Sad news to report as according to MetalSucks and Brooklyn Vegan, frontman Will Mecum of legendary instrumental Stoner Rock band Karma To Burn (sometimes stylized by their fans as K2B) has died. Mecum died April 29th, 2021 as a result of a traumatic head injury from an accidental fall. Initially, there was some confusion as to when he actually passed away, but he officially passed on April 30th. The band confirmed the news with a message on Facebook. Will formed Karma to Burn with bassist Rich Mullins and drummer Nathan Limbaugh in 1994 in Morgantown WV, and signed with Roadrunner for their self-titled debut album which was their only album to feature a dedicated vocalist. Following two more albums (1999’s Wild Wonderful Purgatory and 2001’s Almost Heathen), Karma to Burn disbanded but they reformed in 2009 and went on to make three more albums (including 2014’s Arch Station), and released the Mountain Czar EP in 2016. Earlier this year K2B released Thee Rabbit Hole, an album of demos.
These days the London borough Camden is mostly just a tourist trap; full of tourists, and overpriced beer. It is, however, still home to some quality venues, and is the perfect place to let Desertfest UK take over for a weekend of stoner rock in all its forms. Special thanks go out to Jessica Lotti Photography for sharing her images of the weekend with our readers.
Opening the proceedings over at the Electric Ballroom is Icelandic trioThe Vintage Caravan.Boasting some decent rock star shapes on stage, front man/guitarist Óskar Logi Ágústsson clearly has an affinity for the late 60s/early 70s, delivering a boogie-filled set full of riffs and jams Jimi Hendrix and Cream would be proud of. A nearly full Ballroom is bouncing long before their set is over.
Over at the Jazz Café’s Prog stage, London five-piece Sumer aren’t afraid to show off their love of Tool. Clearly a talented bunch with a talent for combining thick riffs, vocal melodies and subtle dynamics all into one crunching ball. Unfortunately, while they fill the stage with numbers there’s not a lot of stage presence. But their debut album, The Animal You Are, is well worth checking out if you like your post/progressive metal.
The Black Heart boasts not only the best range of beers and ales Desertfest has to offer, but also the sweatiest venue. A tightly packed and perspiration–drenched throng squeeze in for the excellently-named Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus. The Swedish quartet deal in retro-psychedelic stoner and deliver an enjoyable set of classic rock, but their secret weapon is the wailing vocals of Karl Apelmo. Not a million miles away from the Scorpion Child’s Aryn Jonathan Black, he lifts decent music to something a lot more impressive.
Next up are Ten Foot Wizard, who deliverone the best sets of the weekend. Sporting some glorious Hawaiian shirts, the Mancunians take an already hot and sweaty venue into even wetter territorywith their blend of dirty, fuzzy riffs and good time rock’n’roll. The band clearly know how to have fun on stage and that translates into one of the liveliest crowds of the entire festival. Mixing riffs of Clutch and early Queens of the Stone Age with a dirty groove of Alabama ThunderPussy, chuck in some megaphones, Theremin solos and songs about tits, and you’ve got a winning combo. TFW are a hoot and far better than their (fairly decent) debut record Return to the Infinite suggests.
Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, by Jessica Lotti Photography
After such a party, returning to the cool and spacious Ballroom for Brant Bjork is something of a comedown. The set is full of quality tunes drawn mainly from his latest album, Black Power Flower, but the chilled out desert rock vibe, combined with a fairly static performance from Bjork – with his Low Desert Punk Band in tow – is kind of underwhelming. Bjork’s solo material is severely under-rated, but the former Kyuss drummer’s laid back style fails to really the get juices flowing.
Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Opening Sunday is Belgian psychedelic rockers Moaning Cities at The Purple Turtle. Sporting funky dance moves and the only sitar of the weekend, this Belgian outfit combine hypnotic atmospheres with 60s psychedelic pop and still manage to make a lot of noise. Trippy, intense, loud, and not a bad way to start the Sabbath.
Over at Koko, we’re treated with back-to-back instrumental bands with Karma in their name, but very different approaches. German four piece My Sleeping Karma do their best to create an atmosphere; employing eerie visuals [which unfortunately didn’t seem to be working right for much of the set] with soundscapes that create a nice audio-visual experience that’s easy to get lost in. It’s almost the opposite of Karma to Burn’s approach. The US power trio only deal in thunderous noise, punching their way through sonically crushing set that pounds your eardrums repeatedly for 60 minutes. There’s no subtly, but it is invigorating and gets and keeps the crowd’s attention throughout. This is how instrumentals bands should be done; Guitarist William Mecum is a one man riff machine that’s few on words but has stage swagger that makes up for the lack of verbatim, while drummer Evan Devine is an absolute powerhouse.
Karma To Burn, by Jessica Lotti Photography
It’s not all quality however. Despite hailing from Hampshire, XII Boar really, really wish they were from the deep south of the US. The trio’s bland brand of cowboy metal is a concoction of groove, whiskey-soaked “YEAAAH!”s and unsubtly-recycled Pantera riffs. The kind of racket you’d expect at a keg party in a Bam Margera video, it’s really, really, really dumb fun at best, and a poor man’s Hellyeah at worst. The Underworld, meanwhile, has been wasted as stage dedicated to originally NWOBHM bands such as Quartz and Angel Witch along with a bunch of thinly-veiled tribute acts. Londoners Amulet fall unashamedly into the latter category. Sporting tight denim, bad moustaches and the Iron Maiden riff-book, Amulet definitely aren’t cool, but they clearly don’t care. An over-abundance of enthusiasm and a decent selection of riffs & solos ripped off from the likes of Maiden, Diamond Head and Angel Witch means by the end of the set it’s hard to dislike them. Painfully original, but harmless fun.
Back at the Purple Turtle, there’s a double bill of Doom. Despite some initial sound troubles, Sweden’s The Order of Israfel combine classic Black Sabbath-esque 70s doom with an almost Thin Lizzy-like appreciation of twin leads and guitar solos to create something evilly epic on a medieval scale. The Wounded Kings, by contrast are a bit of a let-down. Despite being chronically heavy on riffs, they’re surprisingly light on songs. They might be able to rattle the foundations of the building with the same kind of Earth shattering reverb as Electric Wizard, but vocalist George Birch is lost in the mix and things never really go as far as entertaining.
Sleep, by Jessica Lotti Photography
It wouldn’t be a proper stoner festival without the riffs of the mighty Matt Pike, and with Sleep he delivers spades of them. The stoner legends were under-appreciated during their original run but a rammed Koko goes crazy for ‘Dragonaut’, while new song ‘The Clarity’ get a rapturous response. More involved in their own playing than the audience, the band stomp through barely ten songs with no encore in an hour and a half set, but there no complaints. The likes of ‘DopeSmoker’ and ‘Holy Mountain’; manage to be both crushingly heavy, yet at the same time hypnotizing. An appropriate ending for a weekend of Black Sabbath-and-bong worshipping.
Veteran Baltimore based heavy desert rock/doom unit Sixty Watt Shaman will be releasing their next full length release Tabula Rasa this winter via Ripple Music. The record will be tracked by J. Robbins of Jawbox at Magpie Cage Studio in Baltimore, MD next month.
The band has confirmed a string of upcoming shows.
May 29: The Opera House – Sheperdstown, WV (w/ Karma To Burn, RHIN) May 30: Empire – Springfield, VA (King Giant CD Release Party w/ Foghound) Jun 26: Club 611 (The Maryland Doom Fest) – Frederick, MD
With Roadburn having just ended last weekend, the season for European music festivals is here Joining the ranks of it’s better known sister festival in Germany, Desertfest UK is fast becoming one of the best events in the world. The event will take place from April 24th-26th at stellar venues in London such as: The Electric Ballroom, Koko, The Underworld, The Black Heart, The Jazz Cafe and the Purple Turtle Especially if you pray to at the altar of the riff almighty, the subsonic tones of sludge and just a rocking good time in general, this fest is for you. The weekend passes are already sold-out, further proving the attraction these line-ups will bring.
Friday kicks things off in the early afternoon with up and comers Torpor leading off. Likely the best afternoon band of any day of the fest will be Floor at the Electric Ballroom. Following them will be The Atomic Bitchwax, and headliners Electric Wizard and the mighty Red Fang. The Underworld is host to grimmer acts such as Dopethrone, Agrimonia, Black Cobra, Minsk, and Noothgrush. Also not to be missed on Friday are comeback kings End of Level Boss. They are always super fun live!
Saturday has a super doom and sludge infection in the form of Vintage Caravan, Sex Swing, Pale Horse, Black Pyramid, Lo Pan, Anthromorph, Obake, Ten Foot Wizard, Hang the Bastard plus Brant Bjork And Low Desert Punks. EyeHateGod continues their return to Europe, promising another brutal set.
Adding to the awesomeness of Saturday is the fests first prog stage, led by Amplifier, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, I am The Morning, Landskap and others. This is really momentous for the fest and hopefully it becomes a regular thing in years to come.
Sunday will bring things to a boil with more underground bands Amulet, Quartz Cancer, Sallie, Witch Hazel, SSS, The Wounded Kings, and Angel Witch amongst many others. Of course the headliner Sleep might be half the draw for the weekend, as well as Ufomammut, Karma To Burn, and Acid King. With official after show every night of the fest, this promised to be a non-stop jamming party the whole time.
I’m not one for instrumental albums, and the first eight minutes of Volumes(Black Bow), the debut album from Glasgow trio Headless Kross, left me fearing the worst. Following ‘splits’ with Brit Sludge-Doom outfits War Iron and Lazarus Blackstar, riffs the weight of lead elephants pierce the sky with a more psychedelic feel than one may expect. The slow, repetitive groove and lack of vocal in the early stages of epic-length opener ‘Rural Juror’ however, had me scurrying for the exit door. Cometh the Man…
Derek Sexton‘s raking scream gives the touch of evil, a Sludgy edge, that the initial strains so badly need. His intermittent holler is initially subtle in the mix following the middle section’s bleep fest, until harrowing screams burst through welcome chord progressions; squealing, scratching leadwork lifting the track from its rolling monotony toward a drifting, Eastern-flecked paradise. The developing sound is akin to melding Karma to Burn with Brighton Sludge-Grungers Gorse, the warm fuzz of Tommy Duffin‘s wailing, oscillating leads cascading the coda through the cosmos.
It’s when threatening to break its creative tethers that Headless Kross realises its full array of talent and possibility. Sexton’s fulminating blackened scream drags the carcass of ‘Who Is This Who Is Coming’ to a rude awakening, aided by an explosion of barely harnessed power; a languid, luscious guitar solo easing its pain and pushing back to the usual Stoner vibe. The crushing riff of closer ‘Even The Destroyed Things Have Been Destroyed’ is doleful, the vocal at times bitter and railing yet occasionally full of anguish and, in exposing this, evoking the emotional protestations of Winterfylleth‘s Chris Naughton. More subtle leadwork opens to a vicious mind-bending oppression, and it’s here where the true power of this outfit is laid bare: the ability to weld harsh, frozen wastelands with phenomenal weight and resonance and, crucially, palpable emotion.
Volumes is an album full of paradox: repulsively angry and often brutal, yet vulnerable and endearing; impassioned yet periodically riddled with flexing, latent groove. It’s a risky yet fascinating combination which ultimately ensures these powerful Glaswegians will stick in the mind.
The serious ripples caused by 2010’s Eve (Supernatural Cat) led many to their first experience of arcane Italian trio Ufomammut, yet this was in fact the band’s sixth full-length; an at that point eleven-year career of garnering underground plaudits suddenly threatening to blow over into major interest. The seismic shift created by the ensuing double-volume product Oro, their first for Neurosis‘ label Neurot Recordings, propelled the mind-expanding titans into a different galaxy, and as a result there are rabid stirrings in anticipation of ninth album Ecate (also Neurot).
From the outset, sci-fi style bleeps and effects pepper the ears but the rumbling buzz is present, lying in wait: first leading in Vita‘s gradually surging drums, monolithic in their weight and cavernous in scope; then, Urlo‘s squalling, utterly terrifying bass growls. As that humming electricity transfers itself into the bulldozing, heavy Stoner riff of opener ‘Somnium’ the listener is transported to a place halfway between hell and outer space. The oppressive, mounting coda houses hollers straight from the Conan handbook, closing a track exuding all the band’s characteristics: that ability to subtly set the scene; the ascension to stoner-blues rambles of the kind offered up by Karma to Burn, yet rendering the power of that outfit toothless; the psychedelic warbles raining upon evil, Doom-laden atmospheres; and the spitting terror of Urlo’s diseased vocal, steeped in the infected sludge of the filthiest morass. The macerating power of the following, city-flattening ‘Plouton’ is a wondrous, fearful experience, whilst coy yet sinister squeaks and ominous rumblings open the subsequently pulsing, shamanic anger of ‘Chaosecret’.
It’s this latter morphing of energy, an innate inventiveness which leaves the listener at a loss of what to expect next without sacrificing the element of power, that marks out Ufomammut from so many of their ilk. In the case of ‘Chaosecret’ that manifests itself in a perfect sense of occasion and timing, slowly yet suddenly enabling the track to build and swell into a hulking, crushing monstrosity, so organically it goes almost unnoticed. At its terrible height, such is the coruscating power the band emit that you can feel the pain of the cabs, protesting under the weight of the throbbing, impossibly heavy yet latent groove of ‘Temple’; switching from a laid-back vocal to an all-out Stoner-Sludge attack, the sound at times numbing the senses with its all-consuming omnipotence. Even the delicate, cosmic ‘Revelation’, the second of two sub-five minute tracks defying the band’s usual epic format, is pounded by oscillating bullets of electronica in complex swathes of beauty and ferocity.
Alongside the gradually increasing influence of atmosphere and keys, the pulverising hammer blows covering the second half of closer ‘Daemons’ thankfully prevent its monotonous early sections from negatively affecting an otherwise stupendous display of might; and, in turn, lay the path for a fragile, pensive and utterly fitting coda. Whilst not eclipsing the Oro opi, Ecate gives them a bloody good run for their money and reinforces Ufomammut’s burgeoning reputation as flag-bearers for pulsating, inventive, low-end noise.
Long-running West Virginia bred, instrumental stoner-rock missionaries Karma To Burn has just finally released their killer new album Arch Stanton (Faba Records) in the USA, after it was available overseas last summer. The tracks themselves are mini-epics of major proportions, and they cement everything you love about this groovin institution, yet pushes out their sound even more than before. To celebrate, the band has hit the road with like minded rockers Sierra on a tour that will see them criss-cross the US. Catching up with the band recently at Portland Oregon’s storied Hawthorne Theater, both bands were impressive. Even local opener Disenchanter caught our attention. Check out this photo set from the show courtesy of Curtiss Dunlap Photography. If you can’t make it out to a show, go pick up Arch Stanton, sit back, burn one and space out.
West Virginia instrumental stoner rockers Karma To Burn has released a Behind The Scenes of Arch Stanton Video Clip, produced by Snakehill Productions, here and a live video for “57” here.
Initially released in Europe last Summer via Switzerland-based Faba Records, KARMA TO BURN’s groove-laden Arch Stanton long player became available by the label domestically earlier this month. The band’s sixth studio album and third since reforming following their seven-year hiatus in 2009, Arch Stanton is reminiscent of their now iconic Wild Wonderful Purgatory and Almost Heathen offerings, channeling the true essence of the road-raging, riff rock ritual.
Feb 09: Lost Lake Lounge – Denver, CO Feb 10: Replay Lounge – Lawrence, KS Feb 11: Fubar – St Louis, MO Feb 12: Red Line Tap – Chicago, IL Feb 13: 123 Pleasant Street – Morgantown, WV