Kongh Interview with David Johansson: Living Life in the Shapeless Shadows

Posted in Features on May 31st, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Listening back to it now, I think what I enjoy most about Swedish atmospheric doomers Kongh‘s second album, Shadows of the Shapeless (review here) is the potential it shows. The album, released last year in Europe on Trust No One and given American issue via Seventh Rule Recordings at the beginning of April, isn’t an outrageous standout from the scores of post-metal that has come up in the last half-decade or so, but the trio of David Johansson (guitar/vocals), Oscar Ryden (bass) and Tomas Salonen (drums) are able to infuse the recording with individualistic glimpses of creativity to come, and on that level, it’s a very positive record.

That, however, is about the only level on which it is positive. Sonically, it oppresses, seems to hold you down at the shoulders. Even in its most atmospheric moments, it crushes with abandon and is the kind of heavy that brings to mind images of giant unmanned machinations in some factory building a Babel tower to rip open the heavens. Massive, in other words. Fucking massive.

After much delay on my part (most but not all of it completely my fault), I finally got my crap together enough to fire off some questions to Johansson for an email interview. Of course, what I wanted chiefly to ask him was, “Your album sounds big,” but that’s neither a question nor a basis for discovering anything about Kongh‘s processes, so I did my best to avoid it and only failed a little bit.

Following the jump, the guitarist/vocalist fields queries about writing, recording, Shadows of the Shapeless‘ suitably bleak artwork, how the band came to play the Kuma’s Fest in Chicago and subsequently got hooked up with Seventh Rule, and whether or not more US touring is in the cards. Please enjoy.

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My Seven Favorite Barbecue Records, in Listening Order

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Here in the States, today is Memorial Day, which is basically yet another excuse for everyone to get their jingoism going and glorify war, blow fingers off with fireworks and blah blah blah. What it means to me is the official start of grilling season. True, I hate the heat and I have in fact been grilling all winter, but now it’s the season, which means eating outside, which means grilling music. Killer.

Because I’m all about sharing, here are my seven favorite barbecue records, presented in the order in which they should be played:

1. Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. What this says is, “I am here to grill. I don’t care what else happens in the universe, I am going to have a good time and that is that. Now rock with me as I cook this meat.” Perfect starter album.

2. C.O.C., Wiseblood. Like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, it’s a fun collection of songs, but Wiseblood is a little thicker sound-wise. It’s great to sing-along to, and the groove seems to run throughout the whole album, so it’s consistent too. A definite necessity.

3. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman. By now you’ve had a few beers and it’s time to let loose. Greenleaf‘s Agents of Ahriman is catchy, rocking and has a freedom to its sound that seems to be made for the outdoors.

4. Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf. I confess, I love this record regardless of the food and/or climate surrounding. I try to take it everywhere, so it comes out for grilling for sure. “Go with the Flow?” Come on, man. Can’t beat that.

5. Fu Manchu, King of the Road. The last of the real rockers on the list, it’s great to finish the meal with some righteous fuzzery, and for that, there’s nowhere to go but to Fu Manchu. If you’ve got ice cream for dessert, this’ll work with it.

6. Monster Magnet, Spine of God. You’ve rocked, you’ve stuffed yourself, you’re probably more than a little intoxicated and you feel like if you ever even see another burger, your heart will explode in your chest. Clearly you’ve yanked on the spine of god and it’s time for some penance.

7. Masters of Reality, Flak ‘n Flight. This is for your cleanup. When you’ve drunkenly insulted all your relatives or friends and they’ve left and it’s just you and the mess. You put this one on and sing along as you throw away paper plates, beer bottles and the bloody packaging that once contained the meat now blocking up your colon. It’ll help ease the pain.

I’ve also found that Enslaved‘s Ruun album is great for cleanups, so if it persists longer than Flak ‘n Flight lasts, you might want to have that on-hand for reinforcements. Or maybe you just want to sit on a plastic chair in the dark for a while. It’s good for that too.

Of course, if you’re in it for the full-day barbecue experience, you’re going to need more than seven albums, but hopefully this is a decent start. If you have any longtime favorites, leave a comment and let me know about them. You can never have too much grilling music.

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Stone Axe Chase Dragons Back to the Golden Years

Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2010 by JJ Koczan

One could sit for hours, either with one’s self or with others amenable to such a situation, and argue back and forth whether or not Port Orchard, Washington, classic rockers Stone Axe fall under the ever-expanding banner of stoner rock or not, but then you’d entirely miss the point. On the band’s second album, II (Music Abuse Records), they remind us that it’s not about genre or subgenre, not about classification, about overthinking it, about analysis unto death, but about getting together with friends, having a good time, and the enduring spirit of rock and roll.

To affect this revelation of purpose, multi-instrumentalist T. Dallas Reed and vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff (joined here part-time by bassist Mike DuPont and drummer Mykey Haslip) have made some of the least pretentious music ever to grace the eardrums of man. Stone Axe’s II oozes a brand of organic sincerity that’s generally either subservient to corporate shilling or undercut by ironic snickers, and they do it for the duration of the record and without wavering. Their warm, ultra ‘70s-styled rock is so specific in its mission that to even call out Thin Lizzy, Free, Grand Funk and any number of the other (of course Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin) foundational acts from whom they take inspiration seems superfluous. It matters so much less where this music comes from than how it makes you feel while listening.

Like summer.

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audiObelisk Transmission 005: To the Ruin of Man

Posted in Podcasts on May 29th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

NOTE: Gonna leave this post in the first spot for a couple days. New ones will appear underneath.

Since starting The Obelisk, I’ve made no secret of my unbridled fanboy status for all (or at least most) things Man’s Ruin Records. The now-defunct label headed by artist Frank Kozik put out some of the best music I’ve ever heard, and the bands released under the Man’s Ruin banner went on to influence an entire generation of underground rock, virtually defining and redefining The Heavy for the better part of a decade.

This podcast only scratches the surface of Man’s Ruin‘s impact crater. Some of the bands were Kozik discoveries, some were established acts he picked up for a release or two, but what is always assured with Man’s Ruin is that you’re going to get a work of quality, passion and genuine aesthetic. I can only hope Transmission 005 from the audiObelisk captures some of that. Like the banner above (made from an original Kozik poster), it was compiled in a spirit of reverence and with the utmost respect for those involved.

I didn’t exhaust my Man’s Ruin collection to put together all these songs, but also there are some things I just don’t own. Vinyl, for example. And Chrome. And Killdozer. And the first Desert Sessions. Nonetheless, these are all my personal rips from CDs and I think they’ve made for the best podcast yet. I’m optimistic you’ll agree when you download the file by clicking the image above, follow this link, or stream it on the player below.


Just because I found the timeline interesting, I included the years the albums were released in the track listing. We start off with Tummler in 2000, and you’ll find the rest after the jump…

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Frydee Red Fang

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 28th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

I was waiting to post this until I finished my interview with Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson. That was the plan. I was going to do the interview, which has been shuffled around the last week or so due to scheduling conflicts on both sides, then triumphantly post a Frydee video and call it a week.

Of course the interview hasn’t happened yet. It’s 11PM valley time and when I talked to Mr. Lalli earlier this evening he told me Cafe 322 (the restaurant he and cousin/bandmate Larry Lalli own together) was understaffed and he’d call me back. These things happen. I’m not upset. I watched the ball game and drank some wine. Life has been much worse.

The above Red Fang video was linked through StonerRock.com today, and it ruled, so there it is.

Those of you around this weekend, keep an eye on the site, as I’ll be posting the June 2010 podcast (we missed May, sorry, but we had the Dio-cast, so that ought to make up for it; certainly there were extenuating circumstances there) as soon as it’s made, hopefully tomorrow but Sunday at the latest. New podcasts rule, and if you missed the voting, well, you’ll just have to be surprised to see who came out on top.

I’ll also be around Monday (no Memorializing for me), so check in for regular updates, and next week we’ll wrap up the month — the numbers are close, so feel free to check in numerous times — give the numbers and post interviews with Kongh and Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod. Maybe even Mario Lalli if it all comes together. Here’s hoping.

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Culted Go Below the Rituals

Posted in Reviews on May 28th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

As the follow-up EP to their Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep debut Relapse full-length, Culted’s four-track excursion Of Death and Ritual is nothing if not aptly named. In the three originals – the closer is a cover of Swans’ “Whore” – the word “dead” or some variation thereof makes no fewer than 11 appearances. Interestingly, “ritual” only shows up once. I wonder if that’s why they ordered them thusly in the title. Otherwise, Of Ritual and Death would have worked just as well.

Much like they did on the full-length, on Of Death and Ritual Culted dwell in the bleak, dreary realms of blackened doom, like Khanate with a noise fetish. With the instrumental portion of the band located in Winnipeg, Canada, and vocalist Daniel Jansson in Gothenburg, Sweden, you might think there’d be some discrepancy or lack of cohesion in the execution of the material, but really it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. I don’t think “Spirituosa,” “Black Cough, Black Coffin” and “Dissent” would be any better off had Jansson been in the room while guitarists/bassists Michael Klassen and Matthew Friesen and percussionist Kevin Stevenson were developing the instrumental basis for the songs and adding sundry noises and percussions. The trio, who also operate as the black metal band Of Human Bondage, seem to have a pretty good handle on what they’re doing, and I doubt the files had to do much back and forth before the songs were finished.

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When Buried Treasure Gets Unearthed: A Reissue Roundup

Posted in Buried Treasure, Reviews, Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Thinking about Church of Misery‘s Early Works Compilation the other day got me in a reissue state of mind, so I thought I’d take a look at some other recent re-releases. Rest assured, there’s never a shortage. Dig it:

Goatsnake: This came up in my interview with Greg Anderson, but it’s worth mentioning here as well that Goatsnake‘s 2000 sophomore outing, Flower of Disease (originally on Man’s Ruin), has been reissued on Southern Lord. Unlike when they did I/Dog Days a couple years back, there’s no new artwork or bonus material, but Flower of Disease has been out of print for probably about eight years now, and if you never managed to get a copy of it, it should go without saying that doing so is a worthwhile endeavor. It’s not the classic the first album is, but it stands the test of time nonetheless, with “Easy Greasy” and “A Truckload of Momma’s Muffins” set to kick your ass with doomed out goodness.

16: In 2009, Relapse put out 16‘s underrated Bridges to Burn reunion album and sent them off on the road like they’d never left it in the first place. Now the label has repressed the Los Angeles noise metal band’s blazing first two albums, Curves that Kick (1993) and Drop Out (1996), which for my money are right up there with Buzzov*en‘s terminally fucked up sludge and anything Unsane were doing at the time.

16 has always been one of those acts that never quite got the mass attention they deserved, and it doesn’t look like that’s about to change, but for the few who will check them out (new artwork and all), Curves that Kick and Drop Out both prove to be ahead of their time. No word on reissues of 16‘s other two albums, 1997’s Blaze of Incompetence and 2003’s Zoloft Smile.

Jameson Raid: The obscure pre-NWOBHM act formed in 1976 and barely made it past 1982, but the ever-vigilant Shadow Kingdom Records has seen to it their work will garner new appreciation (such as mine) with the discography collection, Just as the Dust Had Settled. Vocalist Terry Dark has a little Phil Lynott inflection to his voice, but it fits well over the music, which is culled from 1979’s debut Seven Days of Splendour single, 1980’s End of Part One EP and the Electric Sun demo from 1982. The songs vary in quality (and lineup), but the essential elements of the band come across even with dated production, the early Priest-isms of shining through without hindrance. Like a lot of Shadow Kingdom‘s reissues, Just as the Dust Had Settled is going to find itself a small but passionate market appeal, but NWOBHM fanatics and other curious parties should be thrilled to get their hands on it.

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The Horror-Obsessed Doom of Hooded Menace

Posted in Reviews on May 28th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

[Please note: Pekka Koskelo plays drums and Lasse Pyykkö plays bass, guitar and sings on Never Cross the Dead. This information was not included with the album promo I received. Sorry for any inconvenience this mistake caused.]

Fuck me, this is heavy. One has certain expectations when one hears the words “Finland” and “death/doom” in the same sentence, given that the land of a thousand lakes is the same one that gave us Thergothon and Skepticism (funny how that nickname never caught on), and relative newcomers Hooded Menace, who hail from Joensuu, pick up the ceremonial death/doom mace and drive it right into any and all unsuspecting would-be worthy eardrums on their sophomore full-length, Never Cross the Dead (Profound Lore). Play slow, play loud, play horrific; they’ve pretty much got the formula nailed down.

The four-piece Hooded Menace made their debut in 2008 with Fulfill the Curse, which I haven’t yet heard, but listening to Never Cross the Dead makes me want to go back and find it, whether it’s the surprise sample scream on “Terror Castle” (spoiler alert) or the cement-drying pace of “From Their Coffined Slumber.” Vocalist Oula Kerkelä has a growl that could crack the earth, and it sits well on the thick metallic riffage of guitarist Lasse “Leper Messiah” Pyykkö (formerly of Acid Witch), and Hooded Menace find some of their most effective moments when the balance tips more toward the death metal side of death/doom. Don’t get me wrong, the plod works. Drummer Jori Sara-aho pulls off the ultra-slow crash/ride hits on “Night of the Deathcult” perfectly with bassist Antti Salminen rumbling beneath, and the droning riffs are flat-out killer, but Hooded Menace pick up the pace for a part here and there, and it sounds like Immolation on downers, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, rules.

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