Six Dumb Questions with Holy Grove

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

holy-grove-photo-by-Foto-Phortress

This coming weekend, Sept. 16, Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove are set to appear at Epicenter Music Fest in San Francisco, California. In that endeavor, the soulful riff rollers join the considerable ranks of High on Fire, Big Business, Mos Generator and others (full lineup here), and after appearances at Psycho Las Vegas in 2016, making their debut run through Europe alongside Boston’s Gozu, and offering one of last year’s finest debuts in their Heavy Psych Sounds-released and Billy Anderson-helmed self-titled (review here), it would seem to be the finishing stamp on the cycle for their first outing as they get ready to move on toward the writing and recording of the second.

Anyone who’s heard cuts like “Nix” and “Holy Grove” doesn’t need me to say that’s good news. Topped off as it was by some of the most striking cover art Adam Burke has ever produced (which is saying something), Holy Grove‘s Holy Grove offered modern tones and classic groove in kind, vocalist Andrea Vidal establishing a commanding presence amid the righteous lead work of guitarist Trent Jacobs and the full low end push from bassist Gregg Emley. They’ve worked with a succession of drummers already since founder Craig Bradford recorded with them, and they just recently welcomed Eben Travis to the fold as at least the fourth in that line, hopefully settling the issue once and for all.

As we move into Fall and begin to look ahead toward some of 2018’s most anticipated releases, it’s only fair to include an impending sophomore outing from Holy Grove on that list. The level of bluesy stylistic cohesion and songwriting they brought to the driving, swinging “Huntress” and to the nodding, semi-metallic expanses of “Hanged Man” would demand no less. Just how will the four-piece, now including Travis as a (fingers crossed) permanent member, begin to move forward and expand their sound in the New Year? And will they hit the road again with the same fury they did behind the self-titled? Sounds to me like it’s time to check in with Vidal for a full update.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

epicenter-music-festival

Six Dumb Questions with Andrea Vidal of Holy Grove

We’re about 18 months out from the self-titled release at this point. Looking back on your first album, how do you feel about how the songs came out? What is your favorite thing about it and what is your favorite memory of the recording process?

I think overall, we’re pretty satisfied with how the songs are represented on the record. We knew going into the recording process that we wanted to create studio versions of the songs, and have the live versions be their own thing. To that end, I think we were successful. It served the purpose of introducing people outside of Portland to the songs. My favorite memory of the recording process was the day we finished mixing at Everything Hz (Billy‘s studio). We literally finished up mixing the last song, and then listened to the whole thing from beginning to end. It was definitely one of “those moments.”

What’s the status of new material? Do you have a recording plan yet and a ballpark release date? How have the new songs started to come together?

New material is progressing nicely. Even while we were down a drummer, the three of us continued to show up to practice to work on new material with the intent to have songs basically finished and ready to start working on as soon as we found a drummer. We played two new ones at our first show back which felt great. We have a few more nearing completion and a large backlog of riffs and ideas that we’ll start pouring over in the next few months to get a new record written and recorded by early next year.

Is there anything in particular you want the new songs to build on from the self-titled? Anything you want to change in the band’s sound or a new way to challenge yourself or the band as a whole? Something new you just want to try out in the studio, maybe?

I think the idea for the new batch of songs is to push ourselves to take the tunes to the next logical level. I wouldn’t say there is anything we want to change or reinvent particularly, but we do want to amplify everything that we did on the first record. More swing, more groove, more power, more riffs!

Tell me about bringing Eben Travis into the band. What was it about him that let you know he was right to take on the drummer position? What were you looking for in someone new?

We basically knew as soon as Eben started playing that he was “the one.” We really wanted someone who understood the feel of the tunes without us having to explain it, someone who hit the drums fucking hard, and was someone who we could welcome in to the band on a personal friendship type level… someone we could also be pals with, basically. Thankfully Eben was that guy. Dude is the total package.

You toured in the US and in Europe for the self-titled. How do you feel about the way the band has been received on the whole, in terms of the record and live? Can you sense a difference at shows between now and before the album came out?

We’re all pretty flattered and humbled by the response to the band and record. I think after we played Psycho Las Vegas in 2016 and got a positive response that we realized we had a chance to make a mark outside of Portland. Having the record out means that when we play people are familiar with the tunes a bit more, and Psycho was the first time I looked out and saw people in the crowd singing along, which was really a special moment for me personally.

You’ve got Epicenter fest Sept. 16. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

First and foremost, we can’t thank everybody enough for the support. It truly means the world to us. After we get back from Epicenter, we have a few local shows with The Obsessed, then the plan is to finish up writing the new record, get it recorded and hit the road. We’re in the early planning stages of getting a European tour planned for 2018, which is something we are all really looking forward to. More shows, more music!

Holy Grove, Holy Grove (2016)

Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks

Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Holy Grove at Heavy Psych Sounds

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Epicenter Music Festival 2017 event page

Tags: , , ,

Here’s the Eulogy I Wrote for My Grandmother

Posted in Features on September 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Before I get to the actual text of this thing, I’d like to extend a special thanks to my mother for her kindness in allowing me to post what’s obviously something very personal for her as well as for me and my family as a whole.

I wouldn’t necessarily do so, but I’ve spoken about the recent passing of my grandmother at the age of 102 a few times here in the last couple weeks, and the passion and ferocity with which she lived her life is something from which I will continue to derive inspiration in how I conduct my own.

If you need a tie into music or what I do here, that’s it, and if you’re otherwise not interested, I’ll please just ask you to give me this one and wait for the next post, which I’m sure will follow shortly and be about riffs. Thanks for reading if you do and thanks for the indulgence either way.

florence peterson parsippany nj

Florence Peterson Eulogy Sept. 8, 2017

The very idea of trying to offer some summary of Florence Peterson’s life is laughable, even though through the simple act of laughing, we’d already have a lot of the work done. Most likely it would take at least three weeks to do her scope and history any justice whatsoever, and while it might be fun to try, we simply don’t have that kind of time.

Telling people your grandmother, your mother, your aunt, your great-grandmother, your sister – because Florence was of course all these things and many more — lived to be 102 elicits a very specific kind of sympathy. Call it the “good run” response. “She had a good run.”

Actually, she had the best run. And that’s precisely why we although we can be sad at her passing and we can miss the person she was and the inimitable presence she brought to our lives, we can only celebrate the way she lived, the personality that was hers and hers alone, and the stamp she left on all of us as her family.

Because while the numbers are staggering – born 1915 on the kitchen table in the shadow of one impending World War, married 1936 under the church stairs in the shadow of another, daughters born 1942 and 1947, moved from Bronx, NY, to Morris Plains, NJ, 1960, and so on – even sum total of her full one hundred and two years does precious little to indicate the breadth of Florence’s life. She lived an existence marked in every respect by the full spectrum of what it is to be a person. Joy, pain, love, despair. Florence’s life encompassed this range of extremes and found milestones between them that for most of us would be impossible to fathom.

Imagine living 41 of your 102 years as a widow. Imagine watching as your great-grandchildren are born and begin to take shape as people, the way your grandchildren and children did before them. From the devastation at the passing of her daughter Susan in 2004 to the smile on her face earlier this year when my wife Wendy told her we were naming our son after her husband – this life that tested the boundaries of what a life can be was a touchstone that seems utterly unscratchable. A diamond of a life.

Several years ago, I made it a point to sit down with Florence on that god awful living room furniture she got for such a bargain and talk to her about growing up in New York, to hear her stories about meeting Joe Peterson as a boy from the neighborhood, a couple blocks away that might as well have been an eternity between them, about getting married, her relationship with her brothers and the divide in the family there, her parents, career, and beyond.

There was so much to talk about, but what it always came back to for Florence was her family, and it’s that core emphasis that speaks to who she was as a person. Florence said what she wanted to say, did what she wanted to do. Right or wrong. She had days where she behaved like a complete child and simply did not care because that was how it was going to be. As she got older, it was, “I’m 70 so I can say what I want,” “I’m 85 so I can say what I want.” I’m 90, I can say what I want. One imagines she had said the same when she turned 23, and there was simply no point at which she didn’t just say whatever the hell she wanted to say.

And though there are at least as many instances throughout her life when this worked to her downfall as to her advantage – certainly advantage in her work as a secretary, substitute teacher, an underage sales clerk selling alcohol at Macy’s, or just as building a firebrand reputation among her friends and neighbors, doctors, and a succession of managers and cashiers at Shop-Rite on Rt. 10 & 202 on whom she was quick to pull a fast one with expired coupons – what stands out even more from Florence is the sheer ferocity with which she felt what she felt.

No one loved family like Florence loved family. It was like she was angry about it. Maddening love. A fierce love. And yes, sometimes that love could take a quick turn and call you stupid, or fat, or both, and she could be cruel as well as generous, but this was what made her human, and it was love that defined her.

It meant taking care of Pamela even long after Pamela was taking care of her. It meant being proud of every single one of Matt’s career accomplishments – her baby brother made good. It meant that, years after Susan died, Florence rewrote the story of their falling out in her mind and when prompted with what actually happened, refused outright to accept it as the truth. “You’re making that up,” she said. “No.” It meant her telling you to be careful going up the stairs to her second floor in the same tone of voice from the time you were five to the time you were 30. It meant worrying about “that Walker” or complaining that you never came to visit her even as you were right there with her, then and there, wanting to shout, “I’m here now! I’m actually sitting with you at this very moment! We’re visiting!”

And of course, shouting would be required, because defined as she was by her love for her family, Florence was equally defined by her stubborn refusal to get a hearing aid. Ever.

It is fitting that as we honor her life today and stop to reflect on who she was to each of us that we should be surrounded by photographs. Not just because they show a small selection of the milestones of Florence’s life, her bright, camera-ready smile, shows she’d been in, things she’d seen and the various trips she took with Joe Peterson, Ken, Helen, Susan and Bob, Dr. Huster, the Gelpkes, Pauline, Bonnie Smith and other friends and neighbors – St. Thomas, “Ittly,” Switzerland, and so on as she traveled across continents – but also because these photographs themselves are cherished memories.

The picture of Florence leaning over Joe Peterson in his red jacket, smiling wide as if inviting us all to laugh at his bowtie. Florence sitting on the fireplace at Matt’s house at the lake on that family Thanksgiving so many years ago. Even the yellowed newspaper clipping of the time she won the computer from The Daily Record. Not only do these photos evoke the events they depict, but they have become tangible artifacts no less representative of the love she shared with her family than the memories represented in them.

Take a tour of the house at 2 Sherwood Road – that place that was so much a part of her life when she, Joe Peterson, Susan and Pamela moved from the Bronx to the suburbs – and nearly every room has family photos in it. Walker and Emmett, Rob Jones, my sister Suze and I as children. Pamela and Susan as kids, growing up, and as adults with their families. Though she spent so many years living alone, there was almost no space in which she wasn’t surrounded by this love that she was so ready at a moment’s notice to almost violently defend if it came to it. Really. Woman might smack you if you messed with her family. Or her pictures. Or her Entenmann’s doughnuts.

And at holidays, family events, whatever it was, it was Florence with her disc-film camera, then her disposables. Always documenting. Her scrapbooks are tomes – dusty treasures in her living room of the memories she stewarded and was so right to preserve in that house. They became expressions of the love that fueled their making – that fueled her – and for the rest of us they serve as yet another reminder of how much the improbability of Florence Peterson goes so far beyond the meager 102 years she lived and what she did in that span of time.

There is so much to remember when we remember Florence, and when I think of my Gramma I can still hear her complaining about money or Suze’s furniture upstairs, or talking about the O.J. Simpson trial, or telling a story about a Sara Lee apple pie she “passed off” as her own. I can hear her particular Irish glee at mispronouncing “macacroni” in the context of a “macacroni and cheese” that consisted of elbow noodles, Hunt’s canned tomato sauce and shredded cheddar that was a holiday staple for decades and never failed to garner anything less than rave reviews.

I can see her sitting on her front porch with my mother, all around her busy with a detritus of personality – yard schlock, from pink flamingos to that mysterious penguin to even the light-up Santa Claus that never seemed to leave the front window of the great red room at 2 Sherwood Road, tucked away in the back of which are more memories, of board games, fires in the circular fireplace, wood paneling all around and the bar on the side. How cold it was there in the winter, but what a great place to be.

How much that space was a part of Florence and how much that house, with the tree in the front yard planted by Joe Peterson – always “Joe Peterson,” never “Joe,” though sometimes “Daddy” to my mother or Susan – became the center of her existence. What’s astounding to think is that Florence, who stopped driving no fewer than 15 years ago and with much fighting finally gave up that wonderful boat of a white Oldsmobile with AM-only radio and the bench seats — I remember hearing “How Much is that Doggy in the Window (Arf Arf)” and singing along to it with her at what must have been seven years old – spent her final years inside that house and still seemed to outlive us all. For so long and in so many ways, she was undulled by time – that diamond life as hard and clear as ever.

And so it will remain. Because the truth is that while Florence has passed on, it is our memories of her that we share today and every day in ways we can’t even articulate that she helped shape who we are that preserve her, even more than these photos. It’s not just about recalling the time when I was five and she got lost taking me home from Denville to Parsippany because she refused to listen to my directions, or the way she got so solemn and serious in talking about her coin collection as though it was a treasure of Doubloons unearthed from the bottom of the ocean, or the way she used to tell me how worried she was about my mother, how my mother was just like Joe Peterson and Susan had been more like her.

It’s not just about these things. It’s about the love we continue to feel for each other. It’s about the tribute we pay to Florence in our own growing families, and the parts of her we pass along to each other in passing along parts of ourselves. She was never perfect and I don’t think she’d have claimed to be if you’d been brave enough to ask – though she might argue with you just to have fun doing so – but today, it’s about how unbelievably, unrealistically lucky we were to have had Florence in our lives and how lucky we are to still carry the memories: the sound of her laughing, or cursing, or telling some raunchy story as she said whatever she wanted to say at whatever age she was. The sight of her in some silly hat going out to dinner. The American flags that she seemed so eager to adorn herself with in patriotic zeal.

Most of all, how fortunate we are to inherit her stewardship of memory, and the stewardship of remembering her, because while even those who never knew Florence have to admit she had “a good run,” it’s those of us who will never be the same without her – and will never forget her – who know exactly how wonderful, and terrifying, and beautiful, and sad, and gorgeously complete her life actually was.

Tags: , , ,

Six Dumb Questions with Earthride

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

earthride

This week marks the arrival of the first new Earthride release in more than half a decade. The new single, Witch Gun, arrives via Salt of the Earth Records as the follow-up to their third full-length, 2010’s Something Wicked (review here), which brought an expanded melodic palette from what the Frederick, Maryland, doom scene kingpins brought to their earlier work on 2005’s Vampire Circus, 2002’s Taming of the Demons and their initial 2000 self-titled EP, songs like “Destruction Song,” “Watch the Children Play” and the opening title-track itself showing considerable growth on the part of the band, who remain in no small part defined by the unmistakable character and presence of their frontman, Dave Sherman.

Earthride returns in 2017 following a stint on Sherman‘s part first in the reformed trio Spirit Caravan and bozzoven earthride tourthen in The Obsessed that ended following the recording of that band’s 2017 comeback LP, Sacred (review here), but in addition to fronting Weed is Weed, working on the new project Siren of Sorrows, and a history in and impact on Chesapeake doom that rivals the likes of Pentagram‘s own Bobby LieblingSherman is no less defined by his work in Earthride than Earthride is defined by him. The thick grooves he rides so fluidly on vocals on cuts like “Earthride” from the self-titled or “Fighting the Devils Inside of You.” The track “Witch Gun” is no less a part of this pantheon of Earthride landmarks, and perhaps all the more so for the future productivity it might be kicking off.

With the prospect of making a new album for release in 2018 ahead of them, Earthride will hit the road in October alongside unhinged sludge purveyors Buzzov*en. It’s more than a solid match. Both acts are legends in their field and have grit to spare and a reputation for chaos. As Earthride take to stages for the first time with the lineup of Sherman, founding drummer Eric Little (who also was in the lineup for Church of Misery‘s latest LP), guitarist Greg Ball and bassist Edmund Allen Brown, they’ll no doubt be exposing a new generation of listeners to their hugely lumbering grooves and riffs that for the last 17-plus years have more than lived up to their stated ethic of “Pure Maryland Doom for the Brotherhood of Music.” All the better to give their audience a glimpse of what next year might hold in a new release, further touring, and a more fully reborn Earthride.

Sherman was kind enough to discuss all this and more. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

earthride-witch-gun

Six Dumb Questions with Dave Sherman of Earthride

Tell me about stepping back into Earthride after being with Spirit Caravan and The Obsessed. How much does Earthride feel like coming home for you? You’ve been doing Weed is Weed all along, but how different is it for you fronting Earthride?

It feels very refreshing especially after I was treated unfairly in The Obsessed. I’ve known Eric Little since we were in high school together. We were in one of our first bands as well — Judgement Hammer — 1986-ish, which was Eric Little drums, Dave Sherman bass, Kelly Carmichael guitar and Billy Rines voice. We played two Pentagram songs the song “Black Sabbath” and three or four originals that later mutated into Internal Void riffs. I love Weed is Weed, which we came out with an EP available digitally [through our] Facebook. Check that out, but fronting the mighty Earthride, getting back at the helm feels real good again.

How did the new lineup for Earthride come together? Who’s in the band now and how have the shows and rehearsals been? Of course you’re working with Kyle Van Steinburg and Eric Little again, but how much has Earthride changed over time for you? How do you feel about how the band has grown?

I was drinking local pub Guido’s in Frederick, Maryland, and I ran into an old friend Edmund Allen Brown. We started talking music and he’s one of the best bass players I’ve ever met and a real go-getter, so I thought what a perfect bass player for Earthride. Greg Ball was in a band Hovel and was willing to try out as the second guitar player and Kyle is gonna be on the 45 new single Witch Gun, out on Salt of the Earth USA and Totem Cat out of France and distribution for Europe, but the new band sounds killer and it feels good to hear the songs again.

You played Maryland Doom Fest in June. How was that experience? Maryland Doom has grown so much since Earthride got going, and of course your history goes back much further than that. How do you feel about where the scene is now and where do you think it’s heading? Does “pure Maryland doom” still mean the same thing for you?

Maryland Doom Fest was so good. Everybody was so into it and so happy to see Earthride again, smiling, cheering, headbanging. It was a pleasant surprise I think because the band’s old and has had a bit of longevity in the scene and we just never got out there as much as we should have. Now that we have the new band and lineup we are fired up about getting out a new album and tour. We are going out with Buzzov*en in October for 10 shows, East Coast, Midwest. Just from the MD Doom Fest standpoint, I think the scene is growing around the world and has grown beyond belief from what it was back in the day, and I want to Thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for having this amazing festival. Cheers.

It’s been seven years since Something Wicked came out and 15 since Taming of the Demons. What can fans expect from the next Earthride album? Where are you in the process of putting it together? Do you know yet who’s doing the recording/producing or has that started? Will the songs from the new single also be on the record?

I have a ton of ideas and so does the rest of the band. We recorded the Witch Gun single at Omega Studio in Rockville, Maryland, so that is probably where we will record the new record at. Out next year. Hopefully working on the material now.

You’re doing the Descendants of Crom fest in Pittsburgh in September, but will Earthride tour for the new album? Any chance you could be headed to the West Coast or Europe in 2018, or is it a wait-and-see kind of deal for when the album comes out?

Yeah, we’re excited about everything we’re about to do and about what we’re trying to conquer which is people’s ears and trying to destroy their subconscious with heavy music. We’re doing the tour with Buzzov*en like I said on the East Coast and Midwest, which is gonna be a blast since they’re old friends of mine, but in 2018 we plan to do some more touring, try to get this new record out there. I would like to get back to Europe with the band and possibly do Roadburn or tour some festivals.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I appreciate the interview and I would like everybody to be looking for us: Earthride, Weed is Weed and a very new project called Siren of Sorrows which has Starr Piazza on voice from the band Serpent Witch. Thanks and peace.

Earthride, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2017

Earthride on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Six Dumb Questions with Hair of the Dog

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on September 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hair of the dog

Across a skillfully constructed six-track course, Edinburgh trio Hair of the Dog smoothly brought together influences modern and classic on their third album, This World Turns. Released through Kozmik Artifactz this past July, it’s an unpretentious 41-minute rocker that comes out swinging with the semi-garage riff of its nine-minute opening, longest and title-track (immediate points), opening to a rolling groove that’s just the first of many by the time the record is done — its emphasis on sonic clarity as much as organic chemistry, songwriting as much as execution.

And if the world is turning — spoiler alert: it is — so too is the craftsmanship of Hair of the Dog, who fluidly transition between the parts and pieces of the follow-up to 2016’s The Siren’s Song and play between classic guitar-led impulses, the near-metallic shuffle of cuts like “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” — where Scorpions and Iron Maiden come together at last — and the key-laced-but-still-post-Thin Lizzy low-end groove of “In Death’s Hands,” unfolding a deceptive breadth of approach that ties together easily via clean production value courtesy of an ongoing collaboration with engineer and obviously benefits from the band’s work since making their self-titled debut in 2014. An ongoing collaboration with producer/engineer Graeme Young of Chamber Studios is only bolstered by the mixing work of James Atkinson of Gentlemans Pistols, and as they make their way toward the classy, smoothly realized crescendo of closer “4AM,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt, bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt continue to easily draw a line between rocker soul and heavier push, resulting in a style that’s timeless in its refusal to belong to any single era or another.

With a performance slated for next month at the potentially-lethal-sounding-or-at-very-least-liver-taxing Riffs and Rum 5 in Manchester, England, a live album upcoming, and work already started on a fourth long-player to answer the growth on display throughout This World Turns, Adam took some time out to discus Hair of the Dog‘s mission on the record, the progression across their three outings to-date and the writing and recording processes from which This World Turns‘s righteous, heavy-rock-for-heavy-rockers moments in songs like “Keeping Watch over the Night” and “The Colours in Her Skin” resulted.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

hair-of-the-dog-this-world-turns

Six Dumb Questions with Hair of the Dog

You’ve said that these songs are more personal for you than The Siren’s Song or the self-titled. What kind of experiences are you expressing on This World Turns, and now that the album has been released and you have a little distance from it, how do you feel about that expression? What is This World Turns ultimately saying about Hair of the Dog as a band and as people?

I wouldn’t say they are more or less personal than our other songs. All of our songs stem from our life experiences, from a real place — but with This World Turns, the subject matter is definitely more mature in nature. This is just a reflection of where we are in our lives as three men. Jon is married and has two young children. Iain is now married and has a cottage out in the countryside. And I am soon to be married this October. These things — especially bringing new life into the world — force you stop and view your life in a new light, as well as the world around you, which I’m sure we can all agree, is a fucked up mess right now!

Before I had the lyrics and title for This World Turns, I had the idea for the cover. The reaper staring out over the sea towards earth. I liked that image, to me there is as sort of comfort in that image which reflected the ideas I had floating about for the lyrics. I’m the reaper looking at the world, you the listener are the reaper looking at the world – is this how you want your life to be? Is this how you want your world to be like? You never know when that scythe will swing, so would you be happy with what you have if it did, right now? And I think that’s ultimately what This World Turns is about. It’s a record about reflection.

This World Turns — tomorrow is a new day, don’t take your life for granted, life can change – but the world will always continue to turn regardless.

Tell me about opening with the title-track. When did you know that was the one you wanted to leadoff the record, and was that before or after you had named the album? How did that song come together?

“This World Turns” was the first song we wrote for this album. I think we started jamming the various riffs for it very soon after The Siren’s Song was sent off to Kozmik. We even premiered it and “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” at Roadburn Festival in April 2016, so that gives you an idea as to how far along we were with the record even by then!

Like most bands, we have our own “pet names” for our songs so we can identify them – “This World Turns” was naturally called, “The Big One” and remained that way right up until the week before we recorded it, when I wrote the lyrics. I am pretty shit when it comes to writing my lyrics, often leaving them to the very last moment – I like to worry the other two, keep them on their toes! But sometimes it just takes longer for me to hear and feel what the lyrics should say.

The music itself was very natural, I think we wrote it over the space of a few jams – each riff just seemed to naturally lead to the next. It is such a fun song to play from a musician’s point of view. It definitely set the bar for how we wanted the rest of the record to sound, which is why I felt it should be the song to kick the whole album off, set the tone sort of thing – it just had that feel to it, and we always go with what feels right to us.

Talk about your experience in the studio making This World Turns. How long were you recording? What was it like working with Graeme Young again to get the songs down and then bringing in James Atkinson from Gentlemans Pistols to handle mixing? Was that the result of something specific you wanted to do differently coming off of The Siren’s Song?

We recorded the music for This World Turns in four days, then I took a two-week break to write the lyrics – an approach I haven’t used before. This was partly because I didn’t have any solid lyrics by the time we started recording, but also because I wanted to really take time to let the songs settle with me and see if that brought something new to my writing – which it did.

I always write my lyrics in my local pub. I sit with my headphones in, with the songs on repeat and basically wait until one or two words, perhaps even a phrase, comes to me. Once I get that starting point, I just go with them and the rest of the song follows. For example, with the song “This World Turns,” I kept hearing this phrase “keeps you safe inside its lies,” I’d sing it over and over all day. It’s hard to describe, there’s a definite click moment with my lyrics, when everything just comes together and flows.

Working with Graeme is awesome. I’ve known G as a friend for many years and worked with him on various bands. We call G the secret fourth member of HOTD because, as well as working with us on all of our records, he is the man that plays any keys or synth on the records. He is an extremely skilled recording engineer and as a musician himself, has a great ear for music. He pushes us really hard and always gets the best performance from us. Not to mention he also puts up with a lot of shit from us — mostly me — during the recordings too. We like to drink in the studio and this can often lead to the recordings taking back seat to our antics.

As for James, that was really just to bring something fresh into the fold, try something new. I had got chatting to James after we both played Roadburn 2016, and I asked him if he’d like to mix the album. I’m a big Gentlemans Pistols fan, and really love his work on their albums, so I knew he’d bring some magic to our record – and he didn’t disappoint.

One of the aspects I find most striking about This World Turns is the classic feel of the riffs and the construction of the songs still has a deeply modern sound. Three albums in, do you feel like you know what you want to get out of a recording experience with Hair of the Dog? What were your goals for the sound of This World Turns?

That’ the HOTD sound… We take pride in that, so when people pick up on that it’s rewarding. We love those bands, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Cream, Deep Purple, Hendrix. Our parents and teachers introduced us to these bands — one of the first songs I ever learned on a guitar was “Hey Joe.” But we also grew up on a diet of Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, C.O.C., Down, Metallica. The list goes on.

When we started, over 15 years ago, we just jammed songs by all of these great bands we liked – extending riffs, adding in parts, making songs heavier — and from these jams, we eventually started to write our own songs. We never sat down and decided we’d sound like this or that… we just developed this sound over many years jamming together. We just wish the audience was there for us when we started, because back in 2001 nobody wanted to hear our music!

In terms of recording, we love it, it’s like a holiday for us – time to hang, have some beers, do what we love and annoy Graeme as much as we can. We didn’t have any goals as such for This World Turns, as I have mentioned, we record live for the most part and we always enter the studio with the songs polished – so it’s just about having a good time, enjoying it, letting the creativity flow and make something we are proud of.

We like the spontaneity and experimentation that only manifests in the studio. Sometimes the best parts of our records come from stupid jokes and conversations we have after a few beers: “This song needs an orchestra; The Beatles had an orchestra, why can’t we?” Next thing you know, we’re dialing up some string sounds and adding them in. The studio is a musician’s toy box. Once you have those songs recorded, you start to hear all the melodies and counter-melodies hidden within the song that you couldn’t hear in the practice room – it’s a magical time.

How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished across your three records to-date, and is there anything in particular you’ll look to change next time?

We are incredibly proud of the three records we have put out so far, and we are extremely humbled by the positive response each record has received around the globe. With each album we grow as a band, as does our fan base. We love to play our music and doing so with that support and encouragement from our fans is a dream come true.

Next time? Well here’s an exclusive for you, we already have around three songs for our fourth album. We are going a bit heavier on this one. It will still have that HOTD sound to it, but we are experimenting with darker, heavier riffs.

You’re playing Riffs and Rum 5 in Manchester in Oct. with Pist, 1968 and others. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yeah we are looking forward to that show, we haven’t played England that much, which is shameful considering it’s right on our doorstep. But we will certainly put on a killer show, that’s for sure – free rum all night and three Scotsmen?! What could go wrong!

Plans, plans, plans… we have quite a lot coming up actually…

Our track “My Only Home” which had to be dropped from the vinyl version of The Siren’s Song is being featured on an up-and-coming double-vinyl project between several prominent independent labels – think that’s all I can say about that at the moment.

We are putting out live album in between This World Turns and our next studio album. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing it and it rocks, definitely one for the HOTD super fans! More on that to come soon.

And finally, the wheels are in motion to get the Dog back over to Europe in 2018. We hope to play a few of the summer festivals and dot a few headline shows around those.

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns (2017)

Hair of the Dog on Bandcamp

Hair of the Dog on Thee Facebooks

Hair of the Dog on Instagram

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , ,

Emerald Haze Trip Pt. 3: Watch it Grow

Posted in Features on September 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

emerald haze 2017 flyers

09.04.17 – 11:24 AM Eastern – Monday morning – Madison, CT

As the plane taxied to the gate last night at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, I could see my car waiting for me in long-term parking lot E. Still there. I wanted to get up and tell the pilot, “It’s cool — you can let me off here and I’ll walk. Let me just grab my bag.” No dice, of course. Minimal rigmarole getting out of the smaller airport after the seven-hour flight though, and soon enough I was barreling down I-495, headed home to see The Patient Mrs. Never actually hit 100mph, but I looked down as I was listening to Blind Guardian and was well over 90 a couple times.

One thing I haven’t yet stressed about this trip: The utter fucking professionalism on display from Emerald Haze itself. Supported by the Dublin City Council, fest-organizers Sid Daly and Matt Casciani, Fiona Killeen and all at Voodoo Lounge were on it. I’ve been to (and put on) amateur-ish shows, and while a lot of emphasis was put on this being the first Emerald Haze and I was all the more honored to be among the presenters because of that, it was pro-shop across the board. It stuck to the schedule, the bands went home happy, it brought people in, represented its local scene well and set up a reach that I hope will only continue to expand in the years forward.

About that as well — I have no delusions about my place in this thing. Emerald Haze 2017 opened its arms to me, welcomed me in and brought me on board out of the kindness of its heart. I can safely say I added just about nothing to the proceedings that wouldn’t have been there without me, except maybe a bunch of words posted here for whatever that’s worth. There’s no reason to think that if/when they do this again next year they’d want me involved on any level — it’s certainly not something I earned — but man, I hope this fest keeps going. To see it play out over Friday and Saturday, there was so much obvious potential there, and the mission behind it, the belief in Irish heavy that justified itself more and more with each passing set, was beyond honorable.

It’s a lot of work to put an event on like this — and more to do it on the level Emerald Haze did it, so that it’s more than just a slapped-together coterie of bands who play heavy riffs — but it’s easy to see Emerald Haze going a long way toward helping further establish Irish heavy as an international presence, and given the quality of bands and the outreach, it would be well deserved. Whether I’m there or not to see it, I hope to, as Church of the Cosmic Skull says, “watch it grow,” for years to come.

jj koczan photo by sid dalyThanks from the bottom of my doomed heart first to my family, who in the aftermath of my grandmother’s death, still insisted I make the trip abroad. The support from my mother and my sister on every level means more to me than I can say.

Thanks to The Patient Mrs. for being the most unreal partner I could ever ask for in life. In less than a month, we’ll celebrate 20 years together — our relationship is a ’90s original; can legit be called “classic rock” at this point — and at some point in the next six weeks, we’ll welcome our son, The Pecan, into the world. I’ve never been more excited to share a past and a future in my life than I am right now with such a wonderful person. Thanks for that, baby. Let’s have lunch and go hit the laundromat and spend the rest of the day watching Star Trek. Romance!

Thanks to Sid, Matt, Olga, Fiona, everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for the condolences, the great conversation as always, and for generally being awesome. Great as always to share a space in front of the stage with Falk, as well as with Kirsten Seubert, whom it was a pleasure to meet. Thanks to Jamie Cansdale, Jake Wallace, Moose from Wild Rocket, the dudes from Ten Ton Slug and everyone else I met and shook hands with over the course of the two days. I am a painfully awkward individual. I know this. I have a hard time meeting people. I feel a lot of the time like I come off like a prick when I don’t mean to. So please take my word for it when I say it was a joy to be so welcomed into the Dublin scene as a visitor for a couple days and to sample not just the high grade sounds on offer, but to be fortunate enough to meet the excellent people behind it all as well.

All weekend I felt so stupidly lucky to be there. Really. And proud. Front to back across a 24-band bill; just crazy to see. And for that, I owe my thanks not just to Emerald Haze itself for having me over, but to you for reading. Thank you for your support of this site, this ongoing project, because without it I know damn well things like this would never happen. For reading. For commenting. For sharing. For correcting my spelling. All of it. Thank you.

Complete coverage of the fest can be found by clicking here.

Titles for the travel posts came from songs by Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket (go listen to that album!) and Electric Octopus.

Thanks again.

With utmost sincerity and in riffs,
JJ Koczan

 

Tags: , , , ,

Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night Two, Sept. 2, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.15 – Saturday night/Sunday morning – Sid’s house

Yesterday was not short. Today was notter-shorter. The bummer news as of last night was that Mother Mooch would have to pull out because of a schedule conflict between the after-party and the venue. I had been looking forward to seeing fest-organizer Sid Daly‘s band as a part of Emerald Haze 2017, but he had to cut someone, and decided it was better to cut himself than anyone else, and that’s the noble thing to do so it’s hard to fault him. I was still hopeful this morning they’d be able to pull it out and make it happen.

There was, however, plenty going on even with 14 bands instead of the original 15. A packed day, to be sure. Like yesterday, it was a lot of back and forth between The Obelisk Stage downstairs and the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect after the first night, so when things got rolling in the afternoon, I felt at least a little bit prepared for what was coming. Vaguely. A smidgen. Okay, not really, but still. I did my best.

It went like this:

Gourd

gourd-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

They were the first duo of the weekend and inarguably one of the nastiest acts who played at any point of Emerald Haze, though by the end of today, Gourd would have some pretty stiff competition in that regard. Still, ultra-crawling, ultra-lurching, fuckall-laden extremity was the order of the opening salvo on the downstairs stage at the Voodoo Lounge, and Hick and Ray, who released a self-titled EP last year that seems to be their only offering to-date, brought drone to blackened-to-a-crisp extremity in that already-dead, post-Khanate fashion that’s just as much at home in arthouse as in a dank, mold-stenched basement with a shitty P.A. and a couple disaffected hangers about for a crowd. As it was, they did pretty well filling the bigger space at Emerald Haze with volume — this too would be a running theme for the evening — and they served as an immediate signal that today’s mission was going to be much, much different from yesterdays. And so it was.

Korvid

korvid (photo jj koczan)

I didn’t even see a window to look out of, but if I had, I probably would’ve been surprised it was still daylight. Just as my brain was beginning to process the onslaught that was Gourd, I clomped upstairs to check out Belfast five-piece Korvid, who would set in motion the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage with their own brand of extreme sludge, two guitars riffing out with cupped-mic-and-crazy-eyes standalone vocals cutting through, screaming, growing, the whole nine. The humor was good though. I mean, how many times in your life are you going to hear a lead singer say, “This one’s called ‘Zombie Sludge Groove’?” Six? Maybe seven? For most people, probably not more than three. In any case, for all the pummel they brought, vocalist Jonny Gault, guitarists Thomas Carmichael and Alex Keys, bassist Theo Gordon-Boyd and drummer David Malone didn’t forget to have a good time doing it, and while that put them in immediate contrast with Gourd, still misanthroping away downstairs, their own brand of sludge was light neither on tone nor aggression. Plus a zombie apocalypse happened. That’s always bleak in its own way.

Ten Ton Slug

ten-ton-slug-photo-jj-koczan

If Emerald Haze had a quota for burl, Ten Ton Slug filled it. In about the first three minutes of their set. The Galway five-piece have a new EP to follow-up last year’s Brutal Gluttonous Beast (review here) from which they aired “Slug Grinder,” but that was right in the mix with the rest of their attack, which centered around densely-packed chugs and metallic growls and screams. It felt early for something so dudely — didn’t I just finish my coffee? — but Ten Ton Slug had their own agenda, and as the downstairs room started to fill up, they beat the living crap right out of it for a half-hour solid. No-letup sludge metal that handed out punishment the way one thinks of construction equipment as vigorous in its purposes. As they played, I wrote the words “very heavy” in my notebook and wondered how many more times throughout the day I’d wind up using that exact phrase. To say the least, several. They closed with “Siege” and yet more testosterone oozed from the stage in voluminous form. That new EP was reportedly recorded at Dead Dog Studio in Drogheda, and one can’t help but look forward to how Ten Ton Slug‘s tones might come out of that process. My advanced, thinking man’s critically-minded guess? “Very heavy.”

Vulpynes

vulpynes-photo-jj-koczan

Riot grrl comparisons are bound to ensue when you’re a ’90s-influenced two-piece like Dublin’s own Vulpynes, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Maeve Molly and drummer Kaz, but to my ears they were rawer in their presentation than the likes of Babes in Toyland and more punk than L7 seemed interested in being most of the time. There was still a definite air of post-grunge, however, so I suppose in the world of ready-made genre classifications, riot grrl works just as well as anything else. It’s more concise than “raw and semi-aggro heavy garage punk rock,” at least, even if that’s more what Vulpynes seemed to be up to to me. The rawness is worth emphasizing though, especially since that seemed to be half the point and since it suited them so well. They were nowhere near as mosh-ready as Ten Ton Slug back downstairs, of course, but neither did they want to be, and though the afternoon/evening was just getting going, Vulpynes were already a refreshing change of pace from the viciousness that had thus far been served. Nice to be reminded that not everything needs to crush to be effective — though of course that’s plenty of fun too.

Iron Void

iron-void-photo-jj-koczan

Doom! File Iron Void under “hell yes I’ll have more of that please” in being the Emerald Haze night two’s first representation of oldschool doom righteousness. Fair perhaps to think of the UK trio, who toured this Spring alongside Indianapolis-based The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch, as a preface to Lord Vicar still to come, but that only made them more welcome in my book, and while they played, I went out to the merch area to buy a copy of their 2015 outing, Doomsday and its 2012 predecessor, Spell of Ruin. No regrets there, but as I was on my way back into the venue proper, I got stopped by Rando-Dude-Who-Works-at-the-Venue who told me my backpack — aka my camera bag, which I’d had on my person all along — wasn’t allowed in and would need to be checked. As it also held my laptop and I’d carried it with me the entire night before without word one from anybody, my position was hell no I’m not checking this bag, and no shit, dude wound up manhandling me and kicking me out of the venue. Out of fucking nowhere. Felt pretty fucking special to get kicked out of a show I was supposedly helping to present, let me tell you. The bummer was that while I was dealing with his completely needless bullshit, I was missing Iron Void back inside. I didn’t check it, but left it with Sid‘s girlfriend Olga who was working the door and was kind enough to come to my rescue outside, and yeah, I eventually got back in well in time to see Iron Void finish their set with “The Devil’s Daughter” from Doomsday, but I’ll readily admit that one threw me for a loop and it was a while before I was able to really get my head back into the show the way it should’ve been all along. Moral of the story? Fuck you, Rando Dude. Either do your job all the way and round up every backpack in the place, including mine the first night, or don’t bother. And either way, fuck you twice as hard when there’s killer doom to be had.

Crowhammer

crowhammer-photo-jj-koczan

Maybe had I not been so thoroughly distracted by that just-discussed unfortunate bit of whatnot I’d have had an easier time getting a handle on Crowhammer‘s sound, but somehow I doubt it. It was my first exposure to the Dublin trio — who also boasted the weekend’s first singing drummer, though not the last of the day — and they played the sort of part-psych weirdo rock that’s probably best described as “progressive” and left at that, though that’s hardly a summary of the willfully bizarre krautrocking chicanery that was actually on display during their set. Again, I was all out of sorts and didn’t get to see nearly as much as I would’ve liked to otherwise, but while they seem to just have a single out that was released in 2013, there was no doubt Crowhammer were in a niche of their own among the rest of the Emerald Haze lineup, and that would come to kind of be the message of the day from the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage: strange things will ensue. And for sure they did for what I caught of these guys.

Witchsorrow

witchsorrow-photo-jj-koczan

I recalled digging Witchsorrow‘s 2015 outing, No Light, Only Fire (review here) when I heard it, as well as their prior sophomore full-length, 2012’s God Curse Us (review here), so to see them in the flesh back downstairs in the larger room was something of a treat. They had more NWOBHM-style gallop than I remembered, but that might’ve just been a proximity comparison to Iron Void, who rolled pretty steadily for the duration, though drummer Dave Wilbraham (also of Twelve Boar) had plenty of double-kick behind the riffs of guitarist/vocalist Nick “Necroskull” Ruskell and the basslines of Emily Witch to act as a means of propulsion. That lent Witchsorrow a deceptively uptempo feel for how thick they were tonally, but though I was still kind of looking around the room and playing my own private game of ‘Count the Backpacks’ — there were many to be found — it was still easy to appreciate the underlying motion cutting through all that heft. They’ll be out in the UK and Europe with The Moth later this Fall and they seem like they’re about due for a new release. Maybe in 2018? If so, it would be one to watch out for.

The Magnapinna

the-magnapinna-photo-jj-koczan

Say, is your name a dick joke? Nothing wrong with that, said Obelisk Guy. Things got off-kilter quick with Cork fivesome The Magnapinna, who were all dressed up with ties and whatnot and unleashed a barrage of hard-alt-rocking strangeness somewhere betwixt Mr. Bungle and a multi-singer early incarnation of System of a Down — aggressive at their core, but still definitely with an experimentalist edge. They had some pretty significant depth of arrangement the vocal department between their frontman and the guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but the pervasive everything-weirder-than-everything-else ethic that seemed to infiltrate every move they made remained the dominant flavor of their set on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like Crowhammer before them, they served notice that not only is the Irish scene rich when it comes to sludge and heavy rock, but that there are groups legitimately pushing stylistic boundaries as well. The Magnapinna — dick joke or not — were a vastly different kind of freakout from everyone else who played this weekend at Emerald Haze, and since standing out was apparently the top priority, I can only call their efforts at not fitting in a success. Nicely and strangely done.

Death the Leveller

death-the-leveller-photo-jj-koczan

A break downstairs essentially funneled everyone who wasn’t going to eat dinner up to the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage to see Death the Leveller. Fair enough. The Dublin four-piece are new — as in I think this might’ve been their fifth show — but it was clear they had roots somewhere, and one finds them in Cursed Earth and Mael Mórdha. One of those bands almost too much on lockdown to actually be newcomers. There was no question they knew what they were doing, no question about their sound — goth-tinged doom; healthy sense of drama to the show, and very much a show, but not at all half-hearted or insincere for that — and they owned the room in a way that completely undercut the fact that they only have one EP out and are still waiting for the vinyl to be pressed. No substitute for experience, in other words, and Death the Leveller, while fresh, had a professional presentation and a professional presence that brought the upstairs room to a different level and once again represented another, darker but still nuanced side of what Dublin and the greater Irish underground has to offer those who’d investigate. I wondered looking around the room for how many of the attendees this set was their first exposure to Death the Leveller, and I suspect the answer is at least a few apart from myself, but watching the band take charge of that space, it was hard to argue they didn’t absolutely deserve to be the focal point that the scheduling made them. Tons of promise there. Gotta chase down that EP at some point in the near future.

Dread Sovereign

dread sovereign photo jj koczan

Speaking of presence: there’s only one Nemtheanga. Also known as Alan Averill, the vocalist of premier Irish post-black metallers Primordial and arguably one of the country’s key underground figureheads can hold down a stage like few frontmen I’ve ever seen, and while he also handles bass in Dread Sovereign — his tone might be the most “dread” element of all in the band; the downstairs floor at Voodoo Lounge shook with each note he hit — he still was very much at the helm alongside shred-prone guitarist Daniel “Bones” Holohan, drummer Johnny “Con Ri” King and a synthesist/noisemaker who may or may not have been Nemtheanga‘s cousin, Gareth Averill filling out the wash. I picked up a copy of their 2017 sophomore long-player, For Doom the Bell Tolls (review here), without further incident, and considered that a win, and while the vibe of their time onstage definitely leaned toward the oldschool — they nestled into a partial cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” for a minute there and it felt earned — they were lung-collapsingly weighted in tone, and flattened the room like an early headliner or, at the very least for me, a highlight of the weekend. It wasn’t my first time seeing them — though it was my first time seeing them with synth, which worked well — so I wouldn’t call what they were doing a surprise, but it was a tooth-rattling, grim-of-spirit, trod-all-over-your-soul joy in any case.

Gorilla Pulp

gorilla-pulp-photo-jj-koczan

Things got kind of complicated when it came time for Gorilla Pulp to play upstairs. The Italian four-piece were originally slated to close out the downstairs stage after Sólstafir, but when Mother Mooch dropped off the bill, it was basically to give their time slot to Gorilla Pulp so they could still have a showcase. Fine, but no question the speedy, upbeat, almost-metallized heavy rock with psychedelic flashes — also a theremin! — that Gorilla Pulp brought forth was a departure from what Mother Mooch would’ve been doing, and the simple fact of the geographic shift was also noteworthy in that they were the only band not from Ireland or Northern Ireland to play all day on that stage, including Nomadic Rituals, who followed and closed it out. I guess sometimes when you put together an event like this, adjustments have to be made, and to Gorilla Pulp‘s benefit, the context in which they appeared, following Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Crowhammer, Vulpynes and Korvid, had already touched on so many different styles that by the time they got around to also being all over the place, the door was wide open for them. Their next show? A wedding later this month. Because of course it is. They may not have been Irish natives, but they only wound up adding to the variety of the day’s presentation on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and even as downstairs continued to thunder with Dread Sovereign‘s lumbering, Gorilla Pulp did well in offsetting that darkness with a bit of a stylistic challenge that was only more fun to try to keep up with once they got that theremin warmed up. Good times.

Lord Vicar

lord-vicar-photo-jj-koczan

And then sometimes you just have to bow your head and realize you’re in the company of masters. Watching Kimi Kärki play doom riffs while Christian “Chritus” Linderson fronted Lord Vicar, yeah, that was definitely the way it went. The former Reverend Bizarre guitarist and the former Saint Vitus/Count Raven vocalist — both of whom have been involved in a slew of projects over the years and decades from Orne and solo work for Kärki to Goatess and Terra Firma for Linderson — were hands-down a focal point for attention from the crowd, which packed in as tightly as I’d seen all weekend to watch them in the downstairs space, but as is universal for quality doom, the contributions of the rhythm section were not to be overlooked. With relative newcomer bassist Rich Jones and founding drummer Gareth Millsted providing the groove behind them, Kärki and Linderson flourished, leading the way through cuts from last year’s Gates of Flesh (review here) like a jammy take on “Birth of Wine” complete with last-measure boogie shuffle, or “The Green Man” and “Leper, Leper,” leaving a particularly resonant extended finale for “The Funeral Pyre” from their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain, which I can only say was flat out awesome from the second it started to the second it brought the house down at the end. Line of the weekend also has to go to Linderson who said from the stage atsome point between songs, “We have a new album out. It’s called British Steel.” Cheers sir. Seeing Lord Vicar — the kind of thing that someone in my position never really thinks is going to happen — only underscored how stupid lucky I am to be in Dublin at all for this weekend, and the proceedings only got more righteous as they warmed up and dug further in. Like I said, the company of masters.

Nomadic Rituals

nomadic-rituals-photo-JJ-Koczan

I had checked out Nomadic Rituals‘ 2017 release, Marking the Day — I also bought a copy of 2013’s Holy Giants — and knew they were something I wanted to behold for myself. The final band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, the Belfast trio might’ve also been the heaviest, as they conjured a tectonic wash of low end and noise driven by synth and geared toward maximum abrasion. Guitarist Peter Hunter and bassist Craig Carson both contributed screams and growls to the proceedings while Mark Smyth plodded away behind them, and with as much as this second and final day of the inaugural Emerald Haze had already had to offer in terms of sludgy extremity, Nomadic Rituals — their moniker not at all to be confused with the name of the Yawning Man record from 2010, which was Nomadic Pursuits — still managed to distinguish themselves through the ferocity of their volume and the unmitigated slow-motion violence of their assault. Rightfully so, they seemed to be an apex point for the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage– pushing that space, that soundsystem and the eardrums of those standing in attendance to an absolute limit — no place left to go or to run away from their all-consuming post-sludge. Even when I stumbled back downstairs to catch the end of Lord Vicar and get a spot up front for Sólstafir, I could still hear Nomadic Rituals living up to the savagery implied. They were nothing if not thorough in that endeavor.

Sólstafir

Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Timing, of course, is everything, but even before Icelandic overlords of melancholy Sólstafir took the stage downstairs — took The Obelisk Stage, god damn it — to the cap on Emerald Haze 2017, it occurred to me that I watched at least some portion of every single band that played this weekend. Two stages, two days; a total of 24 acts between the 10 yesterday and the 14 today. And you know what? If Mother Mooch had played, I’d have watched them too. Gladly. Accordingly, seeing Sólstafir do the title-track from 2014’s golly-that’s-still-brilliant Ótta (review here) and cuts from this year’s worthy follow-up Berdreyminn (review here) was like a victory lap, and as much as the crowd was pressing in, and as much as my back hurt, and as much as I miss my wife and as much as I haven’t had a meal in the last two days that wasn’t comprised either of protein powder, a protein bar or a three-ounce package of vacuum-sealed salmon I brought with me, Sólstafir were magnetic onstage as I knew they’d be. I’d only ever caught them before at Roadburn, so to watch them play at a venue of the size of even the downstairs space at the Voodoo Lounge felt really special, and it was. It was. It was one last reminder that, whatever else was a part of this experience, I’m so unbelievably fortunate to have been in Dublin this weekend, and if it comes to it, I’ll absolutely play the role of the tourism council: FUCK YES. COME TO IRELAND. There’s rock and roll here from within and without, and while Sólstafir fall into the latter category, they received a hero’s welcome just the same. There were afterparties to be had when they were done, and for the take-themselves-way-too-seriously/no-fun blogger types, writing to do, so I hightailed it sooner or later and made my way back up the road, but not before taking a final lap through Emerald Haze, trying to imprint it all on my memory, where I can only hope it will stay for a duration much longer than this trip will actually be by the time I fly out of the country tomorrow afternoon.

Holy shit, did I really just say “tomorrow afternoon?”

Turns out, yes.

I’ll have a post up to close out this series probably Monday, but before I turn you over to the photo gallery, I just want to extend a quick preliminary thanks to Sid Daly, Olga, Fiona and everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge (with one noteworthy exception), as well as all the bands who took part in this weekend. It was truly an honor to be involved in this event in the minuscule, didn’t-actually-contribute-anything way I was, and whether or not they decide to bring my ass back again, I hope they keep it going into perpetuity.

More to come. Pics follow here. Thanks for reading and as we get on toward three in the fucking morning, good night.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night One, Sept. 1, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.30 – Friday night/Saturday morning – Sid’s house

First night of an inaugural edition of a festival. I couldn’t help but be affected by a kind of ambient level of anxiety in the room, though I’ll say as well that the hypercaffeination factor probably didn’t help in that regard. It was a cloudy day in Dublin with just a bit of a chill in the air and 10 bands on the bill, and before I put myself in the darkened recesses of the Voodoo Lounge for the evening, I sat at the coffee shop and could see the sundry black-t-shirt-clad weirdos who’d be attending the fest. They were easy enough to pick out.

The show got underway at 19.00 with Elder Druid on The Obelisk Stage, which even though I’m here and have seen it in-person still seems more than a little unreal, and was just about nonstop from there until Wild Rocket finished on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage after midnight, so there was plenty to see. I did the best I could with the back and forth and tried not to look like too much of an ass taking notes in between. Here are the results of that effort:

Elder Druid

elder-druid-photo-jj-koczan

Well, if you want to get things rolling, you might as well get someone that rolls, and Elder Druid have that part down. The Northern Irish sludgers weren’t heretofore unknown to me, having checked out their 2016 debut EP, Magicka (review here), and they broke out riff after sludgy riff for the early crowd filing in. It hardly seemed like a coincidence they were starting off the show. Although they’re from up north, like a lot of the representation Irish heavy would get throughout the night to follow, they were young and hungry, and looking to establish themselves as a force to the audience assembled. Aggro vocals over Southern-style riffs aren’t necessarily uncharted territory, but for a newer group, they worked quickly to find their momentum and held people in check for the duration, sounding full and mean through the Voodoo Lounge soundsystem with pro-shop lighting flashing behind them. They were angrier than a lot of the vibe would be for the rest of the night, but definitely drew people right into the thick of it with their set. They’re about to release their debut album, Carmina Satanae, on Oct. 6, and I hope I get to dig into it, because it was a fast half-hour from them to start the night.

Blaak Heat

blaak-heat-photo-jj-koczan

Talk about a band who deserves more respect than they get. I suppose that’ll happen when your stuff is so head-spinningly complex, full of frenetic rhythmic changes, blinding turns, obscure Eastern-inflected scales and progressive melodies, but still. Playing as a five-piece and sharing three members with Abrahma in percussionist Sacha Viken, guitarist Nicolas Heller and bassist  Guillaume Theoden — which left just guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier and drummer Mike Amster in the lineup from when I last saw them — they opened with “Sword of Hakim” and “Al-Andalus” from their new 7″ The Arabian Fuzz (review here) and proved once again how absolutely underrated they are and have been basically since they started. I had talked to them earlier in the day and Bellier said they had new stuff in the works, demos and whatnot (which I’d love to hear, though he doesn’t seem the type to send something unfinished, even just to check out), and while their 2016 full-length, Shifting Mirrors (review here), was the farthest they’d yet reached, the new single proves they’re still progressing, still pushing themselves, and I hope that will continue, because the results have never been anything less than stellar. They might be underrated, they might deserve more respect than they get, but clearly they’re chasing something within themselves sonically and that journey seems to thrive on the validation from the creativity that results from its undertaking.

Zlatanera

zlatanera-photo-jj-koczan

They were the first act upstairs on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like much of what followed them in the smaller room, they played a more straightforward vibe and did well representing the native Irish scene. I hadn’t quite realized the shape the evening would take until I actually looked at the schedule, with international bands exclusively downstairs and Irish acts upstairs, but it made sense, and it was clear to see who the locals were once the double-guitar five-piece got going. As had Elder DruidZlatanera drew a good early crowd, and though I was kind of in and out for their set as I wanted to catch the end of Blaak Heat back downstairs — conflicts, conflicts, conflicts; back and forth is life at a festival — when I went back down I could still hear them from the back of the bigger room, so they were clearly doing something right. Light on frills, but their sound filled that upstairs room perfectly.

Abrahma

abrahma-photo-jj-koczan

Parisian progressive heavy rockers Abrahma kept the theme — and the lineup — rolling from Blaak HeatViken moved behind the drum kit at the back of the deep downstairs stage, and Theoden and Heller switched sides from left to right as founding Abrahma guitarist/vocalist Sebastien Bismuth took the center spot. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch Abrahma live once before, in the Netherlands for Roadburn 2015 (review here), but neither Theoden nor Viken were in the band at that point, so it was half like seeing them for the first time anyway, even knowing how dynamic a frontman Bismuth is onstage. And he is. They said earlier this summer they’d be recording a new album this Fall as a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), and I hope they get there, because they seemed to be pretty locked in when it came to their presentation, right down to a pleasant-as-hell-surprise cover of Type O Negative‘s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” from October Rust. Unexpected, to be sure, and twice as daring without keys, but Bismuth led the charge through a two-guitar interpretation, and it’s worth noting that even after the show that song continues to be stuck in my head, where I hope it will stay for, I don’t know, ever? In all seriousness, I’m very, very intrigued to hear where their new (original) material takes AbrahmaReflections in the Bowels of a Bird added to much to their sound even compared to the preceding 2012 outing, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), that I can only wonder what the next step in that process will be. One to look forward to for 2018, at the very least.

Mount Soma

mount-soma-photo-jj-koczan

I was really hoping they’d be good, because I bought one of their shirts even before they started playing. Long story. Not really, but a boring story, so we’ll call it long and leave it at that. Being there to catch Mount Soma‘s mix of melodic and nasty heavy meant again trodding upstairs in my plodding-old-man kind of way, and again, when I got there, I found the native Dubliners, like Zlatanera before them, giving a right-on impression of Irish underground heavy. The scene representing itself to itself: here we are. Obviously I’m an outsider and no expert to start with, but the understanding I’ve come to is that while the UK has been in something of a boom the last decade or so, that’s kind of overshadowed what’s actually happening here in terms of outside bands coming to tour and native Irish acts garnering wider attention. Efforts like Emerald Haze, particularly backed by the county of Dublin as this event is, are crucial in making that happen, and I didn’t quite realize until I watched Mount Soma that while it’s great to see the international acts downstairs, perhaps even more attention has gone into curating the Irish groups playing here, because a huge part of the message of this festival is that Ireland’s scene is coming into its own, and while there’s still growing to do, the bands are clearly willing to take that responsibility on their shoulders. Mount Soma proved it with volume and force. No regrets on buying that shirt, to be sure.

The Cosmic Dead

the comic dead (photo jj koczan)

The spaced-out Scots started late. Like, way late. Would you expect anything less of The Cosmic Dead than the bending of time? If so, then perhaps you’ve never heard them before, because that’s kind of what they do. Also, bending space. Also, melting brains. In any case, late start or no, once they got going, the Edinburgh four-piece freaked the royal fuck out — immediately and thoroughly. Killer. All the way. No doubter. Front to back. Green lights flashing. Synth blaring. Low end righteousness under wash of swirl. Melt. Melt. Melt. Space. Space. Space. Right frickin’ on. Like a frequency check for your consciousness. A litmus to see how much jam your brain could take before turning into powder. Every level, they were a lysergic win to behold, and while the running theme for the night was holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-lucky-enough-to-be-here-to-see-this, The Cosmic Dead only underscored the point that, holy crap, I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be here to see this. I’d already purchased every CD they had for sale and though I didn’t have enough cash, by the time they were done — they had the lights turned out on them because they were running long (that late start coming back to bite them in the collective ass) — I wanted to go back out to the merch area and pick up a t-shirt too. There were times as they were dug in when each member seemed to be on his own out there, floating without gravity and purposefully so, but when they locked step, whoa. Chills up the spine. Hair standing on end. Pick your cliché and roll with it. Whatever you got, The Cosmic Dead earned it. When they were done, they hung their guitars and bass from the ceiling. Room: conquered.

King Witch

king-witch-photo-JJ-KOCZAN

To the best of my knowledge, they were the only band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage not from Ireland or Northern Ireland, but while they shared a hometown with The Cosmic Dead in Edinburgh, the four-piece King Witch, whose metallic roots came through clearly in the guitar work of Jamie Gilchrist and the vocals of Laura Donnelly, the straight-ahead groove anchored by bassist Joe Turner and drummer Lyle Brown fit them right in with the likes of Mount Soma and Zlatanera before them. Donnelly was, one should note, the evening’s only standalone frontwoman, and she provided melody and force in kind from the stage. They were going even as The Cosmic Dead were still setting up downstairs, so were easy to hear from the start, and while once more I was up and back down again and back up again, King Witch‘s doom-tinged approach was a welcome preface to some of what tomorrow’s even more extended lineup will bring.

Church of the Cosmic Skull

church-of-the-cosmic-skull-Photo-jj-koczan

I have to admit, on paper it looks a little strange. Granted, it was one of 2016’s best debut albums, but still, UK seven-piece cult proggers Church of the Cosmic Skull only have one record out in the stellar Is Satan Real? (review here), so to find them headlining the bigger of the two stages could’ve been taken as something of a surprise. Until about 10 seconds in. I’d watched them soundcheck earlier in the day, and even that did little to prepare me for the righteousness of their presentation. Whether it was the interlude samples timed to videos between their songs or the harmonies between guitarist Bill Fisher, vocalists Caroline Cawley and Jo Joyce, bassist Sam Lloyd and Hammond organist Michael Wetherburn, or the brought-to-life memorability of cuts like “Mountain Heart,” set and album closer “Evil in Your Eye” or personal highlight “Watch it Grow,” they were nothing less than a celebration. A joy to witness. Really. Wetherburn‘s Hammond had been onstage all night, and when they finally broke it out, it was like Chekhov’s gun earning its place. Between that, the cello, and Fisher‘s rainbow guitar and stately manner as a chapeaued otherplanetary-cult leader waiting to take the whole venue away on some spaceship hidden behind a comet — pass that Kool-Aid, I’ll give it a shot, carbs or no — there was no place Church of the Cosmic Skull would have worked except at the top of the bill, and the room, which was the most packed it had been all night, knew it. I felt greedy for thinking to myself I hope I get to see them at some point again in my life, especially when they pulled out what I’m pretty sure was a new song during the middle of their time. They didn’t miss a cue in the harmony arrangements, but that did nothing to undercut their tonal presence or the push in Loz Stone‘s drumming, and as positive and affirming as they were, there was just enough evil underlying their work to be truly sinister. Right on.

Electric Octopus

electric-octopus-photo-jj-koczan

In order to prepare myself for seeing Electric Octopus live, the other day I undertook the considerable task of listening to their 2017 offering, Driving Under the Influence of Jams, in its nearly-four-hour entirety. And well, I knew they’d jam. And they jammed. What I didn’t realize was that when I went upstairs to catch them in that, they’d be so funky that they literally had people dancing in front of the stage. Think you can funk out improvised space rock? Because Electric Octopus sure as hell can, and the Belfast-based trio of bassist Dale Hughes (who was pulling double-duty, having also played in Elder Druid at the start of the show), guitarist Tyrell Black and drummer Guy Hetherington were a party unto themselves. I’d say outside world be damned, but the truth is, they seemed to feed off the fun the crowd in front of them was having, and it became this awesome conversation, the band playing the music being danced to and then taking the energy from that dance and translating it back into the music. There was something classic and open about it, but still molten and psychedelic at the same time. Wild Rocket, who’d follow, were more directly galaxial in what they were doing, and ditto that for The Cosmic Dead earlier, but Electric Octopus had their own personality that came through in their play and in their chemistry, and while there was nary a hook to be had in their instrumental explorations, their energy was infectious all the same. I didn’t dance. I don’t dance. I didn’t dance at my wedding. I don’t dance. But I grooved and had a hell of a time doing so as Electric Octopus made me want to go back and download every single thing they’ve ever put out, which is convenient because it’s all name-your-price on Bandcamp. They also had three CDs for sale. I bought all three and I’ll rank them among the wiser purchases I’ve made since becoming unemployed this summer.

Wild Rocket

wild-rocket-photo-JJ-Koczan

Okay, so first thing. If you haven’t heard Wild Rocket‘s new LP, Disassociation Mechanics, do that. In fact, you’ll note that of the 10 bands who played Emerald Haze 2017 tonight, they’re the only one I’m directly linking to on Bandcamp, and that’s not a coincidence. What a blast they were. Only fitting to have a Dublin outfit close out the evening, and Wild Rocket made sure everyone had a final chance to be launched well beyond the atmosphere. Even the dudes from The Cosmic Dead came upstairs and were throwing down at the front of the stage, and that seemed appropriate enough to the proceedings. Certainly well earned. I had seen them last year in Norway at Høstsabbat (review here), but with a little bit more of an idea of what I was getting this time around, it was a pleasure to watch them flatten the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage and give the night the best kind finale it could’ve possibly asked for. How much further out could it go than to have MooseJonBres and Niallo trip so far there was no coming back? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Point is, go listen to that fucking Wild Rocket album. I mean it. The review’s pretty much over anyway. Only thing left to reiterate is how well the band did in giving the city of Dublin one more excellent showing of its own homegrown scene, because they were nothing if they weren’t world-class all the way, and unquestionably ready for export. Did you go listen to the record? Did you hear “Into the Black Hole?” Yeah. Good.

It’s well past 2AM as I finish writing this and there are still pictures to sort through and a full 15-band lineup for tomorrow, so I’m going to leave it there for the time being. I’ll have this posted hopefully before the day starts up again, but hell, it might be tight. We’ll see how it goes. Would you believe me if I said I was anxious about it? Thought so.

Thanks for reading. More to come and more pics after the jump here.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Emerald Haze Trip Pt. 2: The Future Echoes

Posted in Features on September 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rainbow in dublin

09.01.17 – 12.15PM – Friday afternoon – Costa Coffee, Smithfield, Dublin

In true Star Trek fashion, it occurred to me about 45 seconds before my free wifi pass ended that I could buy more and actually have enough connection to start writing. Down to the wire! A race against time! Primo dumbassery! Savvy world traveler that I am, with my Americano and my bookbag and my UK converter plugged into my $60 laptop charger. Will I ever get over that? I certainly haven’t yet.

Emerald Haze 2017 starts in a few hours. The dudes from Blaak Heat and Abrahma — spoiler alert: it’s mostly the same dudes in both bands at this point — just came through for a bit and had a pleasant, minimally awkward chat before fest-organizer Sid Daly, also of Mother Mooch, who play tomorrow night on the Mother Fuzzers Ball stage, came and grabbed them to go to the Voodoo Lounge. I got to see the venue for a bit yesterday and walked around Dublin. There are flags up for the fest, underscoring the county-supported legitimacy of the event, and posters, one of which I had my picture taken next to prior to being caught in a rainstorm and seeing the rainbow above. Look at me, existing and whatnot.

I’m crashing with Sid and his girlfriend Olga, who are both fantastic and have been far more hospitable to me than I deserve, and I slept for about 12 hours last night. No shit. Dinner was a salad of kale and baby spinach with a fresh chili pepper from their garden — hot and delicious — olive oil, black pepper, garlic powder and the salmon out of one of the vacuum-sealed pouches I brought with me, and I think I finished that at about 19.30 and by 20.45 I was asleep on their couch. They set up a camper bed for me that I transferred to after 22.30 and I was up for a bit then, but back to sleep again within an hour and I crashed out until about 09.20 this morning. Needed it.

Coffee for breakfast this morning out of their French press — I’ve never made French press coffee before; it’s fun, though I’m sure I’m doing it completely wrong compared to what an expert would advise — and a completely necessary long shower and here I am. Sid and Olga were both out this morning when I got up, picking up Church of the Cosmic Skull and The Cosmic Dead from the airport, and they swung back to the house to pick me up at around 10.45. I met both bands on the bus and it’s cool to put voices and faces to people I’ve emailed with before and been in touch with for reviews and such. I’m looking forward to seeing both groups play. Same goes for Abrahma and Blaak Heat. The whole day is pretty choice, really. Here’s the schedule, as originally posted here:

Friday, Sept. 1
Doors – 6.00

The Obelisk Stage
7.00–7.30 Elder Druid
7.45–8.15 Blaak Heat
8.30–9.00 Abrahma
9.15–10.00 The Cosmic Dead
10.30–11.20 Church of the Cosmic Skull

MFB Stage
8.00–8.30 Zlatanera
8.45–9.15 Mount Soma
9.30–10.10 King Witch
10.25-11.05 Electric Octopus
11.20–12.20 Wild Rocket

I listened to the new Wild Rocket album last night. It’s called Disassociation Mechanics and it absolutely smokes. Just awesome. And Electric Octopus’ three-plus hours of straight jamming too on their Driving Under the Influence of Jams. I have the vague feeling those guys are going to take the stage to soundcheck and just not stop for their 40 minutes onstage. One of those oh-I-guess-the-set-has-started kinds of scenarios. All vibe. Can’t wait.

Coming up on 13.00 now and I’m feeling a bit manic between getting the day’s posts up and writing this and trying to put myself in the headspace for the show later, but whatever, it’ll sort itself out. In about an hour I’ll eat the protein bar I brought for lunch or maybe the pack of salmon and then make my way to the venue and wait there. Seb from Abrahma just walked by going one way and The Cosmic Dead and Church of the Cosmic Skull just walked by going the other, so I’m kind of in my own little world here and that suits me well enough for the time being. Best to keep things low-key until they’re not anymore. It’s not exactly going to be a short night, and I’m still working basically on Eastern time, so yeah. Long way to go.

Next update should be a review of tonight. Going to try to see as much of it as possible. Thanks in advance if you get to check it out.

Tags: , , , ,