Ripple Music, DHU Records, Kozmik Artifactz & Twin Earth Records Team up for 2LP Compilation Skull Mountain

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

skull mountain cover

As an old friend used to say — SCENE UNITY! As someone who lives in fear of corralling even one label’s worth of bands onto a sampler, the notion of the logistics involved with Skull Mountain feels like the stuff of anxiety dreams on the part of those making it happen. And yet, the bold souls at Ripple Music, Kozmik Artifactz, Twin Earth Records and DHU Records have come together across continents to make it happen, and a 500-copies-pressed 2LP four-way label sampler split featuring all previously unreleased tracks and versions is the result. I shouldn’t have to tell you this is something special, something that doesn’t happen every day, and something that might not happen again.

And yet, it’s so emblematic of the moment in which the heavy rock underground finds itself today. Time was when labels like Ripple and Kozmik Artifactz would be too busy competing and trying to poach each other’s bands to team up on a joint multi-artist venture, and to have DHU and Twin Earth on board as well only affirms the passion and the taste at heart in what these people are doing. It’s not about who can be the biggest, or who can make the most money. It’s about love of the music and about wanting to support those who make it and, in this case, teaming up to reach as broad an audience as possible so that everyone benefits.

16 bands, four sides of two platters and one deeply, deeply admirable project, Skull Mountain releases on June 16 with preorders beginning today at the times listed in the flyer below.

Beneath that, you can see the official announcement of the release and the complete tracklisting. Kudos to everyone involved on every level in making this one happen.

From the PR wire:

skull mountain poster

Over a year in the making! Perhaps the world’s first Four-Label collaborative effort to bring together some of the best heavy psych, stoner, doom from both sides of the Atlantic. Two US-based labels, Ripple Music and Twin Earth Records, join forces with two European-based labels, DHU Records and Kozmik Artifactz to bring forth a double album of epic proportions, something so massive it could only have its own monolith, Skull Mountain.

Each Label showcases one full album side of its signature sound, each song previously unreleased or unreleased mix. The entire album mastered to perfection by Tony Reed at HeavyHead.

Inside the gatefold, Tarot cards display the four element theme of Skull Mountain with each Label represented by its own signature element, Ripple-Water; Twin Earth-Earth, DHU- Fire, and Kozmik- Air. Accordingly, each label has a limited amount of vinyl available in its own signature elemental color, Ripple-Blue, Twin Earth – Green, DHU-Red, and Kozmik- Clear

That’s right! Only 500 of these stunning 2xLP albums were pressed, with each label only having 125 in its signature color. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

An epic introduction into the worlds of North American and European heavy music. A monumental journey to Skull Mountain

Track Listing:

Side Ripple
The Watchers – Starfire (Cosmic Nebula mix)
Kingnomad – Dewer’s Hollow
Blackwulf – The Tempest (Black Tide mix)
Vokonis – Celestial Embrace

Side Twin Earth
Alastor – Blood on Satan’s Claw
Kabbalah – Abomination
Starts that Move – Give It All Away
Haunted – Crossmoth

Side D.H.U.
Disenchanter – More Evil Than Thou
Dawn – Day of the Lord
Witch Ritual – Drawing Down the Moon
Youngblood Supercult – Sticky Fingers

Side Kozmik
The Heavy Eyes – Home
Devil Electric – Devil’s Bells
Red Spektor – Devil’s Keeper
Hair of the Dog – My Only Home

Each label has 125 copies in its own color available on its own site.

www.ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com
http://twinearthrecords.storenvy.com
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/

The Watchers, “Starfire” (original version) official video

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audiObelisk Transmission 065

Posted in Podcasts on February 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

aOT65

I recognize that saying so is the cliché equivalent to writing a song with the same bassline as ‘N.I.B.,’ but if this was December and not February and the year was about to end in a couple weeks’ time, would you really be able to complain about any lack of fantastic releases? It’s been two months and before the next one is out we will have seen and heard new offerings from Corrosion of Conformity, Monster Magnet, Earthless, Fu Manchu and literally hundreds of others. It’s been as awesome as it’s been impossible to keep up with.

This new podcast follows the same model as the last one, vis-a-vis using Spotify as the medium of conveyance. You can see the playlist in the player below, and you may accordingly wonder why I’ve bothered to type it out underneath as well. It’s because streaming sites disappear even quicker than they rise to dominance, and I’m not saying The Obelisk is going to outlast Spotify or anything, but just in case, I like to keep my own records. I appreciate the indulgence on your part.

Awesome mix this time around. No real theme other than it’s new stuff I’ve been listening to a lot and digging. I very much hope you enjoy it as well. 21 tracks. About two and a half hours long.

Thanks for listening and reading:

Track details:

Artist, Track, Album, Runtime
Earthless, “Black Heaven” from Black Heaven, 8:45
Sundrifter, “Targeted” from Visitations, 4:45
Psilocibina, “Acid Jam” from LSD / Acid Jam, 7:08
Blackwater Holylight, “Sunrise” from Blackwater Holylight, 4:51
Fu Manchu, “Clone of the Universe” from Clone of the Universe, 2:57
Green Lung, “Free the Witch” from Free the Witch, 5:55
Monster Magnet, “Mindfucker” from Mindfucker, 4:59
All Souls, “Never Know” from All Souls, 5:59
Red Lama, “Perfect Strangers” from Motions, 6:47
Blackwülf, “Sinister Sides” from Sinister Sides, 4:53
Fuzz Lord, “Worlds Collide” from Fuzz Lord, 6:58
Corrosion of Conformity, “Forgive Me” from No Cross No Crown, 4:06
Apostle of Solitude, “Ruination Be Thy Name” from From Gold to Ash, 6:37
Avon, “Space Native” from Dave’s Dungeon, 4:42
Psychic Lemon, “Exit to the Death Lane” from Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, 8:32
The Dry Mouths, “Catalonian Cream” from When the Water Smells of Sweat, 4:34
Insect Ark, “Windless” from Marrow Hymns, 8:38
Naxatras, “You Won’t Be Left Alone” from III, 11:17
Mythic Sunship, “Into Oblivion” from Upheaval, 13:56
King Buffalo, “Repeater” from Repeater, 13:40
Hound the Wolves, “Masquerade” from Camera Obscura, 13:10

If you’re interested, you can follow me on Spotify here.

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Review & Video Premiere: Blackwülf, Sinister Sides

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on February 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Blackwülf sinister sides

[Click play above to view the premiere of Blackwülf’s video for the title-track of their new LP, Sinister Sides. Album is out Feb. 26 on Ripple Music.]

Indeed, it is a darker, moodier and perhaps even more sinister aspect of themselves demonstrated by Oakland heavy rockers Blackwülf on their second album for Ripple Music and third overall, Sinister Sides. The four-piece — who may or may not have ditched the umlaut since their last outing, 2015’s Oblivion Cycle (review here) — refine their periodically aggressive take on heavy rock with punker and classically metallic roots throughout the neatly-executed eight tracks and 40 minutes of Sinister Sides and one can find songwriting growth in the employment of a diverse set of vibes, whether that comes in the early Alice in Chains snarl of opener “Gate of Sorrow,” its side B companion “Blind to Fate” and the subsequent Blind-era C.O.C. groove of “The Tempest,” the semi-acoustic “Waiting on Tomorrow,” which seems to owe part of its aesthetic to Down‘s “Landing on the Mountains of Meggido” and part to Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath balladry, or the subsequent “Dead to the World,” which reignites a doomly focus in transposing the central riff of Sabbath‘s “Children of the Grave” to suit the band’s own political purposes.

Those include, one is obliged to note, a guest appearance from Geof O’Keefe, whose presence — and tone — hangs heavily throughout Sinister Sides, giving it all the more of that sinister feel. The founding member of Pentagram and Bedemon shows up on three cuts in total: the post-opener title-track, as well as “Sinister Sides” and the album’s penultimate inclusion, which is a beefed-up take on Cream‘s “Sunshine of Your Love,” and while I’m not sure the latter’s heavy hippie blues is really suited to the crunch with which it’s delivered, it obviously puts to rest any doubt about the band’s roots in classic heavy rock and sounds like they had a blast in the studio putting it together.

If, say, you’ve had a miserable cold for the last week and continue to feel resoundingly shitty — just as a happenstance — you’ll no doubt want to aim your sneezes elsewhere from O’Keefe‘s guest spots. That is to say, among those who know enough to know, dude is kind of a big deal. And having him in for one song would be a considerable coup on the band’s part, but his playing on three separate tracks spread throughout the record — two on side A, one on side B, assuming the vinyl splits the tracklisting in half, which works timing-wise — also puts Sinister Sides at considerable risk as regards the work done by frontman Alex Cunningham, guitarist Peter Holmes, bassist Scott Peterson, and drummer Dave Pankenier being outshined by the pedigree of O’Keefe. It’s a credit to the band that they’re not, and not only that, but it’s a credit to the band that O’Keefe‘s showcase tracks — yes, even that Cream cover — are fluidly integrated with the rest of the material.

blackwulf

Part of that success stems from the work done by the opening salvo of “Gate of Sorrow,” “Sinister Sides” and “Waiting on Tomorrow,” which offer three distinct and seemingly disparate styles between them while nonetheless maintaining a fluidity of their approach. Songwriting? Confidence? Sheer performance? Whatever lets the band do it, they move from aggro grunge-infused heavy rock to spirited traditional doom and into acoustic-minded ’80 metallurgy in a manner that more or less allows the remaining five tracks to go where they please. A scope has been set. It’s not as off-the-wall genre-bending or experimentalist as some other might be, but nor is it intended as such. Blackwülf‘s interest with Sinister Sides isn’t so much to reshape heavy rock and/or doom in their own image, but to draw elements from those sounds and others like the NWOBHM and punk and ’90s alternative to create something of their ow from them.

I’d argue that as their third full-length — reasonable to expect as a moment of arrival for any band who are going to have one — Sinister Sides comes out a winner in that effort. By the same token, I don’t think Blackwülf are finished with the process of refinement clearly at work in these tracks. “Gate of Sorrow,” the more dramatic vibe of closer “Battle Line” — which doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere in part because of the work “Waiting on Tomorrow” does earlier on the record — and even “Sinister Sides” itself belong thoroughly to them, and the fact that Blackwülf step so boldly forward to claim this array of styles as their own, informing their listeners one track at a time that this is who they are as a band some six years on from their founding, speaks indeed to Sinister Sides being that stated moment of arrival for them.

As the doomly swing of “Dead to the World” and the darker-hued shuffle in the rhythm of “The Tempest” show, there’s no shortage of commitment to definition that’s been made by Blackwülf here, but it’s hard to see where the band are beholden to anything other than their penchant for memorable structures and crisp, precise execution of their material. Sinister Sides finds Blackwülf not only keeping good company, but working diligently to push themselves forward as well, and while that may not be what the ultimate narrative of the album centers around — even I have to admit “Geof O’Keefe plays on this record” makes for a catchy lead — anyone who actually takes the time to dig into these songs will discover that it’s Blackwülf themselves who come out on the other side of the proceedings sounding stronger than ever before. A touch of villainy suits them. One hopes they continue down such a multifaceted yet cohesive path.

Blackwülf website

Blackwülf on Bandcamp

Blackwülf on Thee Facebooks

Blackwülf on Twitter

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Twitter

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Blackwulf to Release New Album Sinister Sides & Perform at SXSW with Geof O’Keefe

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

blackwulf

In case you were wondering what ‘keeping good company’ looks like, it probably looks something like bringing Pentagram/Bedemon founder Geof O’Keefe onstage with you to perform at the release show for your new album (on which he also appears) at SXSW this March in Austin, Texas. The laudable move will be undertaken by Oakland aggro heavy rockers Blackwulf as they look to follow-up 2015’s Oblivion Cycle with their next album for Ripple Music, dubbed Sinister Sides. New Year’s Day would seem to be as good a time to make the announcement as any, so what the hell.

You might recall Bedemon released the Symphony of Shadows (discussed here) full-length in 2012 and went on to play Psycho California in 2015 with Wino in the frontman role alongside O’Keefe (interview here). 2015 also saw Relapse reissue the collection Child of Darkness of classic material from the band first founded in 1973.

Blackwulf makes the association public thusly:

BLACKWULF – SINISTER SIDES

The sold-out successes of 2015’s “Oblivion Cycle” (Ripple Music) and 2014’s “Mind Traveler” (Wickerman) releases prompted metal luminaries as mighty as Lars Ulrich (Metallica) and Geof O’Keefe (original Pentagram) to pick up on copies of the albums and publicly name check the band.

Combining vintage ‘70s head banging riffs with doom cloaked soundscapes and vintage heavy metal and hard rock, BLACKWULF is bracing for even greater heights of heaviness with their upcoming Ripple Music follow-up release, “Sinister Sides”. The eight-song album comes complete with gatefold and colored vinyl, and finds the ‘Wulf ambitiously venturing farther afield, deep into extended vintage hard rock sonic jams and dark breakdowns, all the while keeping one matted paw within their established heavy headbanging riff songwriting approach.

The band, unchanged from its original lineup since 2012, features singer Alex Cunningham, guitarist Pete Holmes, bassist Scott Peterson, and drummer Dave Pankenier.
Something classic is made new again: joining BLACKWULF on “Sinister Sides” as a special guest lead guitarist is doom legend Geof O’Keefe, one of the founding members of Pentagram and Bedemon.

O’Keefe’s discovery and subsequent affinity for the band led Blackwulf to invite him to play some lead guitar (and even a gong!) as a special guest on “Sinister Sides”.

O’Keefe’s trademark doom vibrato and vintage guitar heaviness is featured on three tracks on the album: “Dead to the World”, “Sinister Sides” and a blistering cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”.

The chemistry is next level: O’Keefe is “very happy with what resulted” and hails the new Blackwulf album as “easily their best result to date, with extremely strong material and arrangements…the production is superb”. Additionally, O’Keefe will be storming the stage alongside the band at the official Ripple Music showcase at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas in March 2018.

Blackwulf’s “Sinister Sides” will be officially released at the South by Southwest Festival, and the band will support it taking to the road, with gigs across the US and jumping across to the UK for a short run anchored by an appearance at Desertfest London in May 2018.

www.blackwulfusa.com
www.blackwulfusa.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/blackwulfusa
www.twitter.com/blackwulfusa
ripple-music.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
youtube.com/user/GroovesandRipples/
twitter.com/RippleMusic

Blackwulf, Oblivion Cycle (2015)

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Desertfest London 2018 Adds High on Fire, Church of Misery, The Obsessed, Black Rainbows, Death Alley, Akercocke and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Bit of a stunner announcement from Desertfest London 2018, whose third headliner arrives in the form of High on Fire celebrating their 20th anniversary, and who’ll be joined at the Camden Town festival by doom legends The Obsessed, Japan’s number one riff export Church of Misery, plus Italian forerunners Black Rainbows, UK devil worshiping extremists Akercocke, Dutch proto-specialists Death Alley and more.

Look. I post a lot of fest updates. I mean, a lot. This is one of three slated for today, for example. Rarely does an announcement immediately up the game of a given event like this one does for Desertfest London 2018. With High on Fire completing the triumvirate of headliners alongside Monster Magnet and Graveyard, and The Obsessed and Church of Misery joining EyehategodNapalm DeathWeedeaterElderNebula and Warning on the next tier, the festival’s seventh edition moves into nigh-unfuckwithable terrain. Kudos to Desertfest on outdoing itself once again in 2018.

From the PR wire:

desertfest london 2018 square banner

DESERTFEST LONDON announce final headliner High On Fire and more acts to join the 2018 edition!

DESERTFEST LONDON announce High On Fire as final headliner and further acts to join the likes of Monster Magnet, Graveyard, Napalm Death, Eyehategod and many more to set the riff party in Camden on May 4-6th, 2018.

The final headliner for Desertfest London 2018 is an act fronted by a man who is no stranger to the DF family and all it encompasses, having headlined last year’s proceedings with one of his many musical outlets Sleep: living legend Matt Pike returns to Camden with the mighty HIGH ON FIRE. Formed in Oakland, California in 1998, the heavy metal trio have perfected their feel-good, balls-out and take-no-prisoner sound. HOF’s sludgy-thrash vibrations are an unstoppable wrecking force, with seven seminal albums under their belt; we are more than ready for the HOF tidal wave to hit.

Doom-rock trailblazers THE OBSESSED will make their first UK appearance next May after their two-decade long hiatus. Having recently reformed and playing shows met with critical acclaim, this will truly be a set to remember, and it is an honour to finally play host to one of the most iconic bands of our time.

Also returning to UK shores are Japanese overlords CHURCH OF MISERY, always delivering staggering live performances, the trio are a constant welcome addition to Desertfest. Their riff-filled, horror inspired sound has risen to fresh heights with new singer Hiroyuki Takano at the helm.

Space leaders BLACK RAINBOWS are crashing into town, fuelled by the power of hard rock and insanely good riffs. The Italian psych-fuzz trio have been storming through the cosmos for the last 10 years, their expert fusion of slick 70’s swagger with a 90’s stoner-grunge tint make them one of the most talked about and respected acts of their kind across Europe. Straight up, fuzzing good times. Speaking of heavy, London extreme metal masters AKERCOCKE are heading to familiar grounds to bring their perfected devilry to eager ears!

Dutch destroyers and feel good heroes DEATH ALLEY will bring their rock’n’roll, punked up party to Desertfest 2018. A nod to times gone past, the band plays proto-metal psychedelic music with a slab of heavy metal chucked in for good measure – if you want energy, look no further. Acclaimed newcomers PUPPY, who have been on hot on the lips of the London scene for some time now, is another welcome addition. They are hard to label but a true must-watch!

Also making up the bill are Bay Area fuzz-lovers THE WATCHERS, UK favourite psych demons OLD MAN LIZARD, Oakland’s stoner rock stalwarts BLACKWÜLF, Mancunian groove leaders PIST and heavy doom harbourers MORASS OF MOLASSES.

Desertfest London 2018
4th-6th May in Camden Town, London
3-day pass (£115) now on sale AT THIS LOCATION

Our special split payment plan is available until December 12th!
Pay half of your ticket now and the other half in January. Find more info HERE.

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

High on Fire, “Devilution” Live at Roskilde 2017

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Total Coverage: Borderland Fuzz Fiesta Night Two, Tucson, Arizona, 02.27.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

borderland-fuzz-fiesta-final-poster

Another night on the Southwestern front. What portion of the day I hadn’t spent writing, I spent huddled up in a tired mass, the hotel curtain drawn to keep out a punishingly hot desert sun. My excuse was I was saving energy for the show, but I think really I might’ve just been afraid of melting in unfamiliar terrain. Before I rolled back into 191 Toole for the second night of Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016, I walked through a little bit of downtown Tucson — or what seemed to be downtown Tucson, anyhow — and grabbed a cup of coffee and an iced tea.

People outside, in shorts, enjoying the weather and each other’s company. Sitting outside of restaurants and markets, speaking English, Spanish, some mixture of the two. Awesome. Families with babies, couples, singles, loners, and me and my coffee lumbering back toward 6th St. Doors were 6:30, first band 7PM. I found fest organizers Joey and Wayne Rudell of Fuzz Evil near the back of the venue in a conversational round with much the same group as yesterday as bands were making their way in. Immediately it was more crowded than night one had been, and only became more so as bands swapped back and forth between the floor and the main stage.

That process was smoother than it had been on the first night of the fest, somewhat expectedly, but I think a big part of that was that everyone showed up. No food poisoning. So it was easier to get a sense of what Wayne and Joey — both sociable, friendly, gracious guys, but with different enough personalities that one imagines they could’ve had some real knock-down-drag-outs as kids — were going for in structuring the lineup, moving from the desert to crunchier fare and finally out among spaces so vast that they might as well be space itself. We’ll get there.

Once again, the show featured the fantastic talents of Lance Gordon and Mad Alchemy. Things seen and heard:

Sounds Like Murder

sounds like murder 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Each night of Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 featured two bands from Arizona. Phoenix trio Sounds Like Murder lead off the second night of the fest with gritty metallic push. Sounds more like riffs than murder, but they got their point across. Vocalist/bassist Dirty had the low-garble vocal thing going, and he wouldn’t be the last of the night, and could barely be understood talking between songs — in my head I heard David Huddleston call it “authentic frontier gibberish” — but while much of their output came from the post-Down school of dudely chug, they had some funk in their opener that showed there was more going on under the surface. That may have come via Clutch, it was hard to tell from the stage, but either way, the place was more crowded early and the Southern style Sounds Like Murder proffered effectively foreshadowed Switchblade Jesus‘ set later on and Dirty, guitarist Irish Mike and drummer Opie had a strong idea of what they were going for, even going so far as to add some throat singing at the end of “1340,” which was a genuine surprise.

Dandy Brown

dandy brown 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A quick swap in vibe brought up Dandy Brown, guitarist for Hermano, playing with a solo band. A double-guitar four-piece who would share bassist Damien Lautiero with Waxy later on, they ran through a set of fluid desert rock, brought a crowd with them, and emphasized quality songcraft from the very start in swaps between restraint and letting go. Brown himself seemed right at home in classic structures, familiar but not necessarily derivative, and his and the other guitar meshed fluidly throughout the songs, also adding backup vocals on “The Sleeper.” While they were still playing, I wondered if they had records for sale — even better, turned out they had CDs for free; I grabbed two — and though they didn’t have time to get to their planned cover of Floyd‘s “Astronomy Domine,” that spirit came through nonetheless. In front of the stage, kids played while wearing earmuffs, giving the set even more of a wholesome feel as Brown worked in his John Garcia-style croon and the righteously laid back feel of “Santa Fe Trail” before new song “This World” finished out. Hermano reportedly have new stuff in the works, following up on 2007’s underrated Into the Exam Room, but whenever/whether it comes to fruition, that spirit was served and represented well at Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016.

Cloud Catcher

cloud catcher 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Denver trio Cloud Catcher damn near ran away with this entire festival. I mean it. I dug the hell out of their debut album, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here and here), and was thrilled to find that the live delivery was no less vigorous. Guitarist/vocalist Rory Rummings, bassist Kam Wenworth and drummer Jared Handman were only on the second night of an 11-show tour, but they were air tight through upbeat twists and tempo changes, dead on grooves culled from ’70s giants transposed onto thick tones and shredding leads, propulsive crash and rumble. When they’re done with this tour, they’ll record a new album — exactly the right time to do it — which they should send everywhere, because frankly I can’t imagine some label wouldn’t want to pick them up based on what I heard. They posted a demo for “Celestial Empress” last month, and that song was aired along with “Visions” and others from the forthcoming release. Watching the crowd have its ass handed to it, I couldn’t help but hope they expand their geographic reach for the sophomore LP, because while Cloud Catcher had the West Coast heavy thing down, set-finale “Righteous Ruin” shifted from its twists and turns into a big, bluesy slowdown that showed they’re bringing even more of themselves to the table. Hands were up for high fives before they even finished playing the song, and rightly so.

Waxy

waxy 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

By the time Waxy — the Palm Desert-dwelling trio of guitarist/vocalist Robbie Owen. Damien Lautiero and drummer Jeff Bowman (Unsound) — took the stage, the momentum of the night was set. Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 was moving quickly, but smoothly, and Waxy would follow-up on the desert stylizations of Dandy Brown with more solidly constructed desert rock, delving into an earlier Queens of the Stone Age vibe, which of course is nothing to complain about. Their latest album, Without Any Explanation Why (get it? W-A-X-Y?), was released in 2014, and “Motorcade” from it (also from their 2007 debut, Chainsaw Holiday) was a highlight, richly toned and catchy in a Kyuss-style mid-paced push. Laid back until they weren’t, they effectively switched up moods while keeping a steady flow throughout, Lautiero backing Owen effectively despite being a little low in the mix at first. That got worked out as they went on toward “Disaster” from their 2011 self-titled second record, which of course was anything but, as they provided a last look at the desert before the evening dipped into harder-edged fare. I don’t know if they’re planning a new release, but they were an easy sell for the crowd, myself included.

Blackwülf

blackwulf 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back on the floor stage, Oakland aggro punk-metallers Blackwülf boasted both the weekend’s only umlaut and the weekend’s only standalone frontman (apart from Sean Wheeler guesting in Fatso Jetson) in Alex Cunningham, and even he had a tambourine and some maracas on-hand. They made their Ripple Music debut late last year with Oblivion Cycle (review here), their second offering overall, from which the hook of “Never Forget” stood out thanks in no small part to its fist-pumping riff. Guitarist Pete Holmes, bassist Scott Peterson and drummer Dave Pankenier fostered a tense vibe under Cunningham‘s shouts, sneers and singing, but wanted nothing for tonal heft either in “Faith Healer” or “Acid Reign,” the creeping guitar progression of which felt less “South of Heaven” live than on record. Their set seemed to end abruptly. Not sure if they got cut off for time or were just done quick — seemed like some acts played it looser than others when it came to how much time they spent on stage, as will happen — but it felt short, which I took as an encouraging sign either way. Everything they played came from Oblivion Cycle, and in addition to the accent in their name and the lack of a guitar or bass in Cunningham‘s hands, they were also distinguished by being clearly the angriest band of the fest. They won the title outright, and then, presumably, stomped on it because they were so pissed off.

Switchblade Jesus

switchblade jesus 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Blackwülf may have been the angriest band of the two nights, but Switchblade Jesus I think were the loudest. I didn’t have a dB meter to confirm that or anything, but god damn, the Corpus Christi, Texas-based four-piece were loud. Most notably in Jason Beers‘ bass. The punch of his Gibson Thunderbird came through the 191 Toole room mix in full assault, and the effect was that the dual guitars of Billy Guerra (who played on the dark side of the stage) and Eric Calvert (also vocals) sounded viscous as they conjured dudely chug, nasty and grooving. Burl. All the burl. Songs about whiskey. Drummer Jon Elizondo, encased in shadow behind Calvert, served as the foundation on which all of it was laid, and to go along with “The Wolves” and “Sick Mouth” from their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), which was subsequently reissued via both Kozmik Artifactz and Ripple Music in 2014 and 2015, they had a host of new material in “Snakes,” “Bastard,” the plus-sized nod of “Wet Lungs” and closer “Mountain” to show where they’re at now. Their cap was preceded by Calvert asking the crowd “You want it heavy or what?” The answer was clear as they brought it for “Mountain,” its rolling chorus sure to catch attention when their next record shows up.

Fuzz Evil

fuzz evil 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before Fuzz Evil started their set proper, brothers Wayne Rudell and Joey Rudell — also the showrunners for Borderland Fuzz Fiesta — took a couple minutes for a guitar and bass jam. Drummer Marlin Tuttle seemed to have loaned some drum hardware to Switchblade Jesus, so the changeover wasn’t as immediate, and while they may have just been filling time noodling, that jam came to inform everything they played thereafter, resulting in a much more psychedelic set than I expected from either their 2015 single “Born of Iron” (streamed here) or prior 2014 split with Chiefs, both of which were more straightforward. That surprise made it for me. It was a thrill to see Joey, his machine-gun bass held aloft, and Wayne, his guitar coated in tone worthy of the band’s name, work side by side to carry across a set of mostly new material. As to when they might get around to a full-length debut, they weren’t forthcoming, but I’ll hope they capture some of that impromptu spirit, because as it blended with their established penchant for fuzzy hooks and driving, straightforward songs — see the swinging “Glitterbones” — it made their time on stage that much richer to experience. They moved the progression of the evening away from the burl of Switchblade Jesus and provided a transition into Yawning Man still to come, but more than that, they gave the assembled crowd, which included Dead Meadow, who showed up to watch, a set worthy of headliners while at the same time not being afraid to smile onstage and actively have a good time. Mirroring their start, they ended with an effects-drenched jam, Wayne twisting pedal knobs while Joey and Marlin held the flow together, so that in addition to having put on a killer show, Fuzz Evil put on a killer show. Go figure.

Yawning Man

yawning man 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Yawning Man before (review here), so in a conceptual sense I knew what was coming, but until I stood there and had the bliss of tone provided by the guitars of Gary Arce and special guests Mario Lalli and Dino von Lalli (both Fatso Jetson) oozing forth from the stage, I don’t think I really had any idea. All three were recognizable, clear in the mix — which, taken with the keys of Malene Arce (also LewdFlesh), the bass of Justine Summer Heaven and Bill Stinson‘s cymbal wash, felt like a friggin’ miracle — and each added something different, Dino holding down rhythms, Mario tearing into leads and Gary finger-plucking strings to emit serenity through his years-in-the-making tone, as signature to the desert as sand and dry air. Long a power trio, as a six-piece, Yawning Man bordered on orchestral, and while parts were definitely recognizable, a good portion of their time was spent moving into, through and back out of open jamming, keys adding to the airy feel and Stinson and Heaven and sometimes Dino marking out a rhythmic terrain and holding firm while Arce and Mario traded adventurous leads. It was glorious. Liquid enough that you wanted to swim in it, warm enough that you wanted to get a sunburn, and raw and creatively vital. Glances from Arce and Mario guided the band through peaks and valleys in new song “Wind Cries Linn” (streamed here), its core guitar lines memorable and built outward on stage, and “Dark Meet” from the band’s 2013 split with Fatso Jetson was the foundation for an extended final jam, Dino keeping a start-stop rhythm line that gave a progressive, languid space rock vibe. The crowd had thinned out by then, but those who remained knew they were seeing and hearing something special. Yawning Man carried that jam up, down and around again, deconstructing it only to put it together again, Mario pulling an ebow out of his pocket and Bill leaning his whole body into his cymbals, which seemed to have moved somewhat away from where they started out. As the four-piece of Gary and Malene Arce, Heaven and Stinson, Yawning Man will reportedly have a new EP out this year, and I can’t wait to hear what spaces they explore next. Like Dead Meadow the night before, they closed out Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 on an otherworldly note and offered a prime example of why they’re so often given the “legend” tag.

When they were done, I hung around for a few minutes to say a couple goodnights and thank yous, so I’ll do the same here. First, to Wayne and Joey Rudell, without whose support and efforts this trip simply wouldn’t have happened. Thanks also to The Patient Mrs. for her coordinating prowess, to Todd Severin, Randy Blood, Bucky Brown, Mark Aceves, Rory Rummings, Mario and Dino Lalli, Gary Arce and everyone else I was lucky enough to hang out with over this weekend.

In a few minutes, I’ll get the hell out of this hyper-pretentious, Mickey Mouse reggae coffee shop and head to see some desert before I go to the airport. My flight is 11:30PM tonight and puts me into Boston at 6AM, gaining two hours back in the return to Eastern time. I’m looking forward not necessarily to getting back to real life — from which I think I needed a respite even more than I understood — but to seeing The Patient Mrs. and the Little Dog Dio, and that’s enough to get me home.

Thank you for reading. This has been an unreal experience and wouldn’t have happened without your support.

More pics after the jump.

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The Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 Mixtape

Posted in audiObelisk on February 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

borderland-fuzz-fiesta-2016-mixtape

Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 is set for Feb. 26-27 at 191 Toole in Tucson, Arizona, and as you can see above, I made a mixtape for it. I’m thrilled to be able to say I’ll be there for what’s the second edition of the festival, which features Dead MeadowYawning ManElder and Switchblade Jesus as its headliners as well as a liquid light show from the foremost purveyor of such things, Mad Alchemy.

Two nights of eight bands a night means 16 acts in two days, and in acts like WaxyDandy Brown (also guitarist for Hermano), Blaak Heat and 3rd Ear Experience, the fest makes its desert-rocking intent plain. There are some harder-hitters in the bunch — the aforementioned Switchblade Jesus, as well as Sounds Like Murder, the punkier Blackwülf, and the persistently enigmatic Funeral Horse (whose song here is an exclusive mix) — but with ZedDead CanyonFuzz Evil and Big Mean to bridge any sonic gaps, it’s a cohesive roster of heavy that’s sure to please however many boozy heads 191 Toole might hold. I’ll let you know when I get there.

For those making their way through the playlist below, I’ll just put this in caps: IT HAS NEW YAWNING MAN. Yeah, that’s right. New Yawning Man. It’s a rough mix, but screw it, that counts enough for me. Also look out for a new track from Blaak Heat that will reportedly feature on their next album, Shifting Mirrors, which is out in April on Tee Pee and Svart, as well as an exclusive mix from Funeral Horse. There’s more, of course — a lot of it. But all told I think the music does a good job of setting up its own vibe, so please, dig in and enjoy.

Before I leave you to the audio, the lineup and ticket links below, I want to say thanks to Borderland Fuzz Fiesta for having me out and to all the bands involved for sending in their tracks to be included here, as well as to you for reading and listening.

Please enjoy:

Year two is upon us. Feb 26th-Feb 27th in downtown Tucson at 191 Toole. All Ages! Ticket Links and lineups below:

SINGLE DAY FRI 26Th DEAD MEADOW ($20)
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2438504

Eminence Main Stage
Dead Meadow
Yawning Man
Blaak Heat
3rd Ear Experience

Greeson Custom Stage
Zed
Funeral Horse
Dead Canyon
Big Mean

SINGLE DAY SAT 27th ELDER ($20)
BFFElder.brownpapertickets.com

Eminence Main Stage
Elder
Switchblade Jesus
Waxy
Dandy Brown

Greeson Custom stage
Fuzz Evil
Blackwülf
Cloudcatcher
Sounds Like Murder

Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 two-day tickets

Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 event page

Borderland Fuzz Fiesta on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: Satan’s Satyrs, Wildeornes, Blackwülf, VRSA, Marant, Grizzlor, Mother Crone, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Chimpgrinder & Miscegenator, Oak

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Last day. It’s been some week. When I otherwise would’ve been putting these reviews together yesterday? Jury duty. Yup, my civic responsibility. Add that to a busted laptop, a full-time job and a couple busy days for news, and you have a good argument for why with Quarterly Reviews prior I’ve gotten up at six in the morning over the weekend before and started writing to get as much out of the way as possible. Oh wait, I did that this time too. Well, maybe it was seven.

Either way, as it comes to a close, I want to personally express my thanks to you for checking it out and being a part of what’s become a weird seasonal ritual for me. I hope you’ve found something (or find something today) that resonates with you and stays with you for a long time. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Satan’s Satyrs, Don’t Deliver Us

satan's satyrs don't deliver us

Virginian riff-turner trio Satan’s Satyrs passed the half-decade mark with their third album, late-2015’s Don’t Deliver Us (on Bad Omen Records), just one year after their sophomore outing, Die Screaming! crawled up from the foggy ’70s ether. In addition to touring the US with Electric Wizard, with whom Satan’s Satyrs shares bassist Clayton Burgess (also vocals), one assumes the trio spent the remainder of the year mining old VHS discount-bin horror to find inspiration and fitting subject matter for quick-turning cuts like “(Won’t You be My) Gravedancer” and “Crimes and Blood,” but whatever they did, it worked. As “Spooky Nuisance” jams out its Hendrix-via-Sabbath vibing and the subsequent “Germanium Bomb” leans into yet another impressive solo by guitarist Jarrett Nettnin complemented by the fills of drummer Stephen Fairfield, there’s an element of performance to what they do, but whether it’s the proto-doom of closer “Round the Bend” or the motor-chug of “Two Hands,” Satan’s Satyrs find that sweet spot wherein they constantly sound like they’re about to fall apart, but never actually do. For sounding so loose, they are enviably tight.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

Bad Omen Records

Wildeornes, Erosion of the Self

wildeornes erosion of the self

Sometimes you have an idea for a band, and it’s like, “I’m gonna start a band that puts this genre and this genre together.” In the case of Aussie four-piece Wildeornes, it’s stoner and black metal coming together on their second full-length, Erosion of the Self. I’ll give it to them, they pull it off. I’m not sure the “arising” instead of “rising” in “Serpent Arising” or the “So fucking high!” at the end of “The Subject” are really necessary, but hard to ignore the fact that before they get there, they’ve nodded at Pentagram, Crowbar, and Goatsnake and included a couple measures of blastbeats, or the fact that throughout the album they effectively tilt to one side or the other, riding atmospheric cymbals over a rolling groove in “The Oblivion of Being” only to tap into Nile-brand Egyptology in “Incantation for the Demise of Autumn” only to affect Erosion of the Self‘s biggest chorus on “Winter’s Eve.” Whatever genre tag they, you or I want to give it, their roots are definitely metal, but the juxtaposition they offer within that sphere works for them.

Wildeornes on Thee Facebooks

Wildeornes on Bandcamp

Blackwülf, Oblivion Cycle

blackwulf oblivion cycle

Raw groove is at the core of what Oakland, California’s Blackwülf offer on their second album and Ripple Music debut, Oblivion Cycle. Divided neatly into two sides for an LP, its 10 track hearken to a stripped-down vision of classic metal on “Memories,” Sabbath and Maiden both a factor but not the end of the line when it comes to the four-piece’s influences. Somebody in this band (if not multiple somebodies) is a punker. The two impulses play out in a balance of grand stylization and lean production – to wit, “Wings of Steel” sneers even as it puts a triumphant foot on the stage monitor and gallops off – and if the punk/metal battle isn’t enough of a tip-off, let the umlaut serve as confirmation that these guys are going to miss Lemmy (who isn’t?), but their methods ultimately prove more indebted to Judas Priest than Motörhead by the time they get down to “Never Forget,” which touches on some vocal soaring as it rounds out that feels especially bold as well as well placed as a late gem before the slamming-groove-into-Iommic-flourish of closer “March of the Damned.” As much as Oblivion Cycle has these elements butting heads across its span, that’s not to say Blackwülf lack control or don’t know what they’re doing. Just the opposite. Their pitting ideas against each other is a big part of the appeal, for listeners and likely for the band as well.

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Ripple Music

VRSA, Phantom of an Era

vrsa phantom of an era

Four years after issuing their second album, 2011’s Galaxia (review here), late-2015’s Phantom of an Era finds Connecticut’s VRSA a considerably more crunch-laden entity. They’ve have some lineup changes in the past half-decade, which is fair enough, but guitarist Andrius and guitarist/vocalist Josh remain prominent, leading the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist John and drummer Wes through prog-metal cascades, quiet parts shifting on a dime to full-volume assaults or holding off and making the change more gradual as tension builds. Either way, if the end-goal is heavy, VRSA get there, whether it’s the rolling, chugging and growling of “Grand Bois” or the winding and crashing and thrashing of the later “Marble Orchard,” or how closer “Baron Cimetière” sets up its waltz rhythm subtly in the beginning only to bash the listener’s skull with it as the inevitable crushing begins anew. There’s plenty of it to go around on Phantom of an Era, which keeps a consistent air of brutality even as it veers into clean, progressive or atmospheric forms.

VRSA on Thee Facebooks

VRSA on Bandcamp

Marant, High Octane Diesel

marant high octane diesel

As they get down elsewhere with hard-driving, Steak-style post-Kyuss desertism, Swiss four-piece Marant have just a couple of more laid back trips perfectly placed along the path of their debut album, High Octane Diesel. The first of them, “Smoothie,” follows opener “Kathy’s Trophy,” and like the later “Road 222,” it has its more raucous side as well, but the big tone-wash happens with the languid heavy psych roll of closer “N’BaCon?,” also the longest track at 8:47. The effect that varying their modus has on broadening the scope of more straightforward songs like “Evil Schnaps” and “The Good the Bad and the Trip” isn’t to be understated. Not only does it show a different side of the emerging chemistry between vocalist Jimmy, guitarist Sergio Calabrian Donkey, bassist Aff Lee and drummer Sir Oli with Snake, but it gives High Octane Diesel an atmospheric range beyond the desert and into an expanse no less ripe for exploration. Whichever method they employ, Marant engage fluidly across their first record.

Marant on Thee Facebooks

Marant on Bandcamp

Grizzlor, Cycloptic

grizzlor cycloptic

Lot of noise, lot of fuckall, not too many songs. Connecticut trio Grizzlor manage to pack seven songs onto a 7” release called Cycloptic (on Hex Records), most of which hover on either side of 90 seconds apiece. Dissonance, grit and tension pervade the offering front to back, and between “Sundays are Stupid” and “I’m that Asshole,” there’s an edge of experimentation in the vocals and rhythm as well, some starts and stops that add to the songwriting, though the peeled-skin noise rock of “Tommy” and the build-into-mayhem of “Winter Blows” ensure that the business of punkish intensity isn’t left out. Was it a danger to start with? Nah. Closer “Starship Mother Shit” and the earlier “Life’s a Joke” rolls out a sludgy-style groove, but with sneering and shouting overtop and hard-edged percussive punctuation, there’s no question where Grizzlor got all that aggression from. If Grizzlor are playing in the basement, somebody’s gonna call the cops.

Grizzlor on Thee Facebooks

Hex Records

Mother Crone, Awakening

mother crone awakening

Bull-in-a-china-shop’ing their way through nine mostly-blistering tracks in 43 minutes, Seattle trio Mother Crone make their full-length debut with the appropriately titled Awakening, a record that melts doom and thrash together with the best of earliest Mastodon and comes out of it sounding righteous, wildly heavy and solidly in control of their methods. Don’t believe it? First of all, why not? Second, check out the six-minute “Descending the North” – the third track after a beastly opening with the mysteriously JFK-sampling intro “Silt Laden Black” and “Black Sea” – which chugs and twists and stomps through its first half only to drop out to just-guitar ambience and burst to life again with a shredding solo finish that leads to – wait for it – the quiet guitar-and-vocals only spaciousness of “The Dream,” which marks a twist into a more experimental middle quotient of the album, the subsequent “Halocline” and furiously building “Revelation” more experimental in form, before the sludgy “Turning Tides” and raging “Apollyon” make the job of the nine-minute closing title-track even more difficult in summarizing everything that came before it. A task of which that song makes short work. For the momentum they build and the brashness they execute within that, Mother Crone‘s Awakening is indeed bound to stir.

Mother Crone on Thee Facebooks

Mother Crone on Bandcamp

Psychedelic Witchcraft, Black Magic Man

psychedelic witchcraft black magic man

Italian four-piece Psychedelic Witchcraft issued Black Magic Man in mid-2015 as their debut EP, and wound up selling through both its limited 10” vinyl pressings. For the Twin Earth Records CD version, it’s been expanded by two tracks – still EP length at 27 minutes – and given new artwork that underscores the band’s cultish bent, which comes across strong in the vocals of Virginia Monti, very much at the forefront of the group’s presentation on “Angela” and “Lying in Iron,” the opening duo that give way to the desert-toned push of the title-track, also the strongest hook included. Drummer Daniele Parrella leads the march into the grungier “Slave of Grief,” in which the guitar of Jacopo Fallai will take a noisy forward position in the midsection, giving way later to some blown-out singing from Monti given heft by bassist Riccardo Giuffrè, like 1967 time traveling to 1971. The production on the last two cuts, “Wicked Dream” and “Set Me Free” is audibly different (Vanni also plays bass), more modernly-styled, but the band’s core intent of living up to their name remains true.

Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records

Chimpgrinder & Miscegenator, Split 7″

chimpgrinder miscegenator split

Philadelphia and New York rarely agree on anything, but Chimpgrinder and Miscegenator, who make their homes respectively in those burgs, have come together at least long enough to share a split 7” between them, though of course what they do with that time is vastly different. Chimpgrinder proliferate a raw kind of sludge on their two tracks, not completely void of melody, but more geared toward groove than expanse, “Gates” taking off on an lengthy solo and deciding it’d rather not come back, ending in feedback fading to abrasive noise. That’s a fitting lead-in for what NY’s Miscegenator are up to on the other side, as “Hate Hate Hate” leads off a six-song set of visceral grind. Shit is raw and mean, and it d-beats its way either into your heart or off your turntable – it’s not the kind of music anyone ever played because they were feeling friendly. Blink and its gone, but the punk-rooted abrasion is like as not to leave a scar as closer “Tony Randall was Right” goes slicing, which is a fair enough answer to the pummel Chimpgrinder made their own a whopping five minutes earlier.

Chimpgrinder on Thee Facebooks

Miscegenator on Thee Facebooks

Oak, Oak

oak oak ep

The self-titled, self-released, self-recorded debut EP from London four-piece Oak saves its burliest impression for “Ride with Me,” the third of its four component tracks. That’s not to say that “All Above” and “Queen of this Land” aren’t plenty dudely – the vocals of Andy Wisbey see to that – but “Ride with Me” feels particularly caked in testosterone. Somewhat quizzical that it also finds guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Mason and drummer Rob Emms (since replaced by Sergiu, it would seem) vibing out for a bit of quiet desert noodling in the middle and ending with a primo shuffle of the post-Kyuss variety. Maybe it’s a fine line when one considers the body of work of Orange Goblin as an influence, but it gives a different context to the two songs before and certainly to the stonerly bounce of “Dissolve” after to know that Oak have more in their playbook than the standard beer-pounding and chestbeating. Should be interesting to hear how the various impulses play out as they more forward.

Oak on Thee Facebooks

Oak on Bandcamp

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