Review & Video Premiere: Deville, Pigs with Gods

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on October 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

deville pigs with gods

Deville, ‘Cut it Loose’ official video premiere

[Click play above to watch the official premiere of Deville’s ‘Cut it Loose’ video. Their album, Pigs with Gods, is out Oct. 26 on Fuzzorama Records.]

Sweden’s Deville seemed to lay self-aware claim to their straightforward approach to heavy rock and roll on their last album, 2015’s Make it Belong to Us (review here), which was their first outing through Fuzzorama Records after issuing their third LP, Hydra (review here), through Small Stone. But things change, and in the case of the Malmö four-piece, that extends to the lineup of the band, as guitarist/vocalist Andreas Bengtsson is now the sole remaining founding member of Deville, with lead guitarist Andreas Wulkan having joined before Hydra and the dual-Martin rhythm section of bassist Martin Nobel and drummer Martin Fässberg coming aboard in 2016. As Deville come upon their 15th anniversary in 2019, their latest collection, Pigs with Gods, will be the album that carries them through it, and it’s another forward step in their ongoing sonic development.

As to how much the Andreases and Martins share writing duties among them, I don’t know, but Deville has always had Bengtsson at the center, and that remains true throughout the substantial, LP-limit-pushing 12 tracks and 51 minutes of Pigs with Gods, but as cuts like “Came for Nothing,” “Hell in the Water,” “Cut it Loose” and “Gold Sealed Tomb” remind, the star when it comes to Deville‘s work has always been the songs themselves. Structurally tight, crisply produced and executed with a full, professional sound and energy, the material on Pigs with Gods offers little by way of surprises in the overall quality of its work. That is, after their last couple albums especially and even going back to 2007’s Come Heavy Sleep (which Heavy Psych Sounds pressed to vinyl in 2013) and 2009’s Hail the Black Sky (discussed here), they’ve worked to a high standard of output. With Bengtsson as the consistent factor in the band all along, one can at this point read a certain level of auteurship to their work, but again, it’s the songwriting that’s the proper focus.

And whether it’s the lumbering riffer “Lightbringer” or the one-two punch of opener “Lost Grounds” and the title-track right behind it, Pigs with Gods wants nothing as regards songwriting. The real shift as regards Deville‘s style is in the aggression level of the material overall. “Lost Grounds” puts that out immediately and sets a context for the rest of what follows such that even the uptempo push of “Cut it Loose” or the bombastic “Wrecked” later on seem informed by it. They play around with the dynamic, as one would think for a group of their established professionalism, and “Acid Meadows” mellows out while “Dead Goon” turns it somewhat darker ahead of “Came for Nothing” and the ending shove of “Medicated on a Concrete Road” and closer “In Reverse,” which tops six minutes in grand finale fashion with a striking vocal harmony, but the core tonality of Pigs with Gods — and even the title itself, unless they’re referencing Margaret Atwood — retains more of an aggro edge than anything they’ve done before.

deville

The effect there is to toe the line between heavy rock and hard rock, and taken in concert with the accessibility that their penchant for hooks grants them, one might read a commercial aspect to their sound, but I don’t think that’s what they’re going for. Whether they’re reflecting the times or some personal strife or whatever it might be, their intention seems not to make the widest-reaching album possible, but to push themselves into making the best album possible, and while Pigs with Gods is a considerable undertaking at 51 minutes — Make it Belong to Us was 37, to compare — they stave off redundancy with malleability and succeed in moving their aesthetic forward to someplace it’s never been. As to how much the arrival of Nobel and Fässberg might have to do with the sharper take, I can’t say, but it’s crucial that even as raucous as Pigs with Gods gets, on “Gold Sealed Tomb” or  “Wrecked” or even “Lost Grounds” at the outset, there’s no sacrifice of melody or catchiness in the name of making a show of being pissed off.

Nor should there be. Instead, Deville hit this new nuance in their modus with the same level of pro-shop confidence they’ve had for the better part of the last decade, and I firmly believe that’s because they keep the songs themselves as the core of the band. At no point does Pigs with Gods sound like Bengtsson sat WulkanFässberg and Nobel down at a band meeting and told them it was time to get mad. What it sounds like is that Deville wrote a new collection of tracks to follow-up the last one and the songs went where they wanted to go naturally. I’ve mentioned a couple times by now Pigs with Gods hitting expectations. In songwriting, in performance, etc. And it does, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean that it lacks passion or that it’s somehow otherwise flat, just hitting its marks and content with that. While there are steady elements to their approach and I wouldn’t say they ever come close to losing their tight grip on what they do, Deville are just working to a high standard, and surpassing where they were before is a part of that.

One would expect no less from them, no matter who’s in the band, or it simply wouldn’t be Deville. And with the rolling-forward riff of “Dead Goon” and the spacious time-taking of “In Reverse” — the bass of which is satisfyingly dirt-caked in its post-midpoint showcase — Pigs with Gods is unquestionably Deville. It shows how recognizable their sound has become over time and just how much the ownership they acknowledged their last time out has allowed them to do what they want with their songwriting and take it to places it hasn’t yet been. Whatever the future holds for them as they move beyond a decade and a half — one assumes they won’t have another album out next year, given past pacing — Deville give zero sign of letting go of the willfully grounded craft that serves as their foundation. As regards Pigs with Gods, it is only a source of strength for what they do.

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Pavallion Premiere “Waves” from Stratospheria; Album out Oct. 26

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

pavallion (Photo by Philip Lethen)

At 10 minutes long, opening track ‘Waves’ plays an important role on Pavallion‘s second album, Stratospheria, out Oct. 26 on Tonzonen Records. From the spacious post-rock guitar line that opens the song with a drift worthy of its title to the subtle vocal harmonies in its verse lines as it moves toward its midsection, it’s the first impression Stratospheria makes, building to a louder instrumental wash as it approaches minute five and pushing decidedly outward from there in its second half with a fluid blend of ambience and weight made whole through steady but creative drumming. By the time it gets to its final push, it’s traversed a not-inconsiderable distance, and its last 30 seconds or so are just a ringout of the massive wall of sound that’s built, but the initial feel of the soothing intro is still maintained. As much as “Waves” seems to bring the tide of volume in as it plays through, it still doesn’t carry much of a sense of threat in the listening experience, and that’s important, because with the other two tracks that comprise the full-length, “Monolith” (5:11) and “Stratospheria” (24:37) itself, they bring a somewhat darker tonality to bear.

Especially in the shorter “Monolith,” the Krefeld, Germany, four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Sebastian Dückers, guitarist/vocalist Steven Hein, bassist Andreas Zanders and drummer Piet Fischer touch on a doomed atmosphere, with low spoken vocals and sparse, thudding drums and plodding guitar with a consuming distortion unfolding amid eerie whispers and a tense line of horror-style notes that comes to the fore in its apex. That departure — still on side A of the pavallion stratospheriavinyl, so in any format it immediately follows “Waves” — is key to establishing the personality of the release as a whole. Pavallion‘s 2017 debut, 2048, certainly had its progressive elements, and was a longer outing overall with five tracks/48 minutes as opposed to Stratospheria‘s three and 40 minutes, but while it had heavier moments along with its Floyd-loyalist conscioupsychedelia, there wasn’t anything so grim as the near-goth affect of “Monolith,” the mood of which seems to carry into the title-cut that follows, though with a runtime comprising more than half of the entire album, that song of course has no trouble setting a mood of its own. “Stratospheria” is, obviously, central to the record that shares its name, and perhaps unsurprisingly it seems to bridge the gap between “Waves” and “Monolith,” bringing the disparate sides together into a cohesive entirety of marked flow and a naturalist movement. Its ebbs are open-sounding and hypnotic, and the heft it conjures comes on smoothly and gradually, so that its arrival isn’t awkward or out of place, but an organic growth of the forward motion in the track.

Like “Waves,” “Stratospheria” gets significantly heavy, but retains its sense of atmosphere and carries the foreboding vibe of “Monolith” into its own context, as can be heard in the low-end distortion beneath the repeated guitar line about 16 minutes in. As the last push unfolds, Pavallion craft a fervent wash of noise, and the weighted riff that arrives shortly before the 19-minute mark is emblematic of the grim undertone that seems to be lurking all along, coexisting with the heavy psychedelic and progressive shimmer that “Waves” first set forth. That these two sides are able to come together into a coherent, single statement isn’t an achievement to be overlooked, but in the actual listening, that’s less of an outward impression than the level of engagement the band elicits from the beginning onward. That is, one isn’t likely to be sitting listening to Stratospheria saying, “Hmm, quite nice how they’ve married together diverse ambiences,” while utterly hypnotized by the effect of their doing so.

Appropriately enough, the visual accompaniment for “Waves” in the YouTube embed below is, well, waves. It’s waves. The camera is on a boat and it’s waves. Fair enough to give a sense of the album’s total entrancing aspects, and the crucial work “Waves” does as its opening salvo.

More info follows beneath. I hope you enjoy:

Pavallion, “Waves” visualizer premiere

Does music bend space and time? When a five minute song seems like a huge black hole while a 24-minute-epic rushes past in the blink of an eye, one can get the impression that it’s possible. Concerning PAVALLION, time is relative anyway, as already shown on their debut album „2048“. Following the minimalistic catchiness of their 2017 five track LP, these four guys from Krefeld, Germany, now present their second album STRATOSPHERIA.

It contains 3 atmospheric longtracks that slowly unfold into great epics – from the lone, soft echo in a vast openness to the dense, impenetrable wall of sound. Warm, hypnotic post-rock meets modern psychedelic, reminding some of us of the good old Pink Floyd sound. „Close your eyes and be carried away“ seems to be the motto – both live and in front of the record player.

STRATOSPHERIA is already preoderable and will be released on October 26th via the audiophile indie label TONZONEN RECORDS. It will be available as a limited gatefold LP in the vinyl colours marbled yellow (150 copies) and marbled greenblue (350 copies), as Digipak CD as well as for download.

Pavallion is:
Sebastian Dückers – Lead Vocals / Guitar
Steven Hein – Lead Guitar / Vocals
Andreas Zanders – Bass
Piet Fischer – Drums

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Vanishing Kids Premiere “Reaper”; Heavy Dreamer Due Nov. 30

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

vanishing kids

Wisconsin’s Vanishing Kids will release their fifth full-length, Heavy Dreamer, Nov. 30 on Svart Records. It’s been 15 years since vocalist/keyboardist Nikki Drohomyreky and guitarist Jason Hartman made their debut with Rest the Glove that Wears You Down and five since their fourth LP, Spirit Visions, but their history seems to cross genres as much as time, and where their last outing found them dug into post-rock airiness, Heavy Dreamer carries a deep-running gothic heft, with the melodic wisps filling out the mix of “Mockingbird” reminding that indeed it’s the season of October Rust while the 7:57 title-track, second in the playlist behind “Creation” and very much part of an immersion-minded opening salvo with it, pulls elements of new wave into its chorus and transposes them onto the organ-laced doom of the leadoff. Deeply progressive and marked by the patient, standout performance of Drohomyreky on vocals and the low rumble of bass from Jerry Sofran, Heavy Dreamer is nonetheless fluid as it moves through psychedelic pastoralia on “Without a Sun,” creating a wash of tone and melody held together by Hart Allan Miller‘s drumming and the foundation of Hartman‘s guitar. The music is consistently, persistently adventurous, and there’s nowhere it goes to which it does not bring a stately, engaging presence.

The effect of “Creation” and “Heavy Dreamer” at the outset lingers. The latter is particularly memorable for Drohomyreky‘s soulful delivery of the title-line, and together they comprise more than 15 of the record’s total 51 minutes, so it’s not an insubstantial portion. Their placement seems purposeful, as only the nodding-doom-into-holy-crap-where’d-that-solo-come-from “Reaper” on side B hits the seven-minute vanishing kids heavy dreamermark otherwise, but more than runtime it’s a question of atmosphere and setting the mood. And whatever else Heavy Dreamer is — it is many things, and I suspect many different things for different listeners — it is a work of mood. Caked in echo and begun with a flourish of synthesized beats, “Without a Sun” projects a massive but not overwrought vibe, and while side B opener “Eyes of Secrets” isn’t without its shoegazing aspects, the flow between the back and forth swells of volume atop Miller‘s steady beat are nigh on hypnotic, with a finish of harsher guitar noise as though to willfully shock the listener back to consciousness. Following “Reaper,” which encases the aforementioned guitar showcase with a memorable chorus, “Rainbows” eases into a vision of post-rock and psychedelic doom that gracefully brings the styles together in a manner that’s an immediate highlight. A drifting figure on guitar in its second half opens to a blurring of the line between itself and keys — it’s all melody, right? — and once more the vocals provide a human presence in the wash of volume and tone, albeit an otherworldly one.

There’s a late spoken sample in “Rainbows” that’s somewhat obscured by the guitar solo, but the penultimate track ends with poise and gives way to “Magnificent Magenta Blue” as it once more revives the melodic reach of the keys and guitar and the dynamic they share with the earthbound drums pushing them forward. Hartman, who’s also played in Jex Thoth since 2013, doesn’t waste the opportunity to cast out one last stretch of deceptively shredding leadwork, and the vibe of culmination is palpable as he does so, with Sofran and Miller rolling the finale through its procession as the vocals recede and wait to return for a last chorus. Always, the keys remain, and the organ is not only essential to Vanishing Kids‘ overall approach, but it’s the base around which they’re able to shift between styles with such apparent ease while remaining sonically coherent. They’re not the only element doing so at any given time between the vocals, guitar, bass and drums, but the keys do a lot of work in tying the songs together throughout Heavy Dreamer, and ultimately allow the record to live up to its title with an unflinching sense of its own mission, knowing what it wants to be and how to be it. Or them, as it were for material so multifaceted.

I’m happy today to host the premiere of “Reaper” from Heavy Dreamer. You’ll find the track below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Vanishing Kids, “Reaper” official track premiere

Svart Records sets November 30th as the international release date for Vanishing Kids’ highly anticipated fourth album, Heavy Dreamer. The somnambulic doom metal group’s new album will be available on CD, vinyl LP, and digital formats.

Hailing from Wisconsin, Vanishing Kids has been an ever-evolving artistic and musical journey since the early 2000s, with core members and founders Jason Hartman (Jex Thoth) and Nikki Drohomyreky on vocals. As kids of the ’70s and ’80s who grew up on metal, prog rock, krautrock, psych, punk, and goth, they have managed to carve out a niche of their own for themselves.

The band’s newest and most powerful culmination arose when Jason Hartman’s childhood hero – and Midwest metal legend – Jerry Sofran (Lethal Heathen, Mirrored Image) joined in 2013. Shortly thereafter, the hard-hitting Hart Allan Miller (Wartorn, Deathwish, Tenement) joined on drums to complete the lineup.

Being the first full-length outing from Vanishing Kids in over five years, Heavy Dreamer is soaked in captivating shoegazey fuzz vaguely reminiscent of what My Bloody Valentine would sound like had they grown up on a diet of psychedelic doom metal and occult rock.

Tracklisting for Vanishing Kids’ Heavy Dreamer
1. Creation
2. Heavy Dreamer
3. Without A Sun
4. Mockingbird
5. Eyes of Secrets
6. Reaper
7. Rainbows
8. Magnetic Magenta Blue

Vanishing Kids is:
Nikki Drohomyreky- Vocals, Organ, Synths, Percussion
Jason Hartman- Guitar
Jerry Sofran- Bass
Hart Allan Miller- Drums

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Svart Records website

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Review & Full Album Stream: Zippo, Ode to Maximum Reissue

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

zippo ode to maximum

[Click play above to listen to Zippo’s Ode to Maximum in its entirety. The full remaster with bonus tracks is out Nov. 2 on Spikerot Records.]

We live in an age where albums come out twice all the time. A band records on their own and does a self-release, digital or sometimes physical, and then later on at some point that record is picked up by a label for wider distribution and/or a physical pressing. The difference with Zippo‘s Ode to Maximum is that it’s happening 12 years later. Probably fair, then to call the Spikerot Records vinyl version of the then-five-piece Italian outfit’s debut full-length a reissue, what with the Tony Reed remaster, new cover art, bonus tracks and all, but its core desert rocking approach and forays into psychedelia on “Night Jam” and “Crazy Forest” lend a sonic reach to the grounded material surrounding.

The band is currently a four-piece with Alessandro Sergente on guitar, but in 2006, Sergente was joined by fellow guitarist Silvio Spina and bassist Tonino Bosco (Paolo Garofalo handles bass now), as well as vocalist Davide Straccione and drummer Federico Sergente, both of whom remain with Zippo now. Based in Pescara on the Adriatic Coast, they’ve done three albums since Ode to Maximum in the form of 2009’s The Road to Knowledge (discussed here), 2011’s Maktub and 2016’s After Us (discussed here), and each time branched out someplace new from where they started with the original 10 tracks of Ode to Maximum, which from the Lowrider-style wah of “Forgotten Season” to the suitably named thick-toned stomper “The Elephant March” and the careening “Tukay’s Fury” that precedes, basks in the glory days of the heavy rock movement that started a decade before it was made.

It was the MySpace era, but Zippo concerned themselves more with the doings of Kyuss and certainly offshoot project Slo Burn, whose “July” is covered as one of the bonus tracks here, recorded in 2014, in the early and mid ’90s. With a raw-ish production and a mix that puts the bass as the foundation of songs like “Kid in the Desert,” however otherwise led by the riffs they may be, Zippo tapped early into what have since become some of the most enduring aspects of the original Californian desert rock movement — and we’ll throw some Sweden in there for Lowrider, too — while putting their own inevitable stamp on the approach with a sense of rhythmic quirk, gutted-out vocals and diverse songwriting.

Beginning with the intro “Alpha” and ending with the complementary “Omega,” Ode to Maximum unfurls a self-aware sonic blend of chunky-style riffing on “Tsunami Dust” with the fervent rumble establishing itself beneath the two guitars and Straccione‘s vocals. A departure into a playfully-malevolent break brings some element of Faith No More to the proceedings, but as “Tsunami Dust” moves into highlight cut “S.N.A.P.R.S.T.,” the jazzy interlude and aggro finish in the latter already has some context hinting toward its arrival. Clearly Zippo were never just about mimicry of the Californian scene, and the rest of Ode to Maximum bears that out.

zippo (Photo by Marco Rocconi)

Originally a 45-minute outing — the bonus tracks push that to 55 on the remaster — Ode to Maximum has a linear fluidity that speaks to the time of its release, when CD was still the dominant physical media, if in decline with the increasing reach of the digital sphere. The handclaps in “Forgotten Season,” either natural or keyboard — something about them is awfully consistent sounding — vocal layering and manic lead guitar are nonetheless standout factors emblematic of the manner in which songs are distinguished throughout. In addition to the new CD release, though, Spikerot has a 2LP version of the album, and one imagines the same distinguishing factors help establish a breadth as Zippo move from one song and one side to the next.

I won’t claim to know where the sides split, but “Night Jam” is a serene departure from “Forgotten Season,” and “Kid in the Desert” renews the quirked-up post-Kyuss thrust ahead of “Crazy Forest,” which is the longest cut on the album at eight minutes, and if that’s side B, then it’s a solid one. “Crazy Forest” taps into progressive nuance to go along with its standout nodder fuzz riff — something of a foreshadow for the seven-minute “The Elephant March” still to come — and ends with an almost hypnotic rhythm before a last-second shove leads the way into “Tukay’s Fury.”

As it’s sandwiched between the two longest tracks, it would make sense that it’s the shortest (non-intro/outro) piece at 3:22, with starts and stops in the verses shifting into a high-gear hook with a high-energy delivery the whole way through until finally the thing seems to crash to its finish and directly into the start of “The Elephant March,” which is obviously intended as the apex of the record. And so it is. Big riffs get bigger as it courses through its second half, finishing at about six minutes in so the last minute can be consumed by a swell of insect noise, either flies or bees. Kind of a curious choice with “Omega” still to follow and lead the way out of the album as a whole, but it was 2006. Times were crazy. “Omega” fluidly answers “Alpha” with a minute or so of riffing and some sustained ringout that fades to a finish, leaving just “Night Jam #2” — heavier, proggier, more plotted — and the aforementioned Slo Burn redux to cap.

Though recorded later, “July” is a pretty fitting conclusion for Ode to Maximum, and the treatment they give it — again, the bass — does right by the original while allowing Zippo to make their mark on it as well. The album preceding functions in much the same way, portraying a band working their way toward an understanding of who they are as a group and what they want to bring to the tenets of their chosen genre. They’ve gone on to answer that question with subsequent albums, so in a way it’s like cheating to listen to Ode to Maximum and know the future, but a debut release is a special moment for a band that doesn’t come again, and this look back gives Zippo a chance to emphasize how far they’ve come since as well as the clarity of mission with which they started out.

Zippo, “Tsunami Dust” official video

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Domkraft, Flood: Torrential Downpour

Posted in Reviews on October 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

domkraft flood

Listening to some of their more crunching riffs, Domkraft are easy enough to lump into the category of post-Monolord undulation, big tones and spacious vocals on a song like “The Watchers” seeming to make the Stockholm trio kin to that Gothenburg outfit. That, however, is less than half of the whole story. Domkraft‘s approach, especially on their second album and Blues Funeral Recordings debut, Flood, is a melting pot of modern heavy. Yes, that heft is there, but even more so throughout the seven-song/41-minute outing is a sense of drift and space rock thrust, a heavy rocking swing and bounce, an element of noise rock and post-metal in some of the shouted vocals and plenty of psychedelia throughout.

With rhythmic repetition, the trio of guitarist Martin Widholm, bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland and decidedly-not-named-Martin drummer Anders Dahlgren affect a sense of nodding hypnosis from the outset of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Landslide,” which seems to earn its title via the consuming wash of wah and massive crashing riff in its second half — either evoking or causing the titular devastation; it’s hard to tell which. Either way, the earth moves, but as huge as its riffing is — and it’s not just at the end either; dig that turn at about 3:03 into the total 9:56 — that leadoff also performs the essential function of introducing the more sprawling aspects of Domkraft‘s sound. Those, along with the crush, the style and layout of cover art, the use of a well-placed interlude, etc., are things Flood carries over from 2016’s debut LP, The End of Electricity (review here), which was released by Magnetic Eye Records, but there has been a shift in the production as well as in the reach of the songs themselves, and Flood pushes farther out into open terrain even as it seems so ready to pummel the listener into those same grounds.

One might think of “Landslide” as a companion-piece to “The Rift,” which gloriously opened the debut, and it’s no less effective in establishing the tones and breadth on which what follows continues to build throughout the remaining six tracks. It is a natural progression from one to the next, and in that way emblematic of what is accomplished throughout Flood as a whole. Both “The Watchers” and the subsequent title-track are shorter and represent a momentum-building between them that simplifies some of the moves from “Landslide” but still ties to that song in terms of the elements at play, whether it’s the wah in “The Watchers” amid the Neurosis-style shouts from Wegeland or the tonal heft that they seem to make bounce in “Flood” itself, showing themselves as unafraid to play to heavy rock traditionalism despite being so outwardly modern in their approach. That is, it’s okay to like a fuzzy riff and a locked-in groove. No one’s going to yell at you. The sense of forward motion through both “The Watchers” and “Flood” is crucial, but no less so is the centerpiece interlude “They Appear to Be Alive” (one wants to put an ellipse before the last word of the title: “They Appear to Be… Alive,” if only for dramatic effect), which is less than 90 seconds long but serves in its sort of winding guitar mini-swirl to emphasize Domkraft‘s trance-inducing aspects and the psychedelic flourish that has been accompanying the sonic heft all along.

domkraft

It’s a slowdown, or a breather, after the apex of “Flood” and its downhill push with “The Watchers” following “Landslide,” but it efficiently reorients the listener and prepares them, almost unknowingly, for the second half of album. Already, though, we see the band’s modus is not unlike the match-lighting seabeast adorning Flood‘s cover, with multiple tentacles connected to a three-eyed, somewhat monstrous whole, like an Octorok from Zelda but with better graphics to seem all the more fierce as it belches smoke and carries — tellingly — a hook. Domkraft have a few of those as well, and though their songs aren’t immediately chorus-based in let’s-get-this-verse-out-of-the-way-so-we-can-get-to-why-we’re-really-here fashion, they nonetheless cast a memorable impression that all the more distinguishes the fluid balance of their material, shifting between styles while creating a cohesive entirety from them.

Side B begins with the tempo manipulations of “Sandwalker,” turning first to more of a pushing instrumental chorus and then into a sprawling pre-midsection guitar solo. Madness ensues. With increasing intensity, Domkraft move into a wash of noise and another solo before hitting the brakes again, and then go back for more speed before the song seems to pull itself apart. The chorus turns out to be the solo — an instrumental hook that proves all the more memorable for being the final statement the 7:29 track makes. That length is important because it speaks to the change in structure on side B. Where the first four songs were like a rollercoaster, climbing up “Landslide” and then rushing down “The Watchers” and “Flood” into the valley of “They Appear to Be Alive,” side B works as bookends. “Sandwalker” and the 8:09 closer “Dead Eyes Red Skies” (not to be confused with the 2013 Tombstones album, Red Skies and Dead Eyes) surround “Octopus,” which at 4:40 is the shortest of Flood‘s non-interlude inclusions. That change gives the album as a whole a more varied personality and the sense that the band are willfully not trying to mirror the two halves on each other, which has become the norm for those willing to put in the effort at all. By going another way, Domkraft make themselves all the more distinct from their peers, and “Octopus” gives a crisp reaffirmation of the effectiveness of its quicker side A counterparts while summarizing the rolling groove that has served the band so well.

The closer answers back with another fervent nod, but also a more patient delivery than most of what Domkraft have heretofore brought forward, allowing the tones to flesh out even as they ready for the next shove. Departure into a particularly psychedelic solo leads to a holdout of some feedback and a surge of riffing that identifies readily as the culmination of the record, getting thicker as it goes with the vocals still cutting through, mellowing out one more time, getting heavy quick, then cutting out altogether to finish with whispers over atmospheric guitar and bass. It’s a chaotic finale, but that’s obviously what it’s meant to be, and Domkraft wield it ably as they have done all along throughout Flood. The album is executed with a level of self-awareness across its span that further underscores that notion, and as Domkraft take this unmistakable step forward, they seem to show no signs of resting in this place either. I wouldn’t be surprised if their next outing found them dug even further into the realms of psychedelic ultraheavy, but that of course is just one of Flood‘s accomplishments on which they might build.

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland: Living in It

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

uncle acid and the deadbeats wasteland

Along with the stylistic innovation of their general aesthetic, the creepy harmonies and melodic centrality of guitar and vocals, raw fuzz of their tones, their information-age mystique earlier in their career and their classic-but-obscure sound overall, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ work has never been without a corresponding sense of nuance. As they move into album number five, Wasteland — released, as ever, by Rise Above Records — the fine sonic details of their work seem to come through the recording regardless of where an individual goes structurally. The flourish of keys in “Stranger Tonight,” the organ in the ultra-hooky “Bedouin” later in the record, the mellotron and faded-in-drums of the title-track, the VHS-style sampled intro to opener “I See Through You” that set up the arrival of further samples later in “No Return,” after the bell-chord-laden marching plod of that nine-minute track has receded into a long, fog-covered fadeout, and so on.

All of these things become part of the world created at the behest of guitarist/vocalist/ringleader Kevin R. Starrs, and brought to bear with the production of Geoff Neal at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, there’s a balance created between Uncle Acid‘s long established wash of filthy fuzz grit and the melodies that are no less central to who they are as a band. Recording in the same studio where The Beach Boys tracked Pet Sounds and The Doors did Strange Days is something of a direct departure from  2015’s The Night Creeper (review here), which Starrs recorded himself and was the barest-sounding offering since their 2010 debut, Vol. 1 (reissue review here), and they flourish in the grander setting while holding to the eerie, sneaking-around-the-corner vibe that’s always been prevalent and has only helped their influence spread as it has over the better part of the last decade. With eight tracks and 47 minutes, Wasteland is the shortest offering Uncle Acid have made 2011’s world-breaking Blood Lust (discussed here), as both 2013’s Mind Control (review here) and The Night Creeper topped 50 minutes, and in addition to that, there seems to be some shift in how the band are using that time.

Consider for a moment the circumstances of Wasteland‘s release. On a more general level, between Brexit and anti-immigration populism in their native UK and an ever-present sense of disheartening political chaos in Europe and the US — the band’s two central markets — could easily justify the title alone, but when it comes to the actual songs and the album’s arrival, it’s being released at the Desert Daze festival in Los Angeles, and long before any details about Uncle Acid‘s fifth LP were made public, tour dates in Europe and the UK were announced for late-2018/early-2019.

We had “the Wasteland tour” before we knew what Wasteland was. For an act of Uncle Acid‘s profile — and at this point it’s safe to call them one of underground heavy’s most essential bands in terms of influence and their general audience reach — that they’d have a well coordinated release isn’t a surprise, but it’s all the more worth noting because so much of the focus throughout Wasteland seems to be on playing live. Of course it’s a two-sided LP and it splits more or less evenly into half with four tracks on each side. Fine. But to take the totality of the tracklisting as a linear whole from “I See Through You” to the militaristic-snare-into-empty-wind (blowing, no doubt, over the titular wasteland) finish of “Exodus,” the entire album seems to be geared toward playing live. It feels like a live set.

It launches with two immediate, standout, catchy hard rockers in “I See Though You” — a firm reminder to the audience of who Uncle Acid are and what they do — and “Shockwave City,” which comes across as something Scorpions might’ve conjured as filtered through Starrs‘ secrets-in-the-basement ideology of sound with scorching guitar work and a tightness of structure and central riff that stands tall among their finest singles. Momentum is built and slashed as “No Return” takes hold with a quiet and tense but slower progression and unfolds its nodding roll over an extended stretch replete with wailing vocals and a wash they’ve not yet brought to bear. It’s telling that at about six and a half minutes in, “No Return” drops to atmospheria, a kind of residual drone taking hold as the samples arrive. This ostensibly isn’t the end of side A — unless I’m way off as regards the placement of the songs on the vinyl; possible — but it does bring to a close the first of three movements happening throughout Wasteland.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (Photo by Ester Segarra)

Think of it this way: two rockers up front, longer song, two more rockers, longer song, and the finale duo of “Bedouin” and “Exodus” to end out. Three tracks, three tracks, two tracks.

This dynamic throughout the album, apart from considerations of physical format, makes Wasteland seem all the more built to be played live. “Blood Runner” and “Stranger Tonight,” like “Shockwave City” before them, barely top four minutes, and as the former taps some surprising NWOBHM gallop, the latter seems to be composed as the quintessential Uncle Acid track, from its threat of violence in the lyrics — it’s noteworthy that Wasteland is unmistakably the band’s album that’s least about killing ladies; perhaps a sign of Starrs having an ear to the ground as to the moment — to the sweep of its hook that only seems to grow more infectious with multiple listens. These in turn lead to “Wasteland” itself, which is unmistakably a forward step in the creative growth of the band.

They’re not strangers to using acoustics or turns to mellower fare, but across its nearly eight minutes, “Wasteland” takes what songs like “13 Candles” and “Black Motorcade” have done in the past to offset more raucous material directly bridges the gap between the two sides. For a band who’ve always, always, been about songwriting, it’s a new level of achievement in that. From the swaying early verses, effectively arranged with the aforementioned mellotron and harmonized vocals, other keys, guitar, bass flourish, etc., to the build that takes hold with the arrival of the drums at the halfway point and moves into an absolute apex for the album as a whole, it’s as gorgeous it is covered in grime, and its relatively quick fade seems to cut short what could’ve easily been a longer section. No mystery how it got to be the title-track; it’s the whole point. “Bedouin” fades in even more quickly than “Wasteland” went out, and begins the last of the three salvos, which works to bring the other two together somewhat.

It’s shorter than the opener at 5:41, but “Bedouin” nonetheless makes its impact with a strutting chorus and the organ in its verses, as well as highlight lead guitar work that recalls “Shockwave City” earlier but is more tripped-out with effects in its ending. But it’s a rager, and as it gives way to the slower-swinging “Exodus” — residing that rhythmic pocket that so many in the garage doom set try to capture but can’t quite do in the same way that comes so naturally to Uncle Acid — there’s a palpable sense of an encore happening. The closer lands squarely between the shorter and longer cuts, but moreover, it has a sense of finality to it that speaks to the band’s ever-cinematic sphere of influences. That is to say, roll credits.

But, more to the occasion, it’s the grand finale of the live set that is Wasteland as a whole, and though there’s nothing lacking by the time it’s done, the fact that the two prior salvos are three songs and the last one is only two seems to tip-hat to the notion of leaving the audience wanting more. Hence the sudden cut at the end of “Exodus” itself and the shorter overall runtime. It works. The danger coming into Wasteland was whether or not Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats would be seen to have run their stylistic course. Could they make their sound do something new? They haven’t yet made their Sgt. Pepper — or, if they were after my own heart, their Rubber Soul — and they may not have interest in doing so, but what Wasteland does is to bring a refreshed vitality to their approach while willfully tightening the songcraft at the same time they push forward into new ground. There will be a lot that’s familiar to established listeners, but as always with Starrs‘ work, the deeper you dig, the more you find, and Wasteland more than earns such excavation. It’d be a show to remember.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Stranger Tonight”

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats website

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T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid: Monument

Posted in Reviews on October 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

tg olson earthen pyramid

Those who follow or attempt to follow the prolific solo output of T.G. Olson, frontman of Across Tundras who since at least 2011 has embarked on a wide-ranging and regularly-added-to string of records — mostly digital releases dropped without fanfare as name-your-price downloads on Bandcamp, but some with physical issue either concurrent or after their arrival — will note that Earthen Pyramid is his third full-length of 2018. Arriving behind February’s Owned and Operated by Twang Trust LLC and March’s A Stone that Forever Rolls (both reviewed here), one might think of it as something of a spiritual companion to the latter. Spiritual, if not necessarily sonic. A Stone that Forever Rolls was minimalist compared to the nine-song/46-minute Earthen Pyramid, based around troubadour-style acoustic guitar and some other flourish added for variety.

Also 16 minutes longer, Earthen Pyramid offers more of a full-band feel. Drums are a notable inclusion as an element not always used in Olson‘s solo work, and that’s really just the start of it. Layers of acoustic and electric guitar, vocal effects, lap steel, keys, who the hell knows what else — it all comes together in a collection that casts itself across a vast sprawl that’s an immediate standout in the Olson catalog. How then does it relate to the prior outing? The dedication. Earthen Pyramid is dedicated to Sadie, and A Stone that Forever Rolls was for Odin; Olson‘s dogs, who reportedly sat in the studio with him on every record he’s ever made, and both of whom passed away this year. Having recently been through such a loss myself, Earthen Pyramid strikes a nerve there as it opens with “Under the Dog Star,” including a quick come-command whistle in its midst, but if I was going to feign impartiality in the first place, I’d simply write about something else. Fan as I am of Olson‘s work, given the timing of Earthen Pyramid, I was all the more predisposed to its favor. Even so, with its periodic wash of fuzz and hints of tonal heft in songs like “Don’t Step on Her Boots” and the low-end-centric “Stripes” later on, it’s legitimately a distinct piece in Olson‘s ongoing discography.

He may or may not have another complete album posted by the time I finish this sentence, but even if he does, it’s clear Earthen Pyramid was intended as a special way of paying homage to those lost loves and members of his family. That’s not the only theme of the songs — I should add “fortunately” to that, since if it was, it would make for a somewhat excruciating listen — but in the bookends of opener “Under the Dog Star” (also the longest track at 6:12; immediate points) and closer “Little Pine Big Pine,” it comes through well enough, and the context, which Olson explains as something of a celebration of the life particularly of Sadie, who was in the studio when the album was created, adds to the emotional impact of the material overall and serves as the impetus for the broader arrangements. If one thinks of the title Earthen Pyramid, the image of a burial mound shouldn’t be too far from mind.

tg olson

Even considering that, though, a given listener doesn’t necessarily need that backstory in order for the tracks on Earthen Pyramid to make an impression. Particularly those who’ve longed for a proper full-length to follow-up Across Tundras‘ 2013 outing, Electric Relics (review here) — note they also had a single out late last year — will find some solace in the depth of mix for songs like “Rivers to the Ocean” and “Delta Healer,” neither of which shies away from conjuring tonal fullness or the wash that results. Melodic humility, rhythmic patience and a sense of procession throughout are signature elements in Olson‘s songwriting, but it’s how they’re used on Earthen Pyramid that makes the difference. He can and often does make an acoustic guitar sound “heavy” in an emotional and atmospheric sense, and with the uptempo “Shameless Killers” and the subsequent, slide-laced centerpiece “Delta Healer,” he shows both his penchant for winding guitar lines and rambling rhythms — expressed in the latter through only the most basic timekeeping low in the mix — and a range within the sphere of the album itself.

And as clear as the intent can seem when one understands what’s at work behind Earthen Pyramid, the landscape-building drones of “After the Jasper Fire” that fade away to lead into the aforementioned “Stripes” provide their own resonance. Likewise, the breadth of guitar on “Strips” — there are at least four discernible layers, between acoustic, electric, slide and effects, along with at least two layers of percussion — has no trouble showcasing its mindset regardless of the circumstances behind its creation. Ultimately, what ties the material together despite shifts in approach one way or other is, of course, Olson himself. His vocals, sometimes forward in the mix, sometimes consumed by the wash surrounding, are a uniting element, but no less so is the style of craft that has become so much his own particularly through the last five years of offerings, issued one into the other as though being tossed into eternity for eternity to sort out later. Soothing as the material sometimes is, there is an underlying intensity of the creativity that drives “Talkin’ Country Miles” and “Little Pine Big Pine” at the finish, and really, the entire album preceding.

That extends to the creation of Earthen Pyramid itself — the actual writing and recording it — and to the impulse that has sculpted the ever-growing catalog for which it serves as the latest installment. As “Little Pine Big Pine” finds its resolution in an echoing guitar line not entirely dissimilar from that of Abronia‘s “Glass Butte Retribution,” Olson comfortably pushes into the ending of the collection with a suitably wistful march that seems to echo the sentiment at its root in its fadeout. As ever for his work, Earthen Pyramid is a moment captured. Moments happen and are gone, like everything. Whatever the next one — moment, album — brings, Earthen Pyramid preserves its specific time for Olson himself. That may be a double-edged sword when one considers the grieving process, but the beauty in these songs is nonetheless replete with the love behind their expression. As that lasts after the immediate pain of loss subsides, so too will Earthen Pyramid remain.

T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid (2018)

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2018 Night Two in Oslo, Norway, 10.06.18

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat 2018 poster

I knew this was going to be a quick trip, but now that I’m sitting on the other end of Høstsabbat 2018 it feels even quicker than it did on paper. Today was — church pun totally intended — little short of immaculate. It picked up from the energy and personality of yesterday’s show and directed the personalities of each stage in a different way. Upstairs on the altar, it was rock and psych for most of the night, while downstairs in the Crypt, it dug deep into post-metal. Then, for the final two acts, they pulled a total swap. Just when you think you’ve caught the pattern: no dice.

Slept hard after posting that last review and stopped at the organic market on my way back to the Kulturkirken Jakob and picked up a little natural-rubber frog for The Pecan back home, then hit the venue to check in. I should note: Coffee was had. In bulk. I didn’t count cups, but I wouldn’t have been able to keep track anyhow. I know I put down two or three before Taiga Woods were finished opening the day in the basement, and I stopped in for more several times along the way after that. Big quality of life improvement.

I’m not sure how else to say it — today was a special day. I am not young, and I have been to many shows in my time. That’s not bragging; I’ve by no means seen the most shows. But I’ve seen a few. And a day like this doesn’t come along all that often. I know already I’ll be looking back on my time here fondly. I haven’t even left the hotel to go to the airport yet, and frankly I’m already feeling nostalgic.

Thank you for reading. This is how it went:

hostsabbat art

Taiga Woods

Taiga Woods (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rockin’ start to the proceedings. Oslo’s own Taiga Woods tapped into a traditional style of desert heavy, showing shades of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age early on, but working their way toward their own identity in style and presence. Most of what they played came from their 2017 self-titled debut, though it’s worth noting that it would seem guitarist/vocalist Erik Skundberg has undergone a total revamp of the band in the 13 months since that LP was released, bringing on board drummer Jonatan Eikum as well as guitarist Jøran Normann, who played upstairs yesterday as a member of Lonely Kamel, and bassist Ole Ulvik Rokseth, who opened the Crypt yesterday as part of SÂVER. Familiar faces or no, that’s not a minor change when it’s three-fourths of the lineup. But as refreshing as it was to see an act get down to the ’90s roots of modern-style heavy rock, they lacked nothing for chemistry between them, and the new song “Step Up” fit well ahead the catchy “Slow Burning” as they made their way toward finishing with “The Great Machine.” I didn’t see CDs for sale, which only says to me they’re ready for someone to step up and put that record out either before or in conjunction with a new one to come.

Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Maybe once — maybe — at a festival like this, I’ll see something that makes me pull the plugs out of my ears. Elephant Tree were that band at Høstsabbat. Kind of hard not to feel like the universe was doing me favors, lining up them, Asteroid and Electric Moon one into the next on the upstairs stage. The London three-piece were freshly arrived off a tour with Mothership and Stoned Jesus, and they sounded like it. I was lucky enough to see them in their hometown this past May (review here), and of course the context was different them play on an actual church altar in a room with a ceiling at least three stories high, but even so, they were locked in like a band who’ve been touring, and while they were joking around and guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland were ragging on drummer Sam Hart for forgetting to get a beer before they took stage — someone brought him one — they were utterly locked in through “Dawn,” “Surma” and “Aphotic Blues” from their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The harmonies between Townley and Holland were dead on, and they only showed progression in that regard with two new songs that carried the tentative titles “Wasted” and “Bella” before they closed out with a slowed-down cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid.” Because of the tempo, I actually thought they might dip into the Type O Negative version, but they ultimately stayed loyal at least in structure to the original. To call them a highlight of the trip would be underselling it viciously. A blast all the way through. They played Psycho Las Vegas last year, but I hope their next album brings them to the US for a full tour. They sounded ready and well up to the task.

Dwaal

Dwaal (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I knew nothing about Dwaal going into their set, and sometimes I like that. Also based in Oslo, they packed their five-piece lineup into the basement stage such that bassist Stian spent a decent portion of the set playing at least half behind a concrete support pillar. Metal. Actually, post-metal, and sludge, and doom, but fittingly atmospheric for an evening that would be headlined by Amenra. Their debut EP, Darben, came out last year comprised of two extended cuts — I’d call it a full-length since it topped 30 minutes, but why argue? — and they’ve reportedly got an album in the works, and while I don’t know if the bulk of what they played was new or older, their aggression and their level of crushing riffing were obviously a far cry from both Elephant Tree and Taiga Woods, but they marked the beginning point of a second thread running throughout the evening, which comprised more ambient and aggro post-whatnottery in contrast to the more rock-minded or psychedelic fare. Either way, the room knew them more than I did and they had heads banging and nodding in front of the “stage” — that’s not to say “the spot on the floor where the rug was” — and on the side as well, which was closed yesterday and opened today presumably to accommodate a broader flux of attendees. It was full for Dwaal, and reasonably so.

Asteroid

Asteroid (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Such boogie. Such warmth. I mean, come on. All other things in the universe being equal — especially money — the chance to see Asteroid alone would’ve justified this trip. I made my way up early to the Chapel stage, to make sure I got a spot up front to see them, and was rewarded with a set that gracefully spanned all three of their albums to-date and found them jamming out psychedelic heavy blues with a naturalism that was present not only in the individual tones and voices of guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson, or the swing and shuffle in Jimmi Kohlscheen‘s drumming, but in the sonic conversation between the the three of them. That might be the most classic aspect of the Örebro trio’s sound, and it’s something that comes across on their records as well — their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here), 2010’s II (review here) and 2016’s return from hiatus, III (review here) — but of course, to see it in the moment as it’s happening, to see them make the easy shift between “Garden” and “Disappear” or to have them turn to the riffy “Speaking to the Sea” from the first album ahead of “Mr. Strange” from the latest one, it was all the more powerful of an impression made. I hear tell there’s new material in the works; songs coming together for the next record and plans to tour ahead of hitting the studio. As Asteroid have been off and on the better part of the last five years, it only bodes well to know they’re thinking ahead for good things to come. They only make the world a better place for existing, and the more they do that, the merrier.

The Moth Gatherer

The Moth Gatherer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back downstairs for more post-metallic volume assault. Sweden’s The Moth Gatherer in some ways picked up where Dwaal left off, but traded in some of the rawness of their Crypt-stage predecessors for an even-more atmospheric take. They had an EP out last year called The Comfortable Low, but their latest full-length was 2015’s The Earth is the Sky (review here), and their more post-rock-based style sat well with the crowd downstairs that was packed to capacity with a line outside waiting to get in as other people made their way out. A very thoughtful, progressive sound nonetheless had its share of claustrophobia, which was all the more fitting given the basement where they played, and watching them, it was evident just how righteously Høstsabbat had managed to capture not just a “club show” experience with its smaller stage, but more like a house show. To low light and periodically bludgeoning intensity, The Moth Gatherer filled that Crypt with sound as much as people, and they were a band I’d probably never have the chance to see anywhere else, so I felt all the more fortunate for the chance to do so here, in that small room where the walls seemed so ready to cave in at a moment’s notice. The thread that started with Dwaal and continued with The Moth Gatherer would pick up again with Amenra at the end, but there was still more rock to be had first.

Electric Moon

Electric Moon (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before the German instrumentalist space/psych jammers got started, they shared a hug on the side of the stage, and then guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt got on mic and wished everyone a pleasant flight. With the core trio of the band made all the more lush owing to guest synth from Burt Rocket (SEID) at the center of the stage, that trip took off quickly and didn’t bother to look back at ground below. Schmidt and bassist/sometimes-vocalist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck were rejoined by original drummer Pablo Carneval about a year ago, and their adventures only seemed to take them farther and farther out as their set went on, washes of guitar and synth floating up to the high ceiling while the bass and drums held together a fluidity of groove that showed the band for the masters of the form — such as it is a “form” with a sound so utterly molten — that they are. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them at Roadburn in years past (review here) and with their members in various projects, as the band’s pedigree runs through acts like Zone Six and WeltraumstaunenKrautzone, etc., but to see Electric Moon on stage is something unto itself. They’re never overly showy in terms of thrashing about or anything, but the experience of their sonic exploration comes through vividly as they play, and that suits the laid back feel of the resultant material itself perfectly. They did not in any way fail to invite the audience along on what indeed turned out to be a pleasurable, radiant-in-the-sense-of-light journey.

Brutus

Brutus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I did not see nearly enough of Brutus. They were killer, and they were killing, and I did not see nearly enough of them doing it. To be fair to myself, I’d probably say the same if I’d managed to watch their full set, but the Norwegian traditionalist heavy rockers headlined in the Crypt, and they had the basement of Kulturkirken Jakob so jammed with bodies that for the first time in the whole weekend, I felt the press of the crowd almost knock me over up front. And even if I do at some point in my life get to see Brutus again, chances are, it won’t be in the kind of situation where I’m in danger of tripping over the stage monitors on the floor because of the push of people behind me, so I relished the opportunity while I could. And Brutus — clearly hometown heroes of boozy riff-purveyance — were a thrill to behold in that headlining spot. They could’ve played upstairs easily, I’m sure, but despite their sonic discrepancy with The Moth Gatherer and Dwall directly before, they made that basement into a party all the way, and while I knew that in just a little while, Amenra were going to close out the festival on a much darker note, the chance to see Brutus play, and to play in a place that small, wasn’t to be overlooked. I didn’t see enough of it, but I’m grateful for what I did catch, because that’s not an opportunity that will come along often, if it ever does again at all.

Amenra

Amenra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Belgian post-metal kingpins have toured the US more than a couple of times at this point, I believe most recently as support for the wallop duo of Neurosis and Converge — their also on the former’s label, Neurot Recordings — but I’m still not sure America really appreciates just how huge Amenra are in Europe. They’re gods here. I knew that from seeing them at Roadburn in 2016, but the intervening years have only seen them all the more don a headliner role. They would seem to have taken the post-metal crown that once belonged to Cult of Luna, and while I’ll admit I could in no way match my fellow fest-goers’ sense of worship when it came time for them to go on, there’s absolutely nothing one can take away either from their intensity or their obvious dedication to how they present themselves. I don’t know if it would be possible to find a more fitting locale for Amenra to play than in a church with cathedral ceilings of height enough for their projections to be shown massively to the assembled congregation, but even if you discount all of that, and ignore the we-play-in-the-dark-until-the-strobes-hit lighting and the fact that frontman Colin H. van Eeckhout doesn’t face the audience until the last song, if then, they’re still a formidable presence live, and there would’ve been nowhere else to put them on the Høstsabbat bill if they weren’t at the top of it. I’m not 100 percent sure I’m ready to call myself a full-on convert to the “church of ra,” as they put it, but I definitely didn’t have any trouble seeing the appeal of their dogma. And I reserve the right to become a total fanboy at some later date.

I left out of Kulturkirken Jakob into the chilly Oslo air without my hoodie on. Just wanted to feel that cold as it was rather than shy away from it. Something about the sensory experience on my bare neck and forearms seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s coming up on three in the morning CET and my flight is at nine-something, so I won’t get to see a lot of the city on this trip. Maybe that was my way of taking as much of it in as I could.

When I got back around the block to the Anker Hotel, I messaged Johannes from Asteroid. We had talked earlier in the day about doing an interview for “The Obelisk Show” on Gimme Radio, and it didn’t happen at the venue, but I thought if they were around the hotel maybe it could work. Was worth a shot, anyhow. Robin was asleep, but I chatted in the hotel bar with Johannes and Jimmi, and that was a blast. I spoke with Elephant Tree earlier in the day as well, and with Ole Helstad and Jens Storaker, who run the fest, so I think I’ll probably just dedicate a whole episode to having been here. I think I have a few weeks before I get there, but I’ll keep you posted.

I haven’t sorted any pics yet from tonight, so need to do that, but I’m not sleepy yet, so hopefully my brain won’t come crashing down before I have to leave for the airport. Help me, last tiny drops of adrenaline.

My eyelids are getting heavy just thinking about it.

I can’t possibly thank you enough for reading if you have.

Thank you.

Thank you so much to Jens and to Ole for having me back here. Thank you to The Patient Mrs. and to Cate Wright for taking on my Pecan duties in my absence. Thank you to my mother and my sister for their undying support. My only hope is they know how grateful I am for it. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for always being so great to run into at fests, to Andrea who I met here, to Kai, who is an institution unto himself, to Pete, Jack and Sam from Elephant Tree, to Robin, Johannes and Jimmi from Asteroid, to Sula Bassana, Martin from Domkraft, Jens Heide, Lex and everyone else I spoke to over the last two days who said hi. It’s hugely appreciated and humbling. People say nice things. It feels good. Thank you.

Alright. On to photos, and then to shower, and then to airport. I doubt I’ll have it in me to post again before I’m back home, and don’t look for much on Monday, but really, one more time, thank you. So much. I don’t even get it, how lucky I am. My soul feels restored for having been here.

Thank you for that.

Pics after the jump.

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