Darryl Shepard: Guitar
Recorded at Amps vs. Ohms studio in April, 2010.
Produced by Blackwolfgoat and Glenn Smith.
Engineered and mixed by Glenn Smith.
Mastered at New Alliance East by Nick Zampiello and Rob Gonnella.
Album artwork and design by Alexander von Wieding.
Band photos by Keith Pierce.
Wardrobe by Sparks.
In-flight entertainment provided by The Wrestler.
A&R by Ivo Shandor.
All songs/sounds on this album were recorded live in the studio, no overdubs.
If you ever imagined what Angus and Malcolm Young would sound like borrowing a Frippertronics rig, then Blackwolfgoat’s debut Dragonwizardsleeve is right up your alley. Not the entire album is like that but opening song “Risk and Return” made me think of that. This one man instrumental band is guitarist Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Roadsaw, Milligram) not rocking like his old bands but once the rock is in you, it always comes out no matter how hard you drone. This would make a good gateway for people who are put off by the statistical density of Earth or Sunn O))). It’s also really good if you’re high on pot and need something to zone out to. But the best application would be to annoy your co-workers with. That really did the trick on a misty morning in the office.
This is not the next black metal band from Scandinavia, but guitarist Darryl Shepard, one-time member of bands such as Hackman, Roadaw and Milligram. Obviously, he felt the need to record his first solo album that turned out surprisingly experimental. On centerstage is thereby his electric guitar and one amplifier and nothing else. In the process he has developed his poetic tonal palette which is mostly miles away from traditional blues and rock 'n' roll structures. 'Death of a Lifer' and 'The Goat' uses electric guitar drones in the manner of early Earth, whereas the incredibly hypnotic 'Tinnitus the Night' adds a psychedelic edge to the whole thing. But as effective as his approach is, Earth's style (mainly the early 1990's) has been copied multiple times so that it's almost tiresome to listen to this kind of music.
With the exception of 'Tinnitus the Night', both tracks have nothing new to offer. Thus, one should be a huge fan of Earth 2 to appreciate this tunes. In contrast, 'Risk and Return' and 'Hotel Anhedonia' are considerably more interesting. This is where Shepard proves its vitality as a guitarist. Although both tracks are rather more connected with the blues and rock tradition, he manages to add his own sonic eccentricities to it. Here again, the music has a mesmerizing and repetitive character, based on low-key minimalist patterns.
Nevertheless, both tracks are relatively emotional and generate an almost surreal atmosphere. It would have been nice if Darryl Shepard had recorded more songs like this. I also really like 'Aspirin Forver', because it is by far the most radical "song" on 'Dragonwizardsleeve'. Actually, I expect music like this from a Japanese experimental musicians as, for example, Masayuki Imanishi. In conclusion I would like to emphasise that this album is recommended only with restrictions. On the one hand it is very unimaginative, while on the other it goes into the right direction. I can only hope that BLACKWOLFGOAT will find his own identity in the course of time.
As a former member of alt-rockers Milligram, stoner rockers Roadsaw, and hard rockers Hackman, guitarist Darryl Shepard is no stranger to musical versatility, but his one-man project Blackwolfgoat easily exceeds his prior creative reach with all of those groups combined. In 2010's cryptically named and wholly instrumental Dragonwizardsleeve, Shepard touches on an eclectic array of styles with what at first appear to be meticulously layered sounds, but which in fact are comprised of entirely live recordings, devoid of any overdubs save for a few loops played simultaneously, and therefore still suffused with a beguiling minimalist purity. For the most part, resulting tracks like "Death of a Lifer," "Tinnitus the Night," and "The Goat" consist of fluctuating waves of droning guitar inspired by the likes of Earth, Boris, and Sunn 0))), but room is also made for the clipped psych rock hypnosis of "Risk and Return," the repetitive mechanistic pulsing of "Aspirin Forever" (reportedly sampled from a heart monitor), and the wind-blown acid rock slide guitar hangover of ten-minute closer "Hotel Anhedonia." All together, these seemingly unrelated sonic experiments prove remarkably refreshing, frequently surprising, and utterly deserving of Blackwolfgoat's chosen genre description as "unclassifiable." That's a compliment, in case you were wondering.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
'Dragonwizardsleeve'? Hmmmm...I can't help but wonder if ex-Milligram and Roadsaw guitarist Darryl Shepard has met my ex-wife. I jest, of course, but I think we're all aware of the connotations implied in the title of this extraordinary piece of work by Mr Shepard. If not, then I'll not be the one to explain it.
Blackwolfgoat is a one-man, one guitar and one-amp live-in-the-studio solo extravaganza, performed by the afore-mentioned Darryl Shepard without the aid of overdubbing or additional tracking. The six tracks that make up 'Dragonwizardsleeve' are made up entirely of layered loops and drones, with Mr Shepard playing atop himself in real-time.
Looping pedals have come a long way in the last few years, but even so, it is clear that a lot of skill and thought has gone into putting this collection together. People who think that just ANYONE can now set up a loop and play atop themselves really need to pay attention to musicians like Russian Circles guitarist Mike Sullivan and to THIS here recording, and realise that it takes more than just SKILL, it takes soul too. Without soul, looped music is just another sterile technical exercise, and that is NOT a description one could apply to 'Dragonwizardsleeve'.
The overriding tone on 'Dragonwizardsleeve' is warm and natural, with no reliance on tricksy effects. In fact, aside from the looping, the only really audible effects are some seriously crushing overdrive – used to great effect on 'Death Of A Lifer', 'Tinnitus the Night' and 'The Goat' – and the flanging that colours closing track 'Hotel Anhedonia'. All done, as I said, in REAL-TIME.
The album opens with 'Risk and Return', in which Shepard takes a taut, plucked minimalistically driving rhythmic line, overlays it with a plangent loop of guitar and paints atop that with both clipped and flowing guitar licks, evolving and building over the course of the track. Faintly reminiscent of 'Whitewater' from Kyuss' final album, the track engages the listener immensely with just a few simple component parts.
'Death Of A Lifer' comes out like a countrified Sunn 0))), one time stretched and fuzzed-out chord being bent back into shape endlessly, ornamented by a drawn-out slide guitar part and punctuated by the beeping of an answer-machine. As the track progresses, the fuzz overwhelms everything else to the point of collapse.
'Tinnitus The Night' is a chopped-out piece of churning rhythmic swirl with the feel of a set of windshield wipers attempting to wipe thick sludge off of a broken windshield, and is hypnotic to the nth degree.
'The Goat' is a black hole. A thick, slurring morass of atonal yet entrancing overdriven guitar reminiscent of early Earth if Dylan was stuck in a K-Hole, or a particularly evil version of the Melvins 'Roman Bird Dog' intro.
Following this with a track called 'Aspirin Forever' would seem like a great idea, until you realise that it really ISN'T going to soothe your head. 'Aspirin Forever' is a clipped loop comprised of a tautly plucked rhythm, a curious bird-like metallic tapping sound, what sounds like the beginnings of a fumbled funk chord and various creaking sounds, all bundled together and happening at exactly the same time. A real earworm of a track, it manages to irritate and engage all at once. Bastard. Final track 'Hotel Anhedonia' has a really thick, creamy textural thing goin' on. Seriously, the guitar on here sounds like you could take a big ol' bite out of it. Smothered in a wash of flanging, the main part here has a lazily lurching bluesy rhythm to it, topped by a tasty lick that has the feel of a particularly stoned Josh Homme. It's all terribly lysergic and laconic and perfectly lovely.
So, as you see, using minimal tools but a LOT of craft, Shepard has managed to make a record that cycles through a series of differing moods and hues – from shimmering beauty to the blackest depths of hell – and manages to actually succeed in taking the listener on that journey too. I can HIGHLY recommend the use of headphones with this record, but with two pieces of advice - Do NOT operate any heavy machinery under the influence of 'Dragonwizardsleeve', and don't make any fuckin' PLANS.
Oh, and incidentally, the flipside of my opinion on this record is that my other 'alf, in the next room whilst I was playing it, said that it made her want to kill me AND the guitarist as it was so insidiously repetitive.
So, there you go. Two opposing views from within ten feet of one another.
At first glance, it’s hard not to notice the band name. You may be tempted to assume that this is yet another band that takes themselves too seriously, but then you miss the glaringly obvious irony of the band name. The overusage of certain words in band names plagues music, and it’s refreshing to see a band take this approach. As you dig deeper, you will find that the band is actually the brain child and solo project of the legendary Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Roadsaw, etc.) which peaked my interest all the more.
This a drone/ambient doom album and is an interesting change of pace from the standard Small Stone releases. As with all drone music, this is a slow journey and not a mad dash to the finish line. With this in mind, Blackwolfgoat‘s debut album on the mighty becomes a lot easier to digest and more enjoyable.
With the opener, “Risk and Return”, the album starts off on a mellow note. The track begins with a repetative riff, but your patience is rewarded as the song continues on and gradually builds in complexity and tempo. Towards the end of the song, it starts to slowly fade into the next. This is one of those tracks that the beauty of it is evident after you listen to it in its entirety.
Next you have “Death of a Lifer” that starts the album’s journey into drone sound that will define most of the rest of the album while still maintaining the ambiance of “Risk and Return”. Like “Risk and Return”, this track gradually builds elements to create a full atmosphere of sound.
The next two songs, “Tinnitus the Night” and “The Goat” dig deeper into drone doom with “The Goat” reminding me heavily of Sunn O))).
Breaking from the drone sound of the previous 3 tracks, “Aspirin Forever” is essentially a noise track with some percussion that was missing from the album. After a short 2:46, the track then gives way to the final and perhaps my favorite track of the album.
“Hotel Anhedonia” is the final and longest track on the album clocking in at 10:21. This track is more or less what one would expect from Mr. Shepard. The track is a gentle, blues-influenced classic rock track that reminds me of The Eagles. This track makes for the other slice of bread on this very unique sandwich.
If you’re into drone music, open-minded about your music, or you’re looking to dabble into something a bit different, Dragonwizardsleeve would not be a bad place to start. The album is due to be released on October 12, 2010.
My first reaction when asked to review Blackwolfgoat was “Dayum, that’s a stupid band name. Are they cousins of Manbearpig, or something?” But despite the awkward moniker, Small Stone Records saw enough of something to sign these guys. The current home of such stoner legends as Acid King, Los Natas and the venerable Sons of OTIS knows a thing or two about heavy rock… But does Blackwolfgoat?
Opening track “Risk and Return” is a long, repetitive riff with a relaxed, mellow vibe. The song goes nowhere fast—or even slow, for that matter. Instead, it drags on for nearly 7 minutes. Sounds like the producer was so bored that he got up to play Duck Hunt near the end—and left the mic on in the booth.
“Death of a Lifer” is more of the same. Droning guitar riff? Check. Electronic beeps and boops? Check. Tempo changes, vocals, percussion? Blackwolfgoat don’t need none of those things! To their credit, fourth track “The Goat” does sound kinda like OTIS—at the end of their live set, when they put down their instruments and let the feedback ring out. (The sound guy usually cuts off the power before they hit nine minutes, though.)
Suffice to say that this album is a long, difficult slog, even though it only has six tracks. I’m glad I didn’t bother burning the digital promo to disc, as it would be a waste of a perfectly good CD-R. Al Gore has nothing to worry about here.
RATING: 2 (and that’s only because Small Stone re-released Acid King’s The Early Years earlier this year)
- Gruesome Greg
Being an entirely solo instrumental guitar venture, it’s clear right off the bat that Blackwolfgoat is never going to be for everyone, never going to be the band you put on to get the party going, not the drive fast, blast-it-out-your-window-on-an-open-highway American chronicle. Darryl Shepard, previously of notable Boston outfits like Milligram and Hackman (both also on Small Stone), helms and comprises Blackwolfgoat, and on his full-length debut, Dragonwizardsleeve, he reminds that loops, drones and noise aren’t necessarily relegated as tools only for hipster art students or freakout psychedelics. Somehow, this drone rocks.
Understand that’s a relative statement, but as Dragonwizardsleeve’s opening cut, “Risk and Return,” slowly fades itself out, one comes to understand in listening to it that the track does have structure, a gradual build, more like something off a King Crimson solo album than ambient drone. “Death of a Lifer” brings in distortion and a Neurosis Given to the Rising-type feel (the track I’m thinking of is “Origin”), but never seems settled on itself, even as the same riff cycles through the track with noises added on top of it. There’s an urgency here; a kind of hectic and unsettled feeling. The guitars (Shepard provides a couple) feel on-edge and are huge sonically where on any number of other ambient albums an understated minimalism seems to be the goal. Hearing the cabinet speakers rumble at the end of the track, that’s clearly not the goal for Blackwolfgoat.
The pun-titled “Tinnitus the Night” follows and keeps much the same atmosphere as “Death of a Lifer,” albeit with a somewhat busier execution. It is another distortion build that distorts even unto itself, and though the song is among the shorter on Dragonwizardsleeve at 4:18, it carries an atmosphere much heavier than its runtime. Notable that it fades on both ends, in and out, so that it seems to creep up on you as you listen. Blackwolfgoat is a sneaky project in that it injects complexity into these songs without seeming to do so, but some of the material itself also sneaks up on you.
If there’s any point on Dragonwizardsleeve at which I miss vocals or any other instrumental accoutrements, it’s “The Goat.” I’d love to hear it with a loose, single, rattling drum behind it and some tortured Khanate-style screams. It’s as close to “riffing” as Shepard comes in Blackwolfgoat, and it seems like it wants to teeter on the side of blackened doom more than drone or instrumental noise. Fuck it’s heavy, and true to the album’s form, it only gets more so as time goes on. At just under nine minutes, it’s a beast, and as Shepard adds a cutting layer of high-toned lead notes to complement the droning riff, I can’t call “The Goat” anything but the highlight of Dragonwizardsleeve. If even part of his mission was to somehow comment on the “kvlt” worship of acts like SunnO))), “The Goat” is where that happens. It is bleak and beautiful in equal proportion.
There’s some tapping percussion and cable noise on “Aspirin Forever” that doesn’t last long, which is fortunate, and closer “Hotel Anhedonia” is brighter in atmosphere, as Shepard offers a genuine, extended lead over a cycling riff, sounding like a smoky Hendrix jam recorded late at night. Funny how the opening and closing pieces of Dragonwizardsleeve are so different from the meat of the album, “Risk and Return” being more technically nuanced and “Hotel Anhedonia” being suggestive if not outright exploratory of the blues, but I guess when you’re the whole band you get to take your music in whatever direction you want and arrange it in the order you want. Maybe that’s what sent Shepard off to do Blackwolfgoat in the first place.
That, of course, is speculation. While Blackwolfgoat’s Small Stone debut is challenging, its lonely heaviness manages to cross the divide between desolate black metal, doom, drone and even some classic heavy psych at the end. This leads me to believe the album’s limited appeal – being solo, instrumental guitar – is offset by the sonic diversity and that those who don’t ordinarily get down with this kind of indulgence might be doing right by checking in on what Dragonwizardsleeve has to offer. Again, it isn’t going to be for everyone, but as a first outing, Shepard seems to have a remarkable vision in place of what he wants this band to be, and he carries it across with confidence and clarity throughout these six songs, which have just enough in them to keep the easily bored occupied and the willingly entranced under their spell for the duration.
- H.P. Taskmaster