Review & Full Album Premiere: Argus, From Fields of Fire

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

argus-from-fields-of-fire

[Click play above to stream From Fields of Fire by Argus in its entirety. Album is out Sept. 8 via Cruz del Sur Music.]

Even before they get to the sweeping guitar triumph of “216,” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania metallers Argus have long since secured their victory on From Fields of Fire, their fourth long-player and third for Cruz del Sur Music. Earlier wins come via the striking post-intro salvo of “Devils of Your Time” and “As a Thousand Thieves,” which take flight from the subdued beginning “Into the Fields of Fire” gives to the proceedings and never stop to look back. The five-piece are now a decade removed from their first demo and eight years on from making their self-titled debut (review here) through Shadow Kingdom, and after blending doom, power, classic and progressive metals across that record, 2011’s Boldly Stride the Doomed (discussed here) and 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here) which followed, they’ve never come through quite so stately as they do in the nine tracks and 55 minutes of From Fields of Fire.

Joining vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich (ex-Penance, also Arduini / Balich), guitarist Jason Mucio and drummer Kevin Latchaw are new guitarist Dave Watson (who also produced) and bassist Justin Campbell, and whether it’s the fist-pump hook of “You are the Curse” (video posted here) or the suitably reddened Brad Moore cover art out front, From Fields of Fire does not fix what was never broken in the band’s sound, instead bringing a new degree of refinement and poise to their metallic sonic brew, righteously oldschool and every bit living up to the cliché of “firing on all cylinders” — one can listen to just about any of these tracks and find it driven equally by the guitar, bass, drums and vocals. That balance, toyed with here and there as Balich pushes his powerful voice on “As a Thousand Thieves” and the guitars match step for leads as the 11-minute “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors” draws to its finish, stands among the most effective elements of From Fields of Fire, and taken as a consideration in kind with the level of songcraft displayed throughout, the album unmistakably makes its case for Argus to stand among the US’ most underrated classic metal bands.

It’s not necessarily that Argus are doing anything so revolutionary in tracks like the aforementioned “216” or the later “Hour of Longing” and “No Right to Grieve” as relates to their past work. While they started out more tipped toward the doomly end of the spectrum and have since come around to follow impulses less hindered by tempo — to wit, the windmill-headbang worthy chug of “Devils of Your Time” and the forward thrust in the verses of “Hour of Longing” so effectively pushed by Campbell‘s bass — From Fields of Fire is more a continuation of their ongoing growth than a departure of sorts from what they’ve done before. Again, their sound wasn’t broken. Considering their longest break between full-lengths prior to the four years that split Beyond the Martyrs and From Fields of Fire was half that duration — albums in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2017 — it’s entirely possible these songs have been worked on longer, tightened more over time, and if that’s the case, it’s to their benefit, but the production value brought to the lumbering “No Right to Grieve,” which immediately precedes the closing outro “From the Fields of Fire,” and the shimmer it gives to the lead work on “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors,” “As a Thousand Thieves” — and really all the rest included — isn’t to be understated.

With Watson at the helm, Argus hone a brisk, sharp and crisp feel excellently suited to the spaciousness such an epic feel requires. That is, in rawer form, the already-noted instrumental opening of “216” might fall flat, but because it comes through so clearly and because there’s room for a volume swell and that lead layer at just the right moment (looking at you, two-minute mark), Argus come across as positively masterful even before Balich serves yet another reminder of just how much he brings to the band in presence, arrangement and delivery. As metal frontmen go, he has the precision of a power metaller and the guttural passion of a doomer, and though I wouldn’t take anything away from his past work, it’s easy to argue that From Fields of Fire finds him just as much at the top of his game as it does the rest of the band around him.

And ultimately, the story of Argus‘ fourth LP is what was said at the outset: a triumph. From the production to the performances to the arrangements and the structures that serve as their foundation, to moments like the fluid shift between grandiose verse/chorus interplay and the instrumental building midsection of “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors” to the way “Into Fields of Fire” mounts tension to lead the way for “Devils of Your Time” and the way the acoustic first half of “From the Fields of Fire” fades out to let the album wrap with a darker wash of noise, every minute, every part, brims with purpose, even if that purpose is to convey a turn of mood or shift between one tempo and another. From Fields of Fire underscores Argus‘ particular style, and while one can point to certain aspects of it and hear SabbathPriestMaiden, etc., there’s never any point at which they lose sight of sounding most of all like themselves.

In this way, they bring a sense of vitality to the classic metal at their foundation while also keeping the tonal heft in Campbell‘s bass and the guitars of Watson and Mucio to still carry a doomed feel along with them that comes to an emotional head with “No Right to Grieve.” That track, as the last in a series of seven one-int0-the-next epics, arrives at perhaps the most forceful crescendo of Argus‘ career to-date, and every bit earns its position as their final statement before “From the Fields of Fire” draws the offering down to its finish. Bottom line? Argus are nothing less than a heavy metal treasure. With class and grace they find a position for themselves between various subgenres that plays to familiar styles while carving out their own identity through memorable hooks, breathtaking execution and an unmitigated will to move forward creatively from release to release. Four years might’ve been a long wait for From Fields of Fire, but like the best of the classics, no question this one will stand the test of time.

Argus, “You are the Curse” lyric video

Argus on Thee Facebooks

Argus on Bandcamp

Cruz del Sur Music website

Cruz del Sur Music on Bandcamp

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Cruz del Sur Music on Twitter

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Argus Post “You are the Curse” Lyric Video; European Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

argus

Let me say this as plainly as possible: If you’re not looking forward to Argus‘ new album, you’re fucking up. From Fields of Fire is out Sept. 8 via Cruz del Sur Music. Write it down so you remember.

Granted, that seems like such a hyperbole-happy-dipshit-blogger way of putting it, but it’s pretty true to the urgency I feel about the subject, and if it sounds like I’m being inadvertently critical of your taste — not everybody’s into doom-tinged classic metal with a flair for the epic, and I get that — I apologize, but rest assured I’m coming from a place of not wanting you to miss out. Not trying to be a jerk. Not trying to overstate the case. Frankly, I don’t need to; the Pittsburgh five-piece make their own argument excellently across the 55-minute From Fields of Fire without any help from the likes of me. I’m just saying that whether or not you’ve ever checked out Argus before, their fourth long-player — out Sept. 8 — deserves a fair shot. Give it one.

To give a first public sampling of what’s to come with From Fields of Fire, the band have a new lyric video posted for the centerpiece of the tracklisting and presumed side A closer (assuming this all fits onto one platter, which I’m not actually sure it does) “You are the Curse.” Following suit from post-intro opener “Devils of Your Time,” it’s a strong hook delivered with due fervency, and as it immediately precedes the 11-minute sprawl of “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors” on the record, which is out Sept. 8, it’s an excellent showcase for the level of songcraft shown across the album as well as the crispness of the production through which that songcraft arrives.

Argus will celebrate the release of From Fields of Fire — it’s Sept. 8; have I mentioned that? — by launching a string of newly-announced tour dates in Austria, Switzerland and Germany that same day. The run will be alongside High Spirits and culminates at Storm Crusher fest in Germany, where Argus will share the stage with ExciterTygers of Pan TangSulphur Aeon and many others.

Tour specifics and more info from the PR wire follow the video below. Enjoy:

Argus, “You are the Curse” lyric video

‘YOU ARE THE CURSE’, taken from ARGUS’ album “From Fields Of Fire”.

Comments vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich: “‘You Are The Curse’ was the first song we wrote for From Fields Of Fire. Dave [Watson, guitar] brought it in and it immediately fit. I knew we had exciting things coming for the album when it came together. It’s classic ARGUS and a good song to introduce From Fields of Fire to our friends worldwide. It’s an up-tempo, rhythmically aggressive but melodic song shot through with dark undertones. Lyrically, this song deals with the idea that sometimes we need look no further than ourselves for why things go wrong in our lives…as you sow so shall you reap. It’s been a live mainstay for about a year-and-a-half and one we expect to play often.”

VIDEO CONCEPT AND MAKING by YOD MULTIMEDIA: facebook.com/yodmultimedia

“From Fields Of Fire” out on SEP 8, 2017 via Cruz Del Sur Music.

Available in the following formats:

– COMPACT DISC with 12-PAGE BOOKLET: http://tinyurl.com/ycssx53j
– REGULAR BLACK / LIMITED RED/WHITE SPLATTER DOUBLE LP EDITION featuring 4 BONUS TRACKS | A2 POSTER | INSERT | DOWNLOAD CARD http://tinyurl.com/y9ra32xc
– DIGITAL

To coincide with the release of From Fields Of Fire, ARGUS is embarking on a nine-date European tour with Chicago high-energy rock heroes HIGH SPIRITS. The tour kicks off September 8 in Dornbirn, Austria, culminating with their September 16 appearance at the Storm Crusher festival in Püchersreuth, Germany.

09/08: Dornbirn, AT,- Schlachthaus
09/09: Olte, CH – Coq D’Or
09/10: Münster, DE – Sputnikhalle
09/11: Marburg, DE – Trauma G-Werk
09/12 Oldenburg, DE – MTS Record Store
09/13 Hamburg, DE – Bambi Galore
09/14 Berlin, DE – Urban Spree
09/15 Weimar, DE – Kasseturm
09/16 Pückersreuth, DE – Storm Crusher Festival

Musicians:
Brian ‘Butch’ Balich – Vocals
Dave Watson – Guitars
Jason Mucio – Guitars
Justin Campbell – Bass
Kevin Latchaw – Drums

Argus on Thee Facebooks

Argus on Bandcamp

Cruz del Sur Music website

Cruz del Sur Music on Bandcamp

Cruz del Sur Music on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music on Twitter

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Argus Set Sept. 8 Release for From Fields of Fire

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

argus

Checking in from the category of ‘Oh Hell Yes’ comes word down the PR wire of a fourth full-length from Argus due this September. Clocking in at a fistpumping, headbang-worthy 55 minutes, From Fields of Fire will see issue like its predecessors, 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here) and 2011’s Boldly Stride the Doomed (discussed here), via Cruz del Sur Music — their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) was on Shadow Kingdom — and its sonics are no less epic than the Brad Moore cover art adorning the front of it. This band rules. Rules. Flat out. Fucking awesome.

Word about the record just came in, so I’ll hope to have much more on the topic before we get to September, but in the meantime, you can dig into the following and I highly suggest you do:

argus from fields of fire

ARGUS Return with ‘From Fields of Fire’ Sept 8 on Cruz Del Sur Music

Four years after the release Beyond the Martyrs, mighty U.S. Heavy Metal torchbearers ARGUS will release From Fields of Fire September 8 on Cruz Del Sur Music! From Fields of Fire is the defining moment from a band that has delivered the goods album after album. It is the highlight of their career to date and it is an album that will be seen as a highlight in heavy metal circles, not just this year, but for years to come.

ARGUS no longer needs an introduction. Three studio albums, three EPs, several European tours and US showcases and festival appearances have established the name of ARGUS as an established force in the Heavy Metal Universe. Yet, ARGUS is a band not content to rest on its achievements. This is a band that is still hungry – a growing and strengthening animal that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Judging from the outside almost nothing seems to have changed this time around on From Fields of Fire. Another exceptional and visionary cover provided by Brad Moore, and an Intro / Outro on the track list, another of ARGUS’ trademarks through all their records. But it’s when you get on the inside, when you bite this album below the flesh to the bones that you realize ARGUS has not only been able to maintain their uniqueness, but the band has raised the quality of their creativity and therefore raised the stakes for their future. There’s a definite step ahead in terms of production and songwriting, which has reached the highest quality with the addition of producer and guitarist Dave Watson and bassist Justin Campbell in the line-up. The tense opener “Devils of Your Time” and the emotional closing “No Right to Grieve” are the songs that most clearly express their courage and confidence of exploring unusual sonic paths.

But it’s the entire album that confirms that ARGUS is probably the best band nowadays to pay homage to traditional heavy metal without merely aping their heroes. This is true metal with doom elements, two worlds that often touch, but have never been as well synthesized into a single, organic sound as they are here. From Fields of Fire features some real Heavy Metal gems: the infectious melodies and guitar-drive of “You Are the Curse” and “216,” the moody “Hour of Longing,” the galloping sound of “As a Thousand Thieves” and the borderline epic, ever-shifting majesty of “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors.”

From Fields of Fire is an album that whose parts are as strong as the whole, where each track is a highlight; yet, it is also an album that demands to be absorbed as a whole where the music, lyrics and atmosphere reach deep inside of you and take root as your appreciation of this band and this music grows to be a part of you.

Track Listing:
1. Into The Fields Of Fire
2. Devils Of Your Time
3. As A Thousand Thieves
4. 216
5. You Are The Curse
6. Infinite Lives Infinite Doors
7. Hour Of Longing
8. No Right To Grieve
9. From the Fields of Fire

Argus is:
Brian ‘Butch’ Balich – Vocals
Dave Watson – Guitars
Jason Mucio – Guitars
Justin Campbell – Bass
Kevin Latchaw – Drums

www.facebook.com/argusmetal
argusmetal.bandcamp.com
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
Twitter.com/CruzDelSurMusic

Argus, Beyond the Martyrs (2013)

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Thor, Bible of the Devil, Bloodcow and More Confirmed for Alehorn of Power IX

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I’ll admit, it feels pretty good to write about a festival in a country that also happens to be the one in which I live, but the lineup for Alehorn of Power IX also gives me another excuse to remind of how frickin’ awesome the last Bloodcow record (review here) was and to post a song from it, so all the more reason for the post. The news came down the PR wire through the Bible of the Devil newsletter, which I’ve been on the mailing list for since I don’t even remember when. They’ll be playing (obviously), along with ThorArgusProfessor Black (a former Metal Maniacs colleague), and The Lurking Corpses.

Show is Nov. 12 at Reggies in Chicago, as the what’s-wrong-with-being-sexy poster below confirms:

alehorn of power ix

ALEHORN OF POWER IX NOV. 12TH SAT. @ REGGIES

At last! Chicago’s longest-running heavy metal festival ALEHORN OF POWER has raised its ninth banner high and revealed its heaviest and most provocative lineup to date!

Without further fanfare we are proud to introduce a headliner who needs no introduction: Hailing from Vancouver, BC, Canada, the one and only THOR! The man is a legend many times over, with a prolific musical career reaching back to the 70s and further acclaim as a body-builder and B-movie actor. More recently, he was the star of his own documentary, I am Thor, in which he overcame many obstacles to mount a return to the heavy metal stages of the world. Nevertheless, THOR will always be an underground icon, and his deep catalog of heavy metal smash-hit songs (literally!) and uniquely theatrical live show make him the ultimate headliner of ALEHORN OF POWER IX! Additionally, THOR will be promoting his new release “Metal Avenger” now out on Deadline/Cleopatra Records.

Slated for Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Reggies in Chicago, this year’s Alehorn of Power features an eclectic and formidable lineup of bands with one thing on their minds: exceptional heavy metal entertainment from the independent realm.

BLOODCOW will travel from Omaha, Nebraska to open the show, self-described as “beard metal” but with an unexpected mad-sci-fi twist, as evidenced on their most recent and fourth full-length, 2015’s Crystals & Lasers.

THE LURKING CORPSES will follow, bringing their heavy metal horror show from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Reggies for the first time. The Corpses’ wide range of influences both musically and lyrically, not to mention their unforgettable image, have made them quite a favorite in many underground circles.

Long-running Chicago act BIBLE OF THE DEVIL is not only Alehorn’s spiritual guidepost but also its musical cornerstone. The band’s unmistakable brand of heavy metal rock and roll embodies every bit the twin-guitarred, big-chorused, epic FM sound perhaps most associated with the festival’s history. This year’s set will include a selection of new material alongside hits from the band’s vast catalog.

From Pittsburgh, ARGUS will make a much-awaited return to this year’s Alehorn lineup, fresh from the stages of Ireland and mainland Europe where the band is in high demand. It’s easy to see why: the trademark Argus sound of majestic and anthemic heavy metal is precisely what the European audiences crave. Of course, fans on this side of the Atlantic have also taken notice of the band’s musical accomplishments and will no doubt give them a hero’s welcome back to Reggies this year.

PROFESSOR BLACK’s live debut rounds out this year’s lineup, a unique concept that will feature songs and musicians from namesake frontman Chris Black’s entire recorded catalog. It is the first show of its kind for the Chicago-based musician/songwriter, although it could also be described as a return of sorts: Chris and his bandmates have played Alehorn of Power several times in the past, variously as members of Pharaoh, Superchrist, Dawnbringer, and High Spirits.

As if that weren’t enough, the stage will then be handed over to THOR, the Legendary Rock Warrior himself, who will personally show you the power of heavy metal, song after song, with all of the subtlety of a hammer to the skull! It will be a fast, loud, crushing, crucial, spirited, and highly memorable Alehorn of Power in November!

Alehorn of Power

Featuring:
THOR
Professor Black
Argus
Bible of the Devil
The Lurking Corpses
Bloodcow

Saturday November 12, 2016
Doors 7 PM / $20 / Ages 17+
Reggies, 2101 S. State, Chicago IL USA

https://www.facebook.com/AlehornOfPower/
https://www.facebook.com/events/254971524877608/

Bloodcow, “Exploding Head”

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Maryland Doom Fest 2016 Announces Complete Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 5th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

maryland-doom-fest-logo

The 2016 edition of the Maryland Doom Fest will take place June 24, 25 and 26 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD. You might recall late in 2014, when the initial word surfaced about the festival’s inaugural billing, it was a complete lineup announced, date, and place, all done straightforward in the tradition of the style being celebrated. In that regard, 2016 will be no different. Festival organizers JB Matson (also of War Injun) and Mark Cruikshank have unveiled the complete Maryland Doom Fest 2016 lineup, and while the core remains very much in the region’s sphere of heavy downer riffs, the palette has clearly expanded as well.

A broader reach pulls in the likes of Mos Generator, Ruby the Hatchet and Hollow Leg, and while headliners Spirit Caravan are a returning act from the 2015 fest, they’ll be joined by classic heavy rockers Bang and Asylum (Unorthodox by their original name), ensuring that even as the Maryland Doom Fest 2016 reveres its finest exports, it pays strict attention to the lineage from where it all comes and the hometown crowd too. All told, it’s a wide-ranging but universally heavy grouping of bands, from the epic classic metal of Argus to the cult rock of Demon Eye, and while realistically there will probably be a shift or two in the lineup between now and next June — things fall through, people get added, and so on — it looks like it’s going to be a hell of a weekend. If and when I hear of changes, I’ll let you know.

Tickets are on sale today, and I’m honored to have my logo on the poster. Full lineup and links follow:

maryland doom fest 2016

The second edition of a weekend of doom in its purest form.

We are stoked about the second installment of The Maryland Doom Fest with 25 kickass bands!

Tickets sales begin on Monday.

The official Maryland Doom Fest web page will be up and running soon at www.themarylanddoomfest.com

Tickets are on sale now: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2-weekend-passes-2016-tickets-18924966083

Spirit Caravan
BANG
Asylum (Unorthodox)
Argus
War Injun
Orodruin
Blackfinger
Kelly Carmichael (Internal Void) New Project
Earthen Grave
Black Urn
Doperider
Mos Generator
Hollow Leg
Ruby The Hatchet
Admiral Browning
Pale Divine
Toke
Flummox
Demon Eye
Wicked Inquisition
Seasick Gladiator
Karma to Burn
Eternal Black
King Giant
Spillage
Wasted Theory

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2-weekend-passes-2016-tickets-18924966083
https://www.facebook.com/events/864772630244169/
https://www.facebook.com/The-maryland-DOOM-Fest-815331421863100/
www.themarylanddoomfest.com

Asylum, “Unseen World” Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2015

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Underdogma Announces Lineup for Go Down Fighting Tribute to Nazareth

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

It’s been a minute, but there was a time when Underdogma Records proliferated a brand of heavy rock that stood right in line with their contemporaries in the likes of Small Stone and Tee Pee. Between about 2000 and 2009, Underdogma belted out killer offerings from bands like Sunnshine, The Rubes, Ironboss, Gate 9, Crom, Throttlerod and We’re all Gonna Die, spanning a genre range of heaviness that had its underlying identity in a running theme of grit and aggression. Tee Pee went psych, Small Stone got fuzzier, but Underdogma‘s trade was generally in dirtier, meaner fare.

Their Judge Not compilation from 2000 is still worth tracking down if you can find it, boasting cuts from Solace, Solarized, Calamus, The Quill, Satellite Circle, Raging Slab, Pale Divine and many, many others, and knowing that is part of why the announcement of Underdogma‘s return with the Go Down Fighting heavy rock tribute to Nazareth caught my attention. No release date has been named yet — and I wouldn’t want to try to pin something like that down — but a partial tracklisting has been posted, and with the likes of Abrahma, Against the Grain, Shatner and Argus involved, among many others of course, and more to come, it seems like they could come back with plenty of wallop.

That tracklisting follows here. Note the prospect of Solace recording a new track for the tribute. Makes one wonder just how much of a return to activity theirs might be:

underdogma logo

Underdogma, brain step-child of Grant Williams and Carlton Duff, started out as a high school science project and has remained that way ever since…

Coming soon
“Go Down Fighting”
a riff rock tribute to Nazareth!

Limited Edition Colored Vinyl.
Track List:
“Miss Misery” – The Rubes
“Sunshine” – Calamus
“Razamataz” – The Humanoids
“Changing Times” – The Heave-Ho
“Love Hurts” – Easy Jesus Coe
“Please Don’t Judas Me” – Argus
“Whiskey Drinking Woman” – Shatner
“Witchdoctor Woman” – Abrahma
“Expect No Mercy” – Against The Grain
“The Ballad Of Hollis Brown” – Lifetime Shitlist

Also possible contributions from
RAGING SLAB, Left Lane Cruiser, Solace, Daniel Davies, Gideon Smith, Contra, Mothership, Magic Jove, and surprise special guests!

https://www.facebook.com/Underdogma
https://twitter.com/carlton_duff

The Rubes, “Wonder Why”

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Roadburn 2015: Sets from Monolord, Argus, Uzala, Anthroprophh, Svartidauði, Bell Witch, Oozing Wound and The Osiris Club Available for Streaming

Posted in audiObelisk on June 12th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

argus at roadburn 2015 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some good stuff here, but that’s pretty much like walking outside and noting all the oxygen in the air. Roadburn 2015’s newest batch of audio streams continues the thread from last time around in including one of the most talked-about performances at the festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, this past April — namely Bell Witch. Many American bands head over there and make a special impression on the largely European crowd, but Bell Witch, the Seattle duo who were traveling abroad to herald the arrival of their 2015 sophomore outing, Four Phantoms (review here), on Profound Lore, seemed to earn extra acclaim from those who caught their performance. I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of them, but the response was universally positive.

Likewise the impact made by Monolord, who also feature here, but for my money, one of the highlights of the entire weekend was watching Uzala slay the Green Room. The ethereal doom trio who trace their roots to Boise, Idaho, were a surprise even though I’d seen them before, to the point that I did something I don’t often do at Roadburn, and that’s stay put for the entire set. Massive sound. Killer. Argus (pictured above) were a fist-pumping launch for the Afterburner on Sunday after the fest proper came to a close, and their classic metallurgy is no less welcome now as I pay it a revisit with the live stream.

Hope you enjoy the whole bunch:

Anthroprophh – Live at Roadburn 2015

Argus – Live at Roadburn 2015

Bell Witch – Live at Roadburn 2015

Monolord – Live at Roadburn 2015

Oozing Wound – Live at Roadburn 2015

Svartidauði – Live at Roadburn 2015

The Osiris Club – Live at Roadburn 2015

Uzala – Live at Roadburn 2015

Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here. For the first and second batches of streams, click here and then click here.

Roadburn’s website

Marcel Van De Vondervoort on Thee Facebooks

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ROADBURN 2015 AFTERBURNER: A Blink of an Eye

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn 2015 banner. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.13.15 — 00.21 — Sun. Night — Hotel

I did manage to get back to sleep this morning for a little bit after I finished writing the review and sorting pictures for last night, but first I went downstairs and took full advantage of the hotel breakfast. You get one free, and I wasn’t saving it or anything, I just hadn’t been up when it was served. Well, today I was. It opened at seven, I’d been up since four, so yeah. No problem. Some eggs, cheese, fruit, juice, bacon and sausage later, I was a new man. Who needed sleep. I got maybe half an hour before I needed to be up and out again to get to the 013 office and finalize the last issue of the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, Thee cover.with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman.

We did it, put the issue out and everything. I folded paper like a champ and have the ink stain on my edge-flattening fingernail to prove it. Not the only mark Roadburn would leave on me today, but we’ll get there in a bit. In the meantime, check out the last Weirdo Canyon Dispatch of Roadburn 2015 here. Go on and give it a read.

Today was the Afterburner, which is Roadburn‘s traditional way of saying, “Sooner or later, you have to get back to real life.” It’s a transitional day. Less stages, fewer running back and forth, fewer people around, and so on. Band-wise, it’s usually a little more of Roadburn‘s roots: Heavy rock, psych, doom, though of course like the fest proper, the Afterburner has branched out stylistically as well.

One didn’t have to look much farther than Gnaw Their TonguesClaudio Simonetti’s Goblin or headliners Anathema — who, since they were playing a special set spanning their career, both fit a doomed aesthetic and pushed beyond it — to see that. Still, it was underrated New York space/psychedelic outfit White Hills who startedArgus (Photo by JJ Koczan) the afternoon off at 15.00 on the Main Stage. An East Coast equivalent in my mind for L.A.’s Farflung — who also did quite well at Roadburn once upon a 2012 — they remain a much more popular band in Europe than in their hometown. So be it. For me, a little space is almost always welcome, but I wanted even more to see Pennsylvania’s Argus open up in the Green Room.

Riding the line between doom and traditional metal, the Brian “Butch” Balich-fronted Argus launched their set with “By Endurance We Conquer,” “No Peace Beyond the Line,” and “The Hands of Time are Bleeding,” the first three songs from their third and latest full-length, 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here). The crowd knew the songs and sang along to the hooks, particularly in “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the five-piece of Balich, guitarists Jason Mucio and Dave Watson, bassist Justin Campbell and drummer Kevin Latchaw making the best case I’ve yet heard for their songwriting. With the two guitars, driving, forward rhythms, roots doom and NWOBHM-precision, Balich‘s powerful voice in addition to that level of craftsmanship, it was no challenge to see the appeal of Argus, and the Green Room certainly got into it. Heavy metal might be a subculture, but it’s one that crosses an awful lot of national borders, and I doubt if there’s any fist-pumping headbanger types who couldn’t get down with Argus. They’re as classically-styled as classically-styled gets, and they delivered in force at Roadburn.Argus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They were dug into the particularly Trouble-y “Pieces of Your Smile” when I made my way over to the main hall for Chicago instrumental four-piece Bongripper. Now, it would’ve been awfully nice to see those dudes kick the living crap out of their latest album, 2014’s Miserable (review here), way back on Thursday night, but they were going on late and, well, you know the story, with the typing and the clacky-clacky and whatnot. Fine. No way in gosh darn heck was I going to miss my second chance to see guitarists Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham, bassist Ron Petzke — with whom I shared a cab to Tilburg from Schiphol Airport on Wednesday — and drummer Daniel O’Connor bludgeon all in their path with volume and raw, plodding riffs. With a formidable stack of amps and cabinets behind them, Bongripper tore into a swath of material, a crowd having shown up early to get a good spot for the punishment they knew was in store.

Seeing Bongripper live is like being swallowed by sound. Like if sound had a mouth — maybe the mouth from the front cover of Miserable would suffice, if you need an image — and that mouth ate you. A beastly barrage of riffs and tonal thunder, all of this maddening heft pushed onto the audience in an unrelenting assault. They ended by wailing on their instruments Bongripper (Photo by JJ Koczan)in time to O’Connor‘s crashes, a kind of violent assault on their equipment that fed into the thick wall of noise built up, the packed Main Stage room nodding in unison. The band stopped short of taking a bow when they were done, but no one would’ve been able to say they didn’t deserve to do so. It’s a primal element of doom and sludge and stoner riffing that Bongripper feeds into, fattens, and then slaughters, but the grungus is mighty in what they do and spread out on the wide stage, it was as much an art project as a wanton beatdown. Even their feedback was a weapon.

I’d run into Ohio’s Lo-Pan earlier in the day. They’re on tour with Abrahma now, have been for a couple nights, and like a lot of US heavy bands who come to tour Europe for the first time, I think they’ve been impressed at the show culture. People show up, bands aren’t treated like crap, and it’s a generally cared-for situation, something precious done in a general public interest. The crew workingLo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan) at the 013 as a part of Roadburn are second to none in professionalism or hospitality, and so it seemed reasonable to me the band would be singularly impressed. All the better for the show, which is both the intent and precisely how it worked out when they went on in the Green Room at 18.30. They were clashing with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, but I’ve been itching for Lo-Pan to make a debut at Roadburn since they put out Salvador (review here) early in 2011. Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t miss them anyway. I’ll go see Lo-Pan just about any night of the week, but I knew this one was going to be special.

Of course, it was. “El Dorado” from Salvador opened and “Regulus” from last fall’s rager Colossus (review here) followed, the band immediately on fire. It was my first time seeing them with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, who came aboard in Nov. 2014 to fill the role formerly held down by Brian Fristoe. A new Lo-Pan, in a new place with new energy and even a new song in the set, there was nothing not to like. They were so tight it hurt With vocalist Jeff Martin set up in back behind drummer Jesse Bartz as per usual, Zambrano on stage left and bassist Scott Thompson on stage right, Lo-Pan were a heavy rock and roll force. Zambrano brought a little showmanship and style to the riffs and solos, and where Bartz and Thompson have always hit it hard on stage and the guitar was a more subdued presence (nothing against that whatsoever), having Zambrano headbanging away, tapping on the frets while throwing his pick-hand behind him, tossingLo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan) a leg up on the monitor and so on both reinforced the energetic character of the band, as well as the material, and made it all the more exciting.

Speaking of headbanging, I did. It was among the best sets I’ve seen Lo-Pan play — lights, sound, performance, you name it — and yeah, I was getting into it a bit. I wound up banging my head into one of the monitors at the front of the stage early into the set. No blood, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ve got a bump sticking out of my forehead now and I expect by the time I get off the plane tomorrow in Boston it’ll be a good-size bruise. Easy enough to laugh it off and keep going, even if it’s a little sore when I raise my eyebrows, which I apparently do all the time. That’s how you find out that kind of thing.

Anyway, point is it was so, so, so, so good to see Lo-Pan. Not only because they’re one of American heavy rock’s best bands — I’ve called them the finest in US fuzz for pretty much the last four years — and not only because they killed it and put on a stellar show, but because they did it here, as a part of Roadburn 2015, looking across the stage at each other and challenging themselves to play better, harder than they have before. Their first European tour comes after countless US slogs and will hopefully lead to more, but it seems likely to me they’re going to remember this one, and I’m glad to have stayed through “Eastern Seas” and “The Duke” to watch them hammer down their victory. I’d been looking forward Abrahma (Photo by JJ Koczan)to it since they were announced, and it warmed my cold, dead heart to see them kick so much ass.

Their tourmates from Paris and Small Stone labelmates, Abrahma, were going on shortly down the block at Cul de Sac, which is right in the stretch of bars on Heuvelstraat adjacent to the 013 that for I don’t even remember how many years now I’ve been calling Weirdo Canyon (hence the Dispatch). The relatively small club is where the Hard Rock Hideout was held on Wednesday (review here), and I like the room a lot, so it seemed perfect to follow Lo-Pan with Abrahma and head over. Already they were on stage when I got there, dug into what turned out to be their soundcheck, but with the lights up, I snapped a few pictures just in case when they actually started they decided to play in the dark, as pretty much every band I’ve ever seen in that space has done. Abrahma, however, dared to be different.

In keeping, their upcoming second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review/track stream here), does likewise, pushing into moodier, somewhat less psychedelic territory than their 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here). Their set, which was actually just about split between the two records and leaned slightly toward the new one,Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan) was surprisingly heavy. Very riffy, very big in tone. Not quite to the level of Floor-syle bombdropping, but not far off either. As a frontman, Sebastien Bismuth was charismatic and engaging, banging his head harder than many and managing not to injure himself in the process unless you count an almost certain sore neck tomorrow, and joined by drummer Fred Quota for this tour along with bassist Guillaume Colin and guitarist Nicolas Heller, their sudden bursts of weighted groove hit with an impressive, genuine impact. As their songwriting continues to grow and become more complex, I’ll be interested to see how that impact evolves.

A prudent move would’ve been to stay longer, but even though it’s the AfterburnerRoadburn means time to move. Anathema would soon be on the Main Stage, playing a special set allotted 130 minutes that was being called “Resonance” and which started with the eponymous “Anathema” from last year’s Distant Satellites and working backwards through their discography. The Cavanagh brothers, Vincent (lead vocals, guitar), Danny (guitar, backing vocals) and Jamie (bass) were down front of the stage with drummer Daniel Cardoso and keyboardist/programmer John Douglas on risers behind, and over the course of their time, current vocalist Lee Douglas made intermittent appearances — a striking one for “A Natural Disaster” lit, at the band’s request, only by cellphone lights from the crowd, as seen on the cover of their 2013 DVD, Universal — and former bassist Duncan Patterson and former vocalist Darren White both showed up the farther along Anathema went, deeper Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan)and deeper still into their 25-year history.

They’re doing a short “Resonance” tour, are Anathema, but Roadburn 2015 was the first night, and the first time White had been on stage with the band in 20 years. Something special, no doubt. Here’s a fun fact, though: I love that band. Along with Amorphis, who were playing through the main hall P.A. just before Anathema went on, Anathema were one of the acts that led me into exploring underground metal, and ultimately — so the story goes — selling my soul to Tony Iommi at the expense of career, well-being and, this week, sleep. No complaints. But while Anathema are a pivotal band for me personally, a landmark act without whom I genuinely don’t believe I’d be the same person, I also fall into a rarer category of Anathema fan. It’s not their early stuff that I got into back when I was in high school. Not 1995’s Pentecost III, from which “Kingdom” and “Mine is Yours to Drown In (Ours is the New Tribe)” were aired at the start of what would be a third individual component set in the longer runtime, and not even the album The Silent Enigma, which followed it that same year, powerful though “Sunset of Age” and “A Dying Wish” were.

I have those records, and I dig those records a lot, but what got me into Anathema is their often-overlooked middle period: 1998’s Alternative 4, 1999’s Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster. When I’m reaching for an Anathema album — as I invariably do in a depressive Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan)fit as I wallow in my own filth and worthlessness because I’m just the right kind of emotional cripple that music offers comfort I apparently can’t allow myself to feel otherwise; whoops — those are what I go for, and when Vincent led the way into “Pressure” from A Fine Day to Exit and “One Last Goodbye” from Judgement tonight, those were the songs that had me tearing up. No bullshit, bringing Darren White out was incredible. Clearly charged up to be on stage with the band in the context of headlining at Roadburn 2015, he settled in and nailed the dramatic chorus of “Kingdom” — shades of Fields of the Nephilim influence showing themselves — and led the band through the finish of their professionally polished but still emotionally potent set, “Sleepless” from Anathema‘s 1993 debut, Serenades, closing out.

This was the Anathema show I’ve been dreaming of, covering their whole career, but their mid-period, pre-prog, post-doom, was what hit me the hardest, the first four cuts from Alternative 4 played with Patterson on bass to morose and atmospheric effect. They could’ve done a third hour, easily, and I might have The Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan)stayed for it if they did.

As it was, time was ticking away. One more stop to make, and it was back in the Green Room of the 013 for Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass, whose 2014 self-titled debut (review here) has only grown in my esteem since it was released. They’re a reminder of home for me, the East Coast, New York and all that, so they were perfect to close out my own little version of Roadburn. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Morgan McDaniel are on tour with Hypnos, who’d wrapped a bit earlier at the Cul de Sac, and though I knew I wouldn’t be there the whole time, I wanted to catch at least a bit of their sunshine boogie to help make the thought of walking out of Roadburn 2015, taking off my wristband and coming back to the hotel to put this last review together not quite such a bum-out. By the time they were through “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” and into a newer song I didn’t know, a bum-out was out of the question. Nothing but good vibes the whole way as I said a few quick goodbyes andThe Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan) walked down the stretch of Weirdo Canyon, a little quieter Sunday than Saturday, but by no means abandoned. I owe The Golden Grass one for that.

Strange to think that “tomorrow” (read: in three hours) when I get up to shower early and head out, it’ll be to the airport instead of the 013 office to bang out another issue of the Weirdo Canyon DispatchRoadburn develops its own culture so quickly each year, and the more and more I’m fortunate enough to come see Tilburg in the springtime, the more it feels like home.

I’ll have another post up to close out this series and say thanks and whatnot, so until then, I’ll just say the same thing I always say: More pics after the jump and thanks for reading.

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