Here’s the Bio I Wrote for All Them Witches’ ATW

Posted in Features on August 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all them witches

A couple months back, I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to write the bio for the next All Them Witches album. Titled simply ATW, it’s a distinct shift in approach from the preceding Sleeping Through the War (review here) not only in that it marks the introduction of Jonathan Draper on keys, but also in terms of overall production. Helmed by guitarist Ben McLeod, it’s the first time the Nashville four-piece have recorded themselves for a full-length offering. It pulls back on some of its predecessor’s more elaborate, “produced” feel and instead captures the natural interplay between the four members of the band. In short, it’s a more live-sounding, stage-ready album. And obviously I jumped at the chance to write the bio for it.

ATW is out Sept. 28 on New West Records. You can stream the opening track “Fishbelly 86 Onions” at the bottom of this post, and thanks for reading:

all them witches atw

All Them Witches – ATW

By most bands’ fifth LP, the sound is pretty set. Parameters established. Refinement dissipated in favor of formulaic execution of what’s worked in the past. Fair enough. All Them Witches take a harder route.

In 2017, the Nashville four-piece offered what might’ve otherwise become their own template in their fourth album, Sleeping Through The War. Their second for New West Records following 2015’s mellow-vibing Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, Sleeping brought larger production value to dug-in heavy psych blues jamming with oversight from producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson).

After exploring new ground on 2013’s Lightning At The Door and 2012’s Our Mother Electricity as well as Dying Surfer, with Sleeping the band had arrived at something new, something sprawling, and grander-feeling than anything before it.

So naturally, in a year’s time they’ve thrown that all to the Appalachian wind, turned the process completely on its head and reversed paths: recording in a cabin in Kingston Springs, about 20 miles outside of Nashville on I-40, with guitarist Ben McLeod at the helm. Take that, expectation.

The result, mixed by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Kurt Vile), is the most intimate, human-sounding album All Them Witches have ever recorded and another redefinition of the band. Introducing keyboardist/percussionist Jonathan Draper to the fold with McLeod, bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler, the new eponymous record isn’t self-titled by mistake. It’s the band confirming and continuing to develop their approach, in the shuffle of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” the organ-laced groove of “Half-Tongue,” the tense build of “HJTC” and the fluid jam in closer “Rob’s Dream.”

It’s a reaction to being a “bigger” band. To playing bigger shows, bigger tours, etc. From the sustained consonants in Parks’ vocals to McLeod’s commanding slide in “Workhorse” and drifting melancholy at the outset of “Harvest Feast,” All Them Witches is there laying claim to the essential facets of their identity. And the urgency of these tracks – fast pushers and sleepy jams alike – is among their greatest strengths.

It’s a rawer delivery, as stage-ready as the band itself, and as ever, it captures All Them Witches in this moment. Is it who they’ll be tomorrow? Who the hell knows? Check back in and we’ll all find out together. That’s the whole idea.

TRACKLIST:
Fishbelly 86 Onions
Workhorse
1st vs. 2nd
Half-Tongue
Diamond
Harvest Feast
HJTC
Rob’s Dream

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr
Ben McLeod
Robby Staebler
Jonathan Draper

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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Six Dumb Questions with Bong

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bong

The extensive back catalog of UK drone ritualists Bong can be as foggy as the band’s sound itself. Between studio full-lengths, they have a history of EPs, splits, periodic compilations of EPs and splits, and no fewer than 23 live albums that goes back over a decade. Still, they’ve been pretty quiet since issuing We Are, We Were and We Will Have Been in 2015, with just two live recordings that followed. All the more reason to approach their 2018 long-player, Thought and Existence (previously discussed here), with a marked curiosity. What have the trio been up in what one assumes is a bunker deep below the surface of their hometown in Newcastle? From whence does the new album, delivered appropriately through Ritual Productions — with whom the band has worked since 2011’s Beyond Ancient Space (review here) — arrive?

As ever, Bong present more questions than answers. With the lineup of guitarist Mike Vest, bassist/vocalist David Terry and drummer Mike Smith explore a textural range that spreads out across two massive, immersive, compulsive tracks in “The Golden Fields” (17:31) and “Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius” (19:01), emitting a slow moving swirl that draws the listener in with its well-honed patience and fluidity. You’re hypnotized. They’re hypnotized. That’s kind of the whole point. Not to say it isn’t expressing a sonic idea, but that idea is to get lost in it. That’s the interaction Bong are seeking with Thought and Existence. It’s a communion between performers, audience and sound. Take that how you will — and some simply won’t — but it’s a journey one refuses to their own detriment.

Having been fortunate enough to see Bong perform most recently at Oslo’s Høstsabbat in 2016 (review here), I can recall vividly (or, you know, vaguely) the fog-drenched drone they brought to life on that stage, with Terry gurgling out his vocal parts as Vest and fill-in drummer Rich Lewis went exploring by oozing forth in any number of directions at once, taking the room through a massive, voluminous plunge into brain-melting tonal resonance. It was astounding to watch, and in the chants of “The Golden Fields” and the far, far-gone “Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius,” Thought and Existence captures the same sensibility and feeling of journey. It’s not just a willful slog in the front-to-back listen — actually, at 36 minutes, it’s a quite-manageable single LP, as was their last one; 2014’s Stoner Rock was their last 2LP, sort of — turn it up and it’s a physical manifestation of a near-opaque ethereality. Their methods well set at this stage in their career, Bong continue to explore places that most bands dare not tread and atmospheres from whence many a lesser act simply would not return.

In the relatively brief interview that follows, the band talks about some of the makings, processes and concepts behind Thought and Existence. Since rhythm and flow play so much of a role in what Bong does, I’ve left the Q&A largely untouched, and you’ll find it below only really changed from how it came in in terms of format, putting titles in italics and that kind of thing. The rest is as it showed up to preserve the integrity of it, and I sincerely hope it does just that.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

bong thought and existence

Six Dumb Questions with Bong

What is the interaction between volume and ritual for Bong at this point? Where does one end and the other begin?

Playing live. To create the great sustain live, everything must be cranked. Everything! This is a major part of the ritual. A forced meditation for the audience. Even when we are in the studio, this rule need to be enforced. Textures and tones are really important and can only be achieved through high volume. Capturing that in the studio is a challenge but can be ultimately rewarding.

Why Thought and Existence? What is the album exploring and what do you feel it says about the title ultimately? Is there a conclusion reached through the material?

Exploring metaphysical inner space, the past is a present memory and the possibility that all time has expired. The inward expansive nature of the mind and our senses. The brain is actually part of the external world, it is only through our senses that we can truly see or feel the mind. The title itself is expansive and cannot be summed up, but can be perceived in many different ways.

Tell me about writing “The Golden Fields” and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” When did you start putting them together and how did they begin to take shape?

“Tlön” was written over time, we played various different versions of this track over the shows we were at early last year. It formed over time, the main riff was then extended and tightened up at practice sessions before we went into the studio. “Golden Fields” was roughly planned, with certain stages. Lining up the vocals with the tempo, gaps in the percussion. All our tracks are formed over time, the more we play, the clearer the arrangement seems to be.

How malleable are Bong songs over time? If I went to a Bong show three years from now and heard “The Golden Fields,” would it be the same as on the album? How set are the movements of a given piece? How do you know when writing a song that it’s done?

The arrangements, if any, will stay the same.

When changes or intensities begin, they are totally improvised.

Lead or layered octave guitar harmonies will drift in and out of any track live. Wenever play the same track exact, however you can still distinguish between which track is actually being played.

Our songs are never finished, as long as we keep playing the song live it will always change. Tracks on our albums are recorded moments, they have no real set parameters.

Take me through the recording process for Thought and Existence. Of course you know what you want out a studio experience at this point, but how did these tracks come together during the recording? What’s most important for you to capture in a studio recording process?

It’s all about the initial live takes in the studio.

We play all together to set the right tempo, we try to use the second or third take of a track as a final version to keep the feel, playing a track over and over in the studio can bleed it dry. However, using the first take as a reference point it can make it easier to create dynamics, place vocals and possible arrangements. We spent a lot of time playing these tracks, so we knew the arrangements. So we allocated a lot of time for experimentation adding bowed cymbals, more stereo guitars and Harmonium/Melodeon drones.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Thought and Existence is out on May 4th on Ritual Productions We are currently booking shows for Europe and UK right now, so get in touch with us, we want play more shows this year. We [played] London at the end of June. More are being confirmed.
Also thanks to everyone who has picked up an LP/Tape/CD/t-shirt or just came to one of our shows. Means a lot to us. We never thought we would get this far.

Bong, Thought and Existence (2018)

Bong on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Three, 06.24.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland-doom-fest-2018-night-three-poster

Before I get started on the last night of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for the incredible work they’ve put into making this event something truly special. Think Maryland was ready for a festival to help define and codify its generations-spanning underground scene? Maryland Doom Fest has done so in four years’ time, and not only has it helped give an understanding to what Maryland doom is, but it’s working actively to broaden those horizons as well. And its reach is growing. Not only in bands. Last night the dude standing to my left was there with friends from Portland, Oregon, and to my right was a handful of folks from Albuquerque, New Mexico, all packed right at the front of the stage. It’s growing, and quickly.

But as Maryland Doom Fest enters what might be its Golden Age in presenting shows people will talk about years later — “ah yeah, were you at Doom Fest when Windhand played?”, etc. — the event has also kept its head on its shoulders about the work in progress. It’s a grounded experience, very much of its place, and a thrill to be able to return here and see it, especially after missing last year. I very much hope to be back to Frederick and back to Cafe 611 in 2019.

I don’t mind telling you I rolled into the venue in time to catch the first band feeling like I’d had my ass kicked up and down 6th St. already — because I had, two days running — but the momentum of the final day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 was as thick as the riffs and it was a pleasure to be shoved along to a riotous finish.

Happened like this:

Gateway to Hell

Gateway to Hell (Photo JJ Koczan)

Baltimore natives Gateway to Hell started a few minutes late, which unless I’m mistaken resulted in a shortening of their set. If so, all the more a bummer, because when they were done, I wanted more. They made their debut last year with the EP, Clovers (review here), and though I had a more metallic impression of them in my mind from that going into their set opening the last day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, with an orchestra of effects there was an experimentalist psych edge to the guitar work of Alex Briscoe that blended with straight-ahead rhythms from bassist Eric Responsible (who wins the weekend as regards surnames) and drummer Dan Petrucelli, all of which gave frontman Jerrod Bronson ground to belt out lyrics over top. They had intense moments to be sure, but I wondered if their next release might bring more of that weirdo sensibility to bear in their sound. Fingers crossed. It worked really well on stage.

Bedowyn

Bedowyn (Photo JJ Koczan)

Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Alex Traboulsi, guitarist Mark Peters, newcomer bassist Channing Azure and drummer Marc Campbell, Raleigh, North Carolina’s Bedowyn were about as close as Doom Fest got to black metal this year, and well, it was pretty close. Bedowyn, who got their start in 2011 and have an EP and full-length under their collective belt, blend that genre with a handful of others — thrash, classic metal, heavy rock, and so on — to conjure an aggressive but still poised sound, and Traboulsi‘s vocals turned from screams to sort of cleaner shouts while Campbell‘s drums held together all the part changes and stylistic turns. They went on early, so got an extra five minutes to play and made the most of it as a standout coming from someplace different than just about everything on the bill, which, again, was packed the whole way through. Also, if I remember right, I was told Campbell played drums with two broken fingers, thereby earning immeasurable bonus points. So there’s that too.

Saints and Winos

Saints and Winos (Photo JJ Koczan)

I guess everyone was on the 4:15 doombus to Frederick, because all of a sudden I turned around and the room was was pretty full for Saints and Winos from Rochester, New York. Mixing clean and harsh vocals, they tipped hats to more extreme and sludgy sounds, but had their basis in heavy rock and roll and a somewhat classic style, with plenty of low end fuzz and metallic swing very much in the spirit of the weekend in those terms and as regards general ease of pace. Their debut album, the all-caps WE RISE, came out late last year and featured three-part harmonies from guitarist Joe Dellaquila, bassist Amanda Rampe and drummer J.B. Rodgers on songs like “Great Wall,” and there was some of that on stage as well but it didn’t quite come through the house P.A. with the same kind of balance. Hazards of being the third band on the bill with complex arrangements. They were engaging enough to make me dig into the record anyway, and while there’s room to grow in their sound, it was plain to hear that potential during their set.

Book of Wyrms

Book of Wyrms (Photo JJ Koczan)

Look, I don’t want to say classic doom will never die, because let’s face it: everything fucking dies. Someday the ocean is going rise up and eat us all about 30 seconds before the asteroid hits and splits the planet in two, only to be later consumed by the sun, also dying, so yeah. Classic doom will die, but it sure as shit ain’t dead yet. Book of Wyrms made an intriguing opening statement with 2017’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), which came out via respected tonal specialists Twin Earth Records. The lineup of vocalist/effects-bringer Sarah Moore Lindsey, guitarists Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven dug into traditional stoner-doom vibes that were, indeed, a pleasure to witness, and their potential was writ large over their time on stage in much the same fashion as on the record. I don’t know if it’s the balance of samples vs. riffs or doomed aspects and more heavy rock roll and melody in Lindsey‘s vocals, but there’s something waiting to be tapped in their sound that, if they get there, will make all the difference for them. As it was, they carried the room with ease.

Sierra

Sierra (Photo JJ Koczan)

What a way to start a tour. And what a tour to start. Canadian three-piece Sierra obviously enjoyed launching a run of shows as they did last year at Maryland Doom Fest 2017, because they were doing the same thing all over again. This time, they’ll be out supporting fest-headliners Weedeater, and as they’ve been a steady presence on the Tone Deaf Touring circuit the last several years — they’ll also be at de facto sister fest Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh this September — they’re tight enough in their delivery to have a professional sheen. They’re a tricky band as well, because it’s easy to watch them and say, “Okay, heavy rock, fair enough,” but that’s not it. There’s more just under the surface. To say Rush is a lazy comparison based on the simple fact of their northern origins, but they’re more prog than they let on, and they work smoothly in tipping that balance back and forth between the straightforward and the more complex. Of course, that makes them more exciting to watch, since they’re neither purely clinical nor just another collective bearing riffs, but instead offer something more varied between the two. It was my first time seeing them, and they were better than I knew, making a highlight of “Rainbows End” before finishing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Into the Void.”

Curse the Son

Curse the Son (Photo JJ Koczan)

However, I knew damn well that Curse the Son were going to be incredible. Perfect band for the setting, great slot, a room that would just bounce their volume off the walls. Yeah, it was gonna work out. And it did. It’s been a little bit — more than I’d prefer, certainly — since I last saw the Hamden, Connecticut, trio, and in that time, they’ve released their third album, Isolator (review here), signed to Ripple Music and brought in drummer Robert Ives alongside bassist/backing vocalist Brandon Keefe and founding guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, so yeah, it’s been reasonably busy. Another band Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is sharing with Descendants of Crom, they also appeared at this Spring’s inaugural New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and as Vanacore announced from the stage, they’re working toward a new album for early 2019. “Huzzah” would be putting it mildly. They were the first band all weekend for whom I removed my earplugs and let go a little bit to headbang and really take in. A lot of Maryland doom resides in a mid-paced groove. Curse the Son play slower and lower, and that nod was exactly what my weary soul needed. With Vanacore‘s tonal morass and vocals cutting through, older cuts like “Spider Stole the Weed” and “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” were familiar and welcome, and though he had some rather significant shoes to fill, the swing and intensity Ives brought to the drums was a dead-on fit. They don’t really tour, but still, theirs was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend, and if you’re reading this and you ever get the chance to see them live, do it.

Backwoods Payback

Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)

Under general circumstances, I’m not one to gush, but I tell you know lie, I went up to each member of Backwoods Payback individually — to guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson, each separately — and told them how incredible their new album, Future Slum, is. I don’t even know how many times the word “awesome” left my mouth, but needless to say it was an embarrassing number. The thing about it is, they just absolutely nailed it. Same could easily be said of their set at Maryland Doom Fest 2018. Playing new material and old after opening with “You Don’t Move” from their most recent outing, 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), they absolutely laid waste to Cafe 611. And it’s for the same reason: everything has clicked. The songs, the lineup, the performance, the presence — it’s all in the same place and they’re experienced enough and smart enough to throw it at the audience in just the right way. And the conviction from all three of them. Plenty of bands this weekend meant what they were doing. To be blunt, nobody was phoning it in. But with Backwoods Payback, it was another level entirely, and when Cummings jumped off the stage toward the end of the set and shared the mic with a couple kids in the crowd who knew the words, it felt like a moment that encapsulated the band’s capacity to hit hard and still translate that their conviction into a meaningful experience. I’ll have more to say about the new record and I’ve already made plans to see them again next month, but this one was a landmark not to be forgotten anytime soon.

Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova (Photo JJ Koczan)

I knew Caustic Casanova were underrated, and seeing them for the first time, I guess I was interested to find out if I could find a reason why. Their sound is certainly accessible enough; the Washington, D.C./Frederick trio play a style of heavy rock that in part feels drawn from ’90s college/art rock weirdoism and part drawn from a desire to mash that against sonic pummel and punker drive, but they’re also a thoughtful band. Each part has its purpose, and even in their delivery live, there was a sense of focus that pervaded what they were doing. It was fun to watch, definitely, but there was a strong intent there — nothing felt like an accident, however experimental it may have been in the composition. One knows they’re Melvins fans because they did a cover of “Cow” on their latest 7″, but their style has much more to it than just post-Buzzo riffing and tryhard avant gardeship so often resulting from that influence. And if Caustic Casanova are underrated, the reason is precisely because they’re not easy to pin down. They’re a dynamic, complex trio given to deft rhythmic turns and an indie aspect to complement/contrast their heavier elements, and they don’t fit into any single genre tag necessarily beyond the blanket “progressive heavy rock,” which is a pale descriptor for the actual depth of character in the music they make.

Duel

Duel (Photo JJ Koczan)

The rest of the night would be given to riotousness, and Duel were the start of that. Up from their home in Austin, Texas, this would mark the largest tour they’ve undertaken in the US, but they come into it with multiple European stints on their CV. Recently also announced for Heavy Mash 2018 in October (info here), their latest release is actually a live album called Live at the Electric Church (review here) that Heavy Psych Sounds put out as a complement to their two to-date studio LPs, 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and from that, I thought I had a pretty decent idea what to expect. What took me by surprise, though, was the energy behind what they were doing. They’re classic heavy rock in their stylistic root, but rather than present it as some staid relic to be showcased like a museum piece under glass, they instead break that glass with their bare hands, smear the blood over their faces and proceed to capture the dangerous spirit that drove the earliest days of riffery in the first place. Actually, they do more than just capture it. They make it their own, so that this sound so often associated with the past becomes something inextricably forward thinking. I dug the records, so wasn’t surprised to be into the live show, but the sheer vitality of it was staggering. They made it a celebration.

The Midnight Ghost Train

The Midnight Ghost Train (Photo JJ Koczan)

Their last show. Heavy rock and roll loses one of its most potent live acts in The Midnight Ghost Train, who made Maryland Doom Fest 2018 the occasion for their final gig. Ever? Maybe. One has learned time and again never to say never in rock and roll, but the band made it known in April they were calling it quits, and this was their version of going out with a bang. Did you ever get to see The Midnight Ghost Train? It’s a question I can see myself asking in conversation for years to come — they are a litmus test for music and performance as a kinetic force, and a comparison point to which few will be able to live up. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and ending with longtime drummer Brandon Burghart (I don’t know what else he’s got going, but I can’t imagine any band not wanting him in its lineup) and relative newcomer bassist Tyler Harper (also of Capra), they were fury incarnate with a bittersweet underpinning. I’ve watched The Midnight Ghost Train shows for a decade, and I tell you with no reservation that they’re among the most powerful heavy rock bands I’ve ever seen. Moss transforms into a shuffle-blues madman, Burghart‘s swing is nigh-unmatchable, and Harper stood toe-to-toe with the guitar, which is saying something. They will be missed. But they went out as they always were — on fire — and I stayed up front the whole time and felt fortunate to be there to see it, as I think did everyone else in the room. They were a big part of what made the day so special. And even if they get back together at some point, years down the line or whatever, the impact of this night, this set, stands as a monument to who they were as a group and Moss‘ realized vision of heavy, funky, bluesy righteousness.

Weedeater

Weedeater (Photo JJ Koczan)

Well, if one band over the course of the three-day event was going to ignite a genuine mosh, it might as well be Weedeater, whose tonal dominance was evident from soundcheck onward despite “Dixie” Dave Collins breaking a string on his bass. Years of near-constant touring have given North Carolina’s Weedeater a reputation that well precedes them, and though it had been years since I last caught them, I knew the lumbering sludge that was about to unfold as soon as they hit into “God Luck and Good Speed” to open their set, with guitarist Dave Shepherd and drummer Carlos Denogean doing no shortage of the heavy lifting when it came to rolling out massive, lumbering nod. I’m too old for that slam-dancing shit, so I hightailed it from the front of the stage on the quick, but Weedeater left no question as to why they were headlining. What the hell else could possibly follow them? They’ve made a career on sounding unhinged, and even down to Denogean wailing away at his kit, they lived up to that, but they’re long since veterans, too, so they’re not just fucking around. They’re professionally fucking around. Good work if you can get it. The crowd knew the set the whole way through, and though Weedeater are coming up on due for a follow-up to 2015’s Goliathan (review here), which they’ve basically been on tour supporting since it came out, their command of the stage wasn’t something that just happened. It was whittled down from the years of grinding on the road they’ve done. Worth it? You’d have to ask them, but watching them play for the first time in a long-enough while, they looked like a band that made themselves headliners the hard way, and who have earned every accolade, every top slot, every laudatory hyperbole they’ve gotten. Like so much of the festival that led up to them, they were the right band, right time.

I saw and met a lot of really wonderful people this weekend who had absurdly nice things to say about this site and whatnot, from the Horseburner guys to hanging out with Mike from Backwoods Payback and Leanne Ridgeway from Riff Relevant, to seeing Paul-forever-to-be-known-as-MadJohnShaft and talking about the various European fests he hits, Dave Benzotti, Erik Larson, Earl Walker Lundy, Ron Vanacore, Deanne Firkin, Billy from Philly and the gents from The Age of Truth, Mark and Pete from ZED, Uncle Fezzy, Darren Waters, Dee Calhoun, Shy Kennedy, Pat Harrington, the dudes from Bailjack, Steve Moss, Melanie Streko, Lisa Hass, Chuck Dukeheart and the Foghound gang, Mat from Castle, Doomstress Alexis, Mark Schaff, Justin from Molasses Barge, Brenna from Lightning Born, on and on and on.

Thank you is my point. People say incredible stuff about this site, and I can’t ever really let myself hear it, but I’m happy if someone feels positively about a thing that happens here. Every now and then I do too. This weekend was one of those times. Thank you for reading and being a part of it.

It was five and a half hours north in the car when I let out of the Super 8 in Frederick to get to Connecticut, which is how this review ended up being later than I’d prefer, but so it goes. Before I end the post, I need to send a special thanks to The Patient Mrs., whose management and running point on The Pecan the last few days made this trip possible in the first place. That’s a hard job, even more for her than for me, and I owe her eternally for her efforts in allowing me to pursue crazy ideas like, “so I’m gonna go to Frederick for a weekend and hit Doom Fest you got the baby okay cool thanks.” It means more to me than I can say.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again all.

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Two, 06.23.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night two poster

This scene is staggering. In terms of enclaves of hard and heavy, Maryland doom might be rivaled only by Floridian death metal and New York hardcore for longevity, and I’m pretty sure neither of those dates back to the early ’70s. Think about that. For almost as long as there’s been an idea of “heavy,” there’s been Maryland doom. And the number of lifers in bands and out boggles the mind. At best, I’m an interloper here, and I’d never claim otherwise. Every year or two or three, I’m lucky enough to come down for a fest or something like that, poke my head around and be humbled by the spirit that lives in this place. To actually be a part of it? I can’t imagine.

Maryland Doom Fest has taken on the responsibility not only of representing its native creatives, but in providing the scene a bridge to the outside world as well. The second day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 did like day one and branched out in geography and sound, the scope of the festival increasing each year even as it maintains its ties to the place whose banner it flies. There’d be plenty of doom, but noise and heavy rock as well, metal both tangible and intangible, and more besides. You bet your ass it’s overwhelming. Maryland Doom Fest comes but once a year. Gotta make it count.

Another rainy day in Frederick set the gray-sky tone for a bill that would start out dark and work its way to the murkiest finish of all with Windhand headlining. Here’s how it happened:

Electropathic

Electropathic (Photo JJ Koczan)

As with Unorthodox last night, the new band fronted by Gary Isom, guitarist in Weed is Weed and former drummer in Spirit Caravan, Pentagram, Valkyrie and others, is a cross-generational affair. Along with drummer Ronnie Kalimon (formerly of Asylum, Unorthodox, etc.), Electropathic features young bassist/backing vocalist Zak Suleri and lead guitarist Eli Watson, both of Et Mors, and with Isom in the frontman role, they ran through a set of classic Maryland doom. Defined in no small part by their lack of pretense, they seemed to still be feeling out where they were ultimately headed as a band. They formed in the back half of last year by all appearances, so while none of them is a stranger to the stage, they’re in the process of developing their chemistry and sound. Likewise, Isom was still internalizing his position at the fore — even in Weed is Weed, he’s off to the side of the stage. He held it down though and their riffs resounded like a clarion to the converted still making their way in — time to go to church, school, whatever. Just time to go.

Molasses Barge

Molasses Barge (Photo JJ Koczan)

Hailing and hauling from Pittsburgh, Molasses Barge reaffirmed the connection between Steel City and Maryland doom that’s been there since the days of Dream Death‘s original run and probably even before that. The five-piece released their self-titled album in 2017 on Blackseed Records and had songs from that and new material in tow, which frontman Brian “Butch” Balich announced from the stage saying drummer Wayne Massey “calls this one ‘Tin Snake,'” or something thereabouts (hard to read the notes, sorry if I’ve got the title wrong). Balich is a formidable presence on his own, as he’s proven over the years in Penance, Argus and most recently Arduini/Balich, and in Molasses Barge he sets his powerful voice the task of cutting through the low end tone rollout from guitarists Justin Gizzi and Chuck Forsythe and bassist Amy Bianco that, presumably is what gives the band its name. Classic heavy riffs and a touch of metal underpinning, they were unsurprisingly met with welcome by the early crowd, and brought out Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun to co-front a cover of that band’s “On the Mountain” to pay righteous homage to founding guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III, who passed away earlier this year.

Shadow Witch

Shadow Witch (Photo JJ Koczan)

I said as much to vocalist Earl Walker Lundy after their set, but I’ve always sensed something a little weird in Shadow Witch. Across the Kingston, New York, four-piece’s two albums to-date, last year’s Disciples of the Crow (review here) and 2016’s Sun Killer (discussed here), there’s been an edge of something standing them out from the pack. Having now seen them live, I feel like I have a better sense of what it is. In no small part, it’s Lundy himself. He carries across his vocals with utmost conviction and purpose, and backed by bassist David Pannullo, guitarist Jeremy Hall and drummer Doug Thompson, he ran his voice through a range of effects and performed barefoot — a bravery in itself considering the amount of spillage I’ve seen on that stage over the last two days — as free in is movement physically as his voice was to carry across the songs. They dwell in a between-genre space and remaining excitingly difficult to classify, but what matters is they carried their passion over to the audience, who met it with welcome. Good band. Better band than people know. Better band than I knew.

Doomstress

Doomstress (Photo JJ Koczan)

Speaking of bands I should’ve seen already, I went into Doomstress‘ set with the distinct impression that their recorded material to-date has yet to do them proper justice. They tour regularly on week and week-plus runs and had been on the road for four nights already en route to Cafe 611, so it seemed likely the Houston four-piece would be on top of their game. Not to toot my own horn, but I was right. They’re a better band than they’ve shown on either of their short releases. It’s a question of balance in their sound. Not just between tonal heft and aggression/attitude or the commanding stage presence of Doomstress Alexis on bass and vocals with guitarists Brandon Johnson and Matt Taylor and drummer Buddy Hachar (also of Greenbeard), or of between the classic and the modern, but between the actual instruments themselves. The live wash of tone suits them, with Alexis‘ vocals cutting through, where on their recordings thus far there’s more separation of instruments. It’s dirtier live, and for the high quality riffs they play, that dirt fits really well. Especially coupled with the fact that their performance was so tight, it was like they were daring the crowd to match their energy level.

The Age of Truth

The Age of Truth (Photo JJ Koczan)

Another band it was my first time seeing (that’s five in a row!), Philly four-piece The Age of Truth had been hanging out all weekend and getting down with some shenanigans the first night of Maryland Doom Fest, but when they got on stage, it was all business. Well, mostly business. One seems to recall vocalist Kevin McNamara saying something before they went on about taking his shirt off and rubbing his nipples on the microphone — it didn’t happen, though it might’ve been an interesting bit of performance art; “what do those nipples signify?” and so on — but with the start of the set, he, guitarist Mike DiDonato, bassist Bill Miller and drummer Scott Fressetto launched into the most noise-rocking set the festival has thus far featured. Their blend of heavy rock groove and crunching tones and riffs made their Kozmik Artifactz-delivered debut, Threshold (review here), an aggro joy, and their live interpretation of those songs as well as the new cut “Palace of Rain” was all the more engaging for the ferocity of its realization. The slow-rolling-int0-quicker-shuffle of “Caroline” was a highlight, but I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Honey Pot” or anything else either. With an injection of melody into the newer stuff, they left some intrigue as to where they might be headed — a proper tease of something to watch for. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out.

Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus (Photo JJ Koczan)

Before Switchblade Jesus took the Cafe 611 stage, I was asked by Borgo Pass drummer and all-around-excellent-human-being Joe Wood what they sounded like. The first two words that came out of my mouth were “Texas” and “riffs.” To be fair, that’s not by any means all the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert, bassist/vocalist Chris Black and drummer Jon Elizondo have to offer, but if you’ve never heard them before, it’s a start. They made an encouraging self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 and followed up last year with a contribution to Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series (review here), which took the foundation of that initial offering and expanded it significantly, pulling back on some of the burl in favor of a more nuanced approach. Their set in Maryland? With Calvert and Black sharing vocal duties and Elizondo pounding away behind, they rose to the occasion. In front of the stage, the crowd headbanged and raised fists and dug in nearly as much as the band itself, whose set was flawless near as I could tell. I’ve seen them twice now, been impressed both times, and could only expect that trend to continue for the next round, whenever that might be.

Foghound

Foghound (Photo JJ Koczan)

The weekend’s emcee, Dave Benzotti, choked up in reading his intro to Foghound, which also served as a remembrance of those the Maryland doom scene has lost over the last year, including bassist Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound (also Serpents of Secrecy, ex-Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.), and reasonably so given the tragedy of the circumstances of his passing. The inevitability of that loss working its way into the current chapter of Foghound‘s life as a band was thick as the Baltimore four-piece got going, but if they were working toward catharsis, they were doing so with volume and intensity as their means. Their third album, Awaken to Destroy,on which Forrester performs bass and new bassist Adam Heinzmann contributes vocals alongside those of drummer Chuck Dukeheart III and guitarists Dee Settar and Bob Sipes, is done and in the can, and they played material from it both during their own set — the title-track — and afterwards through the P.A., which went unnoticed by many by Dukeheart later explained was a way to get Forrester‘s playing heard even if people didn’t realize they were hearing it at the time. As they also played with a portrait of Forrester signed by many with messages of love (I didn’t have the courage), his presence and absence were both deeply felt by the room, but the music was a fitting tribute and a comfort alike.

Cavern

Cavern (Photo JJ Koczan)

Prog prog prog. Also, prog. It’s fun to watch a band who so delight in being bizarre or outside the norm, and while local instrumentalists Cavern were for sure the odd men out on the bill, that suited them remarkably well and I can only imagine it wasn’t the first time they’ve found themselves in that position. Drummer Stephen Schrock played a kit with his toms out flat before him while Zach Harkins ran his guitar through one of the most elaborate pedal boards I’ve seen this weekend and still had room on stage for a Moog to add atmosphere to the intricate and complex songs they played. Denizens of Grimoire Records, they were a perfectly timed departure. Following Foghound with another straight-up rock band would only be doing said band a disservice, but Cavern were coming from somewhere else completely, so there was no real comparing the two outfits. A jolt to the flow of the night that only served Cavern well, since with all their looped parts, woven-through noise and underlying groove, “jolt” seemed to be the whole idea. It would be all-go riffing from here on out, but whether one considers them on their own merits or in the context of the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 lineup, their efforts toward the bizarre were duly appreciated.

The Watchers

The Watchers (Photo JJ Koczan)

The second Ripple Music act on the bill to have made the trip from the Bay Area behind ZED, four-piece The Watchers delivered one of the most professional sets I’ve seen so far this weekend. I mean, The Obsessed were pro-shop, right? And so were ZED, since they’ve been mentioned, but The Watchers had it all down — from riffs to looks to delivery to vocalist Tim Narducci and guitarist Jeremy Epp working the crowd with natural showmanship while bassist Cornbread and drummer Carter Kennedy locked in groove after groove of rock-solid heavy rock, playing selections from this year’s Black Abyss (review here) as well as the preceding EP, Sabbath Highway (review here). They had a near-commercial level of catchiness, but since that’s not a thing that exists anymore, I’ll just note that as much clear effort as they put into their presentation, the accessibility of the songs came from the songs themselves and the quality of their construction. Were they up there selling it? Absolutely. And kicking ass while doing so, but if the material itself wasn’t so strong the whole thing would’ve fallen flat. The foundation of the entire show was the material itself, and accordingly that show was an utter joy to watch.

Earthride

Earthride (Photo JJ Koczan)

I actually went back and looked up the last time I saw Earthride. It was at Days of the Doomed in 2012 (review here). I also recalled seeing them in Brooklyn in 2011 sharing the stage with When the Deadbolt Breaks, which was a noteworthy coincidence since that band’s guitarist/vocalist, Aaron Lewis, happened to be playing bass in Earthride, having joined just prior to the Maryland band’s just-ended tour with The Skull. Still, six years (and eight days) of not seeing Earthride? Far too fucking long. Dave Sherman, who’d been hanging out all weekend, took the stage in celebration of the welcome-home party that their set was, and with Lewis, guitarist Greg Ball and drummer Eric Little behind him, he held court for what was an absolute highlight of the fest as a whole. I’d been thinking of them as headliners the whole day, and while they didn’t play last, there was definitely a main-event feel going into their set, which started out with “Earthride,” boasted the new single “Witch Gun” (discussed here), the title-track to 2010’s Something Wicked (review here) and capped with “Fighting the Devils Inside You” from 2005’s sophomore LP, Vampire Circus (discussed here). Sherman held the audience and never relinquished his grasp on their attention, and the crowd was as switched on as I’d seen the whole fest. Like I said, they weren’t the headliners in name, but really, they kind of were. And rightly so.

Castle

Castle (Photo JJ Koczan)

Man, I want to hear Castle‘s new album. So bad. The core duo of bassist/vocalist Elizabeth Blackwell and guitarist/vocalist Mat Davis will issue that long-player through a yet-to-be-announced label, but they’re a touring band at their core. They get out. In talking to Davis after their set, he called their current stint a “quick one.” To put that in perspective, it’s a cross-country tour with 12 dates. I’m assuming what he meant was that it was nothing like the weeks-long voyages that will invariably follow the new full-length’s release, and I guess that’s fair, but 12 dates isn’t nothing either. Last time I saw Castle was Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here) as they were marking the release of that year’s Welcome to the Graveyard (review here), and though I knew it was coming, I was still blindsided by their intensity. Thrash, doom, classic metal, heavy groove and delighted pummel. Think of them as extreme traditional metal. They bring a classic sound to bear in their material — a number of classic sounds, actually — but have a ferocity to their execution of that which sets them apart from anything that might be considered “retro.” Coupled with the willful eeriness of their atmospheres and cultish themes, they can be all over the place, but that only makes them harder to pin down, and thus, all the more a thrill to watch. As the penultimate act of the evening, they were a last-minute kick in the ass before things got as far out as they would go, and though it had been a long day by then, Castle revived the spirit even as they seemed to herald its demise.

Windhand

Windhand (Photo JJ Koczan)
Windhand were the night’s headliner. They could’ve slinked in late, hid themselves backstage, got on, done their set, collected whatever there was to collect afterward and been on their way. Instead, the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece, who are arguably the most successful East Coast doom band of their generation and whose influence only continues to spread — trying to come up with another name and can’t; if you have one, I’d love to talk it out — hung around all day. They were back and forth through the venue, watching bands, meeting people, this and that. They had the option to take part or not to take part and they took part. And for a group at their level, on Relapse, having toured the world, etc., that’s not nothing. When they finally got on stage and got going, their fog-drenched riffs were as overwhelming as I remembered, and even though they’ve pared down from a five-piece, there was no discernible gap in volume from vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, guitarist Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe, who produced a soulful, lurching onslaught the likes of which Maryland Doom Fest had not yet known. Their new album, Eternal Return, was announced in April and will be released by Relapse as the follow-up to 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here). No doubt it’s one of the most anticipated doom records for the rest of 2018 and whenever it rears its head will be yet another grueling landmark in a catalog that, at this point, teems with them while also constantly showcasing Windhand‘s progression. It was late, but in front of the stage was a press of humanity, and Windhand justified the urgency with a wash of volume and low end that was on a level all its own. A headlining slot well earned.

It’s almost 1PM on Sunday as I wrap this up and I still need to sort photos, shower and change clothes before I head out from Sparks to Frederick, so I’ll turn you over quickly to the pics after the jump and just say thanks for reading.

Because really, thanks for reading. More tomorrow, if you can believe it.

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night One, 06.22.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night one poster

Over the last four years since its inception, Maryland Doom Fest has become a defining force for its many-storied local scene and for the Eastern Seaboard at large. Its reach nowadays goes well beyond those imaginary borders, of course, but its lineup has always remained cognizant of its core inspiration and purpose — you’re always going to find some Maryland doom at Maryland Doom Fest. 2018’s roster of acts, which is the broadest in terms of style and geopgraphy to date, is no exception. With headliners The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 reaffirms its commitment to the oldschool groove and its newer-school interpretations, even as acts like HorseburnerUnorthodoxCavern, DuelEarthrideCaustic Casanova, and many others with them, speak to the same meld of styles and origins.

I could go on all day about that, but as ever with festivals, there’s little time for musing amid the 15-minute set-changeovers and sheer onslaught of stuff to catch. Held as ever at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 boasts a lineup of 32 bands — nine tonight, 12 tomorrow and 11 on Sunday. My goal? To see all of them. Front to back. Staring down the barrel at the outset it seems nigh-insurmountable, but the truth is it’s going to be a total blast and I know it.

Travel south to Maryland from Massachusetts, with an about-to-be-eight-month-old, is a days-long process, and I’m reminded that two years ago when I made the trip, I was bogged down by a car breakdown and about to start a new job the following Tuesday. It was insane. I’m sure 2018 will be much more relaxed. Ha.

Enough preamble. Let’s boogie:

Horseburner

Horseburner (Photo JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure the world knows it’s anxiously awaiting the third full-length from West Virginian progressive heavy rockers Horseburner, but it probably is. First band of the weekend and they had heads banging both onstage and off. They were exciting to watch, and their 2016 album, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (review here) — which was reissued last year by Hellmistress Records; the vinyl was in the merch area to the side of the venue — remains a favorite in its manifestation of what might’ve happened had Mastodon become a heavy rock band while keeping their initial heft instead of going ultra-prog as they did. There were some technical difficulties in the drums, but no real delay, and the trio dynamic — could’ve sworn they used to be a four-piece — played well during the set, with no shortage of crunch in their tone but an overarching groove that they never seemed to relinquish. The record’s good, but they’re better live, with the melodies cutting through the push and a bit of hop-into-the-crowd interaction in the finale.

Geezer

Geezer (Photo JJ Koczan)

Back in January, New York psych-blues jammers Geezer announced they were working on a new album. Accordingly, the triumvirate of guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota shared three new songs for the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 crowd. I hounded Harrington after they finished for the titles: “Spiral Fires,” “Dig” and “Black Owl.” The latter provided some highlight low end work from Touseull, and it was “Dig” with a particularly fuzzed out guitar solo and a bit of cowbell from Markota that I’m dying to hear a studio version of. Supporting their latest release, Psychoriffadelia (review here), they also celebrated 2016 self-titled (review here) at the end of their set with the memorably catchy “Dust” and the spacious “Sun Gods.” Having made their debut in 2013, they’ve moved into veteran status and stage presence relatively quickly, and I took particular interest in a lack of slide guitar from Harrington, wondering if perhaps he put it down in order to focus on more intricate styles of playing in the newer songs. Seems like maybe an interview question to file away for later. In any case, they pulled a packed early crowd and were well known to them, playing out the story of a band whose potential is being realized at that very moment for all to see.

Bailjack

Bailjack (Photo JJ Koczan)

Double-guitar four-piece Bailjack had the distinction of being the first Maryland-based act at the festival. Based out of Boonsboro, they had four songs on the setlist, none of which seems to have stemmed from their 2016 debut, Show Me Your Heart. I’d been fortunate enough to see them once before down this way (review here), but they struck me all around as a tighter and more cohesive band. Guitarists Jason Barker and Blake Owens shared lead vocal duties effectively, changing up the soulful and classic heavy rock moods between them with support from Ron “Uncle Fezzy” McGinnis (also Pale DivineAdmiral Browning, Thonian Horde, etc.), which left drummer Alex Llewellyn as the only one without a mic. He kept plenty busy with the locked-in groove of “Predominantly Green,” though, which like just about everything else they played was deceptively complex in its execution, working around a straightforward groove with personality and depth. They were a fitting complement to Geezer‘s ultra-roll, and at one point while they played I looked around and couldn’t believe we were only three bands into the night. The vibe was so set and so thick in the room that it felt like everyone had been there for a day already. Awesome.

Lightning Born

Lightning Born (Photo JJ Koczan)

North Carolina’s Lightning Born played Maryland Doom Fest last year as well, but as they went public earlier this month about signing to Ripple Music for the release of their debut album this Fall, it seems only appropriate that they should make a return appearance. Their bassist, who just so happens to be Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity, just happened to be in France playing another festival — some little shindig called Hellfest or something like that; ha — so filling in was guitarist Erik Sugg‘s Demon Eye bandmate, Paul Walz. I don’t know if it was Walz‘s first time holding down bass duties in Lightning Born or what, but he obviously knew the songs well, and despite some hi-hat difficulties at the outset for drummer Doza Hawes (ex-Hour of 13), once they got going, they were locked in and clearheaded in their intent between heavy rock, doom and classic-style songcraft led by the powerful presence of frontwoman Brenna Leath (also of The Hell No). My first time seeing them and they did nothing but impress, and even putting the pedigree aside for a moment, it’s easy to see why Ripple — who already had a showing in Geezer and would have another before the night was out — would pick them up. Not only do they make the most of their members’ experience in terms of knowing what they want to do, but they obviously have the chemistry between them to make it happen. Would be interested to see them with Dean, and I won’t say he wasn’t missed — nothing against Walz‘s work, it just happens to be that that’s Mike fucking Dean we’re talking about and anytime you get to catch him play is a win — but Lightning Born might as well have named themselves Lightning in a Bottle, as that seems to be what they’ve got.

Disenchanter

Disenchanter (Photo JJ Koczan)

This was by no means Disenchanter‘s first trip to the East Coast — they’ll also be (relatively) back this way later this year for Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh — but it was the first time I’ve been lucky enough to see the band play. Having toured from their home in from Portland, Oregon, over the last week, the trio sounded like it. Pro shop. Guitarist/vocalist Sabine Stangenberg expressed the band’s gratitude for being included in the lineup and sent out “Green Queen” to any pot smokers in attendance. There may have been one or two. She and bassist Joey DeMartini and drummer Huwy Kilgora Williams set forth a set that pushed even further into the doomed elements that Lightning Born featured in some of their riffs, but had a distinguishing factor that marked them out as a West Coast act nonetheless. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was; tempo? Melody? Rhythm? I actually kind of lost myself while they were playing trying to get an answer. They fit right in with the lineup in tone and influence, to be sure, but there was still some individualized edge to their approach that was a standout factor. Eventually I whittled my hypotheses down to the upbeat nature of their grooves and was willing to leave it at that and, oh, I don’t know, just enjoy the rest of their set, but whatever it was, it made them a highlight of the evening at Cafe 611. Glad I finally was able to watch them.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo JJ Koczan)

Statistically speaking, three out of the four top acts for the evening could be called locals, and Thousand Vision Mist, who also played Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here), and a fest-associated gig during last year’s edition, came supporting late-2017’s Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow (review here), their debut album. Between that record and having seen them before, they were pretty familiar to me as well as to the assembled in front of the stage, but guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon, bassist/vocalist Tony Cormulada and drummer Chris Sebastian still had a few surprises up their collective sleeve in terms of the twists and turns of their material. By the time they started, it was clear just what a special night this was. The flow of bands was right on, each group pulling something different together from the one before while still making sense in the overall context of the night, and with Kenyon‘s roots in Life BeyondThousand Vision Mist maintained a Maryland doom feel despite not really playing doom so much as doom strung through a filter of progressive metal. Precise, driven and complex, they nonetheless had a central groove to tie it all together, and even when Kenyon broke a string, prompting an interlude from emcee Dave Benzotti, they were able to pick back up and end out as though nothing happened. The place was jammed in any figurative sense you want to think of it, and Thousand Vision Mist signaled a turn toward the headlining portion of the night. Right band, right slot.

Unorthodox

Unorthodox (Photo JJ Koczan)

A decade has passed since Unorthodox issued their last album, Awaken, via The Church Within Records, but if you want to be fair, that album came a full 14 years after 1994’s sophomore outing, Balance of Power, which was of course preceded by their 1992 debut, Asylum, but their set was still enough of an event that both Bobby Liebling of Pentagram and Dave Sherman of Earthride — pivotal figures in this scene if ever there were any — stood at the side of the stage to watch them. From their beginnings as Asylum, whose 1985 demo, The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe, saw reissue via Shadow Kingdom in 2008 (review here), guitarist/vocalist Dale Flood has remained the sole founding presence, and as he’s now based in Nashville, Tennessee, he’s settled in with bassist/vocalist Blake Dellinger and drummer Alan Pfeifer, both also of the band Flummox, injecting a youthful vigor into the rhythm section that seemed to bring Unorthodox‘s classic downtrodden MD doom to life. They even had a new song, called “Horus,” that found Dellinger taking lead vocal duties, and Flood couldn’t help but smile as the set played out, the crowd eating up every single second of the rare live set. New album? Hell if I know. To my knowledge, Unorthodox played the first Maryland Doom Fest in 2015 and as I recall were going to play 2016 as well but didn’t end up making it, so I’m not sure I’d count this set as indicative of a full return to activity, whatever that would mean anyway, but if they wanted to build something from it, that vitality was right there in the band waiting to be harvested. They killed. End of story.

ZED

ZED (Photo JJ Koczan)

For my up-at-5AM-usually-asleep-by-nine ass, it was getting late, and I don’t mind saying so. Ibuprofen for a sore back; protein bar for stamina; water on the face for refreshing; water down the gullet for sheer survival — these are the essential tools of the sober weekend festival. One could simply pound six or 12 beers and none of it would matter, I suppose, and from the look of the dudes falling asleep in the side room of Cafe 611, some had clearly gone that route, but the truth was that ZED were all the shove I need to get through to the end of the evening. Everything else was overkill in comparison to their noise-tinged heavy rock, one riff after the next crunched out at max volume through the guitars of frontman Peter Sattari and Greg Lopez, the bass of Mark Aceves adding even further heft to be shoved forward at an impressive pace considering the mass of it by drummer Sean Boyles, who when the Bay Area outfit were done turned around and held up his hat to deliver the message “fuck everything” as plainly as possible. New song “Strippers” signaled a follow-up in progress to their 2016 third album, Trouble in Eden (review here), and one assumes that will arrive like its predecessor via Ripple Music, given how hard ZED were repping the label, from Lopez‘s beanie to Sattari‘s Freedom Hawk hat and Ripplefest shirt to Aceves‘ High Priestess tee. Gotta fly that flag, and they did it proud with a raucous delivery that lost nothing of its professionalism for its blanket electricity. Seemed like the crowd up front was pretty familiar with their stuff — at one point I also looked over and saw fest co-organizer JB Matson singing along stage-side — but I’d be willing to be they turned a few heads as well and made some new fans. It was that kind of set. If “fucking a rock” was a genre, that’s what ZED would be.

The Obsessed

The Obsessed (Photo JJ Koczan)

I don’t think there’s anywhere you could put The Obsessed on a Maryland Doom Fest bill except at the top. That’s where they were in 2016 and it’s where they deserved to be again. Would Maryland doom exist without them? Maybe, but certainly not in the form it has today. It’s been an eventful couple of years for guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and the outfit in which he cut his teeth beginning back in the late ’70s when they started under the moniker Warhorse, but with their first album in 23 years behind them in 2017’s Sacred (review here) on Relapse, the trio of Weinrich, bassist Reid Raley (see also: Rwake) and drummer Brian Costantino were as classic as one could ask and a reminder of just how much of a blueprint for the style The Obsessed have always been. Copious touring in support of Sacred has made them maddeningly tight, and with a blend of new material and old in the set, they spoke to where they are today as well as where they came from — perfectly on theme for the night and the weekend as a whole. As the last of the nine bands playing, they shut the place down and it’s hard to imagine there’s any more one could’ve asked for when they were done. The Obsessed, like basically Pentagram and no one else of the region (Black Sabbath being, of course, universal), are essential and foundational when it comes to Maryland doom. Maryland Doom Fest 2018 welcomed them accordingly, and honestly, I think if they played every year here for the next five headlining one of the nights, they wouldn’t meet with any complaints. From “Sacred” itself to “Neatz Brigade” and “Sodden Jackal,” they proved how hard the heart of this scene and this aesthetic continues to beat. Oh yeah, and they were unbelievably loud. Like, might-as-well-take-your-earplugs-out loud. So, you know, bonus.

After flailing toward a 24-hour gas station and a 90-minute ride back to the town of Sparks, where I’m staying, I crashed out around 2:30 and was up a tragically short time later. Still, first day was excellent and there’s nothing I could ask of a leadoff night that wasn’t delivered. Maryland Doom Fest 2018 day two kicks off in a couple hours and, hell’s bells, I need a shower, so I’m gonna get on that, but there are more pics after the jump if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading.

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Roadburn 2018 Trip Pt. 6: Departure, Amsterdam, NL

Posted in Features on April 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

airport runway

04.23.18 – 11:31AM CET – Monday morning – Schiphol Airport Gate D47, Amsterdam

For the first time in the 10 that I’ve made this trip, I was up before my alarm this morning. It was set for 7:30AM and I was out of bed by 7:05. I’d gone to sleep around three after finishing the review and unplugging my brain for the evening, decided even though it’s a 13.00 flight, I’d get up early and do the packing in the morning and crash out as soon as possible. I shudder to think what I left behind at the hotel.

One year I left my comfy pillow. I even tried to call and ask them to send it to me, was how much I loved that pillow. They pretty much told me to fuck off.

And who could argue?

Also this morning, another first, I changed at den Bosch all by myself. No asking at the information counter. Reading signs helped. Nonetheless, I felt like a pro at this whole thing.

As I was coming to the gate, I got asked the standard round of “did you have your luggage the whole time,” “did you pack it all yourself” questions and I kind of realized at that moment that no, I didn’t pack it all myself. I’m carrying a box of records home that I was given that I haven’t even had the chance to open yet. They asked me if I was selling them and I laughed. Hell no. That shit, whatever it is, is mine.

They gave me a green sticker to put on my passport, which I assume means I’ll never see my baggage again. Too bad. My Ancestors shirt and favorite pair of sweatpants were in there.

Plus, you know, a whole box of records.

coffeeBecause life makes this much sense, I’m overshooting Boston to make a connecting flight in Detroit and then heading back east to Boston. Perfect, right? If you ever need a metaphor for navigating anything related to Beantown, there it is. Please use it freely.

But I’ve had a couple cups of coffee, ate an airport egg salad sandwich and and apple, and the bleeps and bloops and swirls of Dr. Space continue to ring in my head, so I must be on my way home from Roadburn, even though it will take me I can’t count how many hours to get there.

Before I get on this plane, I want to say a couple thank yous. First and foremost to The Patient Mrs., for letting me have this even though she knew it meant she’d be running point with The Pecan for five/six days solid. I do not expect to let her change a diaper for the next week.

Thanks to Walter — FOREVER — and to Esther, Becky, Lee, Gijs, Jamie, Rianne, Koos and the entire team at the 013. We did get the final issue of the ‘zine out yesterday. It was eve my photo of Zach Oakley from Joy/Volcano that got used. I was honored. That’s a first for me.

Thanks to my family, my mother and sister, for their love and support.

Thanks to Paul, Niels, Kim, Dan, Dom, José, Cheryl, Jamie, Ben and everyone on the staff of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. This year cut it a little close for comfort. If we’re fortunate enough to do it next year, Lee and I joked we’d start in November, and the more I think about it, that might be the way to go.

Thanks to everyone in the photo pit, Falk-Hagen, Dante, to Jon Freeman, Andreas Kohl, Jurgen, Kenny Sehgal, Dave and Robin Sweetapple, Jens Heide for that box of records, and Markus, Nicole, Dave MIBK, Dana Schecter and everyone else I saw and met along the way this year.

I’d like to send a special thanks to the coffee machine in the office of the 013, the coffee machine backstage at the 013, the coffee machine in the lobby of the Hotel Mercure and the little Nespresso in the room itself.

And as always, most of all, I’d like to thank you for reading and making this entire thing possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you.

This one was a trip to be sure. But I miss my baby boy and I miss my wife and my dog and I hear we’re basically having spicy curry for dinner all week, so it’s time to go home.

Thank you for reading.

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Roadburn 2018 Day Four: They Have Dreams

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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04.22.18 – 11:31PM CET – Sunday night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

I saw a lot of cool shit today. This whole long weekend. There wasn’t one day that didn’t deliver some moment that seemed to me to be something special, whether it was Earthless‘ first set, or Volcano, or The Heads, or Joy tonight jamming out with Dr. Space. This afternoon, though, I stood in the back of the V39 across the alleyway from the 013 venue and watched a Q&A with Roadburn‘s creative director, Walter Hoeijmakers, aka Walter Roadburn, aka just Walter, run by Becky Laverty, who runs the fest’s PR.

He spoke about how the festival has grown organically over the time since he started it, how it changed as his tastes changed to encompass an expanding definition of what “heavy” becky and walter (Photo by JJ Koczan)is and means, and even about some of what the future holds in Roadburn 2019’s lineup. He wasn’t giving away who’s curating or anything, but as one might expect, there will be more commissioned projects like Waste of Space Orchestra on Thursday and the Icelandic black metal group work Vánagandr: Sól án varma, this afternoon. Talking about how young and creative the Icelanders specifically are, he said, “They have dreams,” and you could hear in his voice the deep level of respect that notion commanded from him.

That was a beautiful moment, and like so many I’ve seen in the 10 times I’ve been fortunate enough to make this trip to Tilburg, I felt lucky to be there when it happened.

There was still a lot to see today, though, and while I did stop by uninvited to catch some of Vánagandr, my final day of Roadburn 2018 began in the Green Room with Iron Chin. For much of the day, I sought out spacier fare, reminiscent somewhat of the spirit of the old Afterburner, which has kind of been subsumed into the festival proper even though there were “only” four stages running today: the Main Stage, Het Patronaat, the Green Room, and Cul de Sac. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say it was plenty.

So I had made my way to the Green Room with all the grace of a low-self-esteamboat for Iron Chin, and my reasoning was simple: Oeds Beydals. The Death Alley guitarist was leading the charge in the new group — fronting the band, on vocals as well as guitar — iron chin (Photo by JJ Koczan)and playing alongside for The Devil’s Blood bandmate Job van de Zande (now also in Dool), Ries Doms (Powervice) and Wout Kemkens (Shaking Godspeed), the idea behind the band seemed to be the Dutch heavy scene’s way of welcoming San Diego’s scene to town. The actual output was somewhere between space rock, heavy psych and jamming, with Beydals riding dynamic grooves as he sometimes does in Death Alley but bringing that side of things more into focus. Naturally, there was a song called “Iron Chin,” and just as naturally, its chorus made fitting and frequent use of the title.

I had caught a couple minutes of their soundcheck before doors opened, and knew it was going to be worth the time, but an even more pleasant surprise was when Beydals brought out guitarist Zack Oakley, drummer Thomas Dibenedetto and bassist Justin Hulson — in other words, the entire trio of Joy — to sit in on a few jams. Oakley‘s guitar fit right in the psychedelic wash, Hulson manned a Nord to bring some organ to the proceedings, and he and Dibenedetto both added percussion as well. It was a trip, and that was clearly the intention.

When I saw Beydals later, I asked him if they were going to record, and he confirmed it. That’ll be one to keep an eye out for. He’s developed a considerable stage presence since I first saw Death Alley at the Hardrock Hideout in 2014, and he wasn’t exactly lacking one to start with.

Keeping with the ethereal and/or cosmic, I clomped to Cul de Sac in order to see Belgian progressive rockers Hidden Trails. I knew the challenge in writing about them would be going a single sentence beforehidden trails (Photo by JJ Koczan) mentioning their connection via bassist Dave Houtmeyers and drummer Tom Vanlaer to the much-missed Hypnos 69, and now that I’ve thoroughly failed at that, I feel a little bit like I can move on. Houtmeyers, Vanlaer and guitarist/vocalist Jo Neyskens released their debut, Instant Momentary Bliss (review here) in 2016, and while it’s a thrill for me pretty much anytime I can watch a band play who’ve put something out on the label Elektrohasch Schallplatten, their blend of classic proggy exploration, organic tones and melodicism made it all the more special.

The concept of the Afterburner, with fewer stages running, etc., was that it was a smaller day to kind of transition from being neck-deep in the full force of Roadburn and returning to regular day-to-day existence. As I started to think about things like flight times home and changing trains at den Bosch on the way to Schiphol — always a challenge because I never know which track the train to the airport is coming in on and have to ask at the info counter, where they basically call me a moron every single time — the soothing vibe of Hidden Trails eased my anxious brain a bit and gave me another chance to bask in the breadth and warmth that Roadburn can sometimes offer, you know, when it’s not tearing your face off.

Speaking of, Wiegedood were next on the Main Stage. I have no problem admitting that, at 36 years of age, after three-plus days of festival-being-at, late-night-reviewing, ‘zine-editing and the rest, my ever-expanding ass was fairly well kicked. I went up top in the Main Hall and sat for a while of Wiegedood‘s set, flashing red strobes, skin-peeling sharpness and all, and then flumped back downstairs to have a quick dinner — the return of the fish in lemon cream sauce; I’d happily eat it every night until I died from mercury poisoning, if that’s even a thing here — before Zonal and Moor Mother took to the Main Stage at 19.00.

Zonal, with Justin K. Broadrick of Godflesh and Kevin Martin aka The Bug, who was here collaborating withmoor mother (Photo by JJ Koczan) Dylan Carlson last year (review here), claimed half the stage for a table flanked by bass stacks and left author and spoken word artist Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, the other half to annihilate as she saw fit, silhouetted by lights behind and enough fog machine output that even the hallway outside the Main Stage area was enshrouded.

And annihilate she did, though her words were somewhat obscured by the wash of electronic noise surrounding. It was a performance geared for impact and it seemed to make one on parties either curious or who knew what they were getting, and as the bass beats vibrated in my chest, my mind flashed back to Walter earlier at V39 talking about pushing into new concepts of what “heavy” means. There it was, right in front of me. Impossible to see for all the smoke, but there just the same.

Word had spread of Harsh Toke playing a secret set on the skate ramp up by Hall of Fame, and I know I’ve said before that when Harsh Toke are jamming, that’s where you want to be, but I didn’t see Godspeed You! Black Emperor last night specifically knowing that I’d have the chance to catch them today, and in my mind the commitment was made. With video projection art behind them, they came out to the Main Stage gradually and arranged themselves in a semicircle under barely-there light and like the chamber music of the damned, they treated Roadburn 2018 to their massively influential and richly evocative instrumentalism, creating a space for themselves in the room much as they’ve essentially created a genre for themselves over their 20-plus-year history. I’d never seen them before and won’t claim any expertise on their back catalog, but though the audience in the back was sitting — as was a goodly portion of the band — it was clear they were also being taken somewhere else completely.

That one-two punch, of Zonal with Moor Mother and godspeed you black emperor (Photo by JJ Koczan)then Godspeed You! Black Emperor probably would’ve been enough to call it a day, a weekend, and a festival. That is, I couldn’t have reasonably at that point asked for more than I’d gotten out of Roadburn 2018. But the day started spaced-out, and I knew it would end the same way. Joy and Dr. Space jamming together at the Cul de Sac? Yeah, you can count me in for that.

In fact, since I looked at the final schedule and knew that I’d be in Tilburg again this year, I’ve known that Joy and Dr. Space was how I wanted to close out my Roadburn. Scott HellerDr. Space himself and bandleader of the Øresund Space Collective — started out the set on his own for a while, just oozing vibe on the crowd from his custom-built synth setup, arranged facing away from the audience like a secret box of magic tricks. Cosmic rabbits in lysergic hats and all that. Joy — the aforementioned OakleyHulson and Dibenedetto — arrived a short time later and with Oakley‘s guitar easing their way in, embarked on a longform jam that absolutely melted the room surrounding. Also helps that the Cul de Sac was wall-to-wall with bodies and about 100 degrees (or whatever that is in celsius; a million?), but yeah, one way or another, it was going to be molten.

Even without the unforeseen symmetry of opening and closing the day in the company of Joy, I was right in my pick for how to cap the night. The groove was easy, the vibe fluid and the mood in the room just about perfectly embodied the two parties themselves: “joy” and “space.” Beat as I was, I had a hard time dragging myself out of there. But I did, and after a few quick goodbyes back at the 013 itself, I doltishly florped back to the hotel past drunkards young and old, pissed and reckless, dazed andjoy dr space (Photo by JJ Koczan) dancing and riding bicycles. It was another Sunday night in Tilburg. Tomorrow morning they’ll powerwash Weirdo Canyon again and it’ll be like none of it ever happened.

Except it did. And everyone who was here will carry it with them wherever they might be headed next. Home, far and wide, another bar, whatever. I don’t think it’s possible to be here and not be touched in some way by the spirit of it. For me, after 10 times, I can hardly begin to conceive the ways it’s helped shape who I’ve become over the last decade, how I’ve thought about music and culture and art in general, and the lessons that each year reinforces about what truly matters in creativity, which is that it keeps moving forward. Always forward. That it keeps dreaming.

I’ll have a wrap-up post tomorrow at some point. Till then, thanks for reading and more pics after the jump.

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Roadburn 2018 Day Three: No Evil No Demon

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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04.21.18 – 11:31PM CET – Saturday night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

A text came in this morning from The Patient Mrs., who told me she wanted me to be kinder to myself in how I described moving through the world around me. I saw this right when I woke up this morning, so had no idea what she was talking about. It was all the “galumphing” and “lumbering” and “waddling” and whatnot I’ve been doing the last few days. I told her it’s a running gag and that in describing my every movement from placebell witch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) to place today, I would use the word “farting” exclusively.

It was a busy day. I did a lot of farting back and forth. We did not set a new land-speed record in getting the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch to the press, but we did still manage to get it out on time like the pros that we are. It was a good thing, too, because Roadburn 2018 day three started extra early with Bell Witch at Koepelhal, and it was not to be missed. Clearly there would be no time for farting around.

The Seattle-based duo play here tomorrow as well, but today they were performing last year’s brilliant and affecting Mirror Reaper (review here) in its entirety, with six-string bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman joined by Erik Moggridge, also known as the solo-performer Aerial Ruin, to contribute guest vocals as he does on the album, which was written in memory of former drummer Adrian Guerra, who passed away in 2016. The piece, an 80-minute single-song full-length, was to be rendered in its complete form, with all the crushing tones and searing emotional resonance brought to life.

I’ll be honest with you, it felt a little voyeuristic to watch. I’ve seen tribute sets at Roadburn before — one recalls the Selim Lemouchi tribute in 2014, and even as Bell Witch were playing today at Koepelhal, back at Het Patronaatbell witch (Photo by JJ Koczan)Stephen Brodsky and Adam McGrath of Cave In were paying homage to their late former bandmate, Caleb Scofield, who died in a car accident last month. But still. Maybe it’s just because it was so heavy coming from Bell Witch, or maybe it was the way Shreibman started out with his head down on his snare, or how he, Desmond and Moggridge all came together on vocals, but there was something so raw about the grief on display that it would’ve been next to impossible not to be affected by it. Powerful. Moving. One only hopes there some measure of catharsis derived from the process, because they managed to turn the darkest of feelings and sounds into something beautiful.

Somewhat dazed, I dragged my oafish, unworthy, hideous fucking carcass out of the Koeplhal — where in the merch area they couldn’t even find a Sacri Monti t-shirt big enough to wrap around my bloated fucking form (shit just got tragic; dial it back) — and over to the Hall of Fame where even-younger-than-I-thought-they-were-and-I-thought-they-were-pretty-young boogie rockers Supersonic Blues were getting set to go on. Hall of Fame is the smallest of Roadburn 2018’s venues, and I hadn’t been supersonic blues (Photo by JJ Koczan)inside yet other then to pop in on Petyr playing heavy ’70s covers yesterday, so this was my first real set there. Supersonic Blues also did a set of covers at some point in the last two days, and they worked a UFO song into this set of originals as well, I suspect because they just don’t have that much original material yet. They were allotted 50 minutes, and they’ve only released one two-song single (review here), so yeah. Maybe they just ran out of songs.

As happens in some fortunate occasions with young acts who aren’t arrogant as hell, Supersonic Blues are a better band than they know. They were somewhat timid on stage, or at least subdued, but their boogie, their tones and their swing were all right on, and their material was warm and classic feeling in a way that fit with some of the San Diego Takeover groups — PetyrArcticSacri Monti, etc. — but laid back enough to still be its own vibe. I was already looking forward to their next release and am only more so after seeing them play.

My next move was something of a debate. In the Green Room, Minami Deutsch and Damo Suzuki were doing a set together, which sounds like, yes, something you want to stand in front of for as long as you can. On the Main Stage, however, Panopticon were doing a full-on full-hour, and well, I watched both Minami Deutsch and Damo Suzuki yesterday — albeit in different contexts — and I’ve never seen Panopticon, so the Minnesota-based, folk-infused American black metallers won out. Not a phrase I say often. Led by guitarist/vocalist Austin Lunn, who also owns and operates Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota, which smells delightfully like fresh-cut and/or burning wood when you go therepanopticon (Photo by JJ Koczan)Panopticon absolutely packed out the Main Hall, and with family members to the side of front of the crowd, they unleashed a torrent of USBM intensity that made no bones about its intent to scorch.

For a band who doesn’t tour nine months out of the year, their ownership of the big stage was complete and unflinching, and as they have a brand new record out in the form of The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II on Bindrune, their energy level was no less ferocious than the material itself, though there was plenty of dynamic to be had as well. I knew I wanted to be back in the Green Room for Volcano, so I hopscotched out of the Main Hall and downstairs to grab a quick bite to eat. Some vegan meatballs and seasoned mystery (actual-)meat later, I lubbered up to the front of the Green Room and there planted myself to wait for Volcano to hit it.

And I mean hit it. Led by the keys of Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer and the guitar of Joy‘s Zach Oakley, with Red Octopus‘ Billy Ellsworth on bass, I don’t even know who on drums, Sacri Monti and Joy drummer Thomas Dibenedetto on percussive sticks and Earthless‘ own Mario Rubalcaba sitting in on volcano (Photo by JJ Koczan)bongos and other percussion, Volcano were an Afrobeat-inspired melee of psychedelic funk, starting out their set with a song called “Naked Prey” and ending with their previously-posted single, “10,000 Screaming Souls” (discussed here), and in between, they were an absolute blast of rhythm, vibe and motion. “No Evil No Demon” invited shouting sing-alongs, and as my understanding is that their record is already done and they’re already signed to Tee Pee for the release — hardly a surprise given the personnel involved — I was thinking of their set as something of a preview of what’s to come when the album lands, but they were already crazy tight, locked in, and looking and sounding like they were having a total blast.

It was their second show. Two. I’d sat next to Ellsworth on the bus ride from the airport to Tilburg the other day and he told me the band figured they might as well get one under their belt before playing Roadburn. Their second show. In the Green Room. And they totally killed it.

They are a band about which you will no doubt hear more in the months, maybe years, to come, and they made an excellent lead-in for the psychedelic masterclass that long-running UK cosmotrodders The Heads delivered in the same space. I’ve seen The Heads at Roadburn before — they played the Main Stage in 2015 (review here) and subsequently released it as the live album, Burning up With… (review here) — and their history with the festival and with Walter goes back much farther than that, and as he worked the live video mixing projected behind them once again in the Green Room, the swirl was unmistakable and irresistible. Before they went on, the heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)I had been reading a news story about diamonds found in a meteorite that were supposed to be leftover from a planetary collision 4.7 billion years go or something like that.

Could there possibly be a better analog to what The Heads bring to the stage? Diamonds from space? Shit, as I watched them conjure a gravity well with “Coogans Bluff” and “Widowmaker,” all I could think about was a giant rock slamming with a couple billion years’ worth of momentum into the earth and Paul AllenWayne MaskellHugo Morgan and Simon Price popping out of the thing like a presidential birthday cake and jamming a swirl hot enough to melt crucial elements into new molecules. Heavy. Psychedelic. Perfection. I don’t think there’s really any other option when The Heads play except to stand there with your mouth agape and just try to retain as much of it as humanly possible. The only challenge is not snapping back to reality when they’re done and realizing you’ve lost time, like on an old episode of X-Files.

Oh, and by the way, The Heads are really, really, really fucking good.

I did not at all envy Sacri Monti the task of following them up, but the San Diego five-piece represented the Takeover well, with a contingent of their clique on hand to watch as guitarist/vocalist Brendan Dellar, guitarist Dylan Donavon, organist Evan Wenskay, bassist Anthony Meier (also of Radio Moscow) and Dibenedetto sacri monti (Photo by JJ Koczan)on drums tore into songs from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and some new material from the follow-up that that first album is due. I’ve no idea what the state of their next record is, but what they played sounded right on and though they were less spaced-out than The Heads, one could still get a sense of the intended continuity in the Green Room as they played, which started with Petyr and Minami Deutsch with Damo Suzuki, got far out with Volcano and The Heads and came back to the boogie via Sacri Monti before Sweden’s Maggot Heart closed out the room for the night with more of a post-punk vibe.

After poking my laughably-gargantuan cranium into the Main Hall to take a peak at Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whose second set of the weekend I’ll watch tomorrow, I poor-coordinationed my way over to Het Patronaat to close out my night with a blast of Japanese sludge from Greenmachine, who were performing their 1997 debut, D.A.M.N., in its entirety. Their onslaught was immediate save for a small technical issue with one of the amps, and they delivered a pummel worthy of the underground influence they’ve had in their home country and beyond. I was digging the hell out of it, but have no problem admitting I was done before they were. When it’s time to go greenmachine (Photo by JJ Koczan)back to the hotel and write, there’s really nothing else to be done except that.

With the banana I’d found earlier in the day backstage still in the side pocket of my cosmic backpack, I knuckledragged back to the hotel through a Weirdo Canyon that looked like some kind of clash of civilizations, with dance clubs open and beardo metallers sitting out in cafes red-eyed and addled from a long day of whathaveyou. The anthropologist in me — and no, there isn’t an anthropologist in me — wanted to start interviewing members of different subcultures to see how they could possibly exist in the same space at the same time, but, well, there’s still Day Four of Roadburn 2018 to go tomorrow, and plenty enough already to keep me busy in the meantime.

You know what I did tonight? I introduced myself to Ester Segarra. Zero chance you remember, but a couple months back, I posted about how incredibly talented a photographer she is (and she is) and the collection she had coming out via Season of Mist and I said that in all the years I’d seen her in the photo pit at Roadburn, I’d never been brave enough to introduce myself. Well, as I was on my way from Sacri Monti to Greenmachine, she was walking the opposite direction in the front hallway of the 013 and I stopped her, shook her hand and said who I was. It might’ve been the bravest thing I’ve done this weekend up to this point, and to be frank, I don’t really see myself trying to top it tomorrow. But hey, I said hi to Ester Segarra. And she didn’t even tell me to go fuck myself. She was super-nice. Bonus.

More of my nowhere-near-as-good-as-Ester-Segarra’s photography after the jump, if you’re up for it. Thanks for reading.

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