carrying pilgrims in a pleasingly pulp 70's style sci-fi fashion – retains all of the music of the 2003 pressing, but with extra remastering duties. Therefore, if you're already into stoner rock, there's a very real chance that you will already own this piece of work. If you haven't, then prepare your ears for an often surreal, inspired trip through hypnotic riffing, hoarse bellowing and some of the best Bill Ward inspired drumming to be found on record. In fact, though most people focus in on the rolling riffs, the mesmerising tone of the fuzzed out bass and the vocals, this is a jam that is almost always centred on the drumming. I'm certainly no drummer, being a lapsed (and awful) guitarist and vocalist (!), but even I can tell that this is a brilliant performance by Chris Hakius.

What does this remaster offer? Well, to my faltering ears, it's quite hard to tell much difference between this and the former release. Yes, there does appear to be slightly more clarity, but that's quite tricky to discern in a style of music that worships the fuzz and buzz of distortion. There is, of course, the live version of “Holy Mountain” here, which is rougher than a badger's arse, but does demonstrate what the live experience of Sleep is like – powerful, rolling and hypnotic. If you don't already have this album, but profess to like doom – get it now. If you do already have it, well then honestly – save your cash.

Editor: I beg to differ with Chris. This reissue is more than worth your money, as I’ve found this remaster/ reissue to be an absolute monster with a gigantic sound. Given the amount of reissues that we see these days, the practice probably now deserves its own “best of the year” category. Dopesmoker by Sleep will be that album. Buy or die.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Witchsorrow God Curse Us

Witchsorrow God Curse Us

By: Chris Davison

Witchsorrow are a band that I have the opportunity to see so many times, and have turned them down at every juncture. Which is odd, given that they are a highly regarded up and coming outfit peddling in traditional doom wares. They've been at festivals, and I've preferred to drink, or they've been on as supporting acts and I've gotten something to eat instead. Luckily, I've managed to get a hold of God Curse Us for my delectation. And you know what? It ain't half bad.

In the doom stakes, this is a fairly curious find. In terms of their overall tone and sound, I'd say that Witchsorrow – a UK act, trivia fans – play it fairly safe. They're clearly very influenced by the most traditional of bands, having a sound that owes a fair amount to the big hitters of the genre, in particular the American acts Pentagram and Saint Vitus. So far, so normal. Yet I also detect hints of fellow countrymen Electric Wizard in terms of the song lengths and the slightly hypnotic take on the riffing. These aren't mere five minute tracks – here we typically weigh in at around the ten minute mark, with nice ringing guitar tones and funereal bass lines clashing with simple yet effective drum structures. Vocally, the voice sounds a lot like the clearer, less mental episodes of our very own Lee Dorrian, which is no bad thing at all. Here and there, when the drabness and the length of the songs became almost too much for my attention to have taken, the band kicks in with a slightly quicker tempo or an interesting guitar solo.
The title track, in particular, has a nice take on the post-apocalyptic scenario, with the ringing “God Curse Us – Every One” taking its own position as a minor doom anthem. This may not be the most inventive of albums, by any stretch of the imagination, but then I would always rather listen to something familiar that is well played than something completely novel but sterile and boring. A fine album all the same, and one that will entice me to make more effort to resist the hunger and thirst and see them live!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Samothrace Reverence To Stone

Samothrace  Reverence To Stone

By: Chris Davison

I don't know much about Samothrace, save what a brief spell of research via our old friend Professor Google. I do, therefore, know that they are located in Seattle. I also know that they named their band after a Greek island, which is nice.

Reverence To Stone is a roughly half an hour, two track affair, which will already have the more astute of you guessing that this is doom metal. In fact, doom metal it is, with a progressive, airy take on the genre alongside the usual leaden pace and general air of misery. “A Horse Of Our Own” is a long, torturous journey into claustrophobia, punctuated with glimpses of extreme agoraphobia and the widespread aural landscapes produced by Spartan drumming, feedback and distant, “echoey,” shouted vocals. This is not happy listening. There are occasional flashes of almost-approaching mid-tempo sections, which are then shot through and left to die sprawling on the floor. “When We Emerged” is a slightly more energetic track, but that really isn't saying much. This is pretty much all about feeling the echo of the last chord, the spaces between the clashes of cymbals and the hammering of the void against the feedback.

You're not going to have a good time listening to this, but then, you already knew that. Not all listening must be happy, affirmative or life positive. There are some times when being an introspective, miserable and (let's be honest here) self indulgent individual is all we want. For those times, this album is what you need; it's what you crave. Good music for bad times indeed.

Editor: I mildly disagree with Chris on this one, as I find Samothrace to be one of the best funeral doom acts around. That said, though, Reverence To Stone is a bit lazy with one of the two tracks merely being reworked from an early demo. And, this comes after a four year gap since Life’s Trade. Hmph.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Metal Pub Crawl

Turns out that we had a chance to hit two shows in one night last night in Los Angeles. The long awaited appearance of the mighty Samothrace was scheduled for the 5 Star Bar with Bereft as openers. However, on the other side of downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), The Fucking Wrath would be appearing in a free show at Casey's Pub and Grill. Given that the Samothrace show would be over early for reasons described below, we had a shot of taking in both shows.

We headed to the 5 Star Bar, only to arrive with hardly anyone in attendance. Here's the gist of it. Originally, Samothrace were scheduled to appear at The Joint near Beverly Hills, but were forced to switch to the 5 Star Bar earlier this week. Turns out that, for whatever reason, the 5 Star had also booked another, completely separate show of an entirely different genre on the same night. In short, not only were Samothrace battling the circumstances of having to change venues on relatively short notice, but their show had to conclude by 10pm, and the bar's owner was not taking "no" for an answer.

The show was originally to be a triple bill with Black Sheep Wall and Bereft in support of Samothrace. Black Sheep Wall dropped off for reasons unknown, only leaving Bereft and Samothrace to rather hurriedly put on a performance, beginning around 8:45pm. Bereft got things going on time in front of a rather sparse crowd. Playing for about 45 minutes, longer than anticipated given the time crunch, Bereft are noteworthy as a side project of scene mainstays Charles Elliot of Abysmal Dawn (and, most recently, of the Death To All Tribute) and Sacha Dunable of Intronaut. Although backed up by an impressive pedigree, Bereft were a bit sloppy if, ultimately, enjoyable in the end.

Events continued to transpire against Samothrace. Originally intending to go on before 9:30pm, Samothrace were already running behind schedule when a bass string broke during the sound check. Exasperated, the bar's owner demanded they get things moving after another ten minutes or so. Finally, Samothrace went on the stage as a trio without a bassist. Samothrace were forced to play only one song, the still awesome and mesmerizing "A Horse Of Our Own" from the band's last full-length, Reverence To Stone.

Although we  were obviously disappointed by the events that worked against Samothrace, we were all very appreciative of the performance that did occur, and I made sure to walk up to the stage to say "thank you" nonetheless as the band hurriedly broke down their equipment.

Taking stock of the situation, we looked at the clock and decided to make a run for it. The Fucking Wrath were scheduled to go on at Casey's Pub and Grill across DTLA at about 10pm. Just less than a mile from the 5 Star Bar, we reasoned that we could probably make it. We were right. We arrived at Casey's Pub and Grill, a very popular bar filled with L.A. pretty people, just as a weirdo/ hardcore/ noise act called Bad Acid Trip (complete with an aging skinhead for a vocalist whose shtick resembled Charlie Chaplin on acid) were finishing a short set on a small stage crammed in the basement of the sprawling bar.

The Fucking Wrath came on and delivered a good, intense set in front of about 20 people or so. Casey's is one of those gigantic bars with multiple floors; hence, only a few metalheads were actually at the bar to see a show. The Fucking Wrath were good, and we decided to chalk the night up as a success.

Special thanks to Dave Brenner and Andy Ford.

Here's the stuff.



The Fucking Wrath

Two shows in one night.

The Fucking Wrath 04The Fucking Wrath 03The Fucking Wrath 02The Fucking Wrath 01Samothrace 11Samothrace 10
Samothrace 09Samothrace 08Samothrace 07Samothrace 06Samothrace 05Samothrace 04
Samothrace 03Samothrace 02Samothrace 02Samothrace 01Bereft 05Bereft 04
Bereft 03Bereft 02Bereft 01

Metal Pub Crawl, a set on Flickr.
Samothrace and Bereft at the 5 Star Bar. The Fucking Wrath at Casey's Pub and Grill. Los Angeles; August 18th, 2012.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nuthin' says summer fun like Gore Metal!

Bands: Gorgasm, Wounds, Reign Inferno, Elbow Deep, and Asphyxiator

Venue: The Ultra Lounge, Chicago, Illinois

Date: August 11th, 2012

So I headed back to my old stomping grounds at the end of the summer. Instead of heading to Frontier Days or some such (as people normally do towards the tail end of summer in the Chicago area), Skull, his ladyfriend Kelly, and I decided to head down to the Ultra Lounge in Chicago to catch a slew of gore metal bands.

Indiana's reclusive Gorgasm were set to headline a show organized by Miguel "Goregrinder" Medina, a mainstay of the Chicago death metal scene with his promotional company Eternal Eclipse Productions. Skull has been privileged to attend a few of Miguel's shows in the past, and a good time was definitely to be had by all. Unfortunately, the Cathedral of the Black Goat II Festival was going on the same night just a few miles away, but you can't win 'em all.

Miguel's own on again off again project Asphyxiator got things going with a short set. Obviously in a rebuilding period, Asphyxiator consists of Miguel on vocals, a guitarist, and a drum machine. Though loose and underdeveloped, hints of potential came through during the short set.

Next up were Elbow Deep, a gore metal band from Chicago with whom I was not familiar. Expecting absolutely nothing, we, instead, got everything, as Elbow Deep just flat out stole the show with their very catchy brand of gore metal hilarity. Greatly aiding the cause was an obvious sense of humor with hilarious anecdotes utilized to introduce songs. In particular, the pedophile themed song "Chris Hansen Ruined My Weekend" blew the doors off the place with a raucous, infectious chorus.

The rather well known Reign Inferno took the stage next. Somewhat of a side project of Jungle Rot bassist James Genenz, Reign Inferno had a bit of a slow start due to some sound issues. After finding their footing, however, Reign Inferno became a tightly focused assault of Slayer-esque death/ grind, and, soon enough, just about everyone in the packed Ultra Lounge was headbanging wildly.

Wounds followed Reign Inferno with a surprisingly taut set of amazing, semi-technical death metal. Backed up by some seriously good musicianship, I find myself amazed at the dearth of information that I could find about this band. Why don't they have a Facebook page, a website, or a recording contract!? Beats me. Probably the best musicians of the night.

As good as the bands were to open up the evening, Gorgasm were obviously the main draw. A totally relentless assault of gore-laced death metal, Gorgasm were highly focused and firing on all cylinders for a big set of 15 songs or so. Incredibly fast and spot on with time signature changes, Gorgasm definitively put their stamp of dominance on the evening.

Although I must admit to being intially disappointed to learn that I would have to miss the Cathedral of the Black Goat II in order to attend this show, any disappointment was very soon dispelled as I was simply floored by this show. The venue was good, the bands were excellent, and the crowd vibe was really good with friendly people and an obviously very enthusiastic response to all of the bands. Congratulations to Miguel Medina for putting on an incredibly enjoyable death metal show!

Special thanks to Skull and Kelly for letting me crash on their couch afterwards. Also, special thanks goes out to Miguel Medina, Rick Hernandez, and James Genenz!

Here are a few shitty phone pics for ya!

The Ultra Lounge


Elbow Deep

Reign Inferno



Elbow Deep


The t-shirt haul!


The Forsaken Beyond Redemption

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gorgasm et al

WoundsThe Ultra LoungeReign Inferno 02Reign Inferno 01Gorgasm 02Gorgasm 01
Elbow Deep 03Elbow Deep 02Elbow Deep 01Asphyxiator

Gorgasm et al, a set on Flickr.
Gorgasm, Wounds, Reign Inferno, Elbow Deep, and Asphyxiator at the Ultra Lounge in Chicago, Illinois. August 11th, 2012.