Maryland Doom Fest 2017 Announces Lineup: Captain Beyond, The Skull, Wretch, Borracho, Earthride & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Maryland Doom Fest 2017 has announced its initial lineup, with legendary classic heavy rockers Captain Beyond in the top spot and performances confirmed from The SkullBorracho, BangLo-Pan, Apostle of Solitude, Beezlefuzz, Wretch, The Atomic Bitchwax, The Well and many, many more. The third iteration of MDDF is set for June 23-25 at Cafe 611 in scenic downtown Frederick, MD — that’s not sarcasm; Frederick’s actually pretty nice these days — and as someone who was fortunate enough to attend the second fest earlier this year (reviews here), and who still considers himself fortunate to have been there even though I couldn’t stand up, my camera broke and the trip cost an extra $900 in auto repair and required an extra trip to MD to pick up said car the next weekend (that same car died the day of this site’s all-dayer, by the way), I’m gonna just tell you outright it’s a good time.

The 2016 lineup gave the Eastern Seaboard’s longest-running doom scene its due and began to step outside those geographic confines a bit as well, bringing in acts like Mos Generator and Atala from the West Coast, Hollow Leg up from Florida, Wizard Eye down from Philly, and so on.

In 2017, organizers JB Matson (also War Injun) and Mark Cruikshank once again up the Maryland Doom Fest‘s stakes, including a pre-show the night before with the Sweet Heat, BeastmakerPilgrimValkyrieWeed is Weed and Spillage. One has to imagine there will be some shifts between now and next June, but the initial lineup announcement has been made for MDDF17, and you’ll find it below, accompanied by this year’s poster. I hope to make it back down, and I hope to rent a car to get there.

Mark your calendar for doom:


The Maryland Doom Fest 2017

June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701

Captain Beyond
Weed is Weed
Apostle of Solitude
Demon Eye
Brimstone Coven
Black Manta
The Skull
Wo Fat
Lightning Born
The Watchers
Hollow Leg
Iron Man
Dark Music Theory
War Injun
Thonian Horde
Witches of God
Black Tar Prophet
The Atomic Bitchwax
Serpents of Secrecy
The Well
Lifetime Shitlist
Burn Thee Insects
Faith In Jane
Old Blood
Place of Skulls
Sweet Heat

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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Halloween Special: Dead Witches Premiere “Mind Funeral” Video; Debut LP out Feb. 2017

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan


Some people are super-into Halloween, some people aren’t, but I think one thing we can all agree on is gargantuan lumbering doom riffing. Correct? Correct. Enter Dead Witches, who won’t be releasing their Heavy Psych Sounds debut album until next February, but for the Halloween-inclined, have decided to put together special preview for the record in the form of a video for the track “Mind Funeral,” which makes its premiere below. Loaded with creeped-out found and snagged footage of Ouija boards, devils, go-go dancers — Ms. Bettie Page herself even makes an appearance — and so on, it’s basically a mood piece showcasing the track, which brings together vocalist Virginia Monti of Psychedelic Witchcraft, drummer Mark Greening (With the Dead), guitarist Greg Elk and bassist Carl Geary for the first time as a complete four-piece.

And hey, pedigree is great, don’t get me wrong, and with Greening and Monti involved, Dead Witches have some. But that’s only going to get you so far without something distinct to offer, and that’s where it seems even smarter to me that the band and label would unveil “Mind Funeral” so early, regardless of the candy-quotient on the day, since it shows immediately that the band is looking to adapt familiar rolling-doom tenets to serve their own malevolent purposes. Their style is purported to be in league with cult rock, and we’ll see how that plays out across the album, but even taken on the level of its raw riffing and rhythmic lurch, “Mind Funeral” intrigues and makes me curious to hear what else they might have in store when their first full-length shows up, suitably enough in the deadest part of winter.

No word on a title yet for the LP, but there are a couple other song samples out there on the YouTubes if you’re inclined to follow the link below. In the meantime, delve into the clip for “Mind Funeral” here, and please, enjoy.

UPDATE 10/31:

Dead Witches announced this weekend that Greg Elk has passed away. No word yet on how this will affect the album release plans or the future of the band, but on behalf of myself and this site, condolences to Elk‘s friends, family and bandmates. Here is their statement:

Greg we still can’t believe you are gone. We will never forget the time you spent with us, the music that we made together and your incredible talent and sweet soul, that always had words of love for everyone, always ready to be better, always there for the band no matter what. You said to us once “thank you guys for this amazing experience”

Thank you Greg for everything
You are loved
And you will be missed forever
The music that we shared is there and is going last forever for us

Goodbye mate! See you on the other side!

Dead Witches, “Mind Funeral” official video

Halloween exclusive showing of Dead Witches’ “MIND FUNERAL”, taken off their upcoming debut album coming out in February on Heavy Psych Sounds. Haunting vocals, heavy riffs, fuzzed bass, savage drumming: Dead Witches will take you to another world, a world of darkness. Beware as the dead witches are coming to take your souls!”

Former member of Electric Wizard drummer Mark Greening (also of Ramesses, With The Dead) and vocalist Virginia Monti (Psychedelic Witchcraft) joined forces to found the heaviest occult psych superbeast to see the light this year, taking the shape of DEAD WITCHES.

Beware as the witches are coming to take your soul.

Virginia Monti – Vocals
Mark Greening – Drums
Carl Geary – Bass
Greg Elk – Guitar

Dead Witches on Thee Facebooks

Dead Witches on YouTube

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

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Desertfest Berlin 2017 First Announcements: Lowrider, The Cosmic Dead, Toundra, Satan’s Satyrs and Ecstatic Vision Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan


This was bound to happen. Desertfest Berlin 2017 has made its first lineup announcements. Already we’ve started to see Europe’s Spring festival season start to take shape, and as the German incarnation of Desertfest‘s London-based counterpart has already unveiled its first round of bands, it seems only fitting it should be Berlin’s turn. A return of Lowrider is notable, and frankly so are ToundraThe Cosmic DeadSatan’s Satyrs and Ecstatic Vision, but as someone who keeps holding out hope the vaguely-reformed Swedish heavy rockers will show up one day with a new album, the more shows they do the merrier. One often finds them paired with Dozer at fests — that was the case last time they did Desertfest, in 2013 — so maybe they’ll show up as well in some future announcement. Wouldn’t complain at seeing either again one of these days.

Desertfest Berlin 2017 is April 28-30 at the Astra Kulturhaus. Look for much more to come, including some headliner info next month teased below:


Desertfest Berlin 2017 – First Bands Announcements (Lowrider, Toundra, The Cosmic Dead, Satan’s Satyrs, Ecstatic Vision)


Last year’s Desertfest Berlin was a great success with people taking part from almost 40 countries all over the globe. You came, you saw, you conquered! Now it’s about time for all you riff-rockers, doom and psych-heads to pump up the volume in your earchannel, because here is the first band announcement!!

We are stoked to have Lowrider back for our 6th edition of the Desertfest. The band hasn’t play any shows since 2014 and so it´s greater to welcome them back at our festival in Berlin. Even if it’s not about cars, this combo is as powerful as a Chevy 356 engine and will surely tear down the walls of Astra.

Clear your mind for a musical journey with the beautiful soundscapes form the Spanish capital. This exclusive show will end up as one of those you’ll remember for years to come.

Hot rocking Virginia quartet Satan’s Satyrs is releasing a new album in spring and they asked themselves; “Is there any better way to celebrate this than doing it at Desertfest Berlin?” Of course not, so here they come.

Trippy sounds from Glasgow will emerge when these four guys hit the stage. With a menu raging from psych to powerful cosmic rock, so let’s just pretend we are the space cadets.

Bring back the 70’s would be a tempting phrase to use on Ecstatic Vision if you remember bands like Amon Düül II and Hawkwind. Forget all chemical substances, this music is a trip itself.

Stay tuned, by mid-November we’ll be back with a new announcement where some headliners will be unfolded. Last year’s 3-day festival tickets were sold out already early February, so don’t wait too long if you want to come along and experience some of the best acts in the genres of doom, sludge, psych, desert and stoner rock.

Lowrider, “Shivaree” live at Desertfest Berlin 2013

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Krobak, Nightbound: Pressure March (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan


[Click play above to stream Krobak’s Nightbound in its entirety. Album is out Nov. 4.]

Resonance is the key. Wherever Krobak decides to take their third full-length, Nightbound, at any given moment in terms of arrangement, whether it’s violin, wisps of effects-soaked guitars, or hypnotically rhythmic outside meandering across the four mostly-extended tracks, it’s a sense of resonance that ties them together — sonic and emotional.

The Kiev, Ukraine, outfit were last heard from on 2013’s Little Victories (discussed here) and began life as a side-project from Igor Sidorenko of Stoned Jesus looking to explore a more post-rock style of sound, basking in the influence of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the like on the 2008 solo outing, The Diary of the Missed OneSidorenko‘s guitar still takes the fore in what’s become a full-band lineup, though I wouldn’t minimize the contributions of bassist Asya, violinist Marko or drummer Natasha, who add to the depth and textures of this material and make Nightbound all the more of an immersive experience.

Its four inclusions — “Stringer Bell” (13:21), “No Pressure, Choice is Yours” (7:04), “So Quietly Falls the Night” (11:21) and “Marching for the Freedom We Have Lost” (10:13) — only total just under 42 minutes, but they are indeed immersive, and though there are some tense moments in “No Pressure, Choice is Yours” and the apex of “So Quietly Falls the Night,” the prevailing sensibility is patient, the prevailing mood melancholic, and Krobak never seem to lose the control they’re quick to establish on “Stringer Bell,” which curiously takes its name from a character on the tv show The Wire.

Sidorenko‘s guitar begins the opener and longest cut (immediate points) with circa-five minutes of trance-inducing guitar soundscapery. The effect that initial movement has on the listener isn’t to be understated. If approached with due patience — that is, so long as you know you’re not waiting for the song to “start,” and that you’re already in it — the subtle intertwining of layers, periodic washes of cymbals, and outstretching reverb are a joy in which to bask.

At about 2:30, it breaks to just the guitar again as the foundation is laid for what will become the remainder of “Stringer Bell”‘s run, a gradual march joined by soft ride and snare, and bass, with the arrival of what might be the violin (I’d also believe a horn of some kind) a couple minutes later. By then, the opener is moving toward the halfway mark and a build is clearly in progress.


More distorted tones push through in the second half, and there’s even a bit of faster thrust, some winding turns, and finally, a release of the tension before a final swirling surge, but Krobak never lose that patience in their execution, and as otherworldly effects noise rounds out the last minute-plus of “Stringer Bell” and fades to lead into the more immediately organic, string-led opening of “No Pressure, Choice is Yours,” that patience sets the tone for the entirety of Nightbound that follows.

As noted, the second cut is more active — at one point in the early going, it borders on surf rock — but it maintains a multifaceted feel with the guitar and violin working in and out of tandem with each other, serving similar purposes perhaps, but individually, as guitar, bass and drums gallop through the halfway point, Asya adding a choice fill right around 3:45, and finding common ground in the chugging build of the second movement, which ends cold and manages to feel short at seven minutes.

If one assumes a vinyl structure to Nightbound, that seven-minute runtime makes sense in fitting on a single, 20-minute side with “Stringer Bell,” and likewise, the pairing of “So Quietly Falls the Night” and “Marching for the Freedom We Have Lost” on side B works to fit not only in practical terms but thematically as well.

Two such evocative titles, positioned next to each other, invite the audience to provide their own context, but the prevailing vibe does so even more — a thoughtful moodiness, never quite despairing, but certainly wistful, almost nostalgic. Hard to position, but it runs deep in both the quiet early going and the later swell of “So Quietly Falls the Night,” which hits its crescendo in progressive guitar work and forward rhythmic charge, never out of control, never any more over the top than it wants to be before it gives way to the noise that once again rounds out.

Likewise for “Marching for the Freedom We Have Lost,” which, despite being instrumental like the rest of Nightbound actually finds Krobak naming the thing that has gone — in this case, freedom. In light of the conflict in the Ukraine over the last couple years, one can interpret that title in a number of ways, but sonically, it does indeed live up to being a march, if a subtle one. Natasha‘s drums form a consistent pattern around which the rest of the band moves, and even clearer than “So Quietly Falls the Night” or “Stringer Bell,” the finale holds to a linear pattern that proves to have an impact despite remaining somewhat understated as it peaks.

Most of all, it underscores the fluidity at hand across the release as a whole, the dreamy otherplaceness, and the underlying purposeful nature of the direction Krobak follow at any given point. Some might take it on just to get lost in its wash, and some might be drawn in by its ebbs and flows, but Nightbound stands up to multiple levels of engagement, and as looped snare leads the fading way out of “Marching for the Freedom We Have Lost,” it reminds once more of the balance between cohesion and sprawl that Krobak have brought to bear so organically throughout.

Krobak on Thee Facebooks

Krobak on Bandcamp

Krobak BigCartel store

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Freak Valley 2017: Salem’s Pot, Vodun, Kikagaku Moyo, MaidaVale and The Brew Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Cool to see Freak Valley 2017 get a little weird in its early going. If you want to do that, adding bands like Sweden’s Salem’s Pot and London’s Vodun is a pretty good way to go, and to be honest I doubt Kikagaku Moyo will disappoint as regards freakout either, so right on. The German fest made its first lineup announcement earlier this month with Ufomammut joining the bill, and it further bodes well that this batch arrives together, since it shows some of the sonic diversity of the fest in a way that a more piecemeal, one-at-a-time approach wouldn’t really be able to highlight. Nothing to do at this point but sit back and watch these fests take shape.

You got plans for next June? I don’t. Time to start daydreaming, I think.

Fest announcement follows:


We are ready to announce 5 more mindblowing bands to join UFOMAMMUT to the 2017 FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL line-up before online ticket sale will start Monday Oct. 31st 6pm cet. Here we go!!

Salem’s Pot [SW]
Horror-obsessed Swedish doom rockers will bring their wild and weird sounds, space synths swirling beneath chugging guitar riffs, Thin Lizzy licks, and Knate’s cracked vocal delivery over Freak Valley. Their show will be presented by Rockblog Bluesspot.

The Brew [UK]
We are truly honoured that finally UK’s Powertrio The Brew will play their finest 70ies-, Power- und Bluesrock at Freak Valley. A killer live act! We cannot wait!!

Kikagaku Moyo [JP]
Japanese Psychedelic Rockers Kikagaku Moyo call their sound “psychedelic” because it encompasses a broad spectrum of influence. Their music incorporates elements of classical Indian music, Kraut Rock, Tradit ional Folk, and 70s Rock. Most importantly their music is about freedom of the mind and body and building a bridge between the supernatural and the present. Improvisation is a key element to their sound. Kikagaku Moyo play music to ignite your soul and foster euphoria. Their songs will compel you to let your hair down, throw your arms in the air and smile.

MaidaVale [SW]
The Swedish female four-piece with influences ranging over decades, have created a sound based in the late 60’s/early 70’s music scene. With a modern take on blues rock the band have captured many audiences with their heavy and psychedelic vibes, and developed into a highly acclaimed live act with the ability to spellbind and enthrall audiences.

Vodun [UK]
V?D?N are a heavy, weird & soulful, afro-futuristic tribe from London – A raw and powerful slice of voodoo fuelled turbo-metal riffage not to be missed. Featuring two members of one of London’s finest underground bands, Invasion, who disbanded in 2011, Vodun have taken the basic blueprint of that band, added a huge West African voodoo influence and ramped up the intensity across the board. They rock like no one else, and are also a mesmerising live experience.

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL – 15th-16th-17th June 2017

Freak Valley Festival 2017: No Fillers – Just Killers

Salem’s Pot, Live at Sonic Blast – Moledo 2016

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Friday Full-Length: Core, Revival

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Core, Revival (1996)

Released some 20 years ago, Core‘s debut, Revival, is one of a whole league of records from its time and its place begging for a reissue. The mid-’90s were a strange time. I mean it. In the era of Clinton deregulation and corporate largesse, the music industry thrived, and it was the pre-filesharing peak of the CD era, but at the same time, there was almost no direction. The shadowy music-tastemaking illuminati — which at that point consisted of major labels, radio stations and print media, with some emerging online presence — had decided grunge was over after Kurt Cobain killed himself. It wasn’t, but whatever. Point is, there was no booming “Seattle scene” to take its place. In a way, one never came. But one positive turn that came out of the post-grunge music industry was that major labels, for a time, were willing to take a chance on rock bands. Nobody really knew why Nirvana took off — their biggest single was unintelligible; it defies the logic of pop — so there was a sense of, “Well, maybe this‘ll work too.” It’s how Kyuss got signed to Elektra. It’s how Monster Magnet got picked up by A&M. And it’s how A&R guy (and fellow WSOU alum) Jon Nardachone was able to get away with bringing New Jersey’s Core to sit alongside Clutch on Atlantic Records. Maybe stoner rock was the next great commercial movement?

It makes sense when one considers a style with attitude and weight in tone, and listening to Core‘s Revival — at 10 tracks and an hour long, plus 13 minutes of noise tacked onto the end of closer “Face” — they make a strong case for fuzz riffing as the answer for where to go next. The Long Branch trio of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan — now of The Atomic Bitchwax — bassist Carmine Pernini and drummer Tim Ryan worked with Billy Anderson on the album’s production and were probably at that point very much operating in Monster Magnet‘s shadow, as much of their scene would continue to do for the better part of the next decade. One can hear that influence in some of the spaced-out elements of opener “Way Down” — to say nothing of the “woo!” — or in the languid oozing of the 10-minute “Earth,” but Revival has as much crunch as it does cosmos, as the Alice in Chains-style melodies of “Cleargod,” the slower-nodding “Mosquito Song” and “Black Sand” showcased, and there were even a couple radio singles to be found in “Shift,” “Liquid” and “Kiss the Sun,” the latter of which remains a staple of The Atomic Bitchwax‘s live show. Topping an hour, Core had plenty of time to be multifaceted, and they were — here sounding like an East Coast answer to Fu Manchu or a precursor to Nebula, and there opening wide to the massive roll of “Sawdust” or “Face” itself, which remains a prescient blend of psychedelia, heavy fuzz and doom that was all the more a fresh blend two decades ago.

As it played out, stoner rock was not the next great commercial movement. Monster Magnet had a few significant hits, and Clutch got some airplay, but after a while, rap-rock and nü-metal took hold of the commercial sphere, labels became more inclined to acquire independent imprints than independent bands, and stoner rock became heavy rock, splintering into countless subgenres as it spread through a worldwide underground that only continues to flourish, never having really received a great major push. Maybe the timing was wrong. Maybe the marketing was wrong — 20 years ago, “stoner” was still a dirty word in the US. Maybe the line between grunge and those early stoner records — Acid King‘s Zoroaster, the stuff the Melvins were doing, Fu Manchu‘s No One Rides for Free, not to mention NJ acts like Godspeed (who were a little more metal but would spawn both Solace and The Atomic Bitchwax from their ranks) and Daisycutter (who had Tim Cronin and Ed Mundell in the lineup along with Jim and Reg Hogan, who went on to form Solarized) — was too thin and people wanted a radical shift rather than an evolution. There are any number of ways to look at this era. Like I said, it was a strange time. Bands were doing pivotal work, Core included — their 1999 follow-up, The Hustle is On, further solidified their trippy roll and was released by M.I.A./Tee Pee — and smaller labels like Man’s RuinTee PeeBong Load, and so on, were having an impact that still resonates, so while platinum records and massive airplay weren’t necessarily in the cards, one can only look at what heavy rock became and is still becoming and call it a success. As a representative of its epoch and a clarion to future development, Core‘s Revival is a shining document waiting for rediscovery.

Please note: Because the entire album isn’t on YouTube, I’ve had to make due with what’s available. The playlist above does not have “Way Down” included, but Revival is available used on the cheap via a variety of purveyors digital and physical, and you’re resourceful, so I figured it was better than nothing and those who wanted to dig deeper would be free to do so.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

Closing out the week with Core was a pick by a reader named Alex who checked in via comment to another post, so never let it be said I don’t take requests. Actually, he had a whole list from which I may pluck others. When was the last time you seriously considered the Celestial Season catalog in context? Exactly.

I don’t even know what kind of week this was, quick or not. I was trucking I suppose until Wednesday. Left work early to go to a doctor’s appointment up north, up by where I used to work before I got the Hasbro gig this summer, and decided to go visit my old office to say hi to the people there, who were never the problem. It was like 3PM by the time we left, and The Patient Mrs. and I wound up sitting in traffic for two life-sucking hours to get home. Reminded me of how much I hated making that drive every day. Really, by the time I got off I-95, I was cursing at people. Just awful.

Since then, absolutely dead on my feet. Just demolished. Wednesday night? Wreck. Yesterday, same. Today, I’m the kind of tired where I feel like I can’t even hold my head up without actually using a hand to help support it. I want to crumple into a pile of skin and sleep until I feel human again. Or at least as close to it as I ever get.

Today I’m working a little late as well, which I expect will be a different kind of torturous, but kind of needs to happen to make up the time. Need money, is the bottom line. Holidays are coming, I’ve taken a lot of days off for a dude who’s only worked at a place for like four months, so yeah. I’ll be at my desk if you need me. At least until it’s time to go pick the dog up at doggy daycare, which she started this week and to our pleasant surprise did not explode from the change in her routine. Hate leaving the dog home alone and she can’t come with me to this office, so there you have it.

Here’s what’s in the notes for next week:

Mon: Full stream/review of the Krobak record, an announcement about a certain festival in Maryland and a video premiere from Dead Witches.
Tue: Review of the Seedy Jeezus & Isaiah Mitchell collaboration, plus the new 11Paranoias video.
Wed: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard review.
Thu: Ten East review, because it hasn’t quite been desert-y enough around here lately yet.
Fri: Full EP stream from Balam-offshoot The Sweet Heat.

I’ll fill out with other stuff and there’s news to come, of course, but that’s at least what’s going to be reviewed as of now throughout the week. Could move around. It looked totally different yesterday morning than yesterday afternoon, so always fluid to some degree.

Anything else? How are you? I hope you’re good. Think this post is long enough?

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please enjoy. Drink good coffee, eat good food, be with people you love, rock and roll, and please check out the forum and the radio stream. Thank you for reading.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Shroud Eater & Dead Hand Team up for Split 7″ out Nov. 21; Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I’m a pretty easy sell at this point on Shroud Eater anything. Presumably the Miami trio’s forthcoming split seven-incher alongside Georgian doomers Dead Hand will serve as a precursor to their upcoming STB Records full-length, Strike the Sun, which was announced over the summer and (also) presumably will be out early 2017. Not a moment too soon, frankly, and while I don’t know if their inclusion on the split, which will be out on Southern Druid Records and is available to preorder now, will show up on the LP as well, if it does then it’s a preview for the record and if it doesn’t then it’s a bonus for those who seek it out. Either way, it’s not like you really lose. But then again, like I say, I’m a pretty easy sell.

Release date for the split is Nov. 21. Info follows from the PR wire:


Dead Hand and Shroud Eater join forces to deliver this sonic pummeling of a 7″.

Shroud Eater brings their Miami Sludge groove harder than ever on “Destroy the Monolith”. Dead Hand prove once again that they are masters of Doom with their track “Guaiacol”.

Pre-order ships on 11/21/16.

Brooding Miami riff sorcerers SHROUD EATER continue to deliver crushing alms to the altar of heavy. Riding high off the frenetic energy of their last release, the trio are releasing a newly recorded version of slow-churning wickedness in “Destroy the Monolith”. The song will be released on a split 7″ with Georgia’s tone lords Dead Hand. The split is set to be released 11-18-2016 via Jacksonville’s Southern Druid Records.

Starting as an idea in 2012, Dead Hand hit the ground running with a split 7 inch with Philly shredders, Repellers in Jan 2014 on Divine Mother Recordings.Mastered by Dan Randall of Mammoth Sound (Ash Borer, Noothgrush, Unearthly Trance), the split received stellar reviews. An EP in July 2014 and regional touring filled up the remainder of the year. In June 2015, Dead Hand released their first full length, “Storm of Demiurge” on Divine Mother Recordings in the USA and Third I Rex in Europe.

SHROUD EATER // “Destroy the Monolith”

Recorded by: Davin Sosa & Aric Meerbot / Guzu Recordings
Mixed & Mastered by: Aric Meerbot

Written & performed by: Shroud Eater
Jean Saiz – guitar, vox
Janette Valentine – bass, vox
Davin Sosa – drums, vox, synth

Art & Lyrics by Jean Saiz

DEAD HAND // “Guaiacol”
Recorded, mixed and mastered at Ledbelly Sound Studios by Matt Washburn

Art by Matt Mills.

Shroud Eater, Face the Master (2015)

Dead Hand, Storm of Demiurge (2015)

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Pelander, Time: Colour and Irony

Posted in Reviews on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan


It’s fitting somehow that Time should ask more questions than it answers. Six years ago, Witchcraft frontman and retro heavy rock innovator Magnus Pelander (also previously of Örebro forebears Norrsken) issued his four-song solo outing, titled simply EP, on Svart Records. It was an intricate, intimate and progressive offering, if short, and the context in which it arrived was wholly different from that which sees Time arrive via Nuclear Blast.

In 2010, it had already been three years since Witchcraft‘s third album, The Alchemist added elements of classic prog to the vintage stylization of 2005’s sophomore effort, Firewood, which had already cleaned up the band’s presentation from the live-feeling rawness of their 2004 self-titled debut (discussed here); still a landmark in helping define the tenets its subgenre continues to follow.

In 2016, in addition to Pelander taking his last name for a solo moniker as he puts forth the six-song/37-minute Time, Witchcraft released their fifth LP, the sprawling, fully-modernized, 69-minute Nucleus (review here), building on the massive shift in lineup and crisper production style that their 2012 return and Nuclear Blast debut, Legend (review here), began.

All the more curious, then, that Time should arrive with such stripped-down, minimal arrangements — a sweet combination of guitars, strings and voices on “The Irony of Man,” or the UK-style folk flute on opener “Umbrella,” or Pelander and his accompanying guest vocalist backed by acoustic guitar, bass and simple, intermittent percussion on the closing title-track — bearing his name as its banner, since it’s so far removed from the direction his songwriting has taken over the course of the last half-decade. Maybe that’s the point.

One way or another, Time presents the most willfully organic production in which Pelander has taken part at least since Firewood if not since Witchcraft‘s self-titled. I’m reasonably sure that isn’t how he’d want it measured, but it’s true nonetheless. Beginning with the warm welcome of “Umbrella”‘s folksy balladry and classic lyrical patterning — “Never thought I,” and so on — the album holds to a clean but natural sound that, at least in some degree, still translates to a full-band fullness. That is, though parts are quiet, minimalist, rarely is Pelander actually sounding alone on this solo album.

There’s flourish of violin and the aforementioned flute and backing vocals to go with the guitar, bass and percussion working under his lead on “Umbrella,” and a quick ’60s-style psychedelic electric guitar solo even shows up briefly before the acoustic guitar takes the fore once again in a final movement that seems to be referencing Black Sabbath‘s “Sweet Leaf.” Bottom line is it’s not like all Time is working from is Magnus Pelander and an acoustic guitar, but it has an intimate vibe in part due to personal-feeling lyrics like “Family Song,” which directly names mother, father, brother, sister and self as characters early on to a humble strum and some sweet fret work setting up a powerful vocal push as the track moves into its second half.

Some kind of keys — might just be piano — are introduced briefly but not out of place in their coming and going before the last verse section, and “Family Song” ends with a quieter feel, suitable for the transition into the soft open of “The Irony of Man.” The aforementioned backing vocals — I don’t know accompanies Pelander throughout, but her harmonies add enough to the tracks on which she appears that I’d give credit if I could — and another showcase of melodic prowess, this time over a more melancholic instrumental arrangement, driven once more by acoustic guitar but building outward with strings as it moves through toward the two longest cuts on Time, “True Colour” and “Precious Swan.”


Between them, “True Colour” (8:57) and “Precious Swan” (9:53) comprise more than half of the total 36:50 runtime of Time, and with Pelander having proved his mettle in structure and creating a full-album flow across five Witchcraft full-lengths, it’s hard to imagine their placement next to each other is an accident.

Back to back, they make for the most immersive section of the record — admittedly less if you get the version with the bonus track “Rebecka” — broadening the context with Spanish-style guitar and more active percussion before the halfway point of “True Colour” only to dip back into the quiet verse like nothing ever happened before stretching out with broader strumming, progressive string turns in the back end and a subtle, wistful finish with a ticking clock at close. The play in “Precious Swan” is “precious one.” The song starts with that line and individually plucked notes to set up a patient development that, once it starts unfolding with the drawn violin and more forceful vocals, does not seem to stop.

Tension rises with electric guitar leading to start-stop bass and far-back swirl of guitar that fades out to let piano and acoustics take hold at the halfway mark, building in volume and arrangement to a noisy cacophony that, at 6:29, finally cuts to let a strummed electric guitar play the central line of the song. Then, only then, does the acoustic figure return, Pelander once again crooning “precious one” or “precious swan,” whichever it might be. Strings come back in the instrumental meandering that follows, and there’s a sample of a woman singing in what seems to be Swedish — unsure who or when, but regardless the sense of nostalgia is palpable.

That emotional resonance would seem to stand in direct contrast to the actual last lines of the album, in which Pelander, with an audible sigh, declares, “I don’t want to live here/My enemy is time.” This comes after clever plays off words that rhyme with the title, delivered in succession, a flash of percussion, and a final guest vocal appearance that seems to tie everything together as it gives way to the final movement of subdued acoustic guitar that closes the song and the record as whole.

In its last moments, Time brings listeners back to that sense of asking questions. We don’t, in the end, know whether time is an enemy or an ally, as “Precious Swan” might lead one to believe. We don’t know whether it’s a sense of looking back on his career that caused Pelander to revive this solo-project, or if the very sound of Time itself is an acknowledgement of the role that notions of the bygone have played out in his work aesthetically over the course of his career.

And we don’t know how, or if at all, Magnus Pelander will continue to develop Pelander as an entity separate from Witchcraft, or if Time is a one-off as collections of its ilk sometimes can be; a collection of tracks accumulated over some measure of time — there’s that word again — that he felt it was finally time to get out of his system. All of these things, and more, have yet to be answered, but there’s value in the asking, and for as much as it revels in the uncertain, Pelander‘s Time is guided by the surest of hands.

Pelander, “The Irony of Man”

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