Live Review: YOB, Voivod & Amenra in Brooklyn, 04.04.19

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

YOB (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I arrived at the Warsaw in Brooklyn early enough to go to the market across the street and buy gum, go inside the venue and use the restroom, come back out and meander a bit and still be first in line to get in the door to see YOB, Voivod and Amenra, so yes, I was eager to see the show. And I’ll confess that after seeing Voivod in August at Psycho Las Vegas (review here) and Amenra at Høstsabbat (review here) in Oslo this past October, the band I was most overdue in seeing was YOB. It would be my first YOB gig since the release last year of Our Raw Heart (review here) on Relapse and going back even further than that to 2015. It’s been an adventurous couple of years, but still, that’s unacceptable.

Fortunately for me and everyone else in the venue — and perhaps, given the volume, everyone on the entire block — YOB were headlining. Amenra were soundchecking before doors opened and this would be my first time seeing them not in a festival setting. Being somewhat used to the Belgium-based forerunners of European post-metal with a high-grade production value in terms of lights, projections, strobe effects and so on, I was interested to find out how it would translate to a smaller stage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were blisteringly intense. The drastic contrast of their ambience and weighted sway seemed especially powerful as I stood by the low-end side of the stage for the lurching “Plus Près de Toi” from 2017’s Mass VI. They’ve been to Brooklyn at least once each year since that record came out, but in this context, they brought a headliner presence to the opening slot. There wasn’t one band of the three who wouldn’t readily headline their own tour.

Amenra probably aren’t a band I’d seek out on their own, but I’ve never regretted watching them play when I’ve had occasion to do so, and from where I sit there’s no denying the creative force behind cuts like “Razoreater” and “A Solitary Reign,” both of which were aired at the Warsaw ahead of the finale of “Diaken” from the last album. They’re maybe a bit tighter in their conception of what they do than I can fully appreciate, but they remain sonically devastating, and for the contrast with Canadian sci-fi metal legends Voivod alone, it was a fascinating experience. The sheer incongruity of the one into the other was a sight to behold, but once the switch was flipped and Voivod went on, the whole vibe in the room changed and went along with them, the Quebecois four-piece running through a set of classics and newer songs, smiling all the while.

They are a very, very specific kind of fun. It’s not everyone’s kind of fun, otherwise Voivod would’ve become Metallica, but their alien-rhythm punk-metal-proto-thrash-prog remains not so much ahead of its time, but from its own dimension. The opened with “Post Society” and vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger mentioned ahead of “Obsolete Beings” that they’d recently won the Juno award for metal with their latest album, The Wake, from whence that song comes, but if it was more recent stuff or “Into My Hypercube” from 1989’s Nothingface and “The Lost Machine” from 1993’s The Outer Limits, they were absolutely unmistakable, and as was the case last summer in the sweltering Las Vegas heat, theirs was among the most unabashedly joyful performances I’ve ever seen from a band that might be considered in any way. Voivod were having their very own kind of fun.

It was infectious, and I think if there was going to be a vaccine, it probably would’ve been developed sometime in the last 38 years. They ended the night with “Voivod” and a heartfelt shout to founding guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, who passed away in 2005, before the band got even that portion of “their due” that they’ve received up to now. I’m not sure I’d put a percentage to that, but I know it’s on the low side, and when they were done, Snake, founding drummer Michel “Away” Langevin, bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche and guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain took time to pass out their setlists and shake hands in the crowd. It sounds corny to say, but they were essentially sharing their love for what they do with the audience, both while they were playing and after. They’re one of the most admirable bands on the planet, for that as well as the decades of aesthetic innovation.

And then YOB played. Ha.

Let’s face it. YOB have been at it one way or another for the last 20-plus years, and they’ve only ever pushed themselves forward. I think every single seeing-YOB-is-a-spiritual-experience cliché has been exhausted at this point in their career — true though it otherwise might be — so I’ll spare you that, but I think it’s worth taking a minute to appreciate the relentless creativity that drives the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster. And that’s not just a question of longevity. YOB don’t put out records because, “okay, well, we gotta go get back on tour, so we need to make an album.” They do it because they have something to express emotionally or something to contemplate and process through music. Their work has never ceased growing, and as they opened their set by tearing a chasm through the universe with “Prepare the Ground,” I couldn’t help but think how incredibly special and rare a band they are. To wit, there is one YOB. Eight billion people walking around the planet or something like that. One YOB.

The set was “Prepare the Ground,” “Kosmos,” “The Lie that is Sin,” “Marrow,” “Grasping Air” and “Burning the Altar,” and if six songs doesn’t sound like much to you, I humbly invite you to go listen to any single one of those cuts somewhere on the internet and be bowled over by them. “Marrow” had eyes moistened throughout the venue, and they brought out bassist Levy Seynaeve from Amenra to do guest vocals on “Grasping Air,” which I have a hard time thinking of as anything other than a dream come true. Even before that though, “Kosmos” and “The Lie that is Sin” made for a particularly resonant pairing ahead of “Marrow,” building on the momentous nod of “Prepare the Ground” with methodical groove that is continually YOB‘s own. Like I said at the outset, it had been too long. I didn’t realize until I was standing there watching them just how much too long it had been. Much too long.

No encore, but none necessary after “Burning the Altar.” I was kind of in a daze after that, to be honest, but stayed a couple minutes to chat rather than darting back to the car. It was a scheduling glitch that got me to see this show in Brooklyn rather than Boston, but no regrets. Nights like this one don’t happen all the time, and to not take advantage when they do is to genuinely miss out.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Up in Smoke 2019 Announces Amenra, The Obsessed, Lo-Pan, Mantar, No Mute and Hathors

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Here we are, it’s not even March yet, and already the Fall festival season is starting to take shape. We know Amenra will be around celebrating their 20th anniversary, and The Obsessed and Lo-Pan have already had other confirmations as well — possible they’re touring together? — and Mantar continue to get heavy rock bookings despite not at all being a heavy rock band, which is hilarious and ongoing in kind. Up in Smoke, like Keep it Low, is a Sound of Liberation-backed event, so it makes sense to find the likes of agency mainstays Greenleaf and My Sleeping Karma on the bill, and we already know Elephant Tree will have a new album out, so they’ll be touting that as they go. I don’t think they’re anywhere near done announcing bands for the now-three-dayer, but it already looks like a win. Simple as that.

And airfare, I guess.

Announcement from the fest follows, as seen on the social medias:

up in smoke 2019 banner

UP IN SMOKE – AMENRA + THE OBSESSED + MANTAR + LO-PAN + NO MUTE + HATHORS!

Smokers!
We’re back with a new batch of great bands, who are eager to share their great music with you. This time we’re also presenting the first Swiss bands for this year’s festival. Legendary Z7 offers two big stages and a fantastic atmosphere. It’s with big honour that we present the following bands for you;

AMENRA, one of Europe’s leading forces when we’re talking about post metal. Their live performances are legendary and the heaviness from their music will probably make you gasp for oxygen. With six critically acclaimed albums on their CV, lots of splits and a few EP’s there will for sure be expectations and also dedication from you guys. Drum beats that sounds like an explosion, guitar and bass riffs so heavy that they turn your gut upside down and then everything breaks down to a melodic paradise. That’s very much what Amenra is all about.

THE OBSESSED, do they really need an introduction? The band has broken up a few times and somehow Wino has continued to believe in the bands mission and reformed it every time after a few years break. Last time he reformed The Obsessed were in 2016, then he also signed a deal with Relapse records. In 2017, 23 years after “The Church Within”, they released “Sacred” which is their fourth studio album. We are happy to give you the opportunity to experience the bands doomy sound and the great voice of Wino.

MANTAR shocked the metal underground five years ago with their debut album “Death By Burning”. During the past five years the duos extreme music has convinced lovers of heavy music that this is the real deal. You may call the music what you want, the only thing we’re sure of is that it isn’t doom or sludge. The duo’s live performances are an energetic madness that doesn’t leave anybody emotionally untouched. Get ready for heavy riffs, uncompromising music and an intense stage show, these two guys are heavier than most other bands.

LO PAN is the band that you can play on your first date with somebody who say they doesn’t like heavy music. The guys know how to perfectly blend melodies with heavy riffs. There is that intensity in the band’s music and still they manage to keep these melodies in there. A great vocalist that has the power and a great stage personality where he tries to hide behind the drumkit. There is a new album right around the corner and that’s going to be massive. If you can’t wait any longer, just put on “Marathon Man” and push that volume knob to 11.

HATHORS is a trio from Winterthur that has released three albums since their formation in 2010. Sometimes they bring some punk rock herbs to their music, which normally is in the vein of rock/alternative rock. It’s a nerve to their music that infects you, the listener, with energy and the desire jump around and be a part of the party.

NO MUTE is a Swiss rock band formed in 2006. They are from a little town called Olten between Zurich and Berne. Their music is dirty, distorted and energetic, simply put hotter than hell. They go with the classic rock ‘n’ roll line-up with drums, bass, guitar and a spastic vocalist. This is all about the good live performance, they always try to give you the show of your lifetime.

https://www.sol-tickets.com/produkte/36-tickets-up-in-smoke-konzertfabrik-z7-pratteln-am-03-10-2019
http://www.z-7.ch/event.php?eventid=1665
https://www.facebook.com/UpInSmokeIndoorFestivalInZ7/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1811016498954043/
https://www.upinsmoke.de

Lo-Pan, Live in Cleveland, OH, Jan. 5, 2019

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Psycho Las Vegas 2019 Adds Electric Wizard, Fu Manchu, Graveyard, Clutch, Amenra, Deafheaven and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2019 logo

If we’ve learned anything at all about Psycho Las Vegas in the last few years, it’s that Psycho is gonna do its own shit its own way. It’s not about being the American Roadburn, or about being a non-suck Coachella. It’s Psycho Las Vegas. It’s its own thing, and to think otherwise is simply to have a mistaken impression. If you’ve been, you know this already.

It would seem to be in that spirit that where every other fest doles out its lineup either at once or piecemeal in a succession of announcements — trust me, I know: I write them — Psycho is once again doing its thing its way. With barely any text whatsoever, band posters have been trickling out through the Psycho Las Vegas Instagram, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve started to see some of the festival take shape. There was a first announcement way back in November, and I’m sure when it’s all said and done they’ll have more official word, but until then, it’s worth keeping your eyes open to see how it’s playing out. I’m trying to keep up as best I can.

To that end:

We’re upping the ante and taking this party to the strip. Join us August 16-18, 2019 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for Psycho Las Vegas––featuring four stages, late night parties, and exclusive performances you won’t see anywhere else. Early Bird + Tier I tickets are on sale now at vivapsycho.com.

Lineup so far:
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
High on Fire
Glassjaw
YOB
Perturbator
Kadavar
Oranssi Pazuzu
Electric Wizard
Fu Manchu
Graveyard
Amenra
Deafheaven
Old Man Gloom
Clutch
Power Trip
Bad Religion
Rotting Christ

America’s rock ‘n’ roll bacchanal returns as PSYCHO LAS VEGAS brings its annual debauchery and unbridled volume to the Strip itself, with a move to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino that sets the stage for a Las Vegas Boulevard takeover, the likes of which have never been seen.

Slated for August 16th through August 18th, PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019 will feature four stages, including the newly renovated Events Center, the iconic House Of Blues, the Mandalay Bay Beach, featuring a wave pool and lazy river, and an old-school Vegas-style Lounge smack dab in the middle of the casino floor. While all of the venues are located on the property, Mandalay Bay is connected by a complimentary tram service that provides easy access to affordable accommodations such as Luxor and Excalibur. Attendees will have access to discounted rates at all of these properties and other MGM hotels and resorts down the Strip.

The highly coveted “Psycho Special” passes, notorious for selling out instantly, are priced at $99, plus taxes and fees and go on sale Thursday, November 29th at 10:00am PST. Weekender General Admission passes are priced at $249, plus taxes and fees, and will increase to $299, plus taxes and fees, once the first tier sells out. Only 300 High Roller VIP passes will be sold at $499, plus taxes and fees, with package details to be announced in December. Single-day tickets will be available in the Spring at $109, plus taxes and fees. While the festival format will remain largely the same as previous years, the Thursday pre-party at DAYLIGHT Beach Club will be a more intimate event for attendees and will require a separate ticket from the festival pass. Tickets and more information available at VivaPsycho.com.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2035404693146567/
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas/
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas/
http://vivapsycho.com

Fu Manchu, Live in Vancouver, BC, Nov. 11, 2018

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Desertfest London 2019 Adds 29 Bands to Complete Lineup; Madness Ensues

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

What am I even supposed to say here other than ‘yes please?’ As Desertfest London 2019 rounds out its lineup and once again demonstrates its willful growth year after year, I’ll tell you this: there are a lot of bands listed below, and a lot of good bands. And if you’re reading this and you’re in London or you’re fortunate enough that you’re going to be in London for this festival, I know you’re hip to where it’s at. I get that. But seriously, if you don’t know, there re a few really must-see bands here, and it’s not all Amenra headlining. That’s great, and I’m sure it’ll be super-intense and very cool and all that.

But I’m telling you: don’t sleep on seeing High Priestess, BlackWater HolyLight, Worshipper, Salem’s Bend, Skraeckoedlan and Great Electric Quest. Some of those names are kind of buried near the bottom of this announcement, but really, you’d only be doing yourself a favor if you caught them. Let’s put Zed in that category too, and when they’re done, tell them I said hi. You probably already know all this, but I just wanted to highlight the point, since there’s a lot here and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I get that too.

Kudos to the Desertscene team for focusing on what matters — the music — even amid pulling double-duty in putting together the first-ever Desertfest NYC, the lineup for which is still in progress. This fest looks amazing and I wish I could say I was going. Quite simply, it’s been too long.

Here’s the announcement:

desertfest london 2019 final announcement

Amenra to headline Saturday at DESERTFEST LONDON 2019 + day tickets and 28 more bands announced!

Showcasing the best of what the underground has to offer is at the core of DESERTFEST LONDON and this year’s line-up is the most eclectic, yet satisfying to date by ticking those “wish-list old school desert rock” boxes with Fu Manchu and Witch at The Roundhouse, whilst pushing the boundaries of heavy with the likes of HHY & The Macumbas and Grave Miasma. Year after year it’s about offering up a diverse bill that allows for discovery, whilst celebrating the musical foundations of the festival, and the final Saturday headliner and remaining 28 acts do just that.

DESERTFEST LONDON /// 3-5th May, 2019 in London
Weekend and day tickets on sale at this location

Desertfest are honoured to reveal that the incomparable AMENRA will celebrate their 20-year anniversary across the London weekend this May, bringing their uniquely atmospheric sound as headliners of Saturday’s mainstage and, for the first time in the UK, an even more intimate side of the band takes place at The Underworld on Sunday with solo performances from CHVE & SYNDROME. We would be proud to have Amenra headline Desertfest on any year, but to have them on the year they celebrate their 20th anniversary makes it all the more special for us and also the band themselves.

Desertfest are also pleased to announce a stage takeover from the mighty Riding Easy Records, the righteous west coast label will not only bring the sun (we hope) but a hefty dose of fuzzed out riffs from their roster. Headlined by rock’n’rollers ELECTRIC CITIZEN who refuse to be pigeonholed with a 70s proto-metal sound that chimes into psychedelic realms. Street-doom killers R.I.P will hit the UK for the first time and vocalist Fuzz is ready to bring it hard and loud. Completing the stage showcase are 80s punk heavy metal hybrids ZIG ZAGS, hazy Swedish doom newcomers ALASTOR and the low and slow psych goth-rock sounds of BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT.

If that wasn’t enough Desertfest also adds thunderous space-rock psychedelic masters MONKEY3 to upcoming proceedings, the unforgiving primitive metal sounds of THE SECRET and LA party starters THE SHRINE, who haven’t graced DF with their amped up stoner-skate vibes for well over 5 years.

We also welcome back our long-time partners Human Disease Promo/When Planets Collide for another takeover of The Underworld on Saturday. Topping the bill, the riff muscle of Savannah, Georgia is brought back to The Underworld by the mighty bruisers BLACK TUSK. Dropping in straight underneath we’re living the doom dream of olde with Chicago legends in THE SKULL. Glasgow gives us two offerings this year in the form of explosive riff n roll filth-party heads ACID CANNIBALS, and to lower the tone whilst severely twisting some melons we also welcome their fellow city dwellers HEADLESS KROSS. As ever we chose to open up with a cataclysmic attack, hence why we’ve invited Brighton’s bleak hardcore oblivionists KALLOUSED to set the day into fittingly venomous motion. Bring your ear plugs, it’s gonna be a floor shaker!

And finally, Desertfest round off with the brilliant SKRAECKOEDLAN, BLANKET, SALEMS BEND, SURYA, HIGH PRIESTESS, ZED, KUROKUMA, GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST, PSYCHLONA, VIDEO NASTIES, ONE FOR SORROW, WORSHIPPER, MOUNTAIN CALLER & 1968 all added to the monumental 2019 line-up.

DESERTFEST LONDON /// 3-5th May, 2019 in London
All tickets on sale at this location

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest

BlackWater HolyLight, BlackWater HolyLight (2018)

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YOB, Voivod and Amenra Announce Spring 2019 Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob alyssa herman photo

Here’s a nifty thought to make your day a little brighter: YOB touring with Voivod on a co-headlining run with support from Amenra. Just to put a check on it, it’s the outfit who defined and continue to reinvent cosmic doom, the band who innovated nerdism in heavy metal and proved that thrash could be progressive, and Europe’s leading purveyor of post-metal. This is not a minor tour. It’s not even the kind of tour you talk about later. It’s the kind of tour that, if you know, you were there, and that’s it. Some experiences don’t need words. “You were at that show?” “Yeah.” And so on.

YOB of course go in support of earlier-2018’s Our Raw Heart (review here), which if the results thus far of the Year-End Poll (add your list!) are anything to go by, yes, you already knew that. Voivod and Amenra have releases too, but really, even if none of them had put out a record in five years, wouldn’t this still be an astounding bill? Yes, yes it would.

Dates are presented by Nanotear and are as follows:

yob voivod amenra tour

Spring 2019: Yob + Voivod + Amenra

03.26 Minneapolis MN Fine Line
03.27 Chicago IL Thalhia Hall
03.28 Columbus OH Ace of Cups
03.29 Cleveland OH Grog Shop
03.30 Toronto ON Phoenix
03.31 Buffalo NY Town Ballroom
04.02 Portland ME Geno’s
04.03 Boston MA Royale
04.04 Brooklyn NY Warsaw
04.05 Philadelphia PA Union Transfer
04.06 Richmond VA Broadberry
04.07 Raleigh NC Kings
04.09 Knoxville TN Concourse (Co-presented with American Icon)
04.10 Atlanta GA Masquerade / Hell
04.11 New Orleans LA One Eyed Jack’s
04.12 Houston TX Warehouse Studios
04.13 Austin TX Barracuda
04.14 Dallas TX Gas Monkey
04.16 Denver CO Marquis Theater*
04.18 Mesa AZ Club Red+
04.19 San Diego CA Brick by Brick w/ Monolord+
+ = YOB only
* = no Voivod

YOB is:
Mike Scheidt – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Rieseberg – Bass
Travis Foster – Drums

www.yobislove.com
www.facebook.com/quantumyob
www.twitter.com/quantumyob
www.instagram/com/quantumyob
www.relapse.com
www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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Psycho Smokeout Set for April 20 in Los Angeles; Elder, Monolord, Amenra, Belzebong and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

psycho smokeout 2019

With the advent of the Psycho Smokeout in Los Angeles next April 20, Psycho Entertainment partners with RidingEasy Records and enters the fray of a busy Spring festival season, pushing Elder and Monolord into headliner positions that both deserve and importing other Psycho veterans like Amenra and Belzebong alongside RidingEasy groups Here Lies Man, Electric Citizen, BlackWater HolyLight, R.I.P. and Zig Zags. If you don’t see the significance of this, think of all the fests happening in Europe at the time, whether it’s Roadburn just one week before or Desertfest the first weekend of May. Lineup-wise, the first-ever Psycho Smokeout would seem to be more in line with the latter than the former, but still, it’s a packed Spring for those up for a bit of intercontinental travel.

However, a killer lineup is a killer lineup, and the Psycho Smokeout has one. Looks like it’ll just be the one day — fortunate that April 20 is a Saturday in 2019 — and I’ll assume it’s two stages, though I don’t have confirmation of that or really anything other than the groups playing, which, frankly, is enough for the moment. April’s a ways away, so there may be changes and whatnot, but especially if this takes off, it’s an important happening in the market and bound to turn heads.

RidingEasy‘s announcement and the lineup info follow:

psycho smokeout 2019 poster

The rumors are true! We’ve teamed up with Psycho Las Vegas For the first annual psycho smoke out on 4/20 in LOS ANGELES. We’ll be vending and loads of our bands are playing including but not limited to Monolord R.I.P. Electric Citizen Blackwater Holylight Here Lies Man Zig Zags and more!!!!

Tickets on sale https://psychosmokeout.eventbrite.com/.

RidingEasy Records & Psycho Entertainment present:
First Annual “Psycho Smokeout”
Saturday, April 20th, 2019
Catch One Riff Compound, Los Angeles

|| FULL LINEUP ||

MONOLORD . ELDER . AMENRA . BELZEBONG . DREADNOUGHT . UADA . GOYA . ELECTRIC CITIZEN . CHRCH . CLOAK . HERE LIES MAN . TOKE . RIP . ZIG ZAGS . HAUNT . CLOVEN . HOWLING GIANT . BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT

https://www.facebook.com/events/179272422957103/

https://www.vivapsycho.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

Monolord, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 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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Desertfest Belgium 2018 Announces Amenra to Headline; Naxatras, Whores., Timestone and Swedish Death Candy Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Five new lineup additions for Desertfest Belgium 2018 this time around, and with countrymen headliners Amenra as part of it, the festival immediately expands its overall context like the other Desertfests before it. And while Amenra will top the bill — they won’t be the only ones — also joining the roster for the weekend are Greek jam-psych forerunners Naxatras, woefully-monikered noise rockers Whores., as well as Timestone and Swedish Death Candy. It’s a bit all over the place this time around, but with a lineup that already includes the likes of Crowbar and Elder alongside not only each other, but YOB, John Garcia, Acid King and others, the Antwerp-based fest seems to be in the process of putting together its most varied edition yet. I’m not sure how much more they’ll add to what’s already been announced, but even if they called it quits here, it’d still be well worth the trip.

Info came down the PR wire as follows:

desertfest belgium 2018 amenra

DESERTFEST ANTWERP 2018: Amenra, Whores & more confirmed

Although you have all given us much love for the line-up so far, we know that a lot of you have been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of our first headliner…

…and here it is. At Desertfest Belgium, we’ve always taken pride in the best of the heaviest our country has to offer. And so it is with the greatest of pleasures that we finally have the absolute heaviest of heaviest in the land to ravish our stage: AMENRA will headline DF Antwerp 2018.

A band that has pummeled crowds all over Europe and The States, and released on the Neurot label of kindred spirits Neurosis. A band that transcends the genre as none other, a band fit to rule Desertfest!

But let it be known that our other new arrivals broaden the spectrum of sounds at the Fest even further. Naxatras is a Greek band that has grown increasingly more ambitious with each release, now incorporating prog, funk and jazz in their psychedelic jam-based stew. In contrast, Whores is as monolithic as they come, providing the perfect soundtrack to a blunt object repeatedly hitting you hard in the face.

Let’s also not forget the name of our festival, and where it comes from. Timestone may hail from Austria, but their pure brand of desert stoner will transport you to the desert for sure! And finally, we’d like to make a prediction here: sometime very soon, Swedish Death Candy will be a name to be reckoned with. They have it all: insanely fuzzy riffs, smart songwriting, catchy vocal harmonies, and just the right amount of unhinged feedback. Consider this a band to discover at the Fest!

Now about those Reduced Combi Tickets. You know we still have hem on offer at €95 right? We just don’t know how long they will last… so don’t be that guy or gal crying over lost opportunities, get yours today!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Amenra, Mass VI (2017)

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