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If you are looking for new Stoner Rock, Doom, Heavy Psych or Sludge Metal bands, then you have come to the right place. Heavy Planet has been providing free promotion to independent and unsigned bands since 2008. Find your next favorite band at Heavy Planet. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 31, 2014

EP Review 'Blood From A Stone' by We Hunt Buffalo

When a heavy deep misty night descends in Vancouver, BC, smothering the city in thick musty scents of depravity and treacle-like fuzz grooves, there is only one beacon of light that shines out through the night, and it comes from a band whose riffs can destroy all that lay before it. With their newest EP, We Hunt Buffalo are an unstoppable juggernaut of fuzzy riffs, long drawn out grooves, and passion deeper than a hole in the world.

Following on from their debut self-titled full length from 2012, Blood From A Stone is every stoner groove fans wet dream, at times ferocious speeding riffs, at the next, mighty slabs of groove-laden destruction.  The vocals of Ryan Forsythe have developed into an orgasmically heavy crescendo that sounds like he’s had a lifetimes worth of toil to pour out, and with continued expression, he could well become the leading voice of the genre, giving John Garcia a run for his money.

We Hunt Buffalo’s sound has changed slightly from their debut record, while they may have been praised for their experimentation with synths into the fuzz gloom, Blood From A Stone is much more raw, stripping fuzzy stoner rock down to its bare bones. But rather than taking anything away from the band, this shows how much they have to offer as songwriters, not hiding behind unique selling points, but instead just showing how utterly awesome they are at their craft.  With ‘Cobwebs’ and particularly ‘Hometown’, they do nothing shy of melting your face with wave upon wave of heavy riffs, begging you to drop to your knees, snap your neck back, and look to whatever deity you’ve fallen for, begging for heaven to be a continuous eternal riff like the one before you.

We Hunt Buffalo have incredible things awaiting them, I wouldn’t try to stand in their way if I were you. 


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Sludge: Weedsnake - "Live Session"

I paid full attention through three years of Spanish and still retain only the most ridiculous framework of a language native to nearly a third of the population my day job introduces. Pocket translators take a tourist only so far, but they're sufficient in translating stoner metal lyrics. Plenty can get lost in translation, but lamenting broken relationships and singing pot's high praises is a universal language of hesh and haze.

You'd expect such a smoky perspective to limit the merits any one-take live recording, but Mexico City's Weedsnake bang out an eighteen-minute smog session that may be one track or six, depending on how unzipped you are. Careening between swampy stutter-stomps and breakneck dust-ups, its clear this stoner-sludge quartet either found their moment of clarity or smoked themselves sober; you may have trouble believing this was a one-off toss of buds and buzz.

Exploring the sounds as one long track puts Weedsnake's sound in a more progressive and dichotomous key. They seem to have more time to develop their slow sludge lumber than they were offered on previous releases, 2011's self-titled debut and 2012's split with Morelia's Akûma. Rhythms shift frequently, hitting all gears seamlessly between torrid tip-overs and filthy dirge.What's consistent is the band's commitment to exploring depths, heights, and every crack in the structure.

The slow-rolling opening echoes of EYEHATEGOD are met with stoner ease and quickly interrupted by white-knuckled frontseat finger-fucks, all held tightly wound by exceptional use of tempo. When chug and churn collect enough cymbal dust, high gears blister and Erick's bark grows more urgent. Listeners will have little time to make out what he's saying, let alone what it really means. You won't be allowed to nod off and tune out. Not yet, probably not ever. The pace always lifts and this live offering is alarmingly caffeinated for stoner-sludge weed metal.

Etziel's guitar is given free reign to wander and warp, crafting a balance with the dirt-caked chops. The backwoods drag between splintered trees is littered with fuzzy snaggers, numbing and distracting from the tense, frenetic moments of thrashing sludge. When you hear Weedsnake pulling themselves from the chaotic romp, you'll find yourself sinking under a slow storm of spraying shit.

The shifts in pace make for a good time here. Live music lends itself to a bit more groove, and these muddy moments swing like pierced udders with an almost doom-y malevolence. The despondent meters are buried by trippy buzzsaw distortion, and the psychedelic space-metal whispers flicker enough to make us squint even tighter. Weedsnake don't offer much explanation, but who the fuck wants it? Why ruin a good time with analysis and interpretation? From floor to ceiling, from sticky swamp to dry desert wind... it's all here in one toke. Er, take.

For fans of: Godhunter, Crowbar, Belzebong
Pair with: Chillwave Double IPA, Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tricorn - "The Walk of Shame"

Lock up your wives and hide your daughters (and make sure all the household pets are alive and accounted for as well while you're at it) because those pirate bastards in Tricorn have set sail from their native Portsmouth again with all sorts of nefarious shenanigans in mind on their sophomore voyage The Walk of Shame. It becomes immediately apparent on leadoff track "Lady" that their campaign for world conquest will be advanced through the employment of pulverizing riffs and pummeling rhythms, as well as vocals from Paxo Dyne that are straight out of the Lemmy school of larynx shredding (actually to my ears they're highly reminiscent of Orange Goblin's Ben Ward). They also employ a secret weapon that is often underutilized by many bands today: the infectiously memorable chorus.  Hell, I've probably sang the line "Play your lady's favorite song; I'll slap that ass and move along" so much at work since hearing it I'm actually in danger of being sued for sexual harassment.

Melodic choruses aside, The Walk of Shame is far from a civilized tea-and-crumpets affair. From the reptilian brutality of "Serpentine" to the pugnacious pugilism of "Step Outside", Tricorn instigate their aural onslaught with all the subtlety of a broad axe being wedged in your cranium. The track that's easily the most emblematic of this savage assault is "Falsify". With a deliciously wicked riff (and a decidedly eighties vibe) it jackhammers its way into your skull and pulverizes any grey matter it encounters. Elsewhere, "Astral Dreams" undulates its syncopated charms while "Black Devil's Smoke" insidiously infiltrates your consciousness with a hazy diabolism. In sum what these swashbuckling hooligans have unleashed is a collection of tuneage suitable to serve as the soundtrack to all your pint-swilling, tart-shagging, head-banging adventures.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Moving the Earth Festival

The Windup Space
Baltimore, Maryland USA
March 22, 2014

Last weekend the second annual Moving the Earth Festival took place at The Windup Space in Baltimore, Maryland.  Heavy Planet was on hand for night one of this two day affair, and we got to soak in the grooves and get sloppy with some of the finest riff slingers the East coast has to offer.  In the words of festival organizer, Sixty Watt Shaman/Foghound drummer, and all around cool guy Chuck Dukehart III, the event was created to be a "celebration of all things heavy."  Based on the ringing in my ears, the pounding in my temples, and the puddle of drool on my pillow the following morning, I'm fairly certain his vision was realized.  

Passage Between
Moving their set from the scheduled start time of 8:00 to 7:15 in order to make room in the lineup for fellow Baltimore locals Asthma Castle (who were originally scheduled to play on Sunday), didn't seem to bother Passage Between…other than maybe they just screamed a little louder.  Brewing with sheer intensity, the trio served as a mighty appetizer for the early arrivers as they wrapped sludgy rhythms in raw throated roars that were certain to turn the heads of a few innocent passersby strolling down Baltimore's North Avenue.  Throat shredding duties were shared by guitarist Cole Crick and bassist Cameron Smith as drummer Joseph Bradshaw worked over the drum kit, which was to be used by all of the evening's performers.  A brief, yet brutal introduction of what was yet to come; Passage Between did their goddamned best to make the festival's namesake a reality.

Asthma Castle
The stage at The Windup Space is not a large one, and after witnessing a three piece lay waste to it, the five members of Asthma Castle looked rather…err…cozy.  Sludgy fuzz emanated from the dual guitar attack of Justin Ethem and Cameron Smith (pulling double duty after having played bass with Passage Between), as bassist Jeff Davis and drummer Adam Jarvis (also Misery Index and Pig Destroyer) held down a rhythm that was as solid as a brick shithouse.  Vocalist Matthew Yukna pleaded to the heavens with a hoarse howl as the band segued in and out of stoner rock grooves, suffocating doom and relentless hardcore passages.  Safe to say that necks in the crowd were beginning to noodle and Moving the Earth was hitting its stride.

I'm a big fan of Pittsburgh's Supervoid, having placed their recent LP Filaments at number two on my "best of 2013" list, so I was plenty fired up to catch their set at Moving the Earth.  The cosmic fuzz found on that album carried over perfectly to the stage of The Windup Space on songs like "Ladders," "War Elephant," and "Ride the Snake" and the band even took this opportunity to introduce a couple of new tracks which fit right in alongside the old ones.  The first of these, "Gallows" was a showcase for guitarists Dave Warren and Joe Madia, who manage to interweave their riffs, solos and other such elements with prog-like proficiency throughout Supervoid's textural soundscapes.  Between generous pulls of PBR, vocalist Brian Urban explained that the second new one, titled "Against Sunrise," is "about zombies and shit" before flaunting his impressive vocal range, which manages to evoke everything from Mike Patton to Randy Blythe.  Bassist John Braymer navigated a pedal board every bit as impressive as any of those used by the multitude of guitarists on the evening's bill while drummer Greg Kemper kept the backbone of this intricate beast intact.  Supervoid are a band who are stretching the boundaries of what "stoner rock" can be and that was evident during their set at Moving the Earth.  If you get the opportunity to check them out, you'd do well to take advantage.

Black Manta
This festival had been billed as “the return of Sixty Watt Shaman,” but to be fair, they weren’t the only reunited legends on tap for the evening.  Carrying the “Doom Capital” flag from the genre’s halcyon days, it was evident as soon as Black Manta took the stage that these dudes have like…seen things, man.  Lead vocalist Skull stalked the front of the stage as he glared at the Moving the Earth crowd, his eyes wide with crazy, one fist thrust high in the air, and the other strangling his microphone.  Meanwhile bassist Walter White stood his ground at stage right, thumping away at the fuzzed out tones of the band’s self-described “bomb rock” while guitarist Hillel Halloway grooved out to the left.  Drummer Tommy Carr flailed away at the community drum kit, seemingly doing his part to make sure there would be nothing left of the thing by festival’s end.  For those old enough to remember when Black Manta stood alongside the likes of Earthride, Unorthodox, and Internal Void atop the underground doom scene of the mid-Atlantic, nostalgia reigned supreme during “Days of Yore” from the band’s now classic EP Fuck Them All but Six.  But it was the nodding approval and cheers from the younger contingent that proved the timelessness of these tunes.  Welcome back Black Manta…it’s been too long.


Wasted Theory
The American flag draped over one of Wasted Theory’s amplifiers just seemed to enhance the dirty, southern swagger buried in the Delaware band’s heavy grooves.  Vocalist/guitarist Larry Jackson Jr. strained every vein in his neck as he pushed his gravelly voice right to the edge.  Meanwhile, he and guitarist Dave McMahon, who just joined the band a few months back, traded licks like sparring partners as Wasted Theory plowed through a set of all new material from their upcoming full length Death and Taxes (due May 2014).  Not to be outdone, Jonathan Charles rumbled the guts of everyone in attendance with his four string, while drummer Brendan Burns twirled his sticks, held them over his head in an upside down cross, and generally beat the shit out of the skins for the entirety of the band’s 40 minute set.  I caught Wasted Theory just under a year ago when they came through Washington DC and to take nothing away from that performance, I am amazed at how much they’ve grown.  After what I saw in Baltimore last weekend, I can’t wait to get my hands on that new record. 

Quite simply, Philadelphia’s Kingsnake get better every time I see them.  With one foot planted firmly in rhythm and blues and the other resting on a stratum of stoner rock, the band displays a smooth confidence onstage and if it weren’t for the reunion of the legendary Sixty Watt Shaman to follow, they would have made worthy headliners for the Moving the Earth Festival.  The dual guitars of Brian Merritt and Bill Jenkins combined heaviness with improvisation, and when Jenkins added his gruff, whiskey drenched vocals, songs like “Fang of the Cobra” from the band’s excellent 2013 LP One Eyed King of the Blind sounded both monumental and boogielicious.  The rhythm section of Matt Kahn on bass and Matt Farnan on drums was fluid…almost jazz-like…and when the band broke into the sing-a-long chorus of “Mountain Girl” it felt like The Windup Space had been magically transformed into a 1970’s arena rock show.  It’s obvious at this point that Kingsnake are on their way up.


Sixty Watt Shaman  
Finally, after so much buildup and anticipation, it was time to put any rumors, expectations, and past memories to rest…it was time to revive the legendary Sixty Watt Shaman.  After more than a decade apart, vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, bassist Reverend Jim Forrester and drummer Chuck Dukehart III were joined by new guitarist Todd Ingram as they brought their southern fried, stoner rock back to the stage.  The band collectively disposed of any lingering anxieties by diving right into “Cactus Mexicali” from their 1998 debut Ultra Electric and as they transitioned into “Southern Gentleman” (also from Ultra Electric), you could almost see the rust fall away and the confidence begin to grow.

Reverend Jim Forrester seemed to enjoy every second of the band’s set as he roamed the stage like a raving maniac, thumping out the rhythm to a suite of songs from Sixty Watt’s classic Seed of Decades album.  By contrast, Todd Ingram stoically stood his ground as he seemingly concentrated on winning over the Sixty Watt faithful by nailing each and every lead, riff, and rhythm.  Right behind them, Chuck Dukehart III gave the Moving the Earth drum kit its final bout of punishment for the evening, occasionally looking over his shoulder to sing backing vocals on songs like “Fear Death by Water,” or to crack jokes about the band’s fog machine…”hey look, I’m on fire.”  And when he wasn’t playing rhythm guitar, Dan Soren occasionally picked up a tambourine as he wailed into his microphone, or mined the depths of his signature baritone.  The band was tight, the crowd was electric, and by the time Sixty Watt closed out their set with the epic “Red Colony,” it was pretty damn evident that this revival was complete.


Sixty Watt Shaman Setlist:
Cactus Mexicali
Southern Gentleman
Seed of Decades
Fear Death by Water
Poor Robert Henry
New Trip
Stone’s Throw Away
Whiskey Neck
Pull the Strings
Red Colony

Check out more pictures from the show below:

Passage Between:

Asthma Castle:


Black Manta:

Wasted Theory: 


Sixty Watt Shaman:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

LP Review - "Blood Eagle" by Conan

It has been nigh-on 2 years since Conan's first full length "Monnos" was released and in that time this 3 piece from Liverpool, UK, have caused major devastation across Europe and beyond, smashing down buildings and pummeling bodies to mush and leaving many battered but die hard fans in their bloody wake. "Monnos" is one heavy fucking album, as indeed is anything that Conan puts to record and their latest release "Blood Eagle" out on Napalm Records is no exception. In fact, Conan have managed to out heavy themselves with "Blood Eagle" to the point that I'm certain that if everyone in the world played this album at the same time, our planet would collapse in on herself and a black hole would form in her center and our galaxy and others nearby would fall into it. What lies on the other side of Conan's black hole? Probably just an infinite tone so very low that it makes even the oldest of the gods shit themselves.

So then "Blood Eagle" is such a pants shittingly heavy, universe breaking and god worrying album that it could be of great interest to the military forces of any warring country simply due to the destructive power of Conan's reality damaging riffs. In the wrong hands we would be absolutely truly fucked but thankfully, in Conan's very capable and very heavy hands, you not only manage to get away with a feeling of having had the holy living crap beaten out of you for 40+ minutes, you also come away filled with all the joys of existence and a satisfaction and relief in knowing that powerful psychopaths are unlikely to ever hear Conan and if they ever do we can only hope they would not understand their devastating potential.

Just like many of the most significant moments in our lives, we always remember where we were at the time, and hearing "Blood Eagle" for the first time has forever embedded into my memory a thickly fogged mountain that I stomped to bits in my imagination as those brute forced pounding Conan riffs entered my ears through headphones as I descended said mountain, shrouded in a thick blanket of shining white fog. The earth crumbled and cracked beneath my boots as I stomped my way down, driven on by Conan's wondrously low and slow riffs and booming, damaging drums whilst their called out, chanted vocals echoed through the dense fog like celtic warrior ghosts calling out for their lost battle axes.

I wisely grabbed the opportunity to hear Conan play live recently whilst they've been on tour in the UK. I stood up front for their entire set and was thoroughly pummeled into a doughy mass and I came away a dribbling mess with ears that rang for days after and a body that felt like it been beaten repeatedly for a prolonged period of time; but every planet imploding riff was savored and relished and I loved every single devastatingly crushing second of it.

Turn up loud and bear witness:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Band To Burn One To: PIST


"The name of this EP pretty much says it all. "Riffology" is a primal scream of savage metal mayhem overflowing with pummeling riffs, chugging guitars, angst-ridden vocals and an ultra über groove. EP opener "Wither" has a soulful aggression that soaks up a sinful groove and spits it back into your face. With a nineties groove metal attitude, the door-slamming rage ensues on such killer tracks as "Dispose" and the EP's almighty anthem the aptly titled "Pist" which buzzes through your skull  with razor-like precision. Available to stream or "name your price" on upstart label When Planets Collide's Bandcamp page. Get PIST!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Red Stoner Sun - "Echo Return"

Topographical maps may tell you that there are no deserts in Germany but Red Stoner Sun are here to prove otherwise. On their latest release, Echo Return, the Berlin trio pitch a tent revival of early Queens of the Stone Age robot rock. A lazy hypnotic beat and feedback shimmer establish the atmospherics early on album opener "Tokon Shira (reprise)" but the vibes quickly darken as the track's bludgeoning riff staggers forward with the unwavering advance of a man with murderous intent.  "Horsemachine" shifts it up a couple of gears, punctuated with staccato bursts before climaxing in an orgiastic solo. The heavy riffery continues on fast and furious pounder "Poncho" and the eminently crunchy "Mr. Brown", whose robotic chords could have been penned by Josh Homme himself.

A supremely experimental psychedelic vibe pervades most of Echo Return, from fuzzy instrumental "Rockwell Six" to stoner groove-a-rama "Sizzleman", the latter showcasing singer/guitarist Marceese' laconic vocal delivery, conjuring up the ghost of Lou Reed. Perhaps the most sublime track on the album though is "Alone 25".  a funky wah-wah drenched strutter.  Hell you can practically feel yourself cruising through the desert with the top down and the stereo cranked, heading out to the generators on the horizon.  It all culminates in "Smoke.76", an epic freakout with a decidedly spooky ambience created by both its snaky middle-eastern riff and diabolically distorted vocalizations.  If you're really stoned it sounds as if Beelzebub himself is communicating directly to you through the speakers, commanding you what to do... which is probably listen to more Red Stoner Sun.

Monday, March 24, 2014

LP Review 'Crystalline' by HARK

For 16 years, between ’94 and 2010, Welsh heavyweights Taint led an almighty siege on the stagnant rock scene filtrating the masses, with great energy and savagery that was a thrill to endure. Their debut The Ruin Of Nová Roma will be a record that won’t be appreciated for another 10 years probably, but it’s a one which echoes just what the scene missed out on at the time. Less of a phoenix from the ashes, but rather a pulsating futuristic time travelling behemoth, Taint frontman Jimbob Isaac has offered us a chance to redeem ourselves a second time round with his new band HARK, and their highly anticipated debut record Crystalline, released on Seasons Of The Mist.

Carrying many of his previous band’s sound forward, Jimbob (alongside former Whyteleaf members Nikolai Ribnikov and Simon Bonwick) has honed his craft to an art form that stuns and mesmerises, whilst subtly pounding away at your guts. Opening track ‘Palandromeda’, sounding like a UFO landing from the planet HELLFUCKINGYEAHATROPIA, lays as many heavy stoner riffs as it does progressive nuances. The guitar breakdowns and relentless assault of the rhythm mechanics bring you to your knees. The essence of HARK lies in their thumping riffs that are refreshing and groove laden. It would be easy to thrw the “experimental” tag at HARK, but they know fine well just what the hell they are doing, as layer upon layer of riffs lash away at your face.

Jimbob has plenty of aggressive anguish to his vocals, which can cut through your throat like a blunt knife. His range is best experienced with ‘Sins On Sleeves’ as deep curdling growls are combined with stretched out end-of-your-life gasps. Having been previously been released as double A-side with ‘Mythopoeia’ in 2012, the track as significantly lost some RPMs making it a much more dramatic doomier affair, losing none of its effect. 

The beauty of Crystalline is not so much the album as a whole, but the truly destructive beauty of each song as an individual testament. ‘Black Hole South West’ is every rocker, stoner, doomers ideal song rolled up into a tight 4 minute package, ‘Breath and Run’ and ‘Scarlet Extremities’ are  breakneck metal experimentations, and ‘A Clear Light Of...’ is a 10 minute galloping metal opus that Taint became so overlooked for (not to mention Clutch’s Neil Fallon sharing vocal duties).

It would be sheer utter criminality if HARK were to go the same way of Taint, under the radar of the inferior bands of the time, leaving behind a catalogue of misunderstood records deemed “before their time” (If you don’t go and check out a Taint record after listening to Crystalline I’ll owe you a drink) . This is a record which needs time to settle in to your soul, it’s experimental without being pretentious, it’s heavy without being void of structure, and above all else, it’s a bit of a game changer.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Truckfighters - "Universe"

After what seemed like an interminably long five years, Truckfighters are back with the highly anticipated Universe, their conceptual opus centered around the conspiratorial machinations of clandestine forces surreptitiously orchestrating events. Despite the esoteric nature of the lyrics, however, this is an album that is made not to be over-analyzed but to be absorbed, the soundtrack to an interstellar cruise. For while the band may hail from Sweden, the metal contained within is not of this earth, but rather mined from a distant galaxy.

The serpentine riff of "Mind Control" kicks of the album and the band quickly settles into their trademark groove, a highly-tuned machine with all pistons humming with European precision.  Lurking beneath that melodic sheen, however, is something darker and fuzzier waiting to be loosed from Dango's guitar. "The Chairman" seamlessly follows and with it a bubbling bassline from Ozo that percolates like bong water. Fusion-like solos add to the complexity. Next up is lead single "Prophet", the most melodic and commercial track of the bunch. Paradoxically, a great sense of foreboding pervades the track, coming to the forefront during the massive walls of fuzz surrounding the chorus.

The hidden gem of the record is "Get Lifted".  "The beautiful soul that dies can't get out until the colours dry" sings Ozo over a hypnotic, ethereal melody until it is interrupted by a heavy growl of fuzz that becomes ever more urgent and more insistent until it finally explodes in what can only be described as a snarl.  Quick throb-fest "Convention" and the blissful "Dream Sale" set up the sprawling epic closer "Mastodont". Thematically, the song speaks of a soul being sent out to space to die, a cosmological update on the traditional Viking funeral. Intricate guitar lines build the tension like cryptic ciphers until what is created is nothing less than the most gargantuan of riffs that threatens to blow your speakers as well as your mind.  "You are the star that will glow in the dark...The same as me".  And with that, the song fades away and the Universe is over.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Band To Burn One To: MYSTERY SHIP


"Upon first listen to Seattle's Mystery Ship, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn't jettisoned back to the early seventies into the back of a customized van wearing nut-hugging bell-bottom jeans and a denim jacket adorned with a ton of patches. While the music does have a retro heavy rock sound, it is also very modern and current. With two EPs released last year and a 7" released this year, the band is just giving you a little teaser as to what they are about to embark on. Sweet grooves, tight riffs and a laid back vibe combined with a layered vocal harmony provide the substance needed to conquer the world. The band has worked with the likes of Dave Hillis (Pearl Jam, Afghan Whigs), Jack Endino (Nirvana, High on Fire, Soundgarden), and Gordon Raphael (The Strokes), so there is definitely a serious buzz going on with this band. 
I would say I highly agree."

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Live In Japan by Leafhound!

If you don't know Leafhound your father might. And that's not meant as a slight. Leafhound released their iconic album Growers of Mushroom in 1971, so the band might ring bells with the more "experienced" listeners. But younger listeners might know a song or two. Afterall, Lowrider covered their tune "Freelance Fiend" on Small Stone's Sucking in the Seventies compilation. But the influence of their back catalog is not their only contribution to modern Stoner Rock. No sir or ma'am. Leafhound are still alive and playin'. And though the lineup has changed, the voice remains. Vocalist Peter French hasn't missed a beat, still belting out his bluesy tunes with grit and conviction. And unlike most rock and roll lifers who've been in the game this long, time has been kind to his voice. Live in Japan is everything a live album should be; clean sound coupled with varied renditions of the tunes you know. Even those old school fans who've worn out Growers of Mushroom will find something new on this album, usually the expertly executed solos offered up by Luke Rayner.

Give Leaf a chance.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Sludge: Stoneburner: "Life Drawing"

I know it's early, but who's up for a little detachment? There's more to it than putting down your smartphone or staring at linoleum as you stomp through a nearby grocery store buying frozen pizzas. Oh, long leather duster. Oh, piercing stare. Oh, greasy 2am banana-room strokebook commitment. Fuck you, man. Stop mistaking your creepiness for something it's not. Be what you are. If you're gonna creep, just creep. And when YOU detach, just keep drifting. You're not my audience and I'm a shade embarrassed we got this far to begin with.

I'll seek sweet separation in a nobler form. I can adapt and press the flesh enough to get a paycheck, but weekends require a staunch approach to release. Today's Sunday Sludge grinds convention and chokes out apathetic acceptance as Portland sludge quartet Stoneburner offer their sophomore full-length, Life Drawing, due April 15th. Spitting the stick after 2012's Sickness Will Pass is no small cuttings, and these nine tracks readily illustrate the band's commitment to an endless tension designed to breed questions more than generate sales.

There's a near-triptych formed here, ambitious and not easily attainable among unseasoned acts. Stoneburner patiently weave through three chapters and sixty-four minutes of progressive dooming sludge metal without ever repeating themselves or scratching an itch so much that it bleeds. The violent pangs and churns of Some Can's introduction permeates without the benefit of a vocal, at least for a while. So jagged, so cantankerous, attacking dark themes under thick layers of tar and weather... Whew. Frets scale and descend as bones crunch with never-ending suffering. The Molotov piss-bottle angst just won't suit the layman as he enjoys his morning paper. And THIS is why we're collected here.

Slow and bass-driven is Caged Bird, a pensive teem of jittered vein-slaps and thickened pop-and-hiss almost-throwbacks. Jesus, imagine a slick comic book detective staggering toward your city's seediest nook with an abrasive unease and you just might capture the feeling of this song. The muffled, pus-coated vocal is hardly a sidecar as shrill, jagged guitar allows no time for blood to clot. Doom upheaval blankets such trivial worries, chortling and contorting as the descent snaps softened bones like sun-dried twigs. Let's be fair, dudes... this shit was far more jarring than initially advertised!

If nine tracks span a trio of stunning sludge chapters, there's likely a breath or two, eh? The brief peace of Drift is a mortal, sodden whisper of green that's smooth, unrefined, and entirely necessary. Jaking an abrupt stumble is the imminently cold exploration of An Apology To A Friend In Need. Cavernous diversions and smooth commutes won't heal your pierced abdomen, but evident damage to your vitals is riding in the back seat. And just as Drift set us dizzy, so does Giver Of Birth. Swelling after a quick approach, we're given little time to construct a calm. The fleeting, out-of-reach peace seems to sting colder than these other tracks, don't they?

The band serves a criticism here. A focus on the zombification of what was once vibrant. Clones in cars and avatars in your heads, you fuckers. Pale New Eyes is one slow crawl of an example, underfoot stones growing sharper and sharper, advising against the hollow future you were promised. It's a sludge-groove explosion, timbersticking the sway meter with brazen vengeance only until you realize The Phoenix is a track that deserves a review all on its own. Swelling and swooning for eighteen minutes, listeners drone toward a lush soundscape bubbled with regrets. Back-masking, neck-ratcheting, mouth-gaping, this closer trims at excess and expertly pares with patience and discipline until only a fat thumb can hope to maneuver. When the skin breaks, the sludge flood is fully realized and the death rattle leave its trail. Ashes settle. Life awakens. The stir of every pregnant pause creepy-crawls between passages until the viscous denouement resolves under peppered guitar razors. This rebirth has commanded its welcome, swarming with outstretched arms and ignoring the fade.

At times quite spooky, at others downright teeth-grinding, Life Drawing is rough and seething. Repeated thrusts of your face into the soft moss of a dying log somehow protect you from the obvious: Hope and promise aren't merely stained. They've been properly diluted and washed out with thick piss. The truest of sludge deliveries opens a rusty door, but Stoneburner have invited us into our own nightmare. The deceptive lounges hardly provide comfort, and you're better off just cooperating when the rhythms crash. Get in the van and stop with the fucking questions. Yes, there IS a world this ugly.

For fans of: Buzzov*en, Ufomammut, -(16)-
Pair with: Mudpuppy Porter, Central Waters Brewing Co.

Friday, March 14, 2014

To Hell and Back: A Sixty Watt Revival

I was recently offered the rare opportunity to sit in on a couple of jams with the reunited Sixty Watt Shaman as they prep for a string of festival dates in the United States and Europe.  Despite the absence of vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, who was unable to join us (but is very much a part of this reunion), what I heard in the band’s downtown Baltimore practice space was a fuzzed out take on heavy blooze with a soulful swagger and a shit ton of groove.  Afterwards, with my ears ringing and lungs full of rock n’ roll, I sat down with drummer Chuck Dukehart III (also Foghound), bassist Reverend Jim Forrester (also Serpents of Secrecy), and new guitarist Todd Ingram (also King Giant and Serpents of Secrecy) to discuss the band’s past, present, and future.  So from record label buyouts to management miscues and from logistical nightmares to near fatal health issues, what follows is the tale of Sixty Watt.  If you're a fan of the band, then there’s a lot to be excited about…unless of course it’s a Tuesday night in Paducah, Kentucky.  Read on to hear what the boys had to say...  
Heavy Planet: So how did this reunion come about?  Who initiated it?

Jim Forrester:  It kind of came about because of Serpents [of Secrecy].  I had been talking to Scott Harrington [from 313 Inc. Artist Management], and the Sixty Watt topic came up.  He'd already been talking to everyone else too, so it all just started swirling around.

Chuck Dukehart III: A few years ago, the idea of a Sixty Watt reunion was floated around, but [vocalist] Dan [Soren] and [original guitarist] Joe [Selby] weren’t really into it at that time.  So Jim, Todd and myself started jamming in a project called Serpents of Secrecy with Aaron [Lewis] from When the Deadbolt Breaks on guitar and Johnny Throckmorton [from Alabama Thunderpussy] singing.  It was sort of like a stoner rock super group and we were tossing around the idea of doing a couple Sixty Watt songs and a couple of Alabama Thunderpussy songs, just because people hadn’t heard those songs in a long time and we were gonna go out and try to do some shows, maybe a couple of little tours.  We figured we could write five or six songs and do a couple of songs from each band and…boom…we’d have a set ready.  But it just didn’t really work out that way.  

JF: I got sick and Todd got hurt. [Note: Jim suffered, and has since recovered from, a near fatal medical condition, and Todd broke his wrist and was unable to play guitar for an extended period of time]

CD: Yeah Jim got sick and Todd got hurt and so we took an extended hiatus from that project.  Then I approached Dan about doing some vocals on the Foghound record [Quick, Dirty, & High] and we got together and did that.  He came to a couple of rehearsals and then sang on the songs “Long after I Die” and “Buried at Sea” which made it onto the record and that was kind of us reconciling and him having a musical project for the first time in a long time.  Dan had been concentrating on more personal and career oriented things and I guess he got the fever again after singing some more and it was just a really good, positive experience.  And then we got approached by Desertfest about doing a show.

HP: Now I want go back.  After the Seed of Decades album and the touring that followed…Chuck, you left the band.  What was that about?  Why did you leave before the Reason to Live album?

CD: Well there were personal differences.  We were going full blast, 100 miles per hour for going on three years.  It was a really crazy time and basically, you know, it's like what happens with any band when you're stuck in a van together for nine months out of a year.

JF: And you have to understand on the Zakk Wylde tour [in 2000], before we did the Clutch/COC tour, we were on the road for three and a half months straight…making NOTHING.

CD: No money and a lot of internal stress where we were still living hand to mouth.  And you start to harbor resentment you know, it's like being married to three other people when you're in a band and you're on the road.  And after three or four years straight, it's like "I am so sick of your fuckin' face…why do you have to breathe so loud?" [Laughs]  It's like everything they would do, no matter what it was, it amplified itself when I was in that bad headspace and I kind of took on a negative world view.  At any given point, two of us in the band were at each other's throats.  So I got really bummed out and I personally wasn't feeling the lifestyle anymore and it reflected in my attitude and it just built up like a snowball effect.  So we were already writing some of the songs for the Reason to Live album.  We had written two-thirds of that record before I left, but being in a bad headspace and everything being just negative, negative, negative, I just didn't want to do it anymore, so I opted out.  And then I got asked to go do some stuff with Halfway to Gone and Sixty Watt went on with Kenny Wagner and then Minnesota Pete [Campbell].

HP: So Jim, tell me about what happened with Sixty Watt Shaman after Chuck left the band?    

JF: We took some time off after the last tour that Chuck played and then went to Europe and toured with Karma to Burn.  After we came back, we did some Stateside short runs with Clutch.  I asked one of my heroes, Scott Reeder [of Kyuss, The Obsessed], if he would come in and produce Reason and he did.  We basically got rid of our management because they had mishandled our funds pretty badly while we were over in Europe.  We really didn't make anything while we were over there and we came back with a bad taste in our mouths because of that.  But then we recorded Reason and it was a great experience, a lot of fun.  Everyone at the label [Spitfire Records] seemed stoked about it when it came time to release it and we did a first tour right off the bat, a co-headlining run with Alabama Thunderpussy out to the midwest and back along with more dates with Clutch.  After that, we were working on booking a headlining tour back in Europe and at the last minute, we had our tour support pulled.  Spitfire had been sold out to the parent company and [Spitfire owner] Paul Bibeau, who had signed us and was really behind us, was no longer a part of the company.  As a result, we weren't able to do any press, there were no ads going up, no radio spots, no interviews and no tour support for Europe…all of that fell apart.  Obviously, some different internal things started going on in the band.  Dan had his own personal issues and moved out to Oklahoma.  At the end of the day, we never said "Sixty Watt's over with…we're done", we just kind of ceased to be.  And then everyone went on to do their other projects.  There were no hard feelings from it.        

HP: Is Dan still involved with any of his other projects like The Mighty Nimbus or Stillhouse?

JF: No.

HP: And Jim, tell me about your other musical projects during that time after Sixty Watt split up.

JF: I went on to do The Devil You Know with a bunch of guys here in Baltimore.  That was going really well, but I met a girl and moved to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area.  I started Angels of Meth out there and did a record with them.  We were starting to really make some headway touring…came up here [to Baltimore] and played a lot.  And then I started Soaphammer, which had members of Angels of Meth, Trephine, Meatjack, Misery Index…a bunch of bands.  We had a lot of fun and played some good shows…it was like an eight man band.  But that faded out and I eventually closed up the [tattoo] shop that I'd been running, moved back to Baltimore for about a year and eventually ended up living in West Virginia.  

HP: Are you from West Virginia?

JF: No, I'm from Maryland, same area where Chuck is from.

CD: Jim and I grew up together…since 3rd grade.  We were the heavy metal kids in school, you know [like] who could collect the most pins and patches?  We were in each other's first bands…we were starting bands in high school.

JF: Yeah we've been pissing each other off as far back as we can remember.  [Laughs]

HP: Why is Joe Selby not part of this reunion?

CD: Well after Sixty Watt [ended], Dan and Joe were in Stillhouse together and when that didn't work out, there was some animosity, bad blood, and burned bridges.  There was some reaching out, but he's just doing his own thing.  Joe has a family and he's just not feeling the lifestyle anymore.  And after enough unreturned messages and phone calls, it kind of became apparent that he just didn't want to have contact with anybody anymore.  And you know, that's his prerogative and it's totally understandable if he's moved past it and that's not what he wants in his life anymore.  You have to be a hard headed masochist to want to do this.   

JF: Joe made a decision not to be involved with us, but we don't hold any ill will towards him.

CD: Yeah there's no ill will.

HP: So Todd's obviously the replacement for Joe and from what you're saying, the Serpents of Secrecy thing kind of led to that, but what led to Serpents of Secrecy?  How did you guys know each other?

Todd Ingram: Well as Jim mentioned earlier, we were contacted by Scott Harrington [from 313 Inc. Artist Management] and he was trying to see about putting together some sort of super group with Johnny Throckmorton, Aaron [Lewis], and Chuck and Jim and myself.  And that eventually became Serpents of Secrecy and we all started jamming together.  But it was always understood that should the planets align, Jim and Chuck were gonna do a Sixty Watt thing and so Serpents wouldn't be a full time gig.  Plus, Chuck already had Foghound going.  And so when it became apparent that Joe [Selby] was not interested in reuniting with Sixty Watt, it was kind of like…"hey there's a guitar player we've been hanging out with and jamming with here for a few months, let's see if he's interested."  And I said "sure, I'd be glad to help."  So that's how that came about.

HP: So you mentioned Desertfest, and obviously there are some other big things happening as well with the Moving the Earth and Eye of the Stoned Goat Festivals both coming up.  Is there any other big news that we should know about?

JF: There may be some more European dates around Desertfest London.  We don't know for sure, but we're taking any offers into consideration for festivals.  Probably short runs and one offs right now until we see where things are going.  We want to play the shows that are gonna have the most impact.  That's where the festivals fit in because that's a huge group of people all at once…those are shows that people will make the trip [to see].

CD: Yeah, realistically, it's not gonna be a road dog adventure unless it’s something super, mega, awesome.  Nobody's getting in a van and going out on the road for a month.  We're concentrating mainly on the short gigs, doing cool gatherings like the festivals…that's just the logical thing to do.  I don't see us doing any Tuesday nights in Paducah, Kentucky.  [Laughs]

HP: You know you just crushed the dreams of some kid in Paducah, Kentucky. [Laughs] So what are the plans for new music?

JF: We would like to have a release out by the end of the year.  We want something out in 2014.  Whether or not we can make that happen, time will tell.  Once again, the planets aligning and that kind of thing, but that's what we would like to see happen.

CD: There's definitely a creative vibe in the room and some skeletons of songs and jams.  Every time we rehearse, there's usually some new thing on the table.  And if somebody approached us with an offer to put something out, that would obviously push the deal forward a little more.  But right now, the main thing is just getting back together to try and relearn these songs that we haven't touched in 15 years.

TI: Yeah, that's the front burner, the priority, is getting the original Sixty Watt material down and ready for the live setting.  But of course as musicians are gonna do, we're jamming in between things and there's already skeletons of about three songs ready to go.  Now it's just a matter of getting the structure down tighter.  But that's on the back burner until we fulfill our commitments to these shows.  

JF: Yeah, we want to be the best that we can be for these shows before we're gonna spend a lot of time working on things for a recording. 

HP: I got to hear you guys jamming on "Cactus Mexicali" from Ultra Electric back in the practice space earlier.  What else can we expect on the set list for these upcoming shows?

CD: It's gonna be really heavy off Ultra Electric and Seed of Decades.  A song or two from Reason to Live may pop up, but for the most part we've been concentrating on the songs that we wrote when we were still in the basement and the idea of touring in a bus or opening for our idols was just that…an idea.  So trying to get that energy back from the time when we wrote those songs has been key and so far it's coming together really nice.

JF: A lot of the talk around this reunion was the fact that the 15th anniversary of Ultra Electric was last year.  We put it out in 1998, so the 15th anniversary just passed and that was kind of a milestone and we want to commemorate that.  We're talking about doing a re-release…re-mastered, re-packaged, new artwork.  And we have a vault of demos, live tracks, stuff off the singles like "Whiskey Neck" and "Stone's Throw Away" off the 7" [split] with Spirit [Caravan].  Stuff like that we want to put out on a concise release, and with that in mind, we're kind of aiming towards the older stuff [for the shows].

HP: Can we hope to hear any new material at any of these upcoming shows?

JF: One way or the other, probably.

CD: Yeah, maybe not so much the first show [Moving the Earth Festival].

TI: [Desertfest] London is probably the first opportunity for that.  I'm not saying "London you're gonna hear new stuff," but logistically and feasibly, London would be the first opportunity for that.  I would imagine by Eye of the Stoned Goat, we'll definitely have one ready to go.     

HP: Speaking of writing new material, how is it different having TI in the room?  What does he bring to the table that may be different from what Joe [Selby] brought to the band?

JF: Todd and I have been playing with each other a lot because we continued on with Serpents.  He and I have a really good relationship in terms of playing music and we just kind of get together and jam with no problems.  We communicate pretty well with one another in terms of how we're playing.  As far as comparing him to Joe, they have two different styles.  Todd pretty much can do anything from what I've seen, he's very analytical, he picks the music apart, knows how to do it, makes it happen…done and done.  Joe is a blues guitar player man, he's into the jam, you know?

CD: Yeah Joe is very much a feel, from the gut, improv type of guitar player.  

HP: Let's talk about some of the other projects going on outside of Sixty Watt.  King Giant released Dismal Hollow back in 2012 and then got hit with the injury bug [guitarist David Kowalski broke his leg and TI broke his wrist] and was unable to tour.  What's going on with King Giant?

TI: We are seven songs into the next album and I'm talking fully tracking everything.  This is all pre-production, not the actual recording, but our pre-productions are pretty goddamn high level…overdubs, harmonies…the whole thing.  So we're seven songs into that and I'm really excited for that album.  We're working on two more tracks for it right now and then we've already got the artwork going as well.  I think it's gonna be amazing when you see it, the graphics and the artwork are just fantastic.  And then hopefully we'll look for a release in the summer of 2014.  As far as shows go, hopefully in June or July, we'll start playing out again.  But right now our main focus is to get the album done because we're not really good at multi-tasking.  We can't write an album, record it, and play shows…we have to do one or the other.

HP: Chuck, Foghound just released Quick, Dirty & High which you mentioned earlier and I know you guys are playing shows including the Moving the Earth and Eye of the Stoned Goat Festivals.  Have you guys considered doing a tour and/or shows that feature Foghound, King Giant, and Sixty Watt?

CD: There has been talk of that, at least to do a show in the future.  I know if there were a reason for Sixty Watt to travel for a show in…I don't know, Texas or Chicago or Milwaukee or wherever, then maybe we could all share a backline and tour together on a short mini-jaunt or whatever.  But absolutely, I don't see a reason why we wouldn't do something like that.

HP: Going back to the original lineup for Serpents of Secrecy which you alluded to earlier, what happened with Aaron [Lewis] and Johnny [Throckmorton]?  Why aren't they involved anymore and Chuck, why did you decide not to be involved with the project?

CD: The biggest problem was geographical locations and logistics.  When you have people driving from Richmond, Connecticut, and West Virginia and trying to converge on Baltimore to do any work, it's a logistical nightmare.  It just didn't work.

JF: Yeah it wasn't working out logistically for everybody and Chuck and I were already talking about the Sixty Watt reunion and he was also concentrating on Foghound.  But Todd and I really enjoy playing with one another and wanted to keep playing together, so we enlisted a friend of his, Greg Hudson, [the drummer] from a band out of DC called Tone.  We started writing and we've been shopping around for singers and we've actually nailed one down.  He's a former singer of a band that's very prominent in our genre, but we're not ready to announce that right now since Serpents is basically on hiatus through the spring while Todd and I are doing all of the Sixty Watt stuff.  But you will be hearing from us.  

HP: And will there be another guitar player added to replace Aaron [Lewis] in Serpents?

TI: Right now, no.  We're trying to keep it logistically as simple as possible, so even if I write stuff that really requires two guitars, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it as far as how we do that live, whether we bring somebody in for live shows or what have you.  But right now, we're just writing.  We have five tracks so far.

JF: Yeah we were busy with Serpents prior to the Sixty Watt reunion, but right now we really have to concentrate on this because Todd is learning a whole new set.  I even had to throw in a [Sixty Watt] cd and sit down and listen…"oh that's right, that's how I did that."  [Laughs]

TI: And in between that, I'm writing and recording with King Giant.  There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not with a guitar in my hands working on one of them. 

HP: I don't think most people understand the tireless work ethic that goes into something like this…the effort it takes to create music, much less to get your name out there.  Chuck mentioned living hand to mouth earlier and you guys have referenced countless shows and tours.  Can you go back to the beginning and tell us a little bit about the early days when Sixty Watt was first coming up?

JF: We got to the point where, even though we were a Baltimore band, we were playing [legendary New York clubs] CBGB's or the Continental once or twice a month.  

CD: Jim and I used to go out with demo tapes, you know when cassettes were actually real and not a nostalgia item, we had demos on cassette and we would go out to shows like Clutch at the old 9:30 Club [and hand them out].  And then lo and behold we get a phone call and we get this prime opening gig for Clutch and Shine (before they became Spirit Caravan) at the 180 Club in Hagerstown, Maryland.  So we practiced our asses off and it just so happens that the guy that signed Clutch to their first deal at Earache Records shows up.  [Clutch drummer] Jean-Paul [Gaster] introduced us after the show [and] we exchanged information and the next thing you know [he calls and says] "hey I want to get you guys out on the road and see what you can really do, I manage this band Nebula and they have a tour coming up."  There was no money in it and we had never been on tour.  [In fact] we had only rented a van to go up to [play] New York, so we actually went out and got [ourselves] a band van and built a horrible, torture rack loft in that son of a bitch, and that was our first tour, opening for Nebula for three weeks.  [Then] in the middle of it, like three of the shows got cancelled, so we actually spent an unpaid week living off of other people's charity and it was a debacle and a nightmare, but we were addicted to it after getting [that] first taste…and that's where the whole masochist thing comes into play.  You really gotta love hurting yourself to do this. 

JF: We started the hard way.  Literally it was like flirting with the bartender to try to get drinks or hopefully we [would] meet up with some friendly people to get a place to stay or a meal.  [We were] stealing the shit sandwiches from little gas station road stops, you know the ones that no one should eat?  We were living off that stuff man. 

CD: Or like Oklahoma City where, being the country boy that I am, I think I was the only one who knew how to syphon gas out of gas tanks that would get us to the next town.  We couldn't afford much.  $5 was either gas or food…and then we were really counting on some free beer and a pizza when we got to the next show.  We lived off the charity of others.  And that's part of the addiction of this whole thing, that brotherhood and the camaraderie that comes along with it.       

HP: Is that brotherhood still alive and well?  How are things different in today's heavy music scene?

CD: Well, the most obvious thing right now is that I'm 15 years older.  When you're young and you're looking at things through young eyes and you're going out to rock shows four nights a week, everything's awesome all the time.  I never stopped playing music after Sixty Watt, I've always had a band.  [But now] I book a lot of these shows and a lot of it is very selfish because, [since] I don't get to go to as many shows as I used to, I'm putting shows together that feature bands that I really want to see.  But it has always been a brotherhood when you're in a rock band and you're part of a scene and it's really kind of cool that everybody goes out and supports each other’s bands.  

JF:  Sixty Watt was a band that wasn't just a part of the stoner/doom scene, we were playing with hardcore bands, thrash bands, death metal bands…we would play with anybody.  We made a lot of friends [by] playing a lot of shows and it worked out pretty cool for us. 

Pretty fucking cool indeed.  And now, over 10 years after disappearing from a heavy music scene that they helped to create, the mighty Shaman is back.  Do not miss your opportunity to see Chuck, Reverend Jim, and Todd (along with vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren) as they prepare to add to an already storied legacy.  Cash strapped?  Geographically challenged?  Feeling sick?  Don't tell that shit to Sixty Watt, they know all about it.  Just be sure to get your ass to one of the following scheduled dates to witness this revival in all its glory.  

Sixty Watt Shaman is scheduled to appear here:

3/22/14 - Moving the Earth Festival - The Windup Space - Baltimore, MD
4/25/14 - Desertfest London - Electric Ballroom - Camden, London, U.K.
5/03/14 - Eye of the Stoned Goat Festival - Ralph's Rock Diner - Worcester, MA

Heavy Planet would like to extend much thanks and gratitude to Chuck Dukehart III, Reverend Jim Forrester, and Todd Ingram for sharing their stories.  Good luck on the road fellas…we'll see you out there.

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