The Obelisk Presents: Electric Dragon Festival, July 28 in York, PA

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on May 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Three bucks! Three American dollars! I’ve had the pleasure of presenting a good number of shows at this point with The Obelisk, and it’s something I’m almost always happy to do and promote people doing good work, but five bands for three bucks on a night that offers heavy psych, classic boogie, doom and synth-prog weirdness — I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t especially honored to see this site’s logo on this poster.

The first-ever Electric Dragon Festival is set for July 28 at The Depot in York, PA, and the lineup reads like a tour of Mid-Atlantic heavy. There’s St. James & the Apostles, from Philly, as well as Brooklyn’s Rattlesnake, Baltimore’s Alms and Witch Hazel and What’s Her Face, both from PA. Did I mention it was three bucks to get in?

That’s a pretty special kind of night, which of course is the whole idea. There’s some more info about the bands below, courtesy of the fest itself, for which, once again, I’m thrilled to have The Obelisk stand among the presenters.

Dig this:

Electric Dragon Festival poster

The Electric Dragon Festival is a one-day, five-band celebration of Hard and Heavy Rock ‘N’ Roll featuring some killer groups from the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic US underground!
The event will take place on Saturday July 28 at The Depot in York, PA. Doors are at 7pm and entrance is only $3!

www.theyorkdepot.com

A little about the bands:

St. James & The Apostles: A Heavy Psychedelic Soul Family Trio based out of Philadelphia, PA, (and yeah, they’re actually all cousins!), and they’ve been on the scene performing and releasing albums for over eight years now! They are the esteemed headliners of the festival!

https://stjamestheapostles.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/stjamesandtheapostles

Witch Hazel: York, PA’s own Doom/Occult Rock ‘N’ Roll hometown heroes! For this special festival occasion, they’ll be performing their brand new album “Otherworldly” in its entirety with special guest Mike Kiker from St. James & The Apostles on keys!

http://witchhazeldoom.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/witchhazelyork

Rattlesnake: Hard Southern Rock Boogie coming out of Brooklyn, NY, yeah, you read that correct! Having just released their debut 7” on In For The Kill Records/H42 Records, this up and coming trio, featuring Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass, will make their York debut at the festival!

http://rattlesnakeboogie69.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/RattlesnakeBoogie69

Alms: Traditional Doom-Rock/Heavy Metal group out of Baltimore, MD! They’re just about to release their highly anticipated debut LP on Shadow Kingdom Records!

https://almsbaltimore.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/almsbaltimore/

What’s Her Face: A synthesizer driven outer-space rock ‘n’ roll band from Lancaster, PA! Word on the street is that they’ve upped the ante and now have two synth players, they’ll be kicking off the festivities and taking it to the cosmos!

https://whatsherface1.bandcamp.com/

Electric Dragon Festival event page

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Alms to Release Act One Later This Year on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

alms

With a logo made for vest patches and an organ-laced classic doom rollout, Baltimore’s Alms bring a a modern take to the established tenets of Maryland doom. After impressing with their first demo (review here) in 2017, the band not only bring those two tracks — “Dead Water” and the garage-doom-stomping “The Offering” — to the new record, but four others as well, to the new outing, which has been given a release date of “later this year.” I don’t want to start throwing darts, but maybe September? I don’t know. Their sound would suit autumn well. I know that much.

Whenever it shows up, Act One will bring with it a new edge to Maryland’s long-running arc of doom. Could it be that the sound is branching out from its ultra-straightforward riff-led methodology? I wouldn’t guess the trajectory of an entire region’s output, but Alms make an encouraging case either way.

From the PR wire:

alms act one

ALMS reveal first track from forthcoming SHADOW KINGDOM debut

Shadow Kingdom Records reveals the first track from Alms’ highly anticipated debut album, Act One. Titled “Dead Water,” you can hear the track HERE. Shadow Kingdom will be releasing Alms’ Act One on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats later this year.

Hailing from Baltimore, Alms honors Maryland’s rich heritage of doom metal with a swaggering, soulful sound that unselfconsciously spans decades and idioms. They made their first, grand steps with a two-song demo released at the beginning of 2017. Having already made waves in their local scene, this demo would soon spread like wildfire amongst doom fanatics, and soon the Alms name was on many a tongue. But alas, with the full-length Act One, that name will be on tongues worldwide.

Stomping forward across six BIG songs in a judiciously concise 34 minutes, Alms quickly establish a mood of both merriment and portent. Theirs is a sound which culls the bluesy ruminations of classic Deep Purple, the wild excursions of equally classic Uriah Heep, and the dark thunder of Maryland forebears The Obsessed. And yet, that aforementioned soul and swagger soon take center stage, both allowing the doom chunder to loosely lumber whilst putting a particularly pleading-for-deliverance aspect upon proceedings. It’s that eternal fire of the greatest rock music, especially in that pre-metal era of the 1970s, where fire and brimstone often coursed through rock ‘n’ roll, but near-equally pays homage to the heavy developments at the turn of the ’80s. But all of this would be for naught if Alms didn’t have the songs to back it up, and indeed does Act One have SONGS.

Head to the void or to the pub, or both: Alms will take you there (and back) with Act One! Hear for yourself with the new track “Dead Water” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp. Release date and preorder info to be announced shortly. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Alms’ Act One
1. Dead Water
2. The Toll
3. For Shame
4. The Offering
5. Deuces Low
6. Hollowed

Alms is:
Andrew Harris: Bass
Bob Sweeney: Guitar, Vocals
Derrick Hans: Drums
Jess Kamen: Keyboard, Vocals
Danny McDonald: Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/almsbaltimore/
https://almsbaltimore.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Alms, Act One (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Avon, The Discussion, Alms, Vessel of Light, Enojado, Mother Mars, Southfork, Gypsy Sun Revival, Valhalla Lights, L.O.W.

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

This is the part of each Quarterly Review when I begin to question my life choices. Otherwise known as ‘the beginning.’ I still haven’t decided if this is going to be a five-dayer or a six-dayer, but one way or another, between now and whenever it ends, at least 50 records will be reviewed in batches of 10 per day. It’s completely insane. Completely. Every three months or so I remind myself of this by doing it again, and every time it ends up being worth the insanity. I’ve no doubt that will be the case here as well, but looking across the next five days at placeholders where reviews need to be, well, yeah. It’s pretty insane.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Avon, Dave’s Dungeon

avon daves dungeon

Dave’s Dungeon is the second full-length from Californian desert rockers Avon, and with it they make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. Peppered with varied songwriting across alternately garage rocking cuts like “Yello,” “On Fire” and “Red Barn” (video premiere here), languid psychedelic excursions in “Space Native” and the subtly proggy “Hero with a Gun,” and the classic desert crunch of “Dungeon Dave,” “Mace Face” and “Terraformations,” the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist James Childs, bassist Charles Pasarell (also Waxy) and drummer Alfredo Hernández (ex-Kyuss, Yawning Man, etc.) have no doubt garnered attention due to the participation of the latter, but all three manage to leave their mark across the 10 tracks, particularly Childs. His English-accented vocals become a defining element in “Hero with a Gun” and “Yello,” and whether fast or slow, the rhythm section offers air-tight accompaniment. Straightforward in their approach but not without some flourish, Avon bring their own touch to the classic desert style and offer memorable songs in the process. Nobody loses.

Avon on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

The Discussion, European Tour EP

The Discussion European Tour Ep 2017

Issued to coincide with an initial string of Fall 2017 European shows, the aptly-titled Tour EP serves as the debut offering from The Discussion, and its five tracks mark the return of guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants, not heard from since the end of her prior outfit, Kylesa. With “A Gesture/Other Side,” Pleasants and company commune with post-rock and atmospheric stretch, where “Like Rain” and “Surf Jesus” channel New Wave and Blondie pop with an underlying heft of low end to add presence. Through it all, Pleasants’ vocals prove a patient and melodic element, and as “Before We’re Gone” brings in a moody krautrock sensibility and finale “Cuts Like a Knife” engages louder and more forward riffing in its final minute payoff, the message that The Discussion has only begun comes through loud and clear. Tour EP sounds like the beginning stages of a larger process of experimentation and creative growth, and one hopes it proves to be precisely that.

The Discussion on Thee Facebooks

The Discussion on Bandcamp

 

Alms, Demo Vol. 1

alms demo vol 1

Modern heavy rock groove meets classic metal guitar on AlmsDemo Vol. 1, which, as it turns out, is more of a sampler than an actual demo, comprised as it is of two rough mixes from the band’s forthcoming debut album. The result of this mesh on “The Offering” and “Dead Water” is somewhere between Uncle Acid swing and Iron Maiden twin lead work, and the five-piece do well immediately to own the combination and make it cohesive sonically. Traditional doom play more of a role in “Dead Water,” and the keys of vocalist Jess Kamen – joined by guitarist/vocalist Bob Sweeney, guitarist Danny McDonald, bassist Andrew Harris and drummer Derrick Hans – and while I don’t know what label it is that’s going to pick them up (I’d believe anyone from Ripple to Shadow Kingdom to Season of Mist, depending on how much they want to tour), but if these two songs are anything to go by, they’ll be lucky to get them.

Alms on Thee Facebooks

Alms on Bandcamp

 

Vessel of Light, Vessel of Light

vessel of light vessel of light

Collaborating between Ohio and New Jersey, Vessel of Light brings together vocalist Nathan Opposition of Ancient VVisdom and guitarist Dan Lorenzo of Hades. Their self-titled five-tracker EP (on Argonauta) melds bluesy metallic riffing with tales of murder and drugs on cuts like “Dead Flesh and Bones” (video premiere here) and its eponymous closer, which emphasizes a hook based around the lines, “LSD has got a hold on me/I wanna show you all the things that I’ve seen.” It goes like that. For Lorenzo, parts recall the groove he brought to short-lived heavy rock outfit The Cursed, but with Opposition’s lyrics and the periodic delving into harsher vocals, there’s a moodier and more aggressive edge to the songs that helps define the personality of the duo as a band. How often they’ll work together remains to be seen, they make a murderous introduction with this EP and there’s plenty of fodder here for further exploration should they get there.

Vessel of Light on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Enojado, Mist and Thunder

enojado mist and thunder

German trio Enojado was founded by guitarist/vocalist Stephan Kieserling circa 2002, and though he’s been through numerous lineups since, with bassist/vocalist Thomas Schnaube and drummer Till Junker, he’s put together the band’s first release since their 2014 The Chain is Loose LP was issued by Setalight. At under half an hour and six tracks plus an intro, late 2017’s Mist and Thunder offers solid heavy rock songwriting with a straightforward approach bordering on the metallic in its tone but never quite departing a heavy rock context in rhythm, even in the starts and stops of “Notorious.” The obvious standout in heft is the seven-minute “Coma,” which seems to add weight to everything around it, from “The Truth About Gold” earlier to “I Saw the Sun,” which follows, and the finale in “Queen of Heaven,” which brings a quick payoff to the release and leaves a residual echo and drone/guitar minimalism for its last two minutes. Less derivative than it at first seems, Mist and Thunder might take multiple rounds to sink in, but proves worth the effort of a dedicated listen.

Enojado on Thee Facebooks

Enojado on Bandcamp

 

Mother Mars, On Lunar Highlands

mother mars on lunar highlands

It’s kind of rare for a band to sound like they’re making fun of their own music as they play it, and yet, “Lost Planet Airmen” from Mother Mars’ fourth full-length, On Lunar Highlands, does precisely that. The Aussie trio led by multi-instrumentalists Frank (drums, synth, Clavinet) and Paul (guitar, bass, synth, banjo-mandolin, keys) Attard – who also produced together – and featuring the bluesy stylings of vocalist Dave Schembri, did not make the 11-tracker a minor undertaking. Rather, at 69 minutes, it pushes through stoner boogie on “Thought it Best to Cut You Loose” and still has room for heady jams on extended pieces like “The Stalwarts of Stalwart Castle” (9:31), “Woodhollow Green” (12:55) and the penultimate title-track (8:35), which leads to the far-out banjo shenanigans of closer “The Heavy Hand of the Destroyer.” Needless to say, madness ensues. Interludes like “Bean Stalkin’” and “Bean Stalkin’ Again” and the experimental “The Working Mind of the Creator” add anything-can-happen flair, and the weirder On Lunar Highlands gets, the more it satisfies. It gets very, very weird.

Mother Mars on Thee Facebooks

Mother Mars on Bandcamp

 

Southfork, Through a Dark Lens

southfork through a dark lens
Two decades after their founding in 1997, Stockholm’s Southfork returned late last year with their first album since 2001’s Straight Ahead, the seven-track Through a Dark Lens, which itself is nearly five years in the making. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 7:59 “Already Gone,” the bass-heavy approach the band takes is indeed emblematic of an era now easily thought of as classic, but one could hardly call it dated for that. Rather, tracks like “Into the Deep” and “Tomb of the Mirror Men” flow easily from one to the next and the record reveals in the strut of “Seventosix” and the answer-back closer “Nowhere Gone” just why someone might put almost half a decade of effort into realizing it. Whether you remember Southfork’s original run or not, Through a Dark Lens offers immersive tone and songwriting and as Southfork have already followed it up with what seems to be a compilation release, it may signal a return to fuller activity on their part.

Southfork on Thee Facebooks

Southfork on Bandcamp

 

Gypsy Sun Revival, Journey Outside of Time

Gypsy Sun Revival Journey Outside Of Time

Production by Kent Stump (Wo Fat). Mastering by John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet). Released through Nasoni Records. Sure enough, the second album from Texas heavy psych rockers Gypsy Sun Revival, Journey Outside of Time, wants nothing for the quality of its associations and with the Hendrixian guitar work of Will Weise and the bluesy classic frontman approach of vocalist Mario Rodriguez, they earn that pedigree through and through. Tyler Gene Davis’ contributions on organ only further the ‘70s vibes on “To the Sky” before Weise takes a wah-soaked solo backed by Lee Ryan on bass and drummer Ben H., and the later two-part “Pisces” combines with closer “Departure” to create a thrilling jammed-out side B that takes the more structured craft of “Indigo” and catchy opener “Cadillac to Mexico” earlier and pulls them through an interdimensional haze that only does more to evoke the album’s title. Between Journey Outside of Time and Gypsy Sun Revival’s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), one is left wondering how long we’ll be able to think of them as a well-kept secret of Texas’ fertile heavy underground.

Gypsy Sun Revival on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Valhalla Lights, My Gracious Highway

valhalla lights my gracious highway

There’s a commercial sense of clarity to Valhalla LightsMy Gracious Highway, which seems to have been originally issued by the band in 2016 but is being given a renewed international push. It’s a crisp 13-track/45-minute long-player, marked by solid songcraft and the forward performance of vocalist Ange Saul, who takes the place of departed original singer Phoebe Black, who passed away in 2015 just prior to guitarist George Christie, bassist Brent “Badger” Crysell and drummer Deon Driver – all formerly of heavy rockers FORT – entered the studio to record their debut release. Songs veer toward Queens of the Stone Age-style groove on “Hammer the Witch” and closer “Punk,” and there’s enough variety of mood between the brooding “Beautiful,” showcase centerpiece “The One” and “Darker Side of Love” and the all-go rockers “Rise Above,” “Crucify” and “Someday” to carry the listener through smoothly with an abiding sense of professionalism. Will be too clean for some listeners, but is largely inarguable in its execution.

Valhalla Lights on Thee Facebooks

Valhalla Lights website

 

L.O.W., Bones EP

low bones ep

Located in the northwest of Poland, the acronymic four-piece L.o.W. debut with the Bones EP, which hurls forth three extended works of extreme sludge led into by an atmospheric intro. The band – the lineup of vocalist Adam, guitarist Marek, drummer Witold and bassist Micha? belong to the post-Primitive Man sphere of viciousness, but “Tear Me Open” offers some respite in its closing moments, pulling back on the massive plunder and switching from guttural growls to spoken vocals. With just a touch of Electric Wizard swirl, “Almost Like God’s,” renews the onslaught, offering a break in its middle from the Eyehategod-style sway while saving its most brutal growl for last, and at just under 10 minutes long, the title-track rounds out Bones with bass and drums unfolding a progression soon topped by guitar noise that lets the listener know they’ve just entered another level of punishment. There are moments of impulse toward stonerism that show themselves in Marek’s guitar work, but the primary mission on Bones seems to be assault, and the band has no problem living up to that intent.

L.o.W. on Bandcamp

L.o.W. on Thee Facebooks

 

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Days of Darkness Lineup Finalized: Om to Headline Second Night; Captain Beyond, Boris, Cavity, Crypt Sermon and More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The first lineup announcement for the inaugural Days of Darkness festival came through last month and brought with it confirmation that the autumnal two-dayer presented by the crew behind the Maryland Deathfest wasn’t screwing around either on scale — Neurosis headlining — or in scope, bring on board multi-genre acts from across a swath of underground styles. Well, the lineup is now complete. Om join Neurosis as headliners, and Cirith Ungol act as classic metal counterpart to the previously-announced Manilla Road near the top of the bill. Sizable additions like Captain Beyond, and Boris join the likes of WarningDälek and Elder — whose new album will be out by then — and Bongripper and Unearthly Trance find further tonal-onslaught companionship with word that Cavity will take part. All in all it looks like a pretty fucking good show.

Tickets are on sale now, and though they might not go before Maryland Deathfest proper, held in May as ever, I would be surprised if there were any left by the time Oct. 28 and 29 gets here. I’d think Neurosis or Om could probably sell out Rams Head on their own, never mind with the stellar support cast they’re both given across the Saturday and Sunday event. Bringing in Om has me wondering if maybe they’ll have a new record release coming up — that’s a long trip to the East Coast — but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. Either way, they’ll of course find welcome once they hit the stage, because they’re Om, and only jerks don’t like Om. That’s science. It’s proven.

Here’s the poster and the lineup as posted by the fest, as well as the link to get tickets:

days-of-darkness-2017-final-poster

Maryland Deathfest presents: Days of Darkness Festival

October 28 & 29, 2017
@ Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD

Saturday, October 28th:
Neurosis
Manilla Road
Captain Beyond
Perturbator
Elder
Cavity
Dance with the Dead
Dälek
Computer Magic
Crypt Sermon
Alms

Sunday, October 29th:
Om
Cirith Ungol
Warning
Boris
GosT
Unearthly Trance
Le Matos
Bongripper
Magic Sword
Night Demon
Asthma Castle

No refunds. All sales final!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/days-of-darkness-festival-tickets-31832083619
https://www.facebook.com/events/257886397969977/
http://www.facebook.com/daysofdarknessfestival
https://www.facebook.com/MarylandDeathfest/

Om, Live at Saint Vitus Bar 2015

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