Review & Track Premiere: Papir, VI

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

papir vi

[Click play above to stream “VI.I” from Papir’s new album, VI. It’s out May 10 on Stickman Records.]

The trio of trio of guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, drummer Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and bassist Christian Becher Clausen would seem to reach a new level of maturity in their presentation on their sixth album, suitably titled VI. Issued through Stickman Records as the follow-up to their debut on the label, 2017’s V (review here), it continues the Danish instrumentalists’ progressive streak that began with their 2010 self-titled and saw them align to El Paraiso for the subsequent three studio offerings, the last of which was 2014’s IIII (review here), as well as a live album. However, it’s also a marked departure from its predecessor in terms of basic intent, and where V was a 2LP with a staggering 94-minute runtime, VI pulls back on that impulse and instead offers four tracks in an entirely more manageable 39 minutes, feeling less like a splurge and more like a quick excursion to someplace peaceful and other.

Its songs are extended enough and lush with warm crash and mellotron filling out the mix, never mind the dream-toned guitar and effects, to be genuinely immersive, but the mood for the bulk of VI is bright and creative, as though the band were looking to open a conversation or at very least elicit one among those who’d engage with their work. To call it a headphone album is basically to ask someone if they like peaceful summer afternoons, and as the band evoke Yawning Man with some slide guitar and Colour Haze in the apex of “VI.III,” even this is brought into the broader context of their own characterization. That is, Papir have their influences, but rather than work toward them, they’re using them to the band’s own ends. They’re not trying to sound like anything other than themselves, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it suits them.

That shortened runtime is crucial to the experience of the album. It was no hardship to put V on and bliss out for the duration, but part of that experience was getting lost in the flow of Papir‘s material. VI is best given a more conscious approach to shifts like the percussiveness of “VI.IV” or the linear build in “VI.II” or the interplay of drift and wash that opens with “VI.I.” And they make that easy. There is some sense of structure as “VI.I” and “VI.IV” bookend the record at 10:07 and 11:04, respectively, while both “VI.II” and “VI.III” hover on either end of the nine-minute mark, ending side A and beginning side B with a fluidity that seems to extend to the conceptual. Yes, it’s still easy to get lost in what they’re doing if that’s the way you want to go, but doing so misses out on moments like the cascading river of tone in “VI.I” as it moves toward its conclusion, or the gradual opening of “VI.II,” with a bouncing, almost playful guitar leading the way accompanied by quiet but nuanced drums.

papir

I’m not going to try to dissuade anyone from listening to VI however they want, but to just float off on Clausen‘s “VI.III” bassline misses some of the exceptional details surrounding and obvious care the band have put into crafting their work. I guess what’s most called for, then, are multiple listens. So be it. The chemistry between Sørensen, Clausen and Christensen makes that a pleasurable undertaking, to be sure, and hey, if every now and again one might return to VI for a bit of escapism, I’m nobody to call it wrong. The point is that what Papir have created something that’s worth conscious interaction. Once you’ve done that, however you want to spend your time is up to you. Perhaps most crucial, they invite multiple listens in no small part through the accessibility of these tracks and the quicker runtime of the entire affair. You could put it on twice in less than the time it would take to listen to V once. That’s a considerable change, but it shows that growth doesn’t always have to mean just doing things bigger.

Indeed, I’ll gladly argue that VI is Papir‘s most progressive work to-date in no small part because they’ve taken such a conscious step to allow for easier audience engagement. Their material is still plenty far out, of course. The jazz drumming in “VI.IV” and the consuming effects that surround it demonstrate that plainly enough. But they make it so easy to listen. And to listen again, and to listen again. It’s not just about being shorter. That’s a piece of it, but even the songs themselves seem to flesh out in a way that signals Papir reaching a new sphere of expression. They are memorable even without verse or chorus hooks, and the atmosphere they set rests easily atop the entire LP as a welcome presence. Their style has always been exploratory, and that holds true here as well, but VI is as much about being in a place as it is about finding somewhere new to go. One can hear a certain restlessness in “VI.IV” as it rounds out the album with a last, well-earned payoff and crashes out quickly to end, and that’s consistent with what Papir have done in the past, but the difference is in the context through which that moment arises.

If by the end of VI the band are ready to head elsewhere, well, they should be, but that doesn’t diminish the ground they’ve covered in the songs preceding. Rather, across “VI.I,” “VI.II,” “VI.III” and “VI.IV,” they poetically ask their listeners to join them in this space they’ve created. That they don’t ultimately stay there shouldn’t be a surprise — they’ve done nothing to this point in their career that one would call static — but there is a sense throughout of having arrived on the part of the band, and if that’s part of how their maturity comes through in the material, then it finds Papir with an individualized take born of an organic development in their sound that’s played out over their records to this point, getting them to where they are. As to where they might go, the only guess I’d hazard is “forward,” since that’s where they’ve always gone. More important for the moment is what they’ve accomplished here in terms of positioning themselves among upper echelon of European heavy psychedelia.

Papir on Thee Facebooks

Papir on Bandcamp

Papir Blogspot

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records on Twitter

Tags: , , , , ,

Fatal Curse Stream Debut Album Breaking the Trance in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

fatal curse

New York-based classic metal trio Fatal Curse release their debut full-length on April 19 through the venerable Shadow Kingdom Records. By and large, it is a ripper. Sure, they cut the pace a bit on “Priestess of Fire,” which is also the longest inclusion on the record at 5:39 and appears right ahead of closer “Eyes of the Demon,” but for the greater majority of its seven tracks and 28 minutes, Breaking the Trance is more about the three-piece tearing through their material with righteous velocity and headbanging intent. It is not an overly complex aim, but a noble one particularly when it comes to homage to the metal of yore. One could rattle off a list of reference points of varying obscurity, but at this point, the style of classic metal, whether it’s infused with retro thrash or NWOBHM pomp or as in the case of Fatal Curse some combination thereof, has become its own aesthetic. Fatal Curse seem less outwardly committed to the style than some — at least going by their press shot, you wouldn’t look at them and say they’re “in costume” as others might be — but their bleed-for-metal ideology is writ large all throughout the brief, intense and well stated long-player.

So maybe cuts like the opening title-track and subsequent “Blade in the Dark” are about fist-pumping, neck-breaking metal for metal’s sake, but the production on Breaking the Trance — and indeed the cassette-ready thrash-rasp of vocalist Mike Bowen when he’s not soaring over the razor-edged riffs of guitarist Dave Gruver and the rush of Chris Bowen‘s drums — gives a sense Fatal Curse Breaking the Tranceof rawness that doesn’t tip over to retroism in terms of trying to sound like it’s 1984, but neither comes across as overblown in such a way that would detract from the naturalism at heart in the material. It’s not quite garage thrash, but if you’ve got a garage, and they could play there every now and again, that’d be really cool, man. “Gang Life” follows the opening salvo and continues the energy with a catchy chorus and a oh-hello solo in its second half that works in stages and works its way toward blisters one way or another before bass gallop reignites the charge for the full band, soon enough joined by a blazing motor-riff. I’m just going to go ahead and give heavy metal bonus points — for those of you keeping score at home — to the band for calling the centerpiece of their debut album “Can’t Stop the Thunder.” Somewhat shockingly, they don’t have any songs specifically about “the night” — “Blade in the Dark” might count; I’d have to see a lyric sheet — but at an all-go 2:49, “Can’t Stop the Thunder” is as charged as Fatal Curse get on Breaking the Trance, and the method suits them, to put it mildly.

The sense of precision there underscores how crucial it’s always been for a band like this to be tight. In some respects, heavy metal has always been a test — can you play this fast? can your ears take this? do you get it? — and those who’ve passed have been all the more loyal for it, but there’s no pretense on Breaking the Trance, and while Fatal Curse have their chops, at least on their first record there’s no condescension in their songwriting or grandiosity in their approach. The vibe throughout is that these are dudes who love metal and just want to manifest that. It’s not about picking out which riff sounds like which one from which year — though that’s fun too, and I’m sure there’s plenty of fodder for it throughout — but about celebrating the release that metal was in its adolescence. Fatal Curse careen and chug their way through “Chains of Eternity” before “Priestess of Fire” and the mosh-shove of “Eyes of the Demon” cap off, and even then, their style remains brash but not conceited. They very clearly take what they do seriously, but that never had to come at the expense of a good time, and it doesn’t here either.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating that Shadow Kingdom has an ear for classic metal and doom that is simply unmatched in its reliability. Fatal Curse aren’t reinventing metal or classic metal their first time out, but Breaking the Trance is all-heart, front-to-back, and even more than how well the songs come together or the band’s performance, it’s the heart behind it that makes it so prime for repeat listens.

To that end, I’m thrilled today to host the full stream of Breaking the Trance ahead of the release on Friday. Please find it below, followed by more from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present FATAL CURSE’s striking debut album, Breaking the Trance, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from New York, FATAL CURSE are a veritable throwback to earlier, simpler times. Theirs is a roots-oriented sound squarely focusing on early speed metal on both sides of the Atlantic and America’s contemporaneous power metal movement. No thrashing like a maniac here: FATAL CURSE create classy ‘n’ cruising anthems of ageless heavy metal might on Breaking the Trance!

Indeed, much of FATAL CURSE’s flash ‘n’ finesse stems from their power-trio lineup, with each member locked in to the other and pumping out seamless, gleaming-chrome odes to such timeless topics as “Blade in the Dark,” “Priestess of Fire,” “Chains of Eternity,” and “Eyes of the Demon,” among others. Nope, you “Can’t Stop the Thunder” here, especially those lightning-explosive yet narrative leads at the hands of guitarist Dave Gruver.

From later Thin Lizzy to Tokyo Blade in the prime, early Virgin Steele to early Jag Panzer, Borrowed Time-era Diamond Head to Witch Cross’ Fit for Fight, Liege Lord to Omen to Helstar and beyond: step onto the wayback machine with FATAL CURSE and start Breaking the Trance!

Fatal Curse on Thee Facebooks

Fatal Curse on Bandcamp

Shadow Kingdom Records on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

Tags: , , , , ,

Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 Day Four, 04.14.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2019 banner day four

04.14.19 – 01.17 CET – Sunday night – Hotel

Just now, before I sat down to write this post, I went to the tap in the bathroom to refill my water bottle. You can drink the tap water here — it’s really something. Anyhow, I stick the bottle under the cold water and look down about two seconds later to see I’ve left the cap on. Water running down the side of bottle. That’s about where one’s head is at on this last day of Roadburn 2019. You ever been nostalgic about something while it’s still going on? Yeah, emotions are running high in Tilburg. Many hugs, many slaps on the back, many see-you-next-years from one denizen of this temporary planet to another. Lucy in Blue (Photo by JJ Koczan)Indeed, even strung out on caffeine and obliterated by volume, it’s difficult to say goodbye to Roadburn, always.

Still somewhat reminiscent of when it was the Afterburner, Roadburn‘s Day Four has fewer stages, but I mean, it’s still four. Five if you count the Ladybird Skatepark, which I was at twice today. So yeah, not a laid back affair. And while the shows ended earlier — Imperial Triumphant and Cave both ended at 00.30, in Patronaat and the Green Room, respectively — the day also started early, with Lucy in Blue going on in the Green Room at 14.00 presenting their new album, In Flight, in its entirety. Based in Iceland, their sound is a classically progressive kind of rock with notable use of keys and vocal harmonies to go with the kraut-ish riffing and repetitive progressions.

They were young, but had both a firm grip on their aesthetic intentions and many aspects of their performance. Maybe some kinks to work out in terms of songwriting efficiency and their onstage persona, but the elements were there in a way that you couldn’t call anything other than encouraging. They were a mellow start to the day for those not watching Have a Nice Life on the Main Stage next door, and as far as I’m concerned, that was welcome. I did pop over to check out some of the Connecticut-based unit, Supersonic Blues (Photo by JJ Koczan)but only after Lucy in Blue were well in flight and had left the ground behind. It was a palpable contrast.

Didn’t watch Daughters. I know. But, well, Supersonic Blues were added last-minute to play at the skatepark, and well, they ruled last year, so it seemed like an easy-enough pick to head up and see them again. There were more skaters than yesterday, but they cleared out so the Dutch three-piece could play. Like Lucy in Blue, Supersonic Blues are probably under 30 — unless I’m just old enough now that 30 year olds look like kids; possible — but they command a warmth of tone and a sense of appreciation for classic boogie rock that comes complemented by an easy-rolling sense of craft and a sans-pretense approach to what they’re doing. I’ll take that any, any, any day of the week. I heard they got added yesterday and was only stoked that I’d get to see them again. They’ve had two singles out but sound like they’re about ready for a first LP, or at very least an EP.

A little bit of continuity to the start of the day between Lucy in Blue and Supersonic Blues, and though that coolest of colors wouldn’t factor into the moniker of Stuck in Motion, there was plenty of blues in their sound, and a fervent ’70s stylization as well. They fit with what I was looking for, is the short version of theStuck in Motion (Photo by JJ Koczan) story, and I stood and watched from the Green Room balcony as they classic-heavied their way into the hearts and heads of the assembled, easing out sleek grooves and keyboards/organ that only added to the depth of the melody. Cool band, and I felt justified in not fighting my way to the front to take photos by how chill their sound was. As if to say, “It’s cool man, you go ahead and take this one easy. We will too.” It was a winning decision all the way around, I think.

I had gotten turned onto their 2018 self-titled debut (review here) by Walter on Facebook posting about them, so checking them out in the flesh only seemed fair. They were cool, but I felt like I owed it to myself to watch Thou close out their residency on the Main Stage. Given the set they played last night at the skatepark doing Misfits covers, somehow a straight-ahead performance seemed anticlimactic, but hell’s bells were they heavy. I mean, really. Spread out across the stage, they brought full-on volume to the kind of atmospheres they had in their almost-acoustic set the other night, something disquieting in the mood and challenging of themselves and their audience. They are a band people really like. A lot. I can’t say that I’m a Thou (Photo by JJ Koczan)huge Thou fan like the people I saw chasing down the vinyl over in the merch area, but they’re undeniably powerful on stage, whether screaming or melodic, loud or quiet, or, you know, playing Misfits tunes, as one apparently will. I know they played like 50 sets in the last four days, but how could they not be back at some point in the years to come?

That question gave me something to ponder as I plotzed up to the Ladybird Skatepark for the last time to see Bismuth, who played earlier in the fest but were given another chance to volume-pummel everything in their path. Loud? Shit. There were parts of that building vibrating that were not meant to vibrate. Bassist/vocalist Tanya Byrne won Roadburn 2019 as regards t-shirts with the selection of Khanate, and she and drummer Joe Rawlings doled out grueling nod and brutal tone with unmitigated intensity. Their 2018 album, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef (discussed here), was some manner of preparation for seeing them live in terms of the basic air-from-lungs push of low-end — also tree-trunk drumsticks — but the volume factor made it all the more of a steamroller running atop the assembled masses Bismuth (Photo by JJ Koczan)in the skatepark, that big, high-ceilinged space seeming to fill up with sound no matter where you stood. Audio as a physical presence. It was righteous.

And then, of course, Sleep played. As far as culminations go, one could hardly ask for more than Sleep returning after so dutifully handing the 013 its ass last night to play their 2018 album, The Sciences (review here), front-to-back. But here’s the thing: Sleep played last night doing Sleep’s Holy Mountain in full. It was incredible. But The Sciences was better. The material sounded fresher, the band sounded more comfortable, and I’m not sure there’s hyperbole dramatic enough for how fucking loud they were. It was incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to see Sleep a few times. My go-to for the best I ever saw them was Roadburn 2012 (review here). After tonight, I might have to change my opinion. There was a technical glitch or two along the way — Matt Pike blew out one of his several guitar heads — but he, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder Sleep (Photo by JJ Koczan)were utterly incredible. It was the kind of set that could make you believe in the magic of Christmas. A true Santa Claus of a set. They threw in “Holy Mountain” and “Dragonaut” as well, I guess just in case anyone in the room wasn’t there the night before. I heard no complaints for the repeaters, and registered none myself. Those songs too were better the second time around.

No clue how many times I’ve made this observation, but I think Jason Roeder might be the best drummer I’ve ever watched play. Yeah, Matt Pike just won a Grammy with High on Fire, and Al Cisneros deserves a Nobel for his work in Om, but between those two titans, Roeder — who, just to mention it so you don’t think I’m undercutting his own pedigree, was well established in fucking Neurosis before he joined Sleep in place of original drummer Chris Hakius — is crucial to the band Sleep have become. It was all the more emphasized in the The Sciences material, songs like “Sonic Titan” and “Giza Butler,” which unto itself was a highlight of the entire festival. If last night was a celebration of Sleep‘s earlier glories, then tonight was confirmation of the reason they’re the most influential riffers since Black Sabbath themselves. They were a joy to behold, and the perfect ending to my own personal Roadburn 2019.

There was a line outside Het Patronaat as I was leaving after aSleep (Photo by JJ Koczan) few quick goodbyes. Imperial Triumphant would be on shortly as the last Roadburn band ever to play the venue — there’s a bit of festival trivia for you — and I heard they were doing a whole thing with masks, but honestly, how could I ever hope to improve on the night I’d just had or what I’d just seen? Sad as it was to realize, it was time to go.

So I went. Roadburn 2019 ended on a higher note than I could’ve wished for, and I walked out of the 013 and down Weirdo Canyon to get back to the hotel sweaty, smelling like smoke, tired, hungry, thirsty and sore, but still feeling 100 percent refreshed. The only tragedy is it’s another year till the next one.

Thanks for reading. I’ll close out the Roadburn coverage tomorrow assuming I have time, but first and foremost thank you for reading. You’re pretty great.

More pics after the jump.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 Day Three, 04.13.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn 2019 banner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.14.19 – 02.15 CET – Saturday night – Hotel

It snowed today. That was a first. Hail too. I wasn’t outside for it, but unless European snow bounces, it was hail, followed by snow. 11 Roadburns later, Tilburg still holds a few surprises. And no, I don’t just mean the secret Thou set where they did the Misfits covers and Emma Ruth Rundle got in on the action, though that too.

ROADBURN 2019 WEATHERThe weather wasn’t a hardship or anything — the joke was that Sumac were so heavy they made it hail, and fair enough — since apart from a short walk here or there I spent very nearly the entire day inside. I was bumming hard after finding out about a brutal fuckup on my part with today’s issue of the daily ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Basically I left out an important piece and we’ll run it tomorrow anyway, but I still felt very, very much like shit about it. Like, “I don’t deserve to be here” beating myself up. I went and found the writer in question and damn near broke out into tears apologizing.

I know it’s a festival fanzine and all, but that shit is important to me, and it was squarely my mistake that dropped the article. It won’t be as timely tomorrow when it goes in the issue. I know it’s not the end of the world, ultimately, but this fest puts its faith in me not to screw up doing this one thing, and I screwed it up. I’d already seen Temple Fang and Wolvennest and a couple seconds of Confusion Master by then, and I thought long and hard about just coming back to the hotel and going to bed, but eventually got it together. It sucks being bad at, like, everything you do.

Like I said, I saw Temple Fang again. They opened up the pre-show on Wednesday (review here), and they opened up today in a kind of super-early showcase slot at 1:30PM in an especially foggy Hall of Fame, up by the Koepelhal and the Ladybird Skatepark, which is very quickly becoming another Roadburn venue. Launching with “Gemini,” Temple Fang were this time around a little less Temple Fang (Photo by JJ Koczan)tense — maybe just waking up — and a little more locked into an overarching groove that still highlighted their progressive take on space rock and psychedelia, but seemed to give the songs a little more space to breathe. I’m not sure I can speak to exactly what the difference was. It might’ve been just as simple as playing a little more relaxed. But both sets showed the serious potential on the part of the band and my only problem with seeing them play a second time was that it meant they did not immediately on Thursday morning enter the studio to record their debut album, which had been my hope after their first show. Oh well. Always tomorrow, guys.

Wolvennest opened the Main Stage, with theremin, incense and a few skulls here and there amid their darkened cult rock atmospherics. The Brussels-based outfit are celebrating the release this month of their new EP, Vortex, which came out last week through the ever-tasteful Ván Records, and I have no doubt they persuaded a few heads with their murky vibe and swirling, obscure but still progressive heaviness. Fronted by Sharon Shazzula, who’s done work over the years with Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Kadavar, Farflung and a host of others — in addition to having founded Swamp Booking — and she and the full band alongside her brought a consuming wash of noise to the big room at the 013, and once I got back from my Wolvennest (Photo by JJ Koczan)Beto-esque apology tour (except I meant it), I found I was even more into it near the finish. It was somewhere between black metal, psychedelia and lurch, and wherever that was, that seemed definitely like the place to be. I’m sure someone cleverer than me has already invented a genre tag for it. To me it just sounded awesome.

Today was Maalstroom — a massive celebration of Dutch black metal held at Het Patronaat and given the added poignancy of also serving as an ad hoc tribute to former Dodecahedron frontman Michiel Eikenaar, who passed away yesterday after a long illness. Malstroom itself is the third of Roadburn 2019’s commissioned projects, and like last year’s Vánagandr formed of Icelandic black metallers, Maalstroom drew/draws from various projects working together on a new piece as a new entity. The whole day at the church was dedicated to it, and though my own adventure would take me on a different path, it would be hard not to admire the vision in putting that kind of thing together with Witte Wieven, Turia, Laster, Terzij de Horde, the aforementioned Dodecahedron and then Maalstroom itself to close out. One way or the other, it was going to be a special day.

Sumac (Photo by JJ Koczan)There were also more acts today from Tomas Lindberg‘s curation, including UranThe Exorcist GBG, and Orchestra of Constant Distress, and it was the Exile on Mainstream Records 20th anniversary celebration. Oh, and Sleep played Sleep’s Holy Mountain (2009 reissue review here) in its entirety. You know, because why not. I wound up flitting back and forth between 013 and the Koepelhal complex for the day, as I think a lot of people did who didn’t otherwise camp out at the Patronaat. Sumac absolutely floored me playing the Main Stage. What’s been my hesitation with those guys? I have no idea. I’ve dug both their records — last year’s Love in Shadow (review here) and 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) — but I still never really considered myself a fan. It’s Aaron Turner (ex-Isis, etc.), Bryan Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), and their tone was probably the heaviest I’d heard this weekend up to that point. I don’t know what my hangup was with that band, but yeah, I’ll go ahead and credit the universe with being right on that one. More records to buy: just what I need.

Mythic Sunship had added another set at the Skatepark — they wound up playing three times, so I’m extra glad I caught them at least once — so I made my way up there and stopped in Koepelhal first to see Boston’s Morne, who were casting death across that packed and massive space. Couldn’t help but notice guitarist/vocalist Milosz Gassan wearingMorne (Photo by JJ Koczan) a t-shirt for Armageddon Shop (or Armageddon Boston, to be more specific) on the stage. Today was apparently Record Store Day, so fair enough. Roadburn never seems to lack for commerce, as the merch area just outside the Koepelhal proper shows, but I’m sure plenty of people also made it over to Sounds, which is the local shop down the road a little ways. I went once. It was cool. This year, however, my feet were glued in place for Morne, who issued their To the Night Unknown LP through that same Armageddon Shop label last year. No regrets. Their sound has the classic emotional crux of death-doom but toys with that balance effectively and still holds a pervasive sense of atmosphere.

It was almost time for that Mythic Sunship show, and I was looking forward to it, but Treedeon in the Hall of Fame for the Exile on Mainstream 20th anniversary was too good to pass up. The German trio’s bizarre noise rock is so emblematic of that label, and while I don’t think my tastes and those of Andreas Kohl, who runs imprint, always line up — though we’re both big Wino fans — it’s a fair bet that something on Exile on Mainstream is going to at very least be interesting. In the case of Treedeon, it was interestingTreedeon (Photo by JJ Koczan) like a fucking boot to the throat. Even their recorded work — the latest LP was 2018’s Under the Manchineel (review here) — doesn’t quite capture the density of their approach to noise rock, and golly it was loud in the Hall of Fame. It’s a low ceiling, so the sound just feels like it’s collapsing on you, and that suited Treedeon well in portraying another vision of extremity after Morne.

Among other things, it was about the polar opposite of seeing Mythic Sunship in a skate park, so that was fun. Indeed, dudes were skating on the ramps and rails and whatnot and looking annoyed as people started filing in for the show. Sorry. The Copenhagen four-piece have been on tour since April 4 supporting their excellent 2018 offering, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music (review here), and though they didn’t have the sax with them today as they apparently did yesterday, they still tore it up ferociously, by which I mean they played a smoothly progressive jam-based kraut-psych-rock and their chemistry was out in full force. Their drummer ate a banana right before they went on, which I’m sure helped keep his energy up, and the Ladybird filled up well for them. They’re the kind of band I’d probably never get to see if I wasn’t here, let alone see in such a context, so I was stoked on the opportunity and the outcome of it. I don’t think they will, but if they played another set tomorrow, I doubt anyone would complain, Mythic Sunship (Photo by JJ Koczan)except maybe those skateboarders.

Dinner was chicken in peanut sauce. I had a few quick bites and then went back to the Main Stage to watch the end of Cave In‘s set. I gotta say, I haven’t listened to Cave In actively in a long time, and I still knew just about every word to everything they were playing. That band can write a song. They had Nate Newton (Converge) on bass in the place of Caleb Scofield, who passed away and was memorialized with an acoustic set last year by his bandmates Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath that’s since been released by Roadburn Records, and while I didn’t see the full set, what I caught was dead on. They’ve always occupied a space between punk, metal and rock, but they’ve also always made that space their own, and to see them do that in front of a crowd so into it as that at Roadburn was affirming even if I only caught a couple songs.

It was time for Sleep. There was the requisite changeover after Cave In, and fair enough for the mighty stacks of amps and cabinets brought out, as well as Jason Roeder‘s drum riser. I mean, Sleep playing Sleep’s Holy Mountain. In full. Sleep (Photo by JJ Koczan)Front-to-back. As the first of two nights of sets. What the hell more could you want? If your answer was, “maybe a shortened version of ‘Dopesmoker’ and ‘The Clarity,'” they did those too, but obviously the highlight was seeing Al CisnerosMatt Pike and Roeder run through those Holy Mountain tracks. Pike even switched to an acoustic guitar for an extended take on “Some Grass” ahead of “Aquarian.” The Main Stage hall was packed to the point that the upstairs balcony looked like it was about to spill over, and the whole room just became a sea of nodding heads to each riff. Everyone kept up with the changes. Everyone knew where they were going. It was yet another of those Roadburn things that make you feel so stupid lucky to be here to see. Funny how those keep popping up all weekend. Every year. All weekend. They’re back tomorrow doing The Sciences in full. Again, Roadburn.

There was still plenty of Roadburn day three to go, but I was (un)fairly beat. Still, there was one more thing I had to, had to, had to see, and it was Bellrope. They were closing out the Exile on Mainstream celebration at Hall of Fame, and though the hike up there felt daunting to my riffed-out legs, I did it anyway and got up there before the two-bass-one-guitar-all-smash German foursome got started. Their debut album, You Must Relax (review here), is on my list of 2019’s best despite (because of?) its initial feedback assault to weed out the Bellrope (Photo by JJ Koczan)weak-hearted among its listenership. They did similar on stage, by the way, but shorter, and with a mammoth and punishing low end push to fill out that feedback, it was brutal in the best way possible. They brought up two members of Treedeon for a guest vocal spot and the sort of sludge ensued that you should need a prescription to get, which should explain the line that went out the door.

Despite the day’s rough start with my stupid, stupid, stupid, unprofessional bullshit error in the ‘zine, it was still a day that was as fantastic as it was busy. Tomorrow is the end of Roadburn 2019, and it’s always bittersweet, so while I’m plenty exhausted, like At the Gates before me, I’m going to try to drink from the night itself and let adrenaline carry me through as, hopefully, it will.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

Read more »

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

Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 Day Two, 04.12.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2019 day two banner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.12.19 – 02.26 CET – Friday night – Hotel

You get back to the hotel, kick off your shoes like you’re breaking shackles, realize your earplugs have been in since you walked out of the 013 and you’ve been walking to the rhythm of your own breath. Also why you feel so isolated. It’s Friday at Roadburn, which in the yearly cycle of the festival is always the hardest day. Good music makes it better. Always. Even the shinsplints. You pull the plugs out of your ear and put on a record. Start typing. Radical perspective shift.

It’s Tomas Lindberg from At the Gates‘ curated day. So is some of tomorrow. Dubbed ‘The Burning Darkness’ — as in, “with fear I kiss…” — it has featured a strikingly broad range of styles and acts native to his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, and tonight, At the Gates headlined with a special set that, among others, featured guest vocals from Anna Von Hausswolff, who had already earlier absolutely decimated the Main Stage, and Rob Miller of Amebix, Seven That Spells (Photo by JJ Koczan)who also appears of the band’s latest EP, With the Pantheons Blind. Not the kind of thing you see every day, and that was pretty much the running theme from the early afternoon onward.

In the Green Room, Zagreb’s Seven That Spells held court for three complete sets, playing their entire The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock trilogy. Those three albums, Om, Io and Omega, were released over a period of seven years between 2011 and 2018, so to say it was an effort of considerable scope would be underselling it, but the four-piece approached the task with enviable vitality. I would be in and out for at least a little while of all three sets — the second one I watched through the open doorway; an essential Roadburn experience dating back years for those who show up late to see, well, anyone — and though they had breaks between them, it’s still basically one band playing three gigs in the span of about four and a half hours. Admirable.

During their first set, however, in the Main Stage hall next door, Tripkyton played the second of Roadburn 2019’s three commissioned works, completing the “Requiem” triptych with a previously unheard second part to go with the first, which appeared on Celtic Frost‘s Into the Pandemonium in 1988 and the third, Triptykon (Photo by JJ Koczan)which was on that band’s reunion/swansong offering, 2006’s Monotheist. Oh yeah, and they did so in the company of the Metropole Orkest, because obviously. It was nearly overwhelming on a basic sensory level, never mind the breadth of the arrangements involved to the performance aspect. It was not without its sense of space or dynamic, but there was so much to take in that you almost couldn’t do it just by watching. Fortunately, there were video cameras on hand documenting the entire affair, so I very much doubt this will be the last this performance of the complete “Requiem” is heard from.

Still, hard to think of it as anything other than a landmark, much as when Tom G. Warrior and Triptykon made either their first live appearance at Roadburn 2010 (review here), or when they presented their second album, Melana Chasmata, in 2014 (review here). The audience certainly treated it as such, packing into the venue to the point that there was nowhere to move. I tried to go over to Het Patronaat for Mythic Sunship, but the line was out the door as well, and I know how that goes, so I ran up to the merch area to pick up the Molasses two-songer that went on sale Anna Von Hausswolff (Photo by JJ Koczan)today and then back for more of Seven That Spells and, after a spell of just sitting and letting my mind numb out for a minute, Anna Von Hausswolff‘s set. I suppose I was at a disadvantage as regards the Swedish Von Hausswolff, as I went into seeing her having never heard her before, but from where I stood, that only seemed to make me happier to be blindsided both by her operatic vocal prowess and experimentalist songcraft.

With a full band supporting, she crushed. Bowed bass assured that massive waves of low end vibrated the floor of the big hall, and Von Hausswolff‘s keys and voice cut through in a fashion both melodic and weighted by more than just emotion. Late in the set, the group resolved itself in manic pulsations and strobe flashes; I wanted to look away but was mesmerized. Up in the back of the lowest level of the hall, I just kind of sat there with my mouth open — “catching flies,” as The Patient Mrs. might say. They had started about 10 minutes late and finished much the same, but I couldn’t possibly call it anything other than time well spent. It occurred to me at some point that I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in a while, Grails (Photo by JJ Koczan)so hit up a salad and some fish, and then was back in the Main Stage room for Grails.

I guess there are probably a bunch of varying opinions on Grails at this point, but I count myself as continually fascinated by the Portland, Oregon-based outfit, whose work has ranged from instrumentalist heavy rock to cinematic soundscaping, dark jazz and seemingly whatever else their creative whims might conjure for a given album. Their last one, incidentally, was 2017’s Chalice Hymnal (review here), and between this, the East Coast US dates they did earlier this year and the West Coast touring they’ll do this summer, I can’t help but wonder if they might not have something new in the works. Of course, the band shares Emil Amos with Om, and that band will be playing dates as well, but it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility. In the meantime, they turned out to be just what was needed at just that moment, so once again, I felt fortunate to be there to see them.

At the Gates (Photo by JJ Koczan)Soon enough, At the Gates would conquer Roadburn 2019. Let’s go back 20-21 years to high school me screaming along to “Blinded by Fear” blasting into my eardrums from this or that mixtape, and yes, safe to say I was fucking thrilled when Lindberg was announced as curator for this year, and all the more because I haven’t seen At the Gates since their reunion began in 2011 and, before tonight, I’d never seen them at all. So, a band for whom I’ve had affection for more than two decades — and I’ll gladly argue that Slaughter of the Soul has aged best of any melodic metal album from its era — playing a unique set at a festival curated by its frontman. Couldn’t have been any better if I got to interview Lindberg for the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Oh wait, I did.

The first half of that interview ran in today’s ‘zine, and the second is in tomorrow’s — if you’re not here, they’re all archived — but even that interview didn’t prepare me for everything At the Gates had in store for their set. Yes, they brought Rob Miller (also Tau Cross) over from the Isle of Skye to guest on vocals, and yes, they had a string quartet, and yes, the visuals were by Costin Chioreanu, but if you gave me a thousand lifetimes, I’m not sure I ever would’ve guessed they’d bring Matt Pike — Sleep play tomorrow night and Sunday both — onto the stage to sit in for a cover of Trouble‘s “The Tempter.” Or that they’d start off with a take on King Crimson‘s “Red.” Or that Anna Von Hausswolff would come back out as well to cover Philip Glass. Or I guess generally that the whole thing wouldMatt Pike with At the Gates (Photo by JJ Koczan) be so fucking shit god damn shit fucking god damn it fuck god shit glorious front-to-back.

Yeah, I’m more than willing to admit that part of the appeal for me of seeing At the Gates was the nostalgia of “Cold,” or “Suicide Nation” or “Slaughter of the Soul.” I know At the Gates have been doing shows again for eight years, and I know there have been lineup changes, and they’re not the people they were 20 years ago and I’m not the person I was 20 years ago. I know all of that, but there was so much else going on, and it all worked. And all that, on top of the fact that those songs were one of my earliest exposures to extreme metal of any stripe, and frankly, it’s not an enjoyment I feel like I need to justify. They fucking ruled, and even the band was smiling by the time they were finishing up. At the end, the whole crew came out when they were done to take a well-deserved bow. It had been something truly special.

Messa were playing Het Patronaat, and they were a band I really wanted to see, but even when I went out during At the Gates to head over there, about half an hour before Messa were LOOP (Photo by JJ Koczan)supposed to go on, the line was out the door and down the block. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for another set added at the skate park near Hall of Fame or something, but yeah. I drowned my sorrows in churning, resin-coated psychedelia with LOOP, who also headlined Roadburn 2014 (review here). Seeing Robert Hampson on guitar with Hugo Morgan on bass and Wayne Maskell on drums — both also of The Heads — and guitarist Dan Boyd was the kind of thing I took last time around as a probably-once-in-a-lifetime chance, so now that I’ve seen them twice, I’ll consider this round like a life-bonus. Like someone took my life and they were like, “You know, let’s give this dope another LOOP set” because they were being nice to me personally or whatever. I guess that’d be Walter and Tomas Lindberg curating. So hey, big thanks, guys.

The strobe warning they put out before going on would be well enough earned, but LOOP were a fantastic ending to the day. Do I dare hope to see them again at some point? Roadburn 2024, maybe? I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

I still have pictures to sort through and a ‘zine to edit tomorrow, so I’m going to leave it there. Temple Fang are playing a special early set, and yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing that again if I can get up to Hall of Fame. We’ll see. Either way, halfway through Roadburn 2019 and starting to get that refreshed-soul feeling that only Roadburn can provide. Thanks as always for reading.

More pics after the jump.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 Day One, 04.11.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ROADBURN DAY ONE BANNER (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.12.19 – 02.31 CET – Thursday night – Hotel

It’s a different kind of Roadburn for me, or at least this morning I decided it would be one. I’m still working on precisely what that means, so bear with me. Some of it I alluded to the other day, and some of it is just procedural on my end. I took no notes today. None. Normally when I’m here (or most places), I’m scribbling between bands, writing down observations that most of the time I don’t even go back and look at. Today I dropped the pretense. It felt freeing, and today was a good day to feel free.

Such as there is a map, Roadburn 2019 is all over it. The day started in low-key shoegaze psych Sherpa (Photo by JJ Koczan)bliss with Sherpa in Het Patronaat. They were the first band of the festival proper after the Ignition three-band pre-show last night. I had come back to the hotel to sleep after finalizing the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issue this morning, but it was a big no dice. So I was early to the church and sat in front of the stage for a bit while people filed in. There was a good crowd by the time the Italian four-piece took the stage to play their late-2018 joy of a record, Tigris & Euphrates (review here), and they were treated to lush tones and drifting melodies, a kind of easing into Roadburn that one doesn’t always get, but the fest very clearly made an effort to establish its vibe early.

Bismuth would soon rough up the Hall of Fame. It was Myrkur: Folksange on the Main Stage. In the Koepelhal, Crippled Black Phoenix played a two-hour-plus set. And in the Green Room, it was Thor Harris (Swans, etc.) leading the way with Thor & Friends with a set experimentalist enough that you might as well just call it jazz. I caught a couple minutes of Thor & Friends after popping up to see Crippled Black Phoenix as Sherpa were starting to wind down and was treated to a bit of sax and percussion, but it was ultimately Myrkur that held me in place for the duration with gorgeous Nordic folk harmonies accompanied by strings, piano, and a genuine sense of traditionalist homage. I’ve heard Myrkur‘s folk recordings before, but as will happenCrippled Black Phoenix (Photo by JJ Koczan) in Tilburg each Spring, something special was taking place while the afternoon clouds parted to let in a bit of sun outside.

But even Myrkur: Folksange was a part of something larger than itself, and it was that initial burst of diverse sounds that would so quickly establish the vibe for the day. I bounced around until finally landing at Myrkur and stayed put in order to see Molasses, the first of this year’s three commissioned projects, and — I won’t lie — the one to which I was most looking forward. In 2014, following the death of The Devil’s Blood guitarist and aesthetic mastermind Selim Lemouchi, his sister and that band’s vocalist, Farida Lemouchi, took the stage with guitarist Oeds Beydals, Ron van Herpen (Astrosoniq) and a host of others to pay her brother tribute, and it remains one of the most moving sets I’ve ever seen at any RoadburnMolasses, in bringing together Farida and Beydals — who has since brought his band Death Alley to an arguably premature end — as part of a new, complete band that may or may not be ongoing, continues some of the spirit of The Devil’s Blood, but seems bound to find its own path as well.

This was their first show, and as Farida swayed in time to the music ahead of harmonizing with Beydals, they made a Molasses (Photo by JJ Koczan)powerful impression. Roadburn‘s foray into basically making bands and/or happen is no less extensively curated than the festival at large, but there’s a deeply personal aspect to that as well, and one suspects that’s all the more true of Molasses given their Dutch heritage and the members’ history with the festival. It was the start of something special, and I hear tell there’s a vinyl they’ll be selling starting tomorrow. Every year I let myself buy one piece of wax. No question in my mind what it’ll be this time.

Back up at the Koepelhal — which, I don’t know how big it is in comparison to the Main Stage of the 013, but it’s plenty huge enough — the Full Bleed art exhibit looked awesome and was arranged differently this year so it kind of got its own gallery. I had a couple minutes before Thou went on, so walked around. I’d already been there to buy merch — a black t-shirt and a red hoodie, because apparently my midlife crisis involved wearing a color, ever, on my torso; also hippie pants — but it was still being set up. It was packed into its space, but still awesome, and one more example of Roadburn branching beyond the confines of the traditional festival. I think the panel talks start tomorrow at V39, so yeah, there will be more of that.

Thou Acoustic (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Thou took the stage shortly thereafter for what was billed as an acoustic set but was really more just quiet and loaded with harmonies from three vocalists up front and more added from the band behind. The New Orleans outfit have long since left expectation behind, so I wasn’t necessarily anticipating anything specific one way or the other, but as they played I kind of felt like I was intruding on something. It’s hard to explain. It wasn’t that the show was so intimate in that massive space — although I did find myself wishing they would just go ahead and cover Alice in ChainsSap EP in full — and it didn’t lack expressiveness, I just suddenly felt like I was somewhere I didn’t belong. I don’t think Thou were shooting to be particularly inviting, so it’s nothing against them in this incarnation, but yeah. After a few minutes, I galumphed back to the 013 to catch the start of Hexvessel.

The Finnish outfit are kind of regulars on Planet Roadburn. They played here in 2012 (review here), 2013 and 2016 (review here), and frontman Mat McNerney played with the short-lived Beastmilk in 2014 (review here). Not exactly strangers to the experience. Still, they came this time heralding their latest long-player and return to their nature-worshiping forest Hexvessel (Photo by JJ Koczan)folk roots, All Tree (review here), so I was not about to miss them. Highlights from that record translated well to the Main Stage, “A Sylvan Sign” and “Wildness Spirit” working no less fluidly one into the other live than they do on the studio versions. Sudden as the shift seemed to a more kitchen-sink aesthetic on 2016’s When We are Death (review here), All Tree‘s re-establishing of their foundation was no less striking, but they certainly sounded well at home on stage, McNerney well cast as the folk troubadour. I’m not sure why they’re not on the folk circuit, but I’ll take it.

From there on out, it was all about Heilung. I did see some of Emma Ruth Rundle at the Koepelhal, after more take-that-establishment jaywalking across whatever thoroughfare that is, and I was glad to have done so, but I knew what the crux of my night was going to be, and it was going to be wearing antlers and bones of sundry wildebeests and it was going to be percussive and throat-singy while also astoundingly melodic, and that was Heilung playing their Lifa (review here) performance in its entirety. I say without Emma Ruth Rundle (Photo by JJ Koczan)reservation that it’s easily among the most complete aesthetic experiences I’ve ever had in a live setting, from the circle they formed at the outset — bringing Roadburn‘s own Walter in their midst as a part of the ceremony — to the shield and spear-carrying soldiers in black bodypaint, to the later mimed beheading, to the off-the-rails, how-is-this-dance-music-but-it-totally-is fracas that ensued later in the set, it was simply incredible. I have seen as much spectacle in my time as the next guy, but this was really something else.

I’ve heard murmurings that Heilung, who are signed to Season of Mist and have a new album called Futha due in June, are planning to bring their show — and it is a show; a sight as much as a sound to behold — to the US. I have to wonder how that will go in terms of venue and  just where they can play to pull it off. Festivals, presumably. But more than that, it seems like Northern Europe would obviously have a different relationship to the depictions of pre-Christian, pagan Norse history than would an audience in the States. The simple fact that their faces are painted black could very well raise eyebrows, Heilung (Photo by JJ Koczan)even in such a full context. It’s just not a question here, because it’s the native tribalism being depicted. One way or the other, I have little doubt they could make it work. They absolutely delivered a set that I’ll be talking about for probably years, no matter how many times and in whatever setting I might see them subsequent to tonight. I wasn’t going to stay for the whole thing, but there was no other option. A don’t-miss scenario.

There was still a lot of Roadburn left, and that’s not even talking about the next three days, and I had writing to do, but another part of the different Roadburn experience I’m having this year is staying out late. I did trundle back to the hotel to dump photos and get some work in on Crypt Trip (Photo by JJ Koczan)this review, but Crypt Trip came all the way from Texas to be here, and as I’ve been digging their recently-issued full-length, Haze County (review here), it was only fair to be there to see them. For the minimal effort, I was rewarded with some primo Lone Star boogie. You can insert whatever cliche you want to about barbecue here — I’m sure the San Marcos three-piece have heard them all, but the fact of the matter is they earned every hair bit of mustache they had, and even though they were on a totally different wavelength than anything else on the Main Stage today, they absolutely brought their A-game to the 013. I wish I could say I stayed the whole time and partied until two in the morning or whatever, but yeah, I’m old, and lame. Ugly too, but that’s beside the point.

What I was able to catch of Crypt Trip was a joy — and speaking of, Zach Oakley from Joy (who played last year) was hanging out on the side of the stage — and only affirmed in my mind the buzz I’ve been hearing about their live show for the last couple years. After the vast swath that today covered, closing out with some classic-style heavy rock and roll suited me just fine. It’s a long weekend and a big spectrum of aesthetic. Sometimes you just want to get down to the basics. And Crypt Trip definitely got down.

And that was night one of Roadburn 2019. So much for a laid back start to the fest, though I knew that was a pipedream anyway. Tomorrow I’m up again early to wrap the day’s issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. If you saw that today or see it tomorrow or are reading this at all, thank you.

More pics after the jump.

Read more »

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

Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 – Ignition, 04.10.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2019 banner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.11.19 – 00.23 CET – Wednesday night – Hotel

Just like that, Planet Roadburn aligned to the hew-mon visible spectrum with the newly-relocated and rebranded pre-show, Ignition. Once upon a Roadburn or three ago, the Sunday was called the Afterburner. Now it’s just another day of the fest. Next year, maybe Ignition will be two stages. Then four. Then six. Then Roadburn will just be a week long. Then a month. Until, at last, three centuries from now, it will always be Roadburn and Roadburn will never not happen, and if our shitheel species is lucky enough to witness it, it’s as close to utopia as we’d ever be likely to get.

Spilled beer on the camera bag. The wafting smell of dudefart. Volume the likes of which vibrates the shirt you’re wearing. Pro-shop everything. It’s fucking Roadburn, children. Get on your goddamned feet. Yes. This.

Three bands held sway at the 013 — there’s construction at Cul de Sac; a revamp, but it will reportedly return — and it was Temple Fang, Great Grief and Hellripper to cast a spectrum of light, dark and blood across the Green Room for the faithful in attendance to bear witness. Was that you? It probably should’ve been.

Boogie oogie oogie:

Temple Fang

Temple Fang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I was as impatient to see Temple Fang live as I am now for them to put out an album. The Amsterdam four-piece of bassist/vocalist Dennis Duijnhouwer and guitarist/sometimes-vocalist Jevin de Groot, guitarist Ivy van der Veer and drummer Jasper van den Broeke collided kraut and space rock visions with an even-heavier underpinning thanks to Duijnhouwer‘s formidable Rickenbacker tone. He and de Groot shared a tenure in hyper-underappreciated cosmic doomers Mühr, and Duijnhouwer featured in Death Alley as well, so there’s pedigree there as far as I’m concerned, but if Temple Fang had eyes for anything, it was only the silveriest of futures. I don’t know the name of a single song they played, but woof, they held it down in glorious fashion for the assembled masses. By the time they were done, I wanted to shout at the stage for them to immediately get in the studio and get something together. I’ll hope that while they do that, they also mix and master this live set so I can relive the magic in smug ground-floor fashion. They were the first band who played, and there’s no doubt in my mind that by the end of this weekend, I’ll still consider them a highlight. And sadly, they won’t have an album out by Monday either, so I’ll probably still be complaining about that too.

Great Grief

Great Grief (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Good grief, Great Grief. Roadburn‘s years-since-established fetish for the Icelandic underground in its many forms — yet seemingly not all that many people in the actual bands — continued with the heart-on-sleeve hardcore four-piece, who brought issues of diversity and coping with mental health struggles to the fore in their set, even as frontman Finnbogi Örn batted some dude’s beer out of his hand, and subsequently broke a beer bottle on stage (which was swept up afterward) and cut up his forehead with the shards. I’ve never been huge on hardcore, but I’m not about to take away from the fact that Örn, guitarist Gunnar Ágúst, bassist Fannar Már and drummer Leifur Örn were unreal in how tight they were despite also putting on a show energetic enough to be called visceral. They even had a little mosh going in the Green Room, which thankfully involved no kicking that I saw or felt. It wasn’t even until after their set that some dude dumped his beer on me trying to get a drumstick from Leifur, who was packing away his gear at the time. Up to that point, they very simply put everything they had into their material and the delivery thereof, and while I wouldn’t call myself a convert to the style, I readily acknowledge the convincing argument Great Grief made.

Hellripper

Hellripper (Photo by JJ Koczan)

For as long as Roadburn has had a pre-show, there’s been thrash. Hellripper, from Scotland, might’ve been the youngest dudes in the room, but the kind of no-nonsense, balls-out thrash. fucking. metal. they played is best meted out as a beating from a young person. They stripped the genre to its two-guitar essentials and charred it with an edge of rudimentary black metal and were nothing less than a total blast. Through such family-friendly hits as “Vomit on the Cross” and “All Hail the Goat,” which opens their newly-issued EP, Black Arts and Alchemy, the Aberdeen extremists lost none of their ferocity for also being a really good time, and they were a reminder that although Roadburn-proper over the next four days will unfold in a manner bound to no creative limits and celebrate artistry in multiple media sonic and otherwise, sometimes it really does just need to be about losing your mind and headbanging to a killer speed metal attack. Hellripper were only right to make the point, and their message was well received. By the time they were halfway through the set, Ignition was achieved, and it was Roadburn all the way. Let the vibe begin.

Usually, I’d get to the hotel, put my stuff down and sleep for a bit before the pre-show. Not this year. I’m jetlagged like a bastard and the alarm is set for a sadly few hours from now to get up tomorrow and put the finishing touches on the first issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, so with photos after the jump, I’m going to punch out and get every second of sleep I possibly can. Tomorrow is Roadburn. Let me take a second and breathe that in.

Thanks for reading.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Centrum, För Meditation: Like a Mirror

Posted in Reviews on April 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

centrum for meditation

The album begins with a field recording of a busy street in India. Horns honk, cars whiz past. People speak. A bike bell chimes. Then the drone of “Vid Floden” begins and the essential message of Centrum‘s debut album, För Meditation, becomes clear in the feeling of leaving the world behind in search of a higher plane of consciousness. Or unconsciousness. Or of those parts of the mind that don’t have a name yet. Released through Rocket Recordings and Svensk Psych Aften, the four-track outing is a quick-enough session at 37 minutes; an unassuming single LP with two longer tracks bookending two shorter ones that unfolds graceful contemplative psychedelia worthy of its title. Across “Vid Floden” (11:02), “Sjön” (8:39), “Stjärnor” (05:14), and “Som En Spegel” (12:12), the lineup-less Swedish outfit whose members reportedly also take part in Weary Nous and rightfully acclaimed jam-lords Hills elicit a vibe that borders on the conceptual in its underlying purpose.

They have backward voices chanting at the outset of “Sjön” and a particularly effective use of strings and a classic wah solo laid overtop in “Stjärnor” and an apex of chanting following the flute-led procession of “Som En Spegel,” but wherever they go or whatever elements a given piece might introduce, the feeling of exploration and mind expansion is never far off. They never lose the serenity that “Vid Floden” seems to find once it floats away from the harsh reality of its outset, or maybe it’s finding the music in that cacophony and unearthing it for the listener. Either way, on the most basic level of setting a mood, Centrum‘s amalgam of ritual bells, drone, percussion and eventual turn to a slow march of drums and an emergent line of guitar or bass is hypnotic in the extreme and designed to be exactly that. The repetitive nature of the material is purposeful, and though there are some jarring moments like the sudden cut at the end of “Vid Floden,” by the time that opener’s 11 minutes are done, the effect of Centrum‘s intent is thoroughly felt. They called it För Meditation. It’s for meditation. This should not be shocking.

There is a subtle ambition in the arrangements, from the aforementioned strings and flutes and drones to the way in which “Sjön” seems to use an effects-laced sitar early in its second half and end with strings and a vague sample once its march is done. But everything in it counts. Nothing is without purpose. And in part because most of För Meditation moves at such a slow tempo, at no point does it sound maximalist or like Centrum just decided to throw something or other together with the guitar and drums. I wouldn’t call it overly careful in a way that detracts from the organic vibe of its sound overall, but there’s clearly care put into when pieces enter and exit, how a movement plays out with the core progression maintained beneath, and even the way in which the bell of the ride cymbal is hit in “Sjön” feels willful. That För Meditation could exist in such a way and still be so outwardly serene in its overarching affect should be a contradiction, but it just isn’t. That’s it.

Nothing that comes or goes, from that sample at the start to the last rising drone of “Som En Spegel” that seems to snap the listener back to reality, interrupts the flow of the material, be it instrument or the vocals that come forward in “Sjön” and “Stjärnor” after being relatively buried in “Vid Floden.” That serves as another example of the gentle manner in which the album unfurls as a whole work, and it’s telling that as Centrum reach their deepest point in “Som En Spegel,” they also wait until more than six and a half of the song’s total 12 minutes have passed in order to start the first verse. It’s a triumph of an alternative vision — the deep-breathing rhythm of a mind not at all clear but that still comes across that way even if just for a little while. Go, peacefully.

centrum

One could sit and debate the merits of escapism endlessly, but För Meditation only shows this kind of running in circles for the folly it is. While the band would hardly be the first psychedelic act to appropriate influences from traditional Indian music in melody, rhythm and arrangement to add spiritual flair to their material, Centrum make this melding a defining aspect and engage a conversation musically that stands well outside the bounds of “we played a rock song and put a sitar on it.” In truth, much of what one needs to know about För Meditation going into it is right there in the title. Like Om or some of Lamp of the Universe‘s work, Centrum‘s purpose is to evoke a state that’s apart from what one might think of as the crunch of modern existence.

Even in “Stjärnor,” which comes through like a brief summation of the greater mass of För Meditation, leaving its verses behind for the already-noted mesh of drone, strings and guitar, there’s the feeling of removing oneself from chaos, and the deeper one engages with the songs, the more that’s the case. It is itself a meditation on meditation, and whether the listener is formulating a personal relationship with the cosmos or just a personal relationship with the self — much as there’s a difference from the human perspective — the discovery feels genuine.

I wondered in listening for the first time if at the end of “Som En Spegel” Centrum might return to that initial sample from the start of “Vid Floden.” The two longer tracks bookend the album in a way that speaks to symmetry, and after departing the jarring realities of day-on-street, it seemed only fair to be redeposited there at the finish. They don’t. There are bells in the final moments of “Som En Spegel” before the drone takes hold, but it’s not from passing bikes, and ultimately, that seems no less purposeful than the initial departure. It’s not about just going back to where you came from, but about doing so with new or at very least changed sight, and clearly the last drone that swells and cuts off works on the part of Centrum to show faith in the listener’s ability to do that on their own. They have, to that point, provided sure direction.

With so little information on who Centrum are or their longterm plans, it’s hard to know in what context För Meditation arrives, whether it’s meant to be a first full-length from an ongoing project or it’s simply a one-off side gig from players otherwise spoken for. Right now, it doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful expression, and it’s one of the best first albums you’ll hear in 2019. That’s enough.

Centrum, För Meditation (2019)

Centrum on Bandcamp

Rocket Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings website

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

Svensk Psych Aften on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,