Amorphis, Queen of Time: Keeper of Fleeting Moments

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

amorphis queen of time

As they’ve for so long shown an affinity for Finland’s national poem, the Kalevala, it seems somehow only fitting that 28 years after their founding, Amorphis‘ own story should be the stuff of a winding runic epic. Years of lineup changes, sonic evolution, genre definition and defiance have brought them to their 14th long-player, Queen of Time (on Nuclear Blast), with four of their original members in the six-piece lineup, and as they’re quick to show on the Jens Bogren-produced outing, the progression that began on 1992’s The Karelian Isthmus continues unabated. As they mark the return of original bassist Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine, with whom they last played on 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), they embark on some of their most expansive sounds to-date, including not just the standout keyboard work of Santeri Kallio, who joined in 1999, but also flourish in the form of choral and orchestral arrangements and vocal appearances from Anneke van Giersbergen, who guests on the penultimate cut “Amongst Stars,” and longtime lyricist Pekka Kainulainen, who contributes a speech in Finnish to third track “Daughter of Hate.”

That song runs as part of a momentum-building first half of the album that, from the intro to opener “The Bee” through “Message in the Amber,” “Daughter of Hate,” and “The Golden Elk” and “Wrong Direction,” move with experienced poise through the band’s long-established dynamic of folk, death and progressive metals, vocalist Tomi Joutsen (also Hallatar) — who since coming aboard with 2006’s Eclipse (also their label debut on Nuclear Blast) has now been in the band nearly twice as long as his predecessor, Pasi Koskinen — switching easily between guttural growls and dramatic, emotionally driven clean singing.

The clash of the beautiful and the brutal has been at the core of what Amorphis do for over 20 years, since 1996’s groundbreaking third album, Elegy, but whether it’s the chugging riff of “The Bee” meeting with a string arrangement and keyboard launching into the chorus or the later “Grain of Sand” finding Joutsen layering soaring melodies over growls as drummer Jan Rechberger pounds away behind and lead guitarist Esa Holopainen touches on minor-key Easternisms as a chorus backs the bridge to the next onslaught, Amorphis have never quite made the transitions so fluid. Part of that is the melding of melody and extremity as on “Daughter of Hate,” which brings in saxophone around the two-minute mark after a particularly brutal opening, but Bogren, who seems to have been the mastermind behind bringing the choral and orchestral arrangements into the proceedings, can only be considered right for having done do.

amorphis

Even the band’s also-string-inclusive preceding album, 2015’s Under the Red Cloud, which Bogren also oversaw amid a host of engineers, didn’t push as far as “The Bee” or “Message in the Amber,” the latter touching almost on Blind Guardian-style grandiosity in its second half. That’s not a complaint. Even as later cut “We Accursed” holds to a “rawer” approach with its Finn-folk bounce and swirling keyboard solo over a start-stop riff from Holopainen and fellow founder/rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, Amorphis seem to be expanding on the ideas of Under the Red Cloud, pushing themselves further in multiple directions and still leaving room for hooks like that of “Wrong Direction” or the memorable finale in “Pyres on the Coast” that seems to bring all sides together and round out with Kallio on a still-somehow-appropriate church organ.

But that is what Amorphis does, and it’s what they’ve always done. Save perhaps between 1994’s Tales from the Thousand Lakes and the aforementioned Elegy, their growth has never come in leaps and bounds — and part of that was personnel change — but it’s been a consistent truism of their work that each outing builds off the accomplishments of the one before it, and refuses to stay in the same place. In the now-seven albums they’ve done since Eclipse, when Joutsen came aboard, they’ve been ever more aware of who they are as a band — that is, there are some things an Amorphis record needs to be an Amorphis record, and they seem to consciously tick those boxes — but never afraid to refine their processes and push themselves in ways they haven’t before. As such, the 10 tracks/57 minutes of Queen of Time are multifaceted and rife with breadth, but the core sonic persona of who Amorphis have become — itself true to the band’s name for its ever-changing shape — has remained true.

They are one of a kind in metal, and whatever subgenre one might want to peg them into, they’ll never quite fit all the way. That’s true of the galloping “Heart of the Giant,” the careening delivery of the title-line in “The Golden Elk,” and the piano line that runs under “Amongst Stars,” as the meticulousness of Amorphis‘ songwriting, the sheer clarity and detail of it, makes them an ever more complex and ever more immersive listening experience. Invariably, with a band who’ve been around so long produced such a catalog, fans have their favorites, so I won’t say Queen of Time is the “best” Amorphis album, because the designation is meaningless. However, it is the farthest stage yet reached of their ongoing progression and it claims its place in their catalog as an utter triumph in its achievement. For established fans or open-minded newcomers, it should not be missed.

Amorphis, “Wrong Direction” official video

Amorphis website

Amorphis on Thee Facebooks

Amorphis at Nuclear Blast website

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Amorphis Announce May 18 Release for Queen of Time

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

amorphis
You know what? The more we actually find out about this upcoming Amorphis album, the more excited I am to hear it. The band already announced a long, long string of North American tour dates to support it this Fall — and they hadn’t even given away the title yet. Well, the record is called Queen of Time — you’ll note that 2015’s Under a Red Cloud opened with “Death of a King,” the video for which you can see at the bottom of this post — and the newly-unveiled artwork is absolutely frickin’ awesome. I’d buy that shirt. Hell, I’d buy two. One to sleep in, one to wear around.

Oh who the hell am I kidding? I’d wear the sleepy shirt everywhere.

Even so, the point is I’m getting stoked to find out what the long-running Finnish outfit — who with Queen of Time also welcome back bassist Oppu Laine — have in store for their new outing, and though the info is coming in drips and drabs (i.e. no tracklisting yet), I’m just gonna keep posting the press releases and probably a video or two until the album itself actually shows up.

Come on. Come be psyched with me:

amorphis queen of time

AMORPHIS reveal album title, cover and release date

AMORPHIS have finally finished recording their upcoming new studio album, entitled Queen Of Time. The record is scheduled for a May 18th release via Nuclear Blast. In comparison to its predecessor, Under The Red Cloud (2015), the album will include the use of real strings, flutes, orchestral arrangements and even choirs! In addition, this will be the first time that people will be able to hear their lyricist Pekka Kainulainen on the album as he contributes a speech in Finnish.

Today, the band unveils some more details on the production, the album title, the album cover (see above) and on working with their new/old bassist Olli-Pekka Laine.

The album was once again produced by the famous Jens Bogren (OPETH, AMON AMARTH, KREATOR, and many others), who is well-known for challenging and motivating the artists during the recording process. He isn‘t afraid to push them to their limits!

Esa comments: “I guess Queen Of Time turned out as a massive surprise to all of us. During the rehearsing and pre-production we didn‘t have any idea that Jens had this huge picture inside of his head about the landscape of the album. It‘s a very natural continuation to Under The Red Cloud but with steroids. The songs are more aggressive but there‘s more dynamics, harmonies and orchestral arrangements present. The result is AMORPHIS as something you‘ve never heard before! Essentially, working with Jens worked really well. As a person he is very similar to us – we share the same kind of weird humor and we all like to work hard.”

The cover artwork, which was created once again by French artist Jean ”Valnoir” Simoulin from Metastazis, captures the feeling of the lyrics and the music. With Pekka Kainulainen’s (lyricist) words, the lyrical theme is universal: “Cultures rise, flourish, and are destroyed. The story of man is the story of searching, finding, and forgetting. A single spark can set the world afire, a single idea can give birth to a new culture. The greatest can stagnate into insignificance, the smallest can hold the power for change. The lyrics on this album are distant echoes of ancient forest peoples, from a time when meaning was proportioned by the cosmic forces that govern birth and death. If the connection was lost, they sought for a strand of knowledge, found a new direction, and a new age began.”

Queen Of Time will be also the first album with their old/new bass player Olli-Pekka ‘Oppu’ Laine following the departure of Niclas Etelävuori in 2017. Oppu was one of the founding members in 1990 and recorded the early releases with AMORPHIS (The Karelian Isthmus LP, 1992; Privilege Of Evil EP, 1993; Tales From The Thousand Lakes LP, 1994; Black Winter Day EP, 1995; Elegy LP, 1996; My Kantele EP, 1997 and the Tuonela LP, 1999) before he parted ways with the band in spring 2000.

“To be honest, Oppu was the only guy we could imagine being in AMORPHIS. It was funny – when we started to play our first shows together again last summer it all felt so familiar. He was involved with arranging songs and he also even brought some new songs to the table… really good ones, too!” says Esa. And Oppu adds: “Even though the last year with AMORPHIS has been exciting, nostalgic and fun, it’s also been truly comfortable to be with the guys again. As a clichéd expression, it’s been like returning home from a lenghty odyssey. After eighteen years, it feels like we are picking up where we left off from the good ol’ days! I’m really looking forward for the upcoming tour. The new album itself is a really strong package, the only hard thing will be picking which songs to play live! It‘s safe to say we are set to pull off some killer shows over the next few years. After that, I’m predicting a long and fruitful career for the band in its current form…”

The band will soon kick off pre-orders for Queen Of Time and release their first single, so stay tuned!

AMORPHIS, DARK TRANQUILLITY, MOONSPELL, OMNIUM GATHERUM
07.09. USA New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre
08.09. CDN Montréal, QC – Café Campus
09.09. CDN Québec City, QC – Impérial de Québec
10.09. CDN Toronto, ON – The Opera House
11.09. USA Ft. Wayne, IN – Piere’s Entertainment Center
12.09. USA Detroit, MI – Harpos Concert Theatre
13.09. USA Joliet, IL – The Forge
14.09. USA Minneapolis, MN – The Cabooze
15.09. CDN Winnipeg, MB – The Park Theatre
17.09. CDN Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
18.09. CDN Calgary, AB – Dickens
19.09. CDN Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
20.09. USA Seattle, WA – El Corazon
22.09. USA Berkeley, CA – UC Theatre
23.09. USA Anaheim, CA – City National Grove
24.09. USA West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey a Go Go
25.09. USA San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick
26.09. USA Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
27.09. USA Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues
28.09. USA Salt Lake City, UT – Liquid Joe’s
29.09. USA Denver, CO – Herman’s Hideaway
01.10. USA Dallas, TX – Trees
02.10. USA San Antonio, TX – The Rock Box
03.10. USA Houston, TX – Scout Bar
05.10. USA Tampa, FL – The Orpheum
06.10. USA Lake Park, FL – Kelsey Theater
07.10. USA Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
09.10. USA Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub & Billiards
10.10. USA Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
11.10. USA Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
12.10. USA Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero Theatre
14.10. USA Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall

www.amorphis.net
www.facebook.com/amorphis
www.nuclearblast.de/amorphis

Amorphis, “Death of a King” official video

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Amorphis Announce Fall 2018 North American Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

amorphis (Photo by Ville Juurikkala)

Well, I said last time around that I was going to be covering Finnish progressive/melodic metallers Amorphis leading up to the release of their next album, which will be the follow-up to 2015’s Under the Red Cloud, which was very, very good and about which I wrote nothing. Consider this me keeping my word. There hasn’t been any real confirmation of a release for said new album — guitarist Esa Holopainen says May as a tentative below, and it would seem likely to me that the fact that it’ll be September before the band comes to North American shores has more to do with a busy summer schedule playing European fests and the like than any thought the record might be delayed that long. One never knows, but that’s my guess.

And a May release would time well with June and July touring in Europe, which, again, hasn’t been announced to my knowledge, but seems like a reasonable enough plan should they want to hit the road on the quick after the album arrives.

It’s been Y-E-A-R-S since I last saw these guys play. Maybe if I work my schedule just right I can make it happen by the time September rolls around. Might be fun.

From the PR wire:

AMORPHIS TOUR POSTER

AMORPHIS announce N. American tour w/ DARK TRANQUILLITY, MOONSPELL and OMNIUM GATHERUM

Melancholic progressive metallers AMORPHIS will return to North America with a co-headlining trek with DARK TRANQUILLITY this September/October. Joining them are Portugal’s premiere gothic-metallic-force MOONSPELL, and Finnish melo-death contingent OMNIUM GATHERUM.

AMORPHIS will be touring in support of their soon to be announced new album, produced and mixed once again by Jens Bogren (OPETH, AMON AMARTH, KATATONIA). More details to be announced shortly, so stay tuned!

Guitarist Esa Holopainen commented:
“We are extremely excited to start the world tour with new album from North America. There’s been lot of requests to hit the states again after our last tour spring 2017. This time we come over with a killer package. Touring with DARK TRANQUILLITY, MOONSPELL and OMNIUM GATHERUM is almost like having a road trip with best mates around. Every band has a strong fanbase so there will be something for everyone.”

Holopainen continued and offered this update from the studio as well:
“We just finished new album recordings with our producer Jens Bogren and result is very bombastic! Album release is tentatively this May and it’s a great privilege to introduce new songs first time for North American audience. AMORPHIS has long history behind so once again we try to offer something for everyone. Impossible but doable. Shine on, see you soon and support live music. That keeps our engines running!”

AMORPHIS, DARK TRANQUILLITY, MOONSPELL, OMNIUM GATHERUM
Sep-07-18 New York, NY – Gramercy Theater
Sep-08-18 Montreal, QUE – Cafe Campus
Sep-09-18 Quebec City, QUE – Imperial de Quebec
Sep-10-18 Toronto, ONT – Opera House
Sep-11-18 Ft Wayne, IN – Pierre’s
Sep-12-18 Detroit, MI – Harpo’s
Sep-13-18 Joliet, Il – The Forge
Sep-14-18 Minneapolis, MN – The Cabooze
Sep-15-18 Winnipeg, MB – Park Theatre
Sep-17-18 Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
Sep 18-18 Calgary, AB – Dickens
Sep-19-18 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater
Sep-20-18 Seattle, WA – El Corazon
Sep-22-18 Berkeley, CA – The UC Theatre
Sep-23-18 Anaheim, CA – City National Grove
Sep-24-18 West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey a Go Go
Sep-25-18 San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
Sep-26-18 Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
Sep-27-18 Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues
Sep-28-18 Salt Lake City, UT – Liquid joe’s
Sep-29-18 Denver, CO – Herman’s Hideaway
Oct-01-18 Dallas, TX – Trees
Oct-02-18 San Antonio, TX – Rock Box
Oct-03-18 Houston, TX – Scout Bar
Oct-05-18 Tampa, FL – Orpheum
Oct-06-18 West Palm Beach, FL – Kelsey Theater
Oct-07-18 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
Oct-09-18 Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub and Billiards
Oct-10-18 Durham, NC – Motorco
Oct-11-18 Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
Oct-12-18 Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero
Oct-14-18 Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall

AMORPHIS’ most recent release, their 2015 studio album Under The Red Cloud, would go on to obtain gold status in Finland and reached great chart results all around the world, including their first ever entry in United Kingdom and Australia, as well as their highest ever entries in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Following this success, they released their Under The Red Cloud Tour Edition in February 2017, including the entire album with two bonus songs as well as the live tracks of their An Evening With Friends-Shows @ Juhlaviikot – Huvila.

www.amorphis.net
www.facebook.com/amorphis
www.nuclearblast.de/amorphis

Amorphis, “Sacrifice” official video

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Amorphis in Pre-Production for New LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

So here’s the thing: I’ve covered long-running Finnish progressive metallers Amorphis a few times over the years, and have spoken at some length about how much their past work means to me and helped to shape my personal taste in metal and underground heavy rock. I’m what you’d call a fan. But I’ve never really thought of them as a band that fit with this site. Progressive as they are, they’re more metal than not, and while there might be a few unfamiliar heads who get turned onto what they’re doing, I have the feeling that most of the people who read this site would just greet coverage of their doings with complete apathy, and it’s kind of my fear of that more than anything else that’s kept me away from writing about them over the years. It’s a bummer when people aren’t into the same stuff you’re into.

Well, because it’s my site and because I can, I’m saying screw that this time around. Amorphis‘ 2015 album, Under the Red Cloud, which I finally picked up not too long ago, was badass and I’m not going to miss out covering something I think would be fun to write about because only maybe a couple other people who read the site might give a crap. Amorphis are working now with Jens Bogren on pre-production for their next record. Whether it’s a perfect fit for The Obelisk or not, I’m going to be covering this album to the best of my ability, and I’m looking forward to it.

The PR wire gets us started:

amorphis in studio

AMORPHIS working on new studio album

Melancholic progressive metallers AMORPHIS recently released their 2015 studio album Under The Red Cloud, which won countless soundchecks and reached great chart results all around the world, including their first ever entry in United Kingdom and Australia, as well as their highest ever entries in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Following this success, they released their Under The Red Cloud Tour Edition in February 2017, including the entire album with two bonus songs as well as the live tracks of their An Evening With Friends-Shows @ Juhlaviikot – Huvila (more info, see below).

Today, there are some good news for all fans of AMORPHIS: The band is currently working on a new studio album! The pre-production process is already done and most of the recordings have been finished. But this time, the band didn’t rush at all and took their time to focus on details so there’ll be also some really amazing surprises: additional recordings with real strings and flutes, as well as orchestra arrangements and choirs! In addition, this is the first time that people will be able to hear their lyricist Pekka Kainulainen on the album as he contributes a speech in Finnish!

Jens Bogren (OPETH, AMON AMARTH, KATATONIA, and many others) will be once again the producer of the upcoming album. More details to be announced soon, so stay tuned!

AMORPHIS live 2018:
12.05. N Kopervik – Karmoygeddon Metal Festival
08.06. FIN Hyvinkää – Rockfest
09.06. FIN Tampere – South Park Festival
13.06. J Tokyo – Shibuya Club Quattro
14.06. J Osaka – Umeda Club Quattro
21. – 23.06. D St. Goarshausen – RockFels
22. – 24.06. F Clisson – Hellfest
04. – 07.07. D Ballenstedt – Rockharz Open Air
06.07. FIN Lohja – Rantajamit
12. – 14.07. D Balingen – Bang Your Head!!!
12. – 15.07. CZ Vizovice – Masters of Rock
20./21.07. FIN Laukaa – John Smith Rock Festival
26. – 28.07. FIN Kuopio – RockCock
27./28.07. FIN Oulu – Qstock
02. – 04.08. D Wacken – Wacken Open Air
08. – 11.08. E Villena – Leyendas del Rock

Order Under The Red Cloud« (Tour Edition), here: http://nblast.de/AmorphisRedCloudNB
Or get the digital version, here: http://nblast.de/AmorphisDigital

www.amorphis.net
www.facebook.com/amorphis
www.nuclearblast.de/amorphis

Amorphis, “Death of a King” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Tuonela

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Amorphis, Tuonela (1999)

I’m not even gonna feign impartiality on this one. I love this album, and that’s why we’re ending the week with it. Finland’s Amorphis released Tuonela in 1999 on Relapse Records. It was their fourth full-length, and like the preceding 1996 outing, Elegy — which was a landmark in a discography that continues to grow — it stepped away from the deathly beginnings of their earliest works in 1992’s debut LP, The Karelian Isthmus, 1993’s Privilege of Evil EP and 1994’s sophomore outing, Tales from the Thousand Lakes, which for many is the standard by which the rest of their catalog is measured. Many, but not me. I love Tuonela like I’ve loved few records in my life. It’s my ultimate springtime album, and as we move this coming week into May, I can’t help but return to it once again to pay seasonal homage.

The last decade or so — really since 2006’s Eclipse; we’ll get there — has found Amorphis settled into a blend of nuanced folk-informed progressive rock and death metal, and while in large part the model they’ve been following has been based on Elegy, from where I sit, Tuonela hit the stylistic meld better. It doesn’t go as far into melodic heavy rock as either of the two subsequent albums, 2001’s also-stellar Am Universum and 2003’s somewhat meandering Far from the Sun — the highlight of which was an acoustic bonus track of the title-cut — but Tuonela songs like opener “The Way,” “Divinity,” “Morning Star,” wistful-but-still-rocking closer “Summer’s End” and the one-into-the-next pair of “Tuonela” and “Greed” at the heart of the offering are absolute standouts in their energy and execution, driven by memorable songwriting and what was then a course of progression that proceeded across everything Amorphis released. If inclined, one could chart Amorphis‘ growth from one record into the following with little trouble; from their raw beginnings, they became a band of wide melodic range and progressive mentality. The classic heavy rock organ added to “Morning Star” and “Shining” for example, or the nuanced push of the riff to “Nightfall” and the later choppy swirl of “Withered” — all of these feed into a linear, very-much-of-the-CD-era 46-minute flow that, for me, distinguishes Tuonela not only as a collection of great songs, but also a fluid and complete work best appreciated in its front-to-back entirety.

I’m not sure I can emphasize how much of an impact Tuonela had on me personally when I first heard it. I was recently asked by Sander van den Driesche of the site Echoes and Dust to list three of the records that most affected me, and I put Tuonela on that list. A teenager at the time, I’d never heard anything like “Greed” — so heavy, so extreme with its death growls, and yet still psychedelic, traditional in its songwriting, and, perhaps most pivotal, it had that sitar. That sitar. It was the moment at which the Beatles fan and the headbanger in me reconciled, found the middle ground between them, and wanted to explore it further. I won’t take anything away from what Amorphis — at the time comprised of vocalist Pasi Koskinen, guitarists Esa Holopainen (lead) and Tomi Koivusaari (rhythm, also sitar), bassist Olli-Pekka Laine and drummer Pekka Kasari, plus keys from Santeri Kallio — accomplished on cuts like “Rusty Moon,” with the guest flute from Sakari Kukko, whose sax also adds to “Nightfall” and the title-track earlier, or on the moody “Summer’s End” at the finish, but I still get chills when I hear “Greed” in spring. At this point, I don’t even remember where that association comes from. I just know the season has arrived when it’s time to put on Amorphis. And so it is.

Amorphis had a dramatic shift alluded to above that led to 2006’s Eclipse, which marked the end of the tenure of Pasi Koskinen — who was also in heavy rockers Mannhai and can currently be found in extremists Ajattara, whose new album, Lupaus, is out next month on Svart Records — as they brought in new frontman Tomi Joutsen in 2004. Joutsen has been with them ever since, and his arrival would seem to have coincided with a decision on the part of HolopainenKoivusaari and company to develop along the clearer path of melodic and progressive death metal. In revisiting Tuonela, I also took the opportunity to dig into — and purchase the tour edition of — the latest Amorphis full-length, 2015’s Under the Red Cloud (they’re currently on Nuclear Blast and have been since Far from the Sun), and after 2013’s Circle, 2011’s The Beginning of Times, 2009’s Skyforger and 2007’s Silent Waters, plus a steady stream of compilations, EPs, splits and live albums, they’ve pretty much nailed it. They just finished a US tour with fellow Finns Swallow the Sun. I wish I’d gone to see them. It’s been more than a decade since I caught their show at B.B. King’s in New York, when Joutsen was new to the lineup. It was a Sunday. I’d flown back from SXSW in Texas the same day. They opened with “Greed.” It was glorious.

Truth is, I could go on. About this band, about this record. I haven’t written much about them on this site in years past, but they’re a group who’ve greatly influenced the direction of my musical taste and for that I’ll always be happy to return to Tuonela as we move out of the winter dread and into the time of new life that invariably follows.

As ever, I hope you enjoy.

jj and falk-hagen at roadburn 2017 (photo jens wassmuth)While we’re reminiscing, the photo of me just to the right here was taken last weekend by Jens Wassmuth at this year’s Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. If you missed the coverage of the fest, it’s all here and thanks if you did get to check any of it out or if you decide to do so.

Now, if you’re someone who’s followed this site for any amount of time you’ll know I’m loathe to post pictures of myself. It simply doesn’t happen. I could tell you the exact last time I did it, but I don’t want to, because that’s how much I don’t like to see pics of me around this place. I’ll take all the album covers in the world (preferably those sans cartoon tits) before a shot of my ugly mug. Just how it goes.

I’m on the left there, watching Warning on the Main Stage, and you can also see the esteemed Falk-Hagen Bernshausen on the right. The reason I’ve put this picture here is because of the t-shirt I’m wearing. He didn’t know it at the time, but Jens captured a special moment for me in taking this shot. I wore that Brant Bjork and the Bros. shirt on my honeymoon in 2005 to Rome, and there are all kinds of proto-selfies of The Patient Mrs. and I to prove it.

As time passed, the shirt no longer fit me and I basically haven’t been able to wear it since until recently. It was one of several special shirts — an Anathema shirt for A Fine Day to Exit that I’ve had since college, a Neurosis shirt for The Eye of Every Storm that I bought at their 2004 Philly show that never fit me until now — that I brought with me to Roadburn this year, sort of as a personal landmark.

I’ve struggled with weight issues my entire life and I expect I’ll continue to for as long as I live. Even putting it in those terms undersells my past and current history of body dysmorphia, disordered eating, persistent self-loathing, and so on. However, since Dec. 2015, I’ve lost 168 pounds (as of this morning’s weigh-in) — more than half my body weight when I started out — and bringing these shirts to Roadburn was my small way of celebrating that effort with myself.

It’s not the kind of allowance I often let myself make. I’ve no doubt that at some point I’ll gain every single one of the pounds I’ve lost back, which is why I get sad when people say things like, “You look awesome now,” or get uncomfortable when someone wants to talk about it, but wearing these shirts was a rare kind of celebration for me, and I’m honored to have that moment captured by someone so talented and kind as Jens, even if he was just responding to Andy from Clamfight on Thee Facebooks being a smartass and saying someone should take my picture in the photo pit. So thanks to Jens for that. That’s what’s up with that picture.

Crazy times this week, getting back to work and back into the swing of life in general post-Roadburn. Still a lot to catch up on at work, which if I’m 100 percent honest, I’m somewhat less motivated toward since finding out the job ends in June. As a temp/contract worker, I’ve basically been on a year-long job interview. Bummer to know that, in the end, I flubbed it. So it goes.

Still, one presses on with tasks at hand. Speaking of, here’s what’s in my notes for around these parts next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Sun Blood Stories review, Soldati video premiere & big announcement from Bison Machine.
Tue.: L.M.I. review/track premiere, new-ish Ides of Gemini video and Lords of Beacon House announcement.
Wed.: Blackout review/track premiere, maybe a video premiere for The Riven.
Thu.: Samsara Blues Experiment review.
Fri.: Six Dumb Questions and album stream of the new From Oceans to Autumn.

Busy enough, I think. I’ve gotten a few kind comments on bringing back the Six Dumb Questions features, and I think I’m going to continue that at least for the time being, so look out for more in the weeks and months ahead.

I’ve also started slating releases for the next Quarterly Review, which will be in June. It’ll be here before you (or I) know it, to be sure.

In the meantime, I’d like to wrap up this week by saying thank you again for reading. Last weekend being Roadburn, this is a special time of year for me and if you’ve been a part of it at all, I cannot properly express how deeply I appreciate that. Thank you. There are days where I feel like I have nothing else to offer but this. Really. So to have you be involved is humbling in a way that I find continually dumbfounding and humbling.

Much love. All the love.

Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Here’s a New Amorphis Video, Just Because

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 11th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

I know they’re in no way stoner rock (though they do have some pretty badass riffs), but man, I loves me some Amorphis. And since they’ve got a rather fiery new video for the song “Silver Bride” from their upcoming album, Skyforger, I figured I’d share. Hope you dig half as much as I do.

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What’s the Deal with Pasi?

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Pasi Koskinen: He's so dark... and lazy.Okay, I know Amorphis aren’t stoner rock, but they rule and since this concerns Mannhai, which vocalist Pasi Koskinen left Amorphis to pursue full-time after the kind of crappy Far from the Sun album in 2003, it’s at least somewhat relevant.

Ah shut up. My issue is this:

Mannhai issued this update today:

“Maybe it’s time to tell you what is going on in the Mannhai-camp… We’ve been quite passive for a long time, and right now it seems that we will remain that way for some time. How long this will be is impossible to say, but the fact that we haven’t composed new music together as a band since 2007, might give a picture of the current situation.

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