Big time artists do big-time things, at big times, to paraphrase my favorite sports analogy. 2018 is shaping up to be a crazier time in the world than ever, full of chaos, and special kind of hubris that fuels the mania. Art is typically a reflection of society, and for me personally, I have been clinging to art in a vain attempt to help save my own life in this tumultuous time. One of those artists giving me life has been underground supergroup SUMAC, with songs as big as the all caps in their name. Turning in yet another massive release with Love In Shadow (Thrill Jockey), the band peels back the curtain on this undercurrent running through all of us and shows us the glorious ugliness many choose not to see. Continue reading
Ghost Cult once again brings you another “End Of Year” list, as we close out 2016. Today we get a list from David Gates of Nashville sludge and doom rockers Season Of Arrows. The band just signed a new record deal with Argonauta Records, Give it to the Mountain, due out on March 24th 2017. David puts down his axe, and picked up his laptop to send us in his essential list of albums from this past year, and it’s killer! Continue reading
With the formation of SUMAC back in 2014 featuring Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom), Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) and Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes) and the release of their début album, The Deal, shortly afterwards, the metal community was taken back by the sheer exponential experimentation that was introduced on this project. And let’s just say that they left quite a raw post-metal-ish impression. Nevermind that the expectations were already set pretty high with such an all-star line-up, but what is more stunning is that they met them effortlessly with The Deal, showing the machinic beauty in minimalistic chaos.
Now one can only wonder what to expect from SUMAC’s sophomore release, What One Becomes, having newly signed to Thrill Jockey Records. How are they going to show progress after such a smashing début? Well, they sure as hell did something because the bar has officially been set higher for all bands in the cold metal game. This 5-track LP is a masterpiece of mechanical pandemonium and order, props to Kurt Ballou (Converge) for mixing. All tracks clock in a minimum of 10 minutes, with the longest one, ‘Blackout’, being a 17-minute journey. One of the aspects of this record that stand out the most from the previous is that on the balance scale of control and chaos… a tad more weight was placed on control although chaos still has more emphasis.
The first stand-out track, ‘Image of Control’, pushes out an interpretation of what it feels to be in constant battle with an anxiety-ridden mind. It begins its manifestation with confused out-of-key guitar distortion and cavernous vocals. But as the clouds of confusion begin to break, the lone guitar signifies the deep breathe of relief to finally gain order in the midst of it all. And so begins the heavy monologue of awkwardly orchestrated harmony between the zombie guitar/bass riffs and marching drums. To the untrained ear, it may sound like just noise. But with each additional listen, one will realize the strong musicianship and technical skills needed to create this amazing sound.
Another stand-out track is, without a doubt, ‘Clutch of Oblivion’. It starts off with a somber annunciated guitar riff which leads into a slow progressive groove that can easily give you an Isis flashback. But SUMAC is a lot dirtier sounding and experimental, which is one of the greatest differentiations from the band members’ past projects in general. Nevertheless, the track suddenly shifts from that familiarity to this wall of epic sound, bringing the listener back down to harsh cold earth. The technicality is most notable on this track because the time signatures throughout this entire track (and every track for that matter) are so strange and unpredictable that it leaves you intrigued.
With the magnitude of progressive and experimental metal available for your listening pleasure, you can often find yourself knowing what’s coming next whether it be a down tempo breakdown, extended distortion or ambience. But with SUMAC, you truly cannot see what’s coming. Every track on the album leaves an everlasting feeling and one can easily find themselves circling back through the entire album without hesitation. This solid body of work is truly a highlight of 2016 metal releases thus far and will surely be on plenty of end-of-the-year lists.
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Jan 28: The New Vintage – Louisville, KY @ The New Vintage (w/ Xerxes, Parlour, The Foxery, Black God -FREE show)
Feb 26: Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl (w/ Old Man Gloom, Baptists)
Feb 27: Seattle, WA @ Crocodile (w/ Old Man Gloom)
Feb 28: Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR (w/ Old Man Gloom)
Mar 02: Café Coda Chico – Chico, CA ( w/ Old Man Gloom)
Mar 03: Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA ( w/ Old Man Gloom)
Mar 04: The Echo – Los Angeles, CA (w/ Old Man Gloom)
Mar 06: The Hideout – San Diego, CA
Mar 13: Berserker Music Fest – Detroit, MI (w/ Poison Idea, Child Bite, Nervosas)
Mar 14: Fifth Quarter – Indianapolis, IN
Mar 15: Melt – St. Louis, MO
Mar 18: Gasa Gasa – New Orleans (early show)
Mar 20: SXSW – Austin, TX
Mar 21: SXSW – Austin, TX
SUMAC (Baptists, Russian Circles & ex-ISIS) has unveiled more information on their forthcoming album The Deal, out February 3, 2015 via Profound Lore. The record was recorded in Seattle, WA by Mell Dettmer with Kurt Ballou (Converge) mixing it. Check it out here.
01: “Spectral Gold“
02: “Thorn In The Lions Paw“
03: “Hollow King“
04: “Blight End’s Angel“
05: “The Deal“
06: “The Radiance Of Being“
Baptists is streaming their video for “Bloodmines” here. This is off their album of the same name, out now via Southern Lord.
SUMAC is a new group with singer/guitarist Aaron Turner (ISIS), drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) and bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles, ex-Botch) and has released a preview video for their debut album The Deal, out February 3, 2015 via Profound Lore/Sige. Watch it here.
Their live debut will be at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver, BC this Friday, December 4, 2014, opening for Deafheaven.
The Druids of Doom Cometh, The Final Night
Sunday, October 19th, 4:00 PM. Sundays have a very distinct feel to them. Many a song and poem have been written about this undefinable quality, and while there are many perspectives on exactly what that might be, there appears to be a thread that strings most of them together. That is, Sundays feel the like the end of something, both literally in terms of it being the last day of the week, but also in a more esoteric way. So when afternoon on the last day of Southwest Terror Fest rolled around, that feeling of ending was very evident. Downtown had a lazy feel to its movement, no one was in much of a hurry. The scene in and around the Rialto Theatre was a bit more upbeat, what with staff and bands loading in gear and attending to all of the other behind the scenes minutiae that make an event such as Terror Fest run.
When the venue opened and the fans gathered for one final stretch of time with the final four bands, the mood was anything but lazy. Tucson hardcore stalwarts Sex Prisoner got a bit of a mosh pit going with their raw and abrasive tunes, and Obliterations took their cue from that beginning by delivering a smashing set of blistering songs made from a coarse blend of Black Flag and Black Sabbath. Well into their ripping set, the vocalist for Obliterations took a moment during one song to remark that “We’re not finishing this song until everyone gets on the fucking stage!” He then proceeded to help drag the front line mosh participants onto the stage until it was crowded to the nines, and then they finished the fucking song, complete with a circle pit swirling all around the stage. This was another one of those highlights from the fest that will be remembered for some time to come. To see a band perform in the midst of such non-choreographed madness with effortless ease is pretty damned neat.
Following the fury of Obliterations, Baptists, hailing from Vancouver, Canada, put the finishing touches of power and speed onto a night already productive of much along those lines. With crusty hardcore and a plethora of D-beats, the band commanded attention throughout their nonstop, pummeling assault. The band as a whole is excellent at what they do, but drummer Nick Yacyshyn is the most absolutely crucial element to their sound. His incredible energy, lightning quick fills, and his fresh take on punk/hardcore drumming is something that needs to be noted for posterity’s sake.
Once Baptists were done playing, things got a little tense and anxious around the venue. Everyone knew what was next. Here it was, finally about to happen…Sunn O))), live and with the full glory of the Omega Quartet. What may not have been apparent to all during the evening could not be overlooked any longer once all of the gear from Baptists was removed from the stage. The gigantic rig of cabs and amps, so crucial to Sunn’s sound, had been an imposing presence on the backline all day and night. After some tantalizing amount of time, the conditions were finally just right for Sunn to do what they do best. As the house lights fell and the fog machines began to fill the entire venue up with copious amounts of the cloyingly sweet stuff, a series of eerie horror movie music kept going on and on while the dense crowd awaited the coming of the drone. It seems as if Sunn O))) were messing around with the crowd and delaying their appearance with a few extra teases. Finally, when the robed ones walked out from stage right and left, shrouded in fog and purplish blue light, it was time to burn.
It is nearly impossible to accurately relay just how monumentally insane the sound of a Sunn performance is to someone who has not heard and felt it. The sheer output of energy from all of their gear floods the senses, shakes the internal organs, rattles the roots of teeth, and even vibrates the marrow within bones. It feels like a rift in reality is going to be torn wide open and a doorway to another dimension opened. As the band is projecting out this incredible mix of tones, they look as if they are invoking the rites of some occult ritual. Between the hooded robes and bladed mirror costumes, the raising of hands and guitars to the sky, or the overly reverent way in which a note is played and sustained, Sunn live is not a concert, but a true exhibition of theatrical performance art. It only grew more grandiose once vocalist Attila Csihar (Mayhem) joined the rest of the band on stage and added the throaty distinction of his voice to the cacophony. Watching the evolution of the set from one point to the next was almost timeless in a sense, as if a bubble of some otherworldly stasis was created around the Rialto Theatre for who knows how long. The set was more of one gigantic piece of music with some obvious composition behind it, but otherwise completely unconventional and unlike anything else on earth. When it finally ended and normal reality came back into focus, the feeling was probably not unlike that of someone who had just been through the experience a tornado or hurricane churning through their life, albeit a very slowly moving one. Completely surreal and unforgettable, the druids of doom that call themselves Sunn met and exceeded all of the hype that had come attached with their name. The records will never sound the same again after seeing them live. One just does not compare to the other.
So, thus Southwest Terror Fest III: The Western Front came to an appropriate end. The entire four days were a joy and the lineup was incredible not just due to the big names, but because it gave the excellent selection of smaller regional bands a chance to show that they too have something to offer and can hold their own alongside the veteran acts on the bill. There were no obvious points of conflict among the crowd, no major technical issues, or any other glaring problems that can make some festivals more of a hassle to deal with than is necessary. The only real gripe was the sound and the cramped conditions over at The District, which were unavoidable realities due to the design limitations of the building, but tolerable enough to be only a minor concern. This year was definitely the best one yet, by far. A huge leap was taken in streamlining the lineup to a “quality over quantity” way of thinking and by securing the historic and professionally run Rialto Theatre as the main venue. So what will they do in October of 2015? You never can tell, but after the success of this year, it seems that the only way to go is bigger, louder, and even more terrifically terrifying.
Violent Resonance on Facebook
WORDS: RYAN CLARK
PHOTOS: VALERIE LITTLEJOHN
(Editor’s Note:) For the second year in a row Ghost Cult is pleased to bring you coverage of the premier doom, sludge, and avant-garde heavy music event on American soil west of the Mississippi river. Thanks to our friends at Violent Resonance, we have full coverage of the fest from the eyes, ears and lenses of these fine purveyors of heaviness. This post focuses on days 2 and 3 of the festival. The final chapter will appear soon, so stay tuned)
The Second Day: One Fest, Two Venues
Downtown Tucson may not be as large and sprawling as similar areas in other cities, but it surely is a bustling place around rush hour at the end of the working week and the beginning of the first full on day of Southwest Terror Fest. Located just a short walk up Congress Street from The District Tavern, the impressive Rialto Theatre, with a capacity of well over one thousand people, is a great venue with a real box office, multiple bars, and a wide stage located beneath a cavernous ceiling in the main part of the building. The marquee on the theatre’s front face was impressive as well, and it could be clearly read from over a hundred yards down the street. Twice as impressive, at least to the gathering masses of black clad fans milling around on the noisy street beneath it, were the names written upon that marquee in large block letters. Goatsnake. Neurosis. Sunn O))). A potent trinity with few equals.
Beneath the projected image of the stark white and black logo of Southwest Terror Fest, an upside down cross imposed over the drawn shape of the state of Arizona, the stage was set for one hell of a night. Kicking in some teeth with their rumbling sludge grooves, Tucson based Godhunter got the show rolling and were followed by Utah’s doom duo, Eagle Twin. Laying down devastating waves of heavy riffs and off kilter song structures, the band simply nailed it with an intense energy one could feel out in the crowd. Even more on top of their live game, instrumental titans Pelican played a simply perfect set of material from across their catalog. Watching them live was much like observing the internal workings of the cogs and gears of a well-oiled machine running at full power. Relentless and heavier than a thousand pounds of uranium, Pelican was a hard act to follow.
Perhaps another band may have balked at being that following act, but Goatsnake, Friday night’s headliner, played a set that turned out to be one of the crowning moments of the entire weekend. The heavy, bluesy rock and metal in combination with the soulful vocals and high energy stage antics of vocalist Pete Stahl really set the place on fire. Pete even jumped into the crowd at one point during the performance and sang along with the crowd. It was a special moment for many people who have been huge fans of the band for years, but had never gotten a chance to see them live on the stage or right there in the crowd with them until that Friday evening.
With the main show of the day at the Rialto Theatre ending high up on the lofty point carved out by Goatsnake’s performance, the crowd began drifting out of the venue with smiles and cheers as they headed down the street to check out the after show at The District. Another diverse lineup awaited their ears, with the doomy jams of Spiritual Shepherd inaugurating night two at the second venue. Destroyer of Light from Austin, TX brought some upbeat, driving stoner influenced rhythms, and Phoenix act Take Over and Destroy sounded like the blackened metal version of a horror film score with some gothic elements thrown into the mix. Closing out the after show, The Atlas Moth broke out the keyboards and lasers as they built up an incredible, cinematic atmosphere of sound that is all their own. A great band with great studio albums, The Atlas Moth is even better live, and seems to be growing more powerful each time they emerge from the creative cocoon of an album cycle.
Friday night could have been a standalone event and it would have been worth the admission price all by itself, but it was just one day out of four. That seemed to be the unspoken, pervasive thought that was gleaming in the eyes of many attendees at the end of the after show. It was only the beginning.
Nght Three: Moving Mountains with Sound That Defies Boundaries
Saturday,: Perhaps the most anticipated night of Southwest Terror Fest began at the Rialto Theatre with impressive performances from Sorxe and Author & Punisher. Sorxe, who hail from Phoenix, AZ, play a style of metal that is hard to classify. The band seems to wander through the grey areas where styles like doom, grunge, and experimental both intersect and diverge. Regardless of labels, the band split the air with a restrained, properly channeled fury that was quite memorable and a good mood setter for the rest of the show. Next up was one of the most unique and utterly fascinating live performances of recent memory, and it was all due to one man who performs under the name Author & Punisher.
Using homemade instruments and other electronic equipment, Author & Punisher resembled a maddened cyborg going off on a deafening, industrial music tirade. Simultaneously using all four limbs to keep the beat, to set off sound chains, or to press buttons, plus performing vocals through a strange voice apparatus cannot be an easy feat by any means, but it was pulled off with flying colors and seemingly in sync with the distorted, mind blowing visuals rolling on the projection screen during the performance. Luckily, the audience was given a few minutes of recovery time after this half hour of delectable but sanity wrenching music. The Body, yet another duo amongst the lineup of the event, stabbed the knife right back into the previously opened wound with their stripped down, extremely raw riffs and terrifying screams. The music was pain itself; translated into notes and chords that made one shudder and enjoy them at the same time, it was indeed a complete musical catharsis.
Where does one begin in describing what it is like to observe Neurosis in a live setting? How do you relate the feeling of a packed crowd waiting for the band to hit the stage? It simply is not an easy task, but most people would probably agree that Neurosis live is simply awe inspiring and beyond the realm of normal live performance standards. Neurosis becomes their music and draws the crowd into the experience with them. The headlining performance on this Saturday night of Southwest Terror Fest was no exception. Opening with ‘A Sun That Never Sets’, Neurosis tore off the roof with their masterful mix of titanic heaviness and beautiful ambiance. Much like watching a mountain collapsing in slow motion, the music is more an observation of the elements themselves in action. The set list was a very nice mix of older and newer material, and Neurosis weaved it all into a triumphant narrative that had the crowd enraptured for its entirety.
At the concert’s end, there were some people who literally had eyes brimming with tears, including a couple of longtime fans that we spoke with who had never had the chance to see their favorite band live before, and a man who drove over a thousand miles to see the band for the first time and it just happened to be on his birthday. It’s quite a thing to see people living a dream they’ve held for a long time with the hope of it becoming a reality.
Now nearly 11 PM, the after show at The District kept the music going strong, albeit with more of a “lets party!” attitude versus the soul searching intensity just concluded by Neurosis up the street at the Rialto Theatre. Windmill of Corpses brought the higher tempos of grind and crust to the shindig, and California’s Secrets of the Sky performed their textured, sludgy doom with confidence and precision. Tucson’s own North fit in perfectly right after Secrets of the Sky, continuing the expansive, melodic jams of alternating turbulence and tranquility. The final band of the evening, Primitive Man, were a different story altogether. Hitting the stage with boundless energy, Primitive Man delivered another of the fest’s highlight moments with a set of pure blackened sludge rage. The crowd, though packed tightly in the venue and tired from a long night of music, found a second wind and The District simply detonated into a sort of controlled riot. As it turns out, Primitive Man couldn’t have had a more apt band name at that late hour on Saturday night. They owned and rushed that little stage and no one could have asked for a better finale to a massive day of music and the final after show of the festival at The District.
Violent Resonance on Facebook
WORDS: RYAN CLARK
PHOTOS: VALERIE LITTLEJOHN