Review of Seven Planets New Release, Explorer (Small Stone, 2020)

Heavy groovists Seven Planets have a February release that will help you rise above the winter gloom: Explorer.

With roots in West Virginia, the band’s music is guitar-driven instrumental groove, loaded with boogie, blues, and funk, all wrapped up in a heavy desert vibe. The two guitarists, Leonard Hanks and Jim Way, are joined on the album by bassist Mike Williams and the steady and clever drumming of Ben Pitt. No vocals. With this music, you do not miss the physiological voice because the instruments do all the art, leaving no gaps. Even with the proliferation of instrumental bands in doom and heavy music in recent years, Seven Planets stands out with its spacey construction, its cohesiveness, and flavorful riffs that are all its own.

Following Flight of the Ostrich (2008) and their self-titled 2012 release, Explorer is the third full-length set from Seven Planets. The shorter songs pop, giving off a Bakerton Group glimmer – “206,” “Vanguard,” and “The Buzzard” especially. The longer pieces have more of a nebulous doom presence, in some ways ethereal, and reminiscent of the sound Seven Planets established in their earlier albums. The warbling “Seven Seas” is the perfect example of this second type, where a bed of solid floating groove carries you along while exploring guitar fingers spark and reach out into the unknown. In “Great Attractor,” the two guitars even go off and explore in different directions at the same time, bringing a broader environment of sound into a greater inclusive whole. The album closes with “The Buzzard,” a sharp, insisting punch wearing melodic robes. Taken together, it is like experiencing eight separate micro-doses that ebb and flow and blend into a gaining collective that outpaces the sum of its parts.

There are no tour dates listed on their socials, so keep an eye out for Seven Planets because you want to see them whenever you can. Christopher Berry is now playing bass after the departure of Mike Williams, and the transition has been seamless, by all accounts. The album Explorer will be released on February 7, 2020, and it is available for preorder now at Bandcamp (link below) in digital and many solid forms. After you preorder the new one and while you are waiting for it to drop, listen to the first two on Spotify or wherever you stream. It’ll put you in the mood and give you some idea of what is coming. The new album is in the same cosmos as the first two, but it is also an evolution. Recommended.

Band photo by Holly Pittman.

Links.

http://www.sevenplanetsband.com

http://www.facebook.com/Seven-Planets

http://www.instagram.com/sevenplanetsrock

http://www.smallstone.com

http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

http://www.instagram.com/smallstonerecords

Review of Seven Planets New Release, Explorer (Small Stone, 2020)

Always On Tour: Clutch in 2019

Clutch spent a lot of time performing live in 2019 on the Book of Bad Decisions tour, but that was nothing new for them – they are well known as the always-on-the-road band. In March, they made their way across the middle of the country on their way to a European tour in June. Back in the US in July, Clutch hosted their own festival for the third year running, Earth Rocker, at Shiley Acres in West Virginia. Numerous dates followed in July, including Heavy Montreal, and August, including Psycho Las Vegas. More touring in September and October, including a monster set before a sold out crowd at Aftershock in Sacramento. And then there was another stretch in Europe in December. After all of this, how does Clutch wrap up the year?

With three big shows in a row, on the 29th at the 9:30 Club in DC, the 30th at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, and on New Year’s Eve at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. In these final three performances of 2019, Clutch played completely different sets at each venue, 54 songs total, and on New Year’s Eve, they performed their classic album Blast Tyrant in its entirety. This should be the example of Finishing Strong from now on. What an amazing year.

Neil Fallon

The band played more than 80 dates in 2019. I didn’t catch them all, but I did see them at six different shows, and each one was a full-tilt rock and roll experience. You can’t go wrong with Clutch, and live is best way to hear them. One thing that is really different about the band compared to others is their constantly changing set list. When many bands go on tour, they rehearse a fixed set and play the same songs at every date. Clutch plays a different set every time.

Dan Maines

In interviews, the band has said that they take turns choosing which songs to play. How can they keep that much music in their heads? To make sure I wasn’t blacking out and misremembering this, I looked up set lists for three of the festival appearances Clutch made this year.

Heavy MontrealPsycho Las VegasAftershock
Ghoul WranglerGhoul WranglerThe Mob Goes Wild
The Mob Goes WildProfits Of DoomX-Ray Visions
How To Shake HandsThe Mob Goes WildEvil
Earth RockerHow To Shake HandsCypress Grove
H. B. Is In ControlIn Walks BarbarellaIn Walks Barbarella
In Walks BarbarellaA Quick Death In TexasEarth Rocker
Spirit of ’76Willie NelsonGimme The Keys
A Quick Death In TexasThe SoapmakersWillie Nelson
Noble SavageCrucial VelocityElectric Worry
The FaceBurning BeardOne Eye Dollar
Electric WorryNoble Savage 
X-Ray VisionsThe Face 
 D.C. Sound Attack! 
 Evil 
 Rats 
 Spacegrass 
 X-Ray Visions 
 Firebirds! 

There are only three songs that were played in all three sets, and the crowds love every song they play. It is not merely that they are incredible musicians and can remember all these different songs. In order to be able to shuffle the deck every night and never disappoint their fans, they have to have dozens of memorable songs that people want to hear.

Jean-Paul Gaster

Even after more than twenty five years together, the iconic band from Maryland still produces new music that is embraced by fans. Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines, and Jean-Paul Gaster have been together since the first Clutch recordings, and each new album carries the rock and roll message forward. On any given night, there will be new songs mixed in with older tunes including, and occasionally a cover tune. Every once in a while, they’ll play songs going all the way back to their first couple of albums (“Spacegrass” is from their second full-length album released in 1995 and they played it at Psycho Las Vegas this year). You never know going in what exactly you are going to hear. All you know for sure is you’re going to like it.

Tim Sult
Neil Fallon

2019 was a great year for Clutch. Their Book of Bad Decisions tour continued, they toured Europe a couple times, hit the festival circuit, and made a number of club and theater appearances. They are certainly not slowing down – a case is easily made, in fact, that they are picking up steam. Not much is known about their 2020 schedule yet (not publicly anyway), so let me take a guess. I bet they’ll be on tour all year.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Always On Tour: Clutch in 2019

2019 in Review, Final Gallery, Days 26-31

Marilyn Manson at Aftershock
Marilyn Manson and Brandon Pertzborn at Aftershock
Marilyn Manson at Aftershock
Paul Wiley and Marilyn Manson at Aftershock
Juan Alderete and Marilyn Manson at Aftershock
Health at Aftershock
Adam Jones and Tool at Aftershock
Maynard Jones Keenan and Tool at Aftershock
Danny Carey and Tool at Aftershock
Randy Blythe and Lamb of God at Aftershock
Willie Adler and Lamb of God at Aftershock
Mark Morton and Lamb of God at Aftershock
John Campbell and Lamb of God at Aftershock
Art Cruz, Randy Blythe, and Lamb of God at Aftershock
Amythyst Kiah at Bourbon and Beyond
Beast In Black at Heavy Montreal
Brkn Love at Aftershock
Cannibal Corpse at Higher Ground (Burlington, VT)
Ho99o9 at Aftershock
Pussy Riot at Sonic Temple
Geezer Butler and Deadland Ritual at Aftershock

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

2019 in Review, Final Gallery, Days 26-31

2019 In Review Gallery, Days 21-25

Day 25 — Rob Zombie at Aftershock
Day 25 — Rob Zombie at Aftershock
Day 25 — Rob Zombie at Aftershock
Day 25 — Chad Taylor and Live at Bourbon & Beyond
Day 24 — Gojira at Aftershock
Day 24 — Gojira at Aftershock
Day 24 — Evan Konrad
Day 23 — The Hu at Aftershock
Day 23 — The Hu at Aftershock
Day 23 — Flux Capacitor at Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont
Day 22 — Knocked Loose at Aftershock
Day 21 — Harm’s Way at Heavy Montreal

All Photos by Wayne Edwards.

2019 In Review Gallery, Days 21-25

2019 In Review, Gallery Days 16-20

Day 20 — Staind at Aftershock
Day 19 — ZZ Top at Bourbon & Beyond
Day 18 — Dead Posey at Aftershock
Day 17 (matinee) — Skalmold at Heavy Montreal
Day 17 — Corrosion of Conformity at Heavy Montreal
Day 16 — Highly Suspect at Aftershock

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

2019 In Review, Gallery Days 16-20

Morbid Angel, Watain, and Incantation on Friday the 13th at the Webster Theater in Hartford, CT

The Webster Theater is on the corner of Crown and Webster Streets in Hartford, Connecticut. It is a long-standing home of heavy music, and on December 13, 2019 – Friday the 13th – there was a perfect storm when Incantation, Watain, and Morbid Angel gathered for a night of Death and Black Metal.

Incantation

Incantation opened, leading the crowd through warm-up exercises and showing that the band is here to stay. One of the things they are known for is speed and precision, and original band member John McEntree was flawless on guitar and microphone. Long-time drummer Kyle Severn and bassist Chuck Sherwood hit the grooves with John, and lead guitarist Sonny Lombardozzi played like he has been with the band forever. The technical difficulty of the music was matched by the obvious enthusiasm of the band and Incantation turned out to be the perfect veteran group to break the ice during this tour of iconic bands.

Incantation

The first thing you notice about Watain, long before the band takes the stage, if the creeping stench. You can see the crowd reacting in a slow rolling wave as the odor flows toward the back of the room. It is the smell of rotting fish, and seems to be coming from the skinned heads set on spiked tridents along the front of the stage. They appear to be heads of sheep and perhaps other animals, and they are real, not plastic or props. I was standing in the pit and I can attest – they are real. The stage is dressed with bones and metal, crowded from left to right, front to back. From the audience you could hear intermittent cries of “Hail Satan!” Droning intro music began playing and the atmosphere started to crackle. Something really different was about to happen, and no mistake.

Watain

Many of the people in the crowd were clearly huge Watain fans, but this tour almost didn’t happen for the band. Guitarist Pelle Forsberg was detained at the border when he tried to the return to the US from Mexico. Border agents apparently did not like the look of him, and after searching his phone and social media (apparently they can just do that without reason or warrant to non-US citizens at the border), Forsberg was denied entry, his valid working visas was revoked, and he was deported, despite the fact that he had been in the US many times on tours. The remaining members – vocalist Erik Danielsson, bassist Alvaro Lillo, guitarist Hampus Eriksson, and drummer Emil Svensson – eventually were able to enter the US and they embarked on the current tour as a four-piece.

Watain

The presence of Pelle Forsberg was, of course, missed on stage but the band gave an exceptional performance. The crowd got the hear the songs they wanted to hear, see the powerful presence of the band, and experience the mystical aura of their one-of-a-kind sound. Watain is as strong as ever, and this tour is seeing peak performances from them, even with Forsberg sidelined.

Watain

The stage was cleared once Watain finished and then set up for Morbid Angel. The headliner’s show had a stripped-down look compared to the middle act, and they channeled the extra space into their thundering sound. Morbid Angel is one of the most important and influential thrash bands of all time, and they have evolved over the years into death metal mainstays. I still listen to their classic 1989 album Altars of Madness every couple of months. Founding member Trey Azagthoth continues to play guitar with the sharpest enthusiasm, and long-time front-man and bassists Steve Tucker is truly a force to be reckoned with. For the last couple of years drums have been handled by Scott Fuller and the guitar sound is rounded out by Dan Vadim Von. Together they are a unified vanguard of heavy music.

Morbid Angel

The band stands mostly in place and roars one monstrous song after another. They opened with a few new songs off the latest release, then thumbed through their extensive catalogue and performed many of their classics. They played thirteen songs (if I counted right) on Friday the Thirteenth. How’s that for on brand? I have seen Morbid Angel before, and they are always great. This Hartford show stands for me, nevertheless, and it is the one I will think about every time I listen to band from now on.

Morbid Angel

The Webster Theater is a place where metalheads can gather and bands, new and old, can play to appreciative fans. The show last Friday night with Morbid Angel, Watain, and Incantation was a fantastic experience, one for the ages. There are just a few dates remaining on the current tour, and if you can get out to see these three bands perform together, definitely do it. You don’t want to be sitting around moping in the new year sorry you missed out. Highly recommended.

Morbid Angel

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Morbid Angel, Watain, and Incantation on Friday the 13th at the Webster Theater in Hartford, CT

2019 In Review, Gallery Days 8-15

Day 15 — Perdition Temple at Higher Ground Ballroom
Day 14 — Bring Me The Horizon at Aftershock
Day 13 — Korn at Aftershock
Day 12 — Halestorm at Aftershock
Day 11 (matinee) — Cancer Bats at Heavy Montreal
Day 11 — Municipal Waste at Heavy Montreal
Day 10 — Cleopatrick at Sonic Temple
Day 9 — Chevelle at Aftershock
Day 8 — Spirit Adrift at Aftershock

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

2019 In Review, Gallery Days 8-15