GIVEAWAY: Win Tickets to Prophecy Fest USA in Brooklyn; Alcest, Year of the Cobra, 1476 & Many More Playing

Posted in Features on October 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

prophecy fest lineup

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post and make sure your email address is filled in the form so I can contact you if you win. Yup, that’s it.]

You can buy tickets now for the first-ever Prophecy Fest USA, being held Nov. 2-3 in Brooklyn, NY, at the Knitting Factory, and I’m not going to dissuade you from doing that, but if you leave a comment on this post, you can also just win a pair and go that way. I know money’s tight, so if you’ve got room in your heart for the likes of Novembers Doom and Alcest, Kayo Dot and Year of the Cobra over the course of two nights — and well, I think you do — then yeah, you might just want to go for this one.

I want to keep this post short, so I’ll spare you the wax-critique of the varied and righteous bill and just let you see it for yourself. The schedule as per the fest:

prophecy fest usa 2018 new posterFriday, November 2nd
7-7:30 || Völur
8-8:30 || Xasthur
9-9:30 || Kayo Dot
10-10:45 || So Hideous
11:15-End || Novembers Doom

Saturday, November 3rd
7-7:30 || 1476
8-8:30 || Year of the Cobra
9-9:30 || Crowhurst
10-10:45 || Eye Of Nix
11:15-End || Alcest

Pretty badass, and again, this is the first time Prophecy Fest is being held on American soil, so all the more worth showing up.

And I don’t know if I have to say this at this point, but I will anyway: if you enter a contest here, I don’t keep your email. You’re not added to a list. Your information isn’t sold. I wouldn’t know how to do that if I wanted to, and I don’t want to, so yeah. The lizard people already have your information, but I didn’t give it to them.

Thanks to all who enter.

And if you don’t win, buy tickets here: http://us.prophecy.de/prophecy-fest/prophecy-fest-us-ticket.html

https://www.facebook.com/events/228554127792687/
http://us.prophecy.de

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post and make sure your email address is filled in the form so I can contact you if you win. Yup, that’s it.]

Prophecy Fest USA trailer #2

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Feature: King Buffalo Interview… Me…?

Posted in Features on October 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo

Before we get to anything else, I want to say this: I am really, really, really uncomfortable with this whole idea.

I mean it. I’ve been kicking myself in the ass since it was brought up. King Buffalo are about to putout their second full-length, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here), on Oct. 12, and the record’s just great. 2018 has produced a glut of fascinating, exciting and kickass albums, but especially when it comes to potential lasting appeal, I’ll put King Buffalo up against any of them, including Sleep. Big words, I know, but I’m serious. At this point, I’ve been doing this long enough to know when a release is going to stick.

So it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t get to do a track premiere for Longing to Be the Mountain or the album stream, which I assume will be on some cooler site with a wider reach next week. Okay. That happens to me all the time, and the truth is, King Buffalo neither owe me anything nor are exactly an unknown quantity around these parts. If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you might recall their early-2018 EP Repeater had a track stream with the review, and I hosted the premiere of their debut LP, Orion, when that came out in 2016. I’ve also covered them in live reviews, their 2016 digital live release Live at Wicked Squid Studios (review here), their 2015 split LP with Lé Betre (review here) and their 2014 demo (review here), and it goes back further than that if I felt like searching out more links. But I think I’ve made the point. In terms of reaching an audience, King Buffalo have “done” The Obelisk. They’re a known quantity, and with a record like Longing to Be the Mountain, which has the potential to catch ears not already familiar with the band, it deserves as much of a chance as possible to do that.

This interview, where drummer Scott Donaldson asks me questions and I answer instead of how it should be, which is the other way around, was not my idea. It wasn’t. Please know that. It was pitched to me and I was hemming and hawing on it until I spoke to my wonderful and brilliant wife, The Patient Mrs., and she told me in her sweet, diplomatic way to get over myself and do it. I did the latter, obviously not the former, and I still feel a little bit like my fragile writerly ego is being placated for the stream I didn’t get to do. I don’t deserve to be interviewed — least of all on this site! Jesus. It feels so self-indulgent. I’ve had a couple rare occasions where I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone want to talk to me about what I do, and that’s always massively appreciated, because absolutely, I’ll run my mouth (or at least my fingers on the keyboard) if you’ll let me. But to have to then post it myself? Oof.

That’s a bummer way to start a piece that’s actually pretty fun, with silly questions and silly answers and whatnot, but all I can do is be honest about where I’m coming from, and even after I did the interview and sent it back, the thought of putting it up on my own, here, has continued to feel weird and self-indulgent. They call me “important.” Cringe.

So I’ll throw The Patient Mrs. under the bus. It was her idea.

Thanks for reading. Here’s the Q&A, which I titled myself:

jj obelisk

Longing to Be Relevant: A Wrong-Sided Conversation with King Buffalo

So in an exciting twist, I (Scott from King Buffalo) have the privilege to interview one of the most important gentleman in the entire stoner, psych, and doom etc. community, Mr. Obelisk himself, JJ Koczan. If you don’t know JJ, then you’ve probably been listening to your Spice Girls cassette on repeat and should stop reading now. For everyone else, on to the interview……..

Besides “The Pecan,” what do you view as your greatest achievement?

The truest answer I can give you is my relationship with my wife. We’ve been together since I was 15 years old. It’ll be 21 years in about a week as I write this, and I’m so incredibly lucky to have her in my life. Through high school and college and into professional life, through grad school — which for her was about a decade-long process — and beyond, she’s this amazing, brilliant, beautiful person and she’s absolutely the core around which the rest of my existence revolves. To see her in a new way this past year as she’s become a mother to The Pecan has been even more astounding, but there was never a doubt in my mind she’d nail it, because that’s what she does. She’s kind and sincere, far more patient with me than I deserve, and she says things like, “I think you should go to Norway,” which is about as much as I could ever ask of a partner in life.

More to the point I think of what you’re asking, probably best of all as relates to The Obelisk is the fact that people tell me words I’ve written have mattered to them. Usually that’s in the form of, “Hey dude I found such and such band on your site thanks!” and I really dig that and feel incredibly fortunate for it, but every now and then someone actually says something about the writing itself and that means a lot to me because such a big part of that project is that the voice it all comes from is my voice. I’m writing like I speak. I interrupt myself all the time. I jump from thought to thought. I have run-on sentences. I think in repetitive lists, etc. When that touches somebody and they feel strongly enough about it to let me know, whether it’s an email or a note on social media or coming up to me at a show, that’s a pretty astounding feeling.

If you could go on tour with one band, during any time period, dead or alive, who would you choose?

I’ll give you two that could’ve actually happened. I had a chance to tour Australia and New Zealand with Kings Destroy and Radio Moscow a couple years ago and I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have the money. It’s someplace I’ve always dreamed of going and the KD guys are good friends and I’ve been on the road with them and Radio Moscow before, so it’s all a familiar group to be with, and I just couldn’t get the cash together for a flight. I’ve never made much money, and I have no savings or anything like that, so it just wasn’t an option. They got to meet the cats from Beastwars and to see Arc of Ascent — I’m a huge fan of Craig Williamson (also of Lamp of the Universe and Datura), so that would’ve been amazing — but it just didn’t happen. My understanding from the guys afterward was it was a pretty rough tour, but I still regret it. A lot. Just to go there, in that context.

A year or two later, there was a chance The Patient Mrs. was going to get a grant to go to Australia and do research — she’s a college professor — and it looked like a lock. I got in touch with the guys from Hotel Wrecking City Traders and they put together like this whole festival thing in Melbourne that I presented because I was going to be there and everything, and again, the trip fell through. I missed that show. It was put on because I was coming and I didn’t make it. Still stings.

When Lo-Pan played Roadburn a few years ago and they had Adrian Zambrano on guitar, there was some talk about me joining them on the road for a week or two in Europe after. I could hardly think of a more righteous opportunity, but again, money. That’s the reason I haven’t been to Desertfest in a half-decade, it’s the reason I missed SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal and Freak Valley in Germany this year, both of which I was invited to — see also: baby — but yeah. I don’t make any money from The Obelisk and it’s times like that where it really hits home.

What’s the worst band name you’ve ever heard?

Any of them that I’ve forgotten. There are a lot of generic stoner-band names out there, but I actually don’t mind that, because it’s part of a whole aesthetic. It’s like fuzz riffs, or kind of slower rolling grooves. It’s part of the thing. There are a couple shitty names out there — I got called a “whinny liberal” (sic) on Instagram once for saying Black Pussy was a shitty name. Since then, I’ve wanted to start a band called Whinny Liberal, but am restrained, as ever, by lack of both talent and time.

Marry, Fuck, Kill – Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince and why?

Fuck Prince. Obviously. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Plus he was like a Seventh Day Adventist or something, so he was probably a total freak in bed. Isn’t that how it always goes with fundamentalists? They don’t celebrate Xmas, but they’ll break out the sex-swing and make a holiday of any occasion?

Marry Bowie. If you’re getting married, you want stability, and Bowie and Iman stood the test of time.

Kill Lemmy. HOWEVER. After you kill him, you take his brain and put it in a cyborg Lemmy so he can live forever and still never quite reach the microphone on stage. Who keeps making those things so tall?

Who’s the most underrated singer / lyricist of all time?

Paul McCartney. He’s also the most overrated.

You’ve been tied to the railroad tracks by Boris Badenov, and there’s a train hurtling towards you. You’re surrounded by your music collection, and you’re able to break loose, but only have time to save 5 albums. What albums do you save?

I would certainly hope to be saved by Moose and Squirrel before the train hits, but if we’re talking my collection, I’d take mostly stuff that was gifts. I’ve got a signed Enslaved CD that was sent to me by Nuclear Blast because they weren’t getting a lot of press in the States at the time. That has sentimental value. I’ve got a bunch of Sabbath and Beatles bootlegs and a couple Type O Negative bootlegs that I bought decades ago that I’d save. I’d save the copy of Saint Vitus’ Lillie: F-65 that Season of Mist used my quote on the front-sticker for, I’d save whatever of the Man’s Ruin Records stuff I could grab, and I’d save the original copy of Alice in Chains’ Dirt I swiped from my older sister when I was like 10. I don’t know if that’s five or 50, but it’s some of the stuff I have that has value to me beyond whatever cash I may have paid for it.

Why do people say “cheese” before being photographed?

Traditionally I think because to say “cheese” stretches out the sides of the mouth and provides a natural smile. It’s not true, though. In my experience — and this may just be my own bitchy resting face — saying cheese draws the sides of the mouth downward, so you’re not smiling for the camera, you’re just looking like you’re having your face pulled. But who the hell smiles for a camera anyway when you can make a weird face or just be metal and scowl. That’s probably my preference.

A monkey is shot into space and comes back to earth with all the knowledge of the cosmos. He will only talk to you, and will allow you to ask one question. What is it?

Why bother? Fuck that selfish monkey. He should probably get a press conference together and start unraveling the mysteries of the universe to everyone instead of one question to my ass. You know what my one question would be? “Why are you such a prick that you’re unwilling to share this vast knowledge you’ve acquired?” Monkey should be too busy in a lab somewhere curing cancer and on the fucking senate floor saving democracy from imperial populism to answer my shitty question in the first place. “Hey monkey, how ‘bout those riffs, huh?”

A lot of websites, blogs, magazines and livejournals have come and gone since The Obelisk’s inception. What drives you to be able to continue on this journey?

Compulsion. I need it so much more than anyone else needs it that it’s laughable. I started The Obelisk after the magazine I worked for went under and I wanted to keep my contacts and I still had a stack of stuff to review and nowhere to put it. So my buddy Slevin put together a WordPress for me and I stumbled through learning how to use it. Since then, it’s consumed such a major portion of my identity that I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’m “JJ from The Obelisk” for so much of my day. At this point, it’s what I schedule my life around. I wake up at two or three in the morning to write before the baby gets up so I can get work in before I have to go be daddy, and if I don’t, I’m out of my mind the entire day. I have a very, very compulsive personality. It makes me a complete asshole in many situations, but it means that when I do something like this, I do it all the way. I’m dedicated to developing a critical aesthetic and all that, and I believe strongly in the music and whatever role I play in talking about it as I do, but the simple truth is I need it. It’s been long enough and it’s a big enough part of my life that I can’t really be who I am without it.

If you could form a supergroup out of any musicians from the past and present, who would you pick?

Nah, you never really know how a supergroup is going to work out, and I feel like if you pick a band with “stars” from other bands, often it’s ego-driven and kind of falls flat. I’ll just take my Shrinebuilder record and the Munchen Sessions from when Los Natas jammed with Stefan Koglek from Colour Haze and be happy with that.

Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

Fun fact about me: I love peanut butter. You nailed this question. Peanut butter anything — I’m in. It’s the fastest way to my heart. These days I grind my own from dry roasted, unsalted peanuts — because I want to taste peanuts, not salt — and I usually stop the food processor before it’s all the way smoothed out. It’s not “crunchy” like in the Jif or Skippy sense, where there’s like half a nut just mysteriously inserted into otherwise smooth peanut butter, but if I can get it to where it’s got a bit of texture and still get the good oils out from the peanuts and bring out that flavor, I’m happy. I also recently started grinding almond butter as an alternative. Different process, takes longer, but also yields satisfying results.

You’re the smartest man alive, you’ve just built a machine that can travel through time and teleport you to any destination. Where do you go, and why?

I’d travel to a dimension outside of conventional hours and give myself more time to write

Then I’d go back to when I was like 15 and tell myself to go see Kyuss and White Zombie on tour together. And Sleep whenever.

Lastly, if you had to describe how awesome King Buffalo is in one word, what word would you choose?

As regards your new album, “breakthrough” is the single word that most comes to mind, but I think generally the forward step you’ve taken has been to make your sound more your own while also developing your songwriting, upping the level of presentation via production, and generally showcasing the lessons you’ve learned both from Orion and from the touring you’ve done since that record came out. These are some of the things I think can be most admirable from a band going from one LP to a follow-up. I knew you guys were onto something the first time I heard the demo, but Longing to Be the Mountain is a special album. You should be proud of it.

In all seriousness though, thank you so much for all you do JJ. Most outlets overlook upcoming bands. It’s because of your ears and fingers that I’ve been turned on to a lot of great music. I look forward to seeing who you find next. –Scott (The guy that hits stuff in KB)

In all seriousness, Scott, this feels weird and I’m not entirely comfortable talking about myself in this way on this site. It feels like a total ego trip and I’m not into it. But I’m doing it because it’s you, and because it’s King Buffalo and because when I told The Patient Mrs. about it and said I probably wasn’t going to do it, she said I should.

Alright, the baby’s waking up. I gotta go. Thanks for taking the time.

King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain (2018)

King Buffalo, “Quickening” official video

King Buffalo BigCartel store

King Buffalo website

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Twitter

King Buffalo on Instagram

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

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Six Dumb Questions with Megaton Leviathan (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on October 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

megaton leviathan

I’ve always thought of the difference between modernism and post-modernism as being that modernism says, “There is no god. So what?” and post-modernism takes the form of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack and answers, “So what? So let’s dance!” and the presses a play button on its golf bag and starts the party. In their own way, Megaton Leviathan are cutting a post-modern rug on their third album, Mage, which is released Oct. 26 through Blood Music. Led by founding vocalist, guitarist, synthesist, etc.-ist Andrew James Costa Reuscher, the experimentalist progressive drone outfit were last heard from in 2014 with the particularly weighted Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell (discussed here), following up on 2010’s evocative and spacious debut, Water Wealth Hell on Earth (review here), and with Mage, Reuscher and creative partner Mort Subite, whose name translates from French to “sudden death” and who handles keys, vocals, recording, and so on, revamped the lineup of the band, filling out a drone sextext ready to hold sway and any chamber of the damned that might have them. One expects a few will.

The album is five tracks and 41-minutes of whatever-the-fuck-it-wants-to-be, post-all composition, following a narrative line from the forward march of opener “Wave” deep into hypnotic immersion like a spirit-seeking Godflesh before “Take the Fire” brings Floydian acoustic strum to the mix as an earth center for the surrounding ethereal moodiness. Moving into a wash of a finish with Reuscher‘s vocals and those of violinist Andrea Morgan staying resolute Megaton Leviathan Mageand calm at the center, “Take the Fire” comes apart like ashes thrown off a cliff before drums and low synth rumble begin the centerpiece title-track, marking a return of the dual-vocal approach and a beat that holds steady until about four of the six minutes have passed, at which point the loops and strums begin a resonant dirge march soon enough active again in its slow progression downward. This leads to the twist of the Eno Moebius Roedelius (aka Eno & Cluster) track “The Belldog” from 1978’s After the Heat, unveiling a krautrock-derived spread given a darker edge through undulations of lower-end synth rising up behind the belted-out verses.

It is gorgeous and consuming both, a brave take on an obscure original, and when the beat kicks in at about halfway through, the piano line that’s run throughout is only enhanced by the rhythm-making around it. At eight minutes, “The Belldog” is longer than anything before it, and in that, it doubles as a bridge to “Within the Threshold,” the 15-minute, largely instrumental finale to which all the marching on Mage seems to have been leading. Its unfolding is methodical and happens in at least three stages: the first four minutes dedicated to a tense buildup, the next eight-plus given to crafting a beautiful, nigh-incomprehensible wash of synth, guitar, violin and — somewhere in there — Morgan‘s vocals, and the last three a quiet, acoustic-inclusive ending that’s more resolution than epilogue. There’s something of a “what just happened?” effect when it’s over and the final line of keyboard fades gracefully away, but one thing Megaton Leviathan — ReuscherSubiteMorgan, drummer Jon Reid, bassist TrejenRuss Archer and maybe guitarist Travis Hathaway on the album (?) — never lose sight of is the flow between the varied stretches in the material. That is the thread running through Mage and the foundation from which is makes its outward sonic reach.

Reuscher was kind enough to discuss some of the makings of Mage and the personal context for him in which the album was composed, as well as essentially the remaking of Megaton Leviathan around himself and Subite. Before the Q&A, you can click play on the embed below to hear the debut of “The Belldog,” which I’m thrilled to be able to host.

Please enjoy the following track premiere and Six Dumb Questions:

Megaton Leviathan, “The Belldog” official track premiere

Six Dumb Questions with Megaton Leviathan

Over how long a period was the material on Mage written? The songs have such a diverse range. How did they come together?

I started writing them in winter of 2015/’16. I had just moved into a one bedroom apartment after my home of 10 years where we had hosted many shows in the basement was demoed. A neat lil side note is Capitalist Casualties played the last show at the house so that was kind of a nice farewell. I was pretty depressed and had some interpersonal things going on at the time on top of this and I had put on a LOT of weight and experiencing some health issues. I was pretty fed up with the bullshit that comes along with doing the band thing. The Past 21 tours where literally a death march and after writing an album when I got back and kind of trying to get a band together, Ford Tennis (yes, that’s his real name) let me know he was leaving. He did the session drums for Past 21 and we tapped him since our touring drummer just kinda ghosted us.

I was fed up with EVERYTHING. People would tell me oh you need to to tour more… I’m like I toured a lot man, I hired PR, we played direct support slots with Wolves in the Throne Room several times, and they even said themselves if this isn’t helping you not much else can be done, so going back a little further that was the basis of beginning of the end for Chris bagging out.  But that’s a whole other story. So yeah, just years of near-misses failures and getting our asses handed to us. So I shelved that album I did after Past 21, I folded the band and told Mort Subite that I was fucking done. He however knew I wasn’t and waited me out patiently. Anyway I got into this one bedroom apartment and set up all my studio gear in the living room.

Then one day I got the itch. I started laying down all these synth tracks and came up with some hooks and whatnot. I compiled three or four songs. I knew I wanted to hang up the doom hat — that shit bored me at this point from a songwriting perspective. I wanted to explore, so I got me a Moog Voyager.  I ended up getting a new house in the middle of the peak of the housing crisis here in Portland as well, nicely situated on the other side of the freeway so no one fucks with us. Anyway I was also listening to a lot of Chrome at the time and I think some of that leaked into it. I guess more than just leaked, since I essentially met Helios Creed and ended up filling in for the synth master himself Tommy L. Cyborg (Farflung). Mort and I ended up helping with Chrome‘s album Techromancy and THEN  I toured Europe with ChromeHelios and Lou Minatti where around quite a lot around this time. So it went from a total bummer to all this awesome stuff happening by the end of 2017.

Tell me about “Within the Threshold.” How did writing that song happen and what is it expressing for you in its lyrics and in the music itself?

This was the last song I had written for the album I knew I wanted to pay homage to the Kosmische Kraut gods. So I went there with it, busted out the Moog and tasty analog arp’d synth and did my best Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze with some German psych-folk in there to possibly make Julian Cope proud heh heh heh… It just came together effortlessly, I mapped it out and did the bottom tracks and then brought Mort and Andrea in to fill it out.  The process was actually fun. The album Mage itself is obviously themed and this song is the completion of the lyrical concepts. It’s not a secret to many that I am a Esoteric Freemason and a member of a Hermetic Fellowship. I had been doing a lot of work and this album reflects that. I try to keep this stuff very simple because it can get very complicated very fast and at that point you may lose the meaning. I also try to keep a childlike wonder about these things — growing up is for losers. Music and magick are creative things that rely on it, in my opinion. So the song, it’s about being within the pillars of hidden knowledge, vision coming to form and being very clear after diligently trudging a dark path with very little to light the way except trust in faith, THEN that moment of “AH!… it all makes sense now,” I hear my song and know it is a gift. To sum it up, Order Ab Chao.

Tell me about the recording process. You basically rebuilt the band going into this album. Were you nervous at all about how it would all work out? What did each player bring to the project that let you know it was going to all fit?

I came at this from the perspective [of how] my Masonic Lodge and etc. goes about bringing in new initiates. They have to want it. I’m not going to waste all my time and effort on curiosity seekers. I want to know that you’re in it, that you know what you want and this is it. My lodge prides itself on their commitment to the craft and are some of the best esotericists (of many different backgrounds) I have ever met, I wanted my band to reflect the same in the capacity of music.

So yeah I had to start from scratch with the exception of Mort Subite — who for those of you who know French might glean that he has impeccable timing, which he does. He is my ace. Though the moment that I realized that I might want to continue was when Jon Reid reached out to me and offered his drumming skills. I knew he played on that first Lord Dying record and I had seen them play several times around town, but I had no idea he knew about ML and that he was a fan. His enthusiasm and his ability as a musician sealed it for me. From that point on I think Mort Subite and I decided to just commit fully and make this a band. Slowly we kept getting together bringing in different people essentially trying them out to fill out the band. Andrea Morgan came into the picture. Mort knew her from “back in the day” and so did a few others we knew. So I was like, “huh don’t know if I need like six people in this band… what can she do?” Mort was quick to inform me that she was extremely talented and plays violin in the Vancouver Washington symphony. I reflected on the work Chris Beug did with string arrangements on the first album, and the stuff we did on Past 21… if we could pull it off in the context of new works that would be great.

So we brought her in she clicked right away and it was a match. At this point we started rehearsing regularly and I was teaching everyone the material off of the Repeating Patterns of Love demo.  We had a few people come in and out but things where kinda gelling so  I was like, “guys! we are going to finish this album I wrote, I want you all to collaborate with me on it.” So we did that and somewhere in there I was talking to Trejen who I used to be roommates with at a Fourth of July party and telling him what I was up to. He was like well you know I play bass as well as art. I mean this dude is a really damn good artist and I knew he was a straight shooter. He also toured with Dystopia as a roadie on their very last tour so I also knew for fact he had the right stuff. So I was like, “you’re in dude, let’s meet next week.” The next day he called me and was like, “hey so I was drunk last night… Did I? did I just join Megaton Leviathan?” I was like, “yeah man – you sure did.  You in?” He said, “yeah lets do this.” So we got it together and played a few local shows to seal the deal over the summer of 2017. In between all of that we worked on the album, getting together in my studio and laying down tracks. I felt that process created a strong bond between us which I knew was needed if we were going forward as a six-piece band.

Our most recent player Russ Archer is rad too. He is a quick study, gets it and has a great sense of humor which is needed. Russ has played in SubArachnoid Space and a bunch of other great bands. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him and everyone on future works for sure.

How are the songs connected for you? Can you expand a bit on how they tie together in theme and purpose and what drew you to fleshing them out in different ways? How do “Mage” and “The Belldog” happen next to each other?

I mean as far as writing them it was pretty much sequentially.  Then when the time was right I kind of catherted and got the lyrical content. I’m telling a story which is kind of reminiscent of a hymn. First song I kinda talk about my process. I was in a dark place and I was looking for some healing. And it kinda goes from there to how I get over it and find my footing again. I go over the dualistic nature of life the tragedy the glory getting in touch with your higher purpose. Listen to the album.

As far as “Mage,” I wrote that one. I kinda went off on tokens in life that kinda signal change and was kind of incorporating more of a worldview with the wacky shit that is happening in our at least American culture anyway. I grew up as a kid in the ’80s having an actor as a president and playing G.I. Joes and Transformers then took a bunch of acid in the ’90s… and now we have this really augmented warped reality that seems too absurd to be real… It’s like I’m living in a dream, “yo dawg is this shit real? We have some reality show host playing G.I. Joes and Transformers but hes presumably in charge of the free world…” Anyway what can I do? This seems really bizarre, man. I feel kinda helpless but I’ve done enough acid to know that this shit will pass and you gotta take the lesson man. Do what you can. Weave your truth into the narrative. Hack it by radiating love on the micro cosmic level, it will grow, etc. In the meantime duck and let the shit wash over you.

“The Belldog” is a cover of a Cluster & Eno track. So I was telling you about Mort Subite and his great timing. We were about done and he came in ad was like, “oh I have this track…” He had arranged it all himself and brought it to Andrea and I to do strings and guitars. So I did my best Micheal Rother. I figured if there was any guitarist that would jam with those dudes it was him first and foremost (Harmonia). All of us in the band where floored by it, and I we knew this had to go on side two and stand as a massive homage to the Kraut masters. Mort Subite and I actually got to see Hans-Joachim Roedelius live in Portland right after we finished tracking and it was this beautiful moment of the vision being realized for that song in particular, having Adam Stacy (Secret Chiefs 3) do the piano on that was the best call we could have made. I just shook Roedelius‘ hand and thanked him after the set.

It’s been four years since Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell. Aside from the lineup, how do you feel the band has grown in that time? Was there something specific you wanted to do differently on Mage?

I mean what line up? it was me stumbling around with a guitar while Mort did sound… although we had a drummer on the US tour so there’s that. I didn’t have a band, not at that point. It had broken up by 2010. I was just trying to keep doing a thing and see the album through and it felt like a burden at that point. I had to re-record it three times save for the drum tracks and the collab tracks which kinda saved that album from being a total waste.

I feel like now I have what I always wanted with Megaton Leviathan anyway. I had always felt like we put the cart before the horse starting out. I wanted live synths, and there is of course things that you gain merely from experience which I lacked 10 years ago. So it is as it should be.

We kind of touched on the doom thing with our first two albums. Past 21 is the heaviest we will ever get. We went out of our way to make the heaviest album we could, and for better or worse, I did it. It’s time to move on. Yeah, with Mage I just wanted to do what felt right musically. The electronic and post-punk elements have always been there so I wanted to expose that more with this output. I have endless roads to travel and I plan on taking that pilgrimage.

Will Megaton Leviathan tour? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yeah we plan on it, timing is everything and we hope to finally make it to EU sooner than later.  Buy our album, support your local record stores and if you like a band go see ’em live when they come to your town.

Megaton Leviathan, “Wave”

Megaton Leviathan on Thee Facebooks

Megaton Leviathan on Instagram

Megaton Leviathan on Bandcamp

Blood Music webstore

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018: Departure

Posted in Features on August 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2018

08.20.18 – 6:57AM – Monday morning – McCarren Airport, Las Vegas

My cab driver on the way over here was from Athens, a retired cargo-ship captain whose pension got taken back from him and who’s been in the US for eight months. I talked up the Greek heavy rock scene to him and apologized for the weirdness of the times here. He said, “I think America is the best country,” and compared it to Albania, where he said it’s harder to make a living. When we got to the terminal, I gave him a good tip and wished him good luck.

Maybe it was a story he tells everybody. Maybe he made it up. Whatever. I like a story.

Flight is in about an hour. My original reservation said I was flying to Houston. When I checked in this morning with my magic confirmation number, it was San Francisco. Vegas to San Fran to Boston. I’ll get into Logan in about 13 hours, reportedly.

Before I close up the laptop so I can sit anxiously here at Gate D58 and wait for boarding to start, as though my staring would somehow expedite this process — shout to Steve Murphy, who’s seen this in action — I have to say thanks. Thanks to you for reading and for your support and just everything. I was overwhelmed this weekend at the kindness of everyone who came up and said hi, people who knew the site and others with familiar names from the social medias who introduced themselves. Bands I’ve written about and bands I should’ve written more about, and everybody else. It was incredible. Thank you.

Thanks to Evan, Ronnie, Jay and everyone else from the Psycho crew for having me out here. It was a festival unto itself. The big Psycho comparison point is European festivals, the Desertfests, Roadburn, etc. Psycho is its own thing.

Just like American bands and European bands trading influence back and forth across the ocean, Psycho is the start of that conversation from this side of the world. It’s not the first US heavy fest by any stretch, but it might be the first on this scale, and all weekend rumors were circulating about venue changes and even bigger things for next year. Should be interesting.

But thank you. Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for running point on The Pecan and allowing me to be here. I’ve had a couple trips fall through this year and this was one I was glad to make.

When I get back it’s time to knuckle-down for Fall. The Patient Mrs. starts a new semester of teaching right after Labor Day, and that means I’ll be doing my share of daddytime in a way that this weekend I most definitely was not. He’ll be 10 months this Friday. First steps accomplished last Wednesday. Three teeth, fourth coming in. Dude is killing it, and if you didn’t see it, that Vol. 4 cover made by the esteemed Slevin is album art of the year as far as I’m concerned.

They just delayed my flight, so I need to run and find out what that does to my connection. Maybe I’ll get to Houston after all. Here’s to adventure. Thanks again for reading and all the best from wherever the hell I’m headed.

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Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Sunday, 08.18.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2018

08.19.18 – Let’s call it midnight – Sunday night – Hotel room

Every time I walk down a long hotel hallway I think of John Goodman in Barton Fink toting his rifle and yelling about the life of the mind. “Look upon me!” and so on. That’s a fun association to have.

I had breakfast this morning at the kind-of diner here in the Hard Rock and it was the first meal I’d had in a while not made of a protein bar or granola and cereal. Not much time for that kind of thing, but I wasn’t sleeping and a little extra fortification seemed like the right idea for the final day of Psycho. No regrets.

Another busy day. There’s no letup here. Sets are full, and there are breaks between, but if you’re up for going, you can just keep going the whole day. It’s astounding. I’ve been doing my best to see as much as possible, but even that’s a fraction of the whole.

But, today was also the last day, so a bit of adrenaline to carry through is a fortunate happenstance. Flight’s early tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Here’s today:

King Buffalo

King Buffalo (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It’s not like I’ve never seen King Buffalo, but I think they might’ve been my most-anticipated band of the weekend. Their upcoming album, Longing to be the Mountain, is a big step forward in their sound, and 2016’s Orion (review here) was already right up there with that year’s best offerings. They opened with the title-track of the new record and then “Repeater” from the 2018 EP of the same name (review here) before digging back to Orion for its own title-track and “Kerosene,” both of which were met with a relative uproar from the knowing Vinyl crowd. At one point early on someone in the audience shouted between songs, “Why are you opening?” and drummer Scott Donaldson answered, “I don’t know!” I don’t really know either, but Donaldson, guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay and bassist Dan Reynolds were a perfect start to the day, with the latter adding a wash of loops and psychedelic noise and transitional drones for between the songs, the build and fluidity of which were immersive in their totality. There was no moment that pulled one out of the atmosphere they set, and when the three of them locked into the heavier end of “Kerosene,” the room became a lake of nodding heads. I will consider myself lucky have seen them here. They made that room their own.

Indian

Indian (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Chicago four-piece — playing as a five-piece with Primitive Man‘s Ethan Lee McCarthy sitting in on noise and backing vocals — were probably the angriest act I’ve seen all weekend. Or, you know, ever. The assault factor extended not just to the brutality of what they played, the chest-vibrating volume at which they played it or the harsh noise and feedback that infected every single break between riff after punishing riff, but even unto the bright wash of white light under which they played. It was blinding to stare at the stage for any length of time. So it was a challenge on almost every level it could be short of them spraying skunk scent on the crowd or something like that. The rhythms of bassist Ron DeFries and drummer Noah Leger hit through a surge of low end and were punctuated by a kick drum that could almost turn the stomach, and the tortured, disaffected screams from guitarists Dylan O’Toole and Will Lindsay that cut through all that not-just-aggro-but-really-pissed-off morass were just one more level on which Indian‘s bleakness was conveyed. If King Buffalo were easing the crowd into the final day of Psycho Las Vegas 2018, Indian were making sure no one left without a scar. Menacing.

Coven

Coven (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Legends, of course. What’re gonna do, not watch Coven? Of course not. Frontwoman Jinx Dawson arrived on stage in a draped coffin and was let out by robed minions, wearing a silver mask for the first song to obscure her face and underscore the theatrical cult rock vibe. Their 1969 debut, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls is the stuff of cultish blueprint — the style simply wouldn’t exist in the same way without it — and Dawson and her also-robed backing band honored that legacy well. I’ve wondered as Coven have gotten back to the live performance sphere if they might ever do another record. I don’t know that they would or wouldn’t, or if they did what it would sound like — the band behind Dawson definitely brought a modern edge to those classic sounds — but it seems like a worthy pursuit. As it was, the crowd headbanged and took phone pictures at the same time and were no less into the revelry than Coven itself, which brought the atmosphere of ceremony in a way that reminded of the roots not just of cult rock, but black metal and doom and so much more besides. They’re a feelgood story for a band finally getting their due appreciation, or at least Dawson getting hers, but Coven on stage demonstrate the timeless vitality of what they did nearly 50 years go.

Black Mare

Black Mare (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I had no idea what to expect from Black Mare, and I was still surprised. Was it just going to be Sera Timms singing over drones, or her and a drummer, or anything. I don’t even know. It was a full band. Timms, who’s probably best known at this point as the ethereal frontwoman of Ides of Gemini but who was also in Black Math Horseman and shared vocal duties with John Garcia in Zun — which I’m still hoping wasn’t a one-off — was joined by her Ides bandmate J. Bennett on bass, as well as a guitarist and drummer, and with a swell of volume behind her, she came out an held the entire Vinyl room rapt. There were moments between songs of actual silence. No talking, no nothing. People were just waiting to see what happened next. With a cloak and face mask that were both gradually discarded, Timms brought her otherworldly vocal approach to a kind of dark-psych lounge feel, almost like she was about to book a show at the bar in Twin Peaks. Atmosphere and tones alike were thick as this version of Black Mare called back to the project’s 2013 debut, Field of the Host (review here) to open with “Blind One” before “Low Crimes” from the split with Lycia (review here) and “Death by Desire” from last year’s  Death Magick Mother (review here) seemed to move further and further into an alluring murk of melodies and ambience.

Enslaved

Enslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Well, Enslaved played “Ruun,” so really anything else that happened, basically ever, takes a back seat to that. It would be impossible for the Norwegian progressive black metal powerhouse to capture the entirety of their 14-album catalog and their 27-year career, and to their credit, they didn’t try. With “Isøders Dronning” and “Yggdrasil” from 1993’s Frost included for longtime fans or those who’ve dug in deep, they were free to explore some more recent material — opening with “Roots of the Mountain” from 2012’s Riitiir (review here) before “Ruun” and including “Sacred Horse” from 2017’s E (review here) in a showing of just how proggy they’ve become. This was my first time seeing Enslaved with keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje — about whose relative youth bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson joked twice on stage — and he absolutely nailed new material and old. Wasn’t even a question. With him, Kjellson, guitarist/vocalist Ivar Bjørnson and guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, who I don’t think even owns a shirt at all, was new drummer Iver Sandøy. I didn’t know Cato Bekkevold wasn’t with the band anymore after 15 years, but Sandøy made his presence felt on vocals as well and like Vinje, was right at home in the songs. I’ve never seen Enslaved that they didn’t totally deliver, and I’m happy to report that streak is still alive.

The Hellacopters

The Hellacopters (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There are some serious fans of The Hellacopters walking around Psycho Las Vegas this year. Decked-out rockers, heavy-garage types, fucking classic drinkers, trouble through and through. Don’t fuck with those people. They’re the drunkard’s drunkards. Turbojugend jackets have abounded all weekend and it would seem to be The Hellacopters that brought them out. Fair enough. The Swedish rockers made The Joint get down like no one I’ve seen this weekend, and it was superlative. Superlative rock, as a genre. Lot of punk in there, lot of garage as well, but all of it was distilled down to the essence of rock and roll, and as guitarist/vocalist Nicke Andersson came out to soundcheck with the rest of the band, it was clear the room had been waiting for The Hellacopters to arrive. Andersson, keyboardist Anders “Boba” Lindström, guitarist/vocalist Andreas “Dregen” Svensson, bassist Sami Yaffa and drummer Robert Eriksson handed that same room its ass in short order. Good times, absolute forget-about-tomorrow-let’s-kill-it-tonight mentality, all-in, all-go, all-fire. Just right on. I’ve dug Hellacopters records and such as much as the next who’s like, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, right on,” but seeing it live it’s much, much easier to understand why they have the cult following they do. It’s well earned.

Dreadnought

Dreadnought (Photo by JJ Koczan)

For everyone who could pull themselves away from The Hellacopters or for those to whom the straight-up rock wasn’t maddening enough, Denver’s Dreadnought offered an alternative in Vinyl. I’ve seen some impressive shit this weekend. It’s been a good fest, okay? Then I saw Dreadnought drummer Jordan Clancy one-hand cymbals while using his other hand to press the notes on the saxophone he was also playing at the same time. Dreadnought‘s 2017 album, A Wake in Sacred Waves (review here), was lush in its layers and as creative in its arrangements as it could be scathing in its blackened extremity, but I don’t think I’ve ever watched somebody drum and play sax at the same time. That’s a Psycho Las Vegas 2018 first for me. Guitarist/vocalist Kelly Schilling was playing a flute at the time as well, so he was in good company, and bassist Kevin Handlon and keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Vieira stood ready at a moment’s notice to take off into the next movement, be it Vieira and Schilling on a quick melodic duet, or strobe-accompanied blasting black metal, heads banging and screams utterly vicious. I didn’t stay the whole set, I’ll confess, but I was glad to catch what I did, and it only reinforced my opinion that they’re a band whose scope and execution are likewise admirable.

Sunn O)))

SunnO))) (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As it happened, I had a couple minutes to spare. As it also happened, drone/amp/riff-worship magnates Sunn O))) were going on in The Joint. Playing as just the duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, they were decked out in full grimmrobe regalia and surrounded of course by a henge of speaker cabinets. The floor shook, it was so loud. I hadn’t seen Sunn O))) in a very long time, and even longer with just the two of them — maybe never — so while the timing worked out for me to catch them because Vinyl was running late, it was a fortunate bit of happenstance working in my favor. There’s been so much said about the poetry of what Sunn O))) do that I’m in no way about to add any insight to the canon, but as far out as they’ve gone over the years and their intermittent studio albums, incorporating vocalist Attila Csihar and various other players throughout their time, seeing just Anderson and O’Malley together on stage, bathed in fog as ever (though the ventilation system was almost too good and the fog kept swirling away, needing immediate replenishment), reaffirmed the raw power that’s always been at the root of the band. Their project has outgrown being just the two of them, and I don’t think I’d trade the Sunn O))) discography for a hypothetical, but the force of rumble emanating from the stage said everything that needed saying.

Eight Bells

Eight Bells (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What a way to cap the festival. One more show in Vinyl, one more band I probably wouldn’t get to see otherwise. I was dragging to be perfectly honest, and as noted, Vinyl was running late, but screw it, I was already in, and Eight Bells were going to be worth the wait. The Portland-based space-psych-post-whatever four-piece vary in volume, meter, melody and rhythm, but are persistently spacious, and especially digging 2016’s Landless (review here), I was doubly interested to see Eight Bells since guitarist/vocalist Meylinda Jackson had a completely new lineup with her. Comprised now of Jackson, keyboardist/vocalist Melynda Amann, bassist Alyssa Maucere and drummer Brian Burke, the experimentalist side came out before the set even started in earnest, with Jackson taking some kind of voice box and running it through what seemed to be a host of effects to create a foundation of atmosphere. Drift was a factor, but Eight Bells were never actually out of control, and even for being a new group working together, what they played seemed well-honed and there was none of that awkward everybody-in-their-own-sonic-space-on-stage thing you get when a band is recently formed or revamped. I don’t have anything to compare it to in terms of Eight Bells, never having seen them before, but they held together a ranging heavy psychedelia that seems to be individualized no matter who’s playing it at the time.

I fly out of Las Vegas in about eight hours. It’ll be brutal, but I’m pretty sure I’ll make it, and if not, well, there’s always ‘wandering the earth’ to try. I hear good things.

Tomorrow’s pretty much all travel, so unless I have space on the plane to open my laptop — which I sincerely doubt I will — I expect it’ll be Tuesday before I get a proper thanks-everybody post up to wrap up this coverage, so with pictures still to sort through and packing to be done, I’ll just bow out and say thanks for reading and more pics after the jump.

So… thanks for reading and there are more pics after the jump. Ha:

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Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Saturday, 08.18.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho las Vegas 2018

08.19.18 – 5:45AM – Sunday morning – Hotel room

I woke up an hour before both my alarms — my early alarm to write and my later alarm to shower in that glorious Hard Rock Hotel shower and start the day. Bothersome but not the end of the world. One doesn’t come to a festival expecting a lot of rest. Make do with what you get.

Today also started an hour later, so I actually had a little time to kill. psycho las vegas 2018I sat down in the center bar for a while and drank a coffee, just kind of soaked in the place and the reality of the casino’s weirdness. They were playing rock videos on the tvs in the bar and the Little League world series next to each other. The Yankees game was on elsewhere but I didn’t get to see a score.

I’ve met a lot of really nice people who’ve said a lot of really nice things about this site. A lot. And it’s been good to put faces to names I’ve seen on posts and comments and stuff like that. I’ll admit Vegas isn’t really my kind of town, but I feel incredibly fortunate to be here this weekend and I’m utterly stupefied every single time someone comes up to say hi. Thank you.

Day kicked off in Vinyl, which packed out early. Here’s how it went down:

Venomous Maximus

Venomous Maximus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some mystery to start off the day with Houston’s Venomous Maximus, who played as the trio of guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt, sans frontman guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins, who’s a significant presence to the band. I’m not looking to spread rumors, and I was hoping to run into the guys after they played so I could ask what happened, but what I heard was that Higgins went Vegas AWOL, which is apparently a thing that happens here. That left Larson on vocals, and he did an admirable job filling in on songs like the title-track of last year’s No Warning (review here) and “October 14th” from 2015’s Firewalker (review here). With the lone guitar and Larson stepping into a frontman role, it was a markedly rawer presentation than one would expect from Venomous Maximus, since Higgins‘ theatricality has always been such a big part of what they do live, but if anything, it proved that the heart of the band has always been their songwriting, which remains memorable and largely undervalued. Given the circumstance, it’s commendable they played at all, but by the end of the set Vinyl was slammed with people and surprisingly loud for one in the afternoon.

Batushka

Batushka (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elaborate. It was not a minor production. Polish black metallers Batushka opened The Joint about a half-hour past their listed start time, and the line outside to get in told the tale of a band people were itching to see. Robed and chanting, surrounded by candles, incense, vestments and other sundry appropriated Christian this-and-thats, they tore open a cosmic blackened assault that was powerful. Elsewhere at the Hard Rock, and completely unrelated to the festival, there was a bikini contest happening, and I kept thinking what an amazing and odd planet it is that Batushka and the bikini contest would be going on at the same time in basically the same place. Surreal. The production, lights, sound, everything, was spectacular in the truest sense, and as I was basically unfamiliar with them going into the set, the delay made more sense once they actually got going, spread out on the stage as they were, with multiple vocalists and the whole ceremonial vibe. It was fascinating to see them use so much religious imagery and iconography, giving the whole set the feeling of being a mass, and then of course ripping it in half. Or maybe burning it to the ground? Either way.

Forming the Void

Forming the Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Forming the Void are a better band than they know. They’re starting to figure it out. You can hear that happening on their third record, Rift (review here), and accordingly, it’s a really exciting moment to have the chance to catch the Louisiana four-piece live. They started out somewhat reserved on stage, but by the end, guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Thomas Colley were more fully engaged with the material, and when they closed out with “On We Sail” into “Saber” from their 2016 debut, Skyward (review here), one could hear the progressive sonic growth they’ve undertaken. They’re doing everything right. They have the songs, they have the aesthetic, they have a budding presence on stage. They just need time to keep doing what they’re doing. I hope they tour more. Vinyl was, again, full for them, and they already had the room on their side. They’re in the process of becoming something really special as a group, and one only hopes they keep moving forward the way they have thus far into their tenure. They were a must-see for me this weekend, and I heard from a lot of other people who said much the same. There was no mistaking why once they got underway. Felt lucky to watch their set.

With the Dead

With the Dead (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Speaking of doom royalty, one Lee Dorrian strutted out onto the Joint stage with all the assurance of a high roller at one of the tables out in the casino. I’ve been fortunate enough to see With the Dead once before, but this set was going to be something inherently different from the grime-laden ubergroup, since Dorrian and his chapeaued fellow former Cathedral bandmate, bassist Leo Smee, were playing as a trio with Unearthly Trance‘s Darren Verni sitting in on drums. The band canceled their appearance at Bloodstock in the UK just over a week ago owing to some unforeseen situation with guitarist Tim Bagshaw (also of Ramesses), and sure enough, Bagshaw didn’t make this trip either. Still, the whole point of With the Dead is to sound as filthy and maddeningly doomed as possible, and channeling Smee‘s bass through guitar amps in addition to his own was a good way to get there. They opened with “Living with the Dead” from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and made a highlights of “Isolation” and “Cocaine Phantoms” from last year’s Love from With the Dead (review here), the low-end wash and downer gloom pervading through low lights and massive volume, and though they were without a guitarist, the issue found a welcome answer as Scott Carlson (Repulsion, Septic Tank, ex-Cathedral, etc.) came out for a cover of Cathedral‘s “Ebony Tears” from their landmark 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, thereby finishing their set with about as deep a plunge as you can get. Probably not their ideal circumstance, but righteous just the same.

Monolord

Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The ascent over the last five years of Swedish trio Monolord has been among the most meteoric in underground heavy. Amplifier worship, tone worship, riff worship and worship of the very idea of sonic largesse itself have been their aesthetic calling cards over the course of their three-to-date RidingEasy Records full-lengths, but the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems have fleshed out their sound to incorporate a thundering spaciousness steadily encroaching on psychedelia. Their latest record, 2017’s Rust (review here), is the most progressive in that respect, but they still bring a crushing groove that they’ve quickly made their own. They’ve also toured — a lot. But I’m lame as shit, so it’d been a long time since I last caught a gig and it was nothing short of a pleasure to watch them unleash their massive lumber on the assembled and waiting crowd. Obviously used to playing on bigger stages, they seemed to climb inside of each riff and inhabit the material, channeling it physically as well as through the P.A., and the nod that resulted filled the room from front to back, upstairs and down. They’re a band living up to their potential in every way, and I’m already looking forward to what album number four brings.

Voivod

Voivod (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Here’s a general rule for life, and stop me if I’ve told you this before — oh wait it’s the internet you can’t stop me well tough shit — but: Go see Voivod. If you’re in a place where they are or can put yourself in a place where they’ll be, do that. Go see Voivod. You will never regret it, either in that moment or later on. And while I’m doling out advice, here’s another one: If you meet someone, and they’re a real Voivod fan, chances are that person knows their shit. The Canadian weirdo-sci-fi-thrash legends appeal to a very specific subset of headbanger, and I’ve never known a Voivod fan who was a prick. And I’ve been luck enough to know a few. They have a new record on the way — always — and with founding drummer Michel “Away” Langevin pounding away behind and long-tenured frontman Denis “Snake” Bélanger getting the dusk-time pool stage crowd into the show, the vibe was only positive the whole way through. Flanked by guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain, who’s been in the band now for a decade — time flies — and bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche, they hit into new single “Obsolete Beings” from the upcoming The Wake and it fit right in with classics like “Overreaction” and the eponymous “Voivod” from their decades-spanning catalog. What a blast. My phone registered the outside temperature at 106 degrees Fahrenheit, but Voivod seemed right at home in the swelter and were an unadulterated good time. Go see Voivod.

Godflesh

Godflesh (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Man, Margaret Thatcher must have been the absolute fucking worst to produce the kind of disaffection Godflesh continue to proffer. Their dystopian churn is, of course, almost painfully relevant today despite its origins over 30 years ago, and with guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist G.C. Green on a stark, largely empty Joint stage, they unfurled the oppressive electrified grit that’s made them so influential for so long. They’ve been active again for a while now, with two albums out in last year’s Post Self (review here) and 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here), so have gone well beyond “reunion band” status, but a Godflesh show still doesn’t feel like something that happens every day, and it’s always something special to watch their blend of inhuman(e) audio — the beats, the electronics, etc. — and the sheer emotion with which Broadrick executes his guitar and vocals. With Green on the other side a steady presence, Broadrick thrashed and headbanged and tried to tear himself apart with his playing, and each of his shouting bellows brought fists in the air from the crowd out in front. Very much the opposite vibe of Voivod out at the pool despite both groups’ ’80s origins, but likewise a wonder and a pleasure to behold. I wouldn’t mind a new Jesu record either, but as far as I’m concerned, Godflesh can just go on perpetually and that’ll be fine, thanks. The world needs them now more than ever.

Howling Giant

Howling Giant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I knew I wanted to see Nashville’s Howling Giant. I didn’t know quite how much I wanted to see them until they started. Having toured their way to Vegas in a hearse — because of course — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler and bassist Mike Kerr took the stage in Vinyl with an immediately outgoing personality. Actually, they showed that before they even went on, hopping down front after they set up to talk to the crowd on the other side of the barricade, but it was for sure in the performance as well. Their 2017 EP, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here), and its 2016 predecessor, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here), featured heavily in the set, and all around they put on a show that was definitely about having fun, being loud, rocking out and all that happy whatnot, but also deceptively intricate and progressive. Their studio material has carried that over to some degree, but it’s clear they’re moving forward with their sound, and one hopes they continue to do so as they move toward their inevitable, awaited full-length debut. They and Forming the Void were my two totally-gotta-see bands for the day, and they would seem to share a bright future in developing their own take on heavy rock. For Howling Giant, not even a busted snare stand could stop them, as Polzine and Kerr treated the crowd to an improv psych jam while Wheeler got a new one and they were back up and running in no time, pro-style. Nicely done.

Spirit Adrift

Spirit Adrift (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There seemed to be some trouble with the monitors before they went on, but once Phoenix four-piece Spirit Adrift got going, the project spearheaded by guitarist/vocalist Nate Garrett (ex-Take Over and Destroy) brought out a vibe that spoke even more to classic metal than the doom with which the band is so often lumped. Their late-2017 sophomore LP, Curse of Conception, brought progressive tendencies to bear following their 2016 debut, Chained to Oblivion (review here), and while the band was founded by Garrett as a solo-act, there’s no shortage of chemistry that’s come up between Garrett and his cohorts, guitarist Jeff Owens from Goya, bassist Chase Mason (also Gatecreeper) and drummer Marcus Bryant, and with the recording of that second album and a load of touring leading up to this show and their stop Aug. 21 at Brick by Brick in San Diego, they they were on fire the whole way through. Taking the stage to Buck Owens‘ “Big in Vegas,” they took the prime slot at the pool — CKY would play, but a few hours later — and never looked back, their performance duly energized to suit the occasion. If this was what their tour was leading up to, then it seemed to be worth it.

Got up stupid early this morning and seem to be undergoing a science experiment whereby I trade out sleep for coffee. Hour per 24 oz. cup? Hell if I know. What, you’re supposed keep track of your findings?

Today is the final day of Psycho Las Vegas 2018, which is an utterly bizarre beardo circus to behold, and it’s also Gene Roddenberry‘s birthday, which is as much an occasion to celebrate as I can possibly think. All the more reason to bash one’s head once more on the skull-cracking granite that is Psycho Las Vegas, and leave it to tomorrow to reassemble the pieces.

If you’re here, have fun. If you’re anywhere, thanks for reading.

More pics after the jump:

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Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Friday, 08.17.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas

08.18.18 – 5:00AM – Saturday – Hotel room

Gluttons for punishment, unite! Cast off the chains of your dayjobs and journey to a druggy boozy place where you can smoke indoors and piss away your head-earned on, well, potentially, someone else’s hard-earned. You never liked those brain cells anyway, and what good have they done?

Me, I prefer my brains melted or otherwise obliterated with fatigue. Dripping out my ears, either way. But I see some folks around here going nuclear, and hey, I get it. Safe environment, plenty of support, nothing to lose. It’s self-directed cruelty more than anything else that keeps me sober. I don’t deserve the good time everyone else is having. Kablooey.

It was an early start for a busy day. 12:30PM. I’d imagine there were people who hadn’t gone to bed yet. But DVNE were not to be missed, so, I didn’t miss them. A lot of back and forth early and not really much staying-put later makes for a hell of a time, but everything is right there around the corner and everyone here is very nice. At least the people who’ve said hi to me. I’m sure just by simple population-sample math there are one or two jerks running around, but none I’ve run into.

Witchcraft didn’t make it. That’s a band I’ve dug on some level or other for more than a decade, but wasn’t gonna cry over it. Plenty to see besides with three stages open: The Joint, Vinyl and the Pool.

And like I said, early start. Went like this:

DVNE

dvne (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Good band. That’s what I wrote in my notes. Direct quote: Good band. Pro shop. For DVNE‘s first appearance on a US stage — and sizable US stage at that, in The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino — they hit it like absolute professionals. Crisp in their sound, intense in delivery, every bit in command of the room, from “go” onward. With full lighting and production behind them, CO2 canisters firing and lasers behind and their logo blasted on massive stage-side screens, the Edinburgh progressive post-metal four-piece certainly seemed to be made to feel welcome on what to them was foreign shores. Killed. Just nailed it. They have a new record out next year following up on last year’s righteous Asheran, and playing beneath oranges and reds that echoed that album’s cover art, they delivered a set that quite frankly, unless they break up tomorrow, I sincerely doubt will be their last time on an American stage. In other words, they seem ready to hit the road in a we’re-a-full-time-band-now kind of way, and more power to them. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out in 2019 for when they come through supporting their next full-length, but in the meantime, this set was basically serving early notice of a significant arrival.

Night Horse

Night Horse (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Sure, it’s been eight years since L.A.’s Night Horse released their second album, Perdition Hymns (review here), but what the hell? The double-guitar five-piece — one of those guitarists happens to be Justin Maranga from Ancestors — took the stage and quickly warmed up their classic your-dad’s-rock-was-better vibe that, with added charm from vocalist Sam James Velde introducing them by saying, “We’re Integrity from Cleveland, Ohio,” was a total blast. I’ll admit it’s been a while since the last time I had Perdition Hymns or their 2008 debut, The Dark Won’t Hide You, on for a spin, but even though Maranga forgot his slide and no one seemed to have a beer bottle to use instead, they definitely made it work. With guitarist Greg Buensuceso and bassist Nick D’Itri holding down the other side of the stage and drummer Norm Block swinging away in the middle, they were way more locked in than one might think for a band who haven’t really kicked around all that much in at least a half-decade. Velde stepped over the barricade and into the crowd during the last song and asked everyone to sit with him on the floor — a proposition that I’d imagine would be way stickier later in the day — while he told the story of the song, and it made for a special moment, as almost everyone actually did it. He got back up and they rocked to a finish, but if you ever needed to know how much Night Horse owned that room, they literally sat it down to give some background on their material. He could do that at every show for all I know, but it was something special here anyway and I felt lucky to see it.

The Munsens

The Munsens (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Denver trio The Munsens posted a new single earlier this week called “Dirge (For Those to Come)” as a preview of their upcoming full-length, Unhanded, and with it, gave a first look at a notable change in direction, pushing more into the territory of extreme sludge than even two years ago found them on their Abbey Rose EP (review here). With guitarist/vocalist Shaun Goodwin and bassist/vocalist Michael Goodwin welcoming drummer Graham Wesselhoff, the shift is easy enough to place, but a corresponding turn to harsher vocals and more grueling fare would seem to be at hand. Most, if not all, of what they played in Vinyl was also from Unhanded, and they unfurled an onslaught of tone and noise that seemed to bounce right off the back of the room and make a wall of death with the next riff cycle. It was brutal, and not as given to crust as Dopethrone, but seemed to be somewhat of that spirit. Delivered with a likewise visual assault of strobe, their time went quick — unless I passed out from all the flashing lights — but was well enough to get the point of the evolution they’ve undergone. I don’t know if I’ll be ready when Unhanded, hits, but at least I’ll see it coming.

Temple of Void

Temple of Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I don’t know whether Temple of Void are the doom of death or the death of doom, but fucking hell they’re heavy. The Detroit five-piece released their second LP, Lords of Death, last year on Shadow Kingdom, and they’d only dip back once to 2014’s Of Terror and the Supernatural (review here) for “Examinate Gaze,” while everything else was from the new album. Fair enough for the significant assault factor of their death metal plunge. They took the stage to the Lords of Death intro “The Charnel Unearthing” — which given the intensity of what followed, I almost found unnecessary; they hit it so hard, why give people the chance to get ready? — and from there proffered an extremity that went beyond even the death metal to the atmospheric weight of what they were doing. Vocalist Mike Erdody had a soulful, tortured aspect to his headbanging and while behind him drummer Jason Pearce slammed into his kit with palpable resentment thereof and guitarists Alex Awn and Eric Blanchard tore into searing riffs and leads given all the more weight by Brent Satterly‘s bass, the sense of emotionalism Erdody brought to his growls was something rare on either side of the genre. It was another level on which Temple of Void make their impact felt, and a distinguishing factor that resonated throughout their time.

Church of Misery

Church of Misery (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was something of a crunch at this point in the schedule. Church of Misery were going on in the Joint while Temple of Void finished up in Vinyl, and then by the time the serial-killer-crazed Japanese riff lords were done, Yakuza would have already started, also in Vinyl. Still, history said “go see Church of Misery,” and history wasn’t wrong. Bassist/founder Tatsu Mikami is nothing less than doom royalty, and while I’ve seen him perform with several different lineups over the years, it always seems like he’s ready to deliver no matter who’s joined him on stage at the time. Psycho was no exception as he, vocalist/thereminist Hiroyuki Takano, guitarist Yasuto Muraki and drummer Junichi Yamamura ran through a selection of the hits: “Shotgun Boogie,” “I, Motherfucker,” “Born to Raise Hell” and so on. I’m not huge on the whole serial killer thing — by coincidence, I wound up in an elevator today with one of Charles Manson’s descendants who was telling his friends it’s way less cool when it’s your family — but regardless, Church of Misery did plenty of slaying on their own and made it easy to hope they record with this lineup, as it seemed like they were more than ready to get down to business at the Sabbathian core of what the band has always been about. I did end up poking my head in to see Yakuza for a moment — and Bruce Lamont is still way ahead of his time — but Church of Misery weren’t taking no for an answer. I was back in the Joint before long as they blew out the rest of their set and any number of eardrums in the process.

Tinariwen

Tinariwen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Absolutely stunning. I knew next to nothing about the Tuareg group Tinariwen going into the announcement they’d play Psycho Las Vegas, but the schedule cut off both the pool and Vinyl stages while they played, so clearly they were an act Psycho wanted people to see. Rightly so. Dressed in robes and traditional garb and backed by hand percussion, the band led by guitarist/vocalist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib brought a desert blues that tied to Psycho better than one might’ve ever expected. With acoustic and electric guitars, bass and deep-running vocal arrangements, dancing on stage — some dancing in the crowd too — and video of them on huge screens on either side, it was no less of a production in terms of lighting and staging than Church of Misery or DVNE had been, but the soothing vibe and ebbs and flows in the music made it a total standout. They were another one I was going to stay for a bit and then wander off and find some more coffee, but I was hooked. They could’ve played twice as long and I don’t think I would’ve moved. Their set felt like a gift and on a day that wasn’t exactly hurting for highlights anyhow, they were something truly special to behold. Their 2017 album, Elwan, was recorded in the California desert and has quickly made its way to the front of my must-purchase line.

Boris

Boris (Photo by JJ Koczan)

In their 25-plus years, enough wax poetry has been written in honor of Japanese noise and heavy rock innovators, droners, experimentalists, J-poppers and anything-else-they-want-to-be-that-day Boris that even attempting to talk about their set feels superfluous. I’d only be echoing a chorus of praise that’s resounded for the last two decades. Suffice it to say, they’re masters at what they do. Individually and collectively, guitarist Wata, drummer Atsuo and guitarist/bassist Takeshi are relentless in their forward progression, and though most of what they played after a drifting, slower opening came from the Heavy Rocks and Pink-style, the wash of noise and over-the-top push were never far off. Their 2017 album, Dear (review here), was a stunning glimpse at where they’ve been in their time and where they might still go, and bathed in fog on the Joint stage, they captured much the same feel in celebrating their past while continuing to move ahead toward something new. I don’t know if it’s possible for Boris to be underrated, but the chemistry between them on stage — whether it’s Atsuo shouting into his headset mic to raise the energy level or Wata scorching out another solo or Takeshi switching from his rhythm guitar neck to his bass neck and hurling out blistering low end runs — is among the most pivotal aspects of what they do, and as much as they’ve done to push heavy rock to multiple avenues over their tenure, they’ve only gotten to be a more potent force live.

High on Fire

High on Fire (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If a single person could embody what Psycho Las Vegas is, it might be Matt Pike. The High on Fire frontman and Sleep guitarist has played all three editions of this festival in some form or other — time for a Kalas reunion? — and he, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel came out like the statesmen they are; one of the most crucial bands not just in underground heavy, but in the wider sphere of metal. Hugely influential, with a maddening signature gallop and tales of war and bludgeonry to delight the downtrodden of spirit. Their upcoming LP, Electric Messiah, marks the third collaboration between the trio and producer Kurt Ballou, and while they didn’t play anything from it, they did give due representation to 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) in “The Black Plot,” “Carcosa” and “Slave the Hive,”  and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here) with “Fertile Green” and “Serums of Laio,” while older works like 2007’s Death is This Communion (discussed here) and 2005’s Blessed Black Wings (discussed here) made their presence felt with cuts like “Rumors of War” and “Sons of Thunder.” I’d argue they were the night’s headliners even before Witchcraft dropped off, but either way, High on Fire were more than up to the occasion, and with “Blood from Zion” from 2000’s The Art of Self-Defense late in the set, they brought together past and present in a way that was every bit the culmination of the evening. There was still plenty more Psycho after them, but no doubt High on Fire left their mark on the night and all who assembled to see them.

I don’t know if you saw it, but on the social medias I posted a picture of The Pecan and asked if anyone could turn it into the cover of Vol. 4 by Black Sabbath. Several came in, which was hugely appreciated, and among them was this one from Slevin, which I subsequently spent the rest of the night staring at because it’s so friggin’ awesome. If you need me, I’ll be meme-ing my baby. Next up, his head on Jean-Luc Picard’s body. It will happen.

Anyway, I came back to the room after the show and sorted pictures and whatnot and then crashed out pretty soon thereafter to get up early and write. My alarm was set for six and I woke up a bit before five and decided to roll with it. Psycho starts an hour later today, but is another super-busy day, so I’m going to get some more rest in preparation for that. I may or may not check in again before that review goes up, depends on time, but there are more pics after the jump here and I appreciate you reading and taking time to have a look if you do.

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018: Bowing to Electric Messiah

Posted in Features on August 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

VEGAS

08.17.18 – 11:16AM – Thursday morning – Hotel room

Was up a fair amount overnight. Had a nightmare I was being chased around the festival by some terrible somersaulting clown. He didn’t walk, he only rolled, but he rolled really fast and I’m pretty sure he was trying to kill me. Not friendly intentions, at the very least.

Did the review — did you see it? were there typos? — and was asleep immediately upon its posting. I was like, “Oh jeez I’m pretty awake I’m not sure if I — SLEEEEP.” Done for.

The alarm went off a little over an hour ago and I took the best shower I’ve taken in months. Maybe years. You know how there’s no shower like your own shower? Right? And everywhere you go, going home and taking a shower in your own shower is the best? Yeah, no. The Hard Rock shower is legit better than that going-home shower, unless that going-home shower is a roomy slate-tile affair obviously meant for company with a jet setting that would powerwash the paint off your house. Temperature, perfect. It was nothing short of amazing, and after peeling all the airplane/festival gunk from my skin like I was molting, I wanted to go another round just for the hell of it.

Coffee’s good too. There’s a little shop right by the elevator that’s doing alright. And if you keep your cups they give free refills, but the only trouble is they close at 7PM. I can’t imagine I’ll ever be invited back here, but these things are good to know anyway.

The first of three three-stage days starts today. Vinyl, the Joint and the pool will be open, though only the pool later on. Today, tomorrow and Sunday are all pretty busy days. Not a lot of downtime, and intermittent though it was, I expect last night was actually the best night’s sleep I’ll get. So it goes.

This isn’t the kind of fest that happens every day, so if you have to lose sleep to see what you want to see, it’s a small price to pay. DVNE are on in about an hour and I’m gonna grab more coffee and meander, try and figure out where I go and when and whatnot. If you’re keeping tabs — and yeah, I know, you’re not; this is not me feigning relevance — I’ll have the review up later or tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading.

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