Live Review: Høstsabbat 2016 Night One in Oslo, Norway, 09.16.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

hostsabbat-2016-poster

As much as that kind of thing can be, the flight over had been a joy. By that I mean I slept. Driving past awesome trees and Euro-looking buildings en route, I got into Oslo and to the hotel in time to crash for a couple more hours before the first night of Høstsabbat kicked off at the Arena Vulkan. My first time here, my first time there, but the impression was immediately positive.

Høstsabbat is held across two stages in the Arena Vulkan, which is the Norwegian word for “volcano.” The Vulkan itself is upstairs. A sizable spot. High-ceiling, well lit (when Bong weren’t playing), great sound, bar off to the side. Downstairs is the Pokalen; a smaller performance space but with bar seating, tvs playing the fest schedule on a loop and a mellow vibe. Also great sound. The whole venue is tucked away on a side-street with an international market across the way filled with fish, meat, cheeses, bread, beer, coffee, tea, restaurants, and there are tables outside for smokers or those who might just want to catch a breath. All is immaculately clean — until beer is spilled on it, of course — and welcoming.

The first of the two nights comprised a seemingly manageable six acts, each with an hour set allotted, alternating between the stages downstairs and upstairs, playing one at a time. I won’t lie: by the time Conan were going on to headline, I was falling asleep sitting on the barricade in the photo pit, but for seeing them and Bong, as well as bands I’ve never caught before in Day of the Jackalope, MaidaVale, Cult of Occult and Wobbler, the evening was a joy for its variety and for the level of performance each band brought to the stage, whichever stage they happened to be on.

I’m thankful to be here. Here’s how it went down:

Day of the Jackalope

day-of-the-jackalope-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Earlier this year, Oslo natives Day of the Jackalope released their self-titled debut EP on 12″ vinyl. To open Høstsabbat on the Pokalen stage, they would play all five songs from it — “Waste,” “PTSD,” “Profiteer,” “Take it Back” and “New Lies” — as well as a cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s “Manic Depression” and several others that I’ll assume were new. Their sound was a heavy boogie blues rock, and depending on the moment one could hear a strong influence from self-titled-era Clutch with some of Orange Goblin‘s gruffness thrown in, particularly in the vocals of Anders Hellestveit, joined in the band by guitarist Jens Andreas Storaker (also one of the organizers of the fest), bassist Lars Brodal and drummer Bård Sigurdson. They made a highlight of “The Salvager,” broke out a shaker for “PTSD” — had to wonder if there was a comment there — and some cowbell for “Agitate (Vaskebrett)” and pulled in a solid early crowd to start the day off with a raucous and weighted groove.

Wobbler

wobbler-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

My first encounter with Wobbler came just last month when they were announced as the final addition to the lineup for the fest. However, upon checking them out, they were immediately one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing. The Hønefoss five-piece dug immediately into lush classic-style prog, marked out by the keyboards and synth work of Lars Fredrik Frøislie. The risk with a style like theirs presented in a live setting is it can feel staid if the band doesn’t keep a focus on delivery — all of a sudden, you’re just watching dudes noodle — but Wobbler avoided the issue entirely and had a vibrant performance, with vocalist/guitarist Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo providing a frontman presence backed by the lead work of guitarist Geir Marius Bergom Halleland and given a dynamic foundation from bassist Kristian Karl Hultgren and drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen. Their material — still largely unknown to me, though they made a compelling argument for purchasing both their albums downstairs in the merch section; if I had any krone, I would have — was fluid and at times gorgeous, but didn’t necessarily give up thrust for indulgence, thereby striking a rare balance between progressive and heavy rock.

Cult of Occult

cult-of-occult-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, French foursome Cult of Occult made ready to unleash a vision of sludge so extreme it bordered on the grotesque. Primal. Brutal. All that fun stuff. They’d have the biggest crowd of the night for the Pokalen stage, and they treated it to nothing less than a bludgeoning, like Bongripper taken to a place of vicious misanthropy. Yup, and they were heavy too. Deadlight Entertainment put out their third album, Five Degrees of Insanity, in 2015, and from it, “Alcoholic” was recognizable for its resounding “fuck you all” chorus during which the crowd did indeed get flipped off from the stage. They played pretty much in the dark, at least at the beginning, and that felt about right for the hate-laced filth on offer in their sound, the sole communication with the audience coming in raised beer cups and near the end when drummer Rudy was the only one left on stage — they deteriorated their set-finale, departing the stage one at a time, vocals, guitar, then bass, to leave the drums as last to go — and he waved the cheering crowd on, fists pumping in the air in slow motion to his crashes. There’s an element of spectacle there, even if they’d never admit it, but in their tones, screams, lumber and push, they were righteous and unrepentant in their delivery. Not really where my head is at, but hard not to respect what they were doing and the grueling intensity with which they were doing it.

Bong

bong-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

I know I’ve seen UK dronelords Bong before at Roadburn 2010, but that was six years and probably that many lineups ago for the band, whose prolific ritualizing continues to yield immersive fruit and whose live incarnation as a trio on the Vulkan stage at Høstsabbat had to be one of the most tonally claustrophobic performances I’ve ever witnessed. And that’s not a small room to make it feel like the walls are closing in. After trying to take pictures of them in the dark, I went and poured myself a cup of much-appreciated free water at the bar and watched as the ripples created by their sheer volume and low-end frequencies danced in a circle of geometric patterning that looked like the alien communication it truly was. With guitarist Mike Vest starting out the show by taking a violin bow to his guitar, bassist David Terry dramatically quoting Lovecraft or something like it and adding throat-singing chants and Conan drummer Rich Lewis filling in on drums, Bong were a litmus test for how much assault earplugs could actually take. Downstairs, between bands at the Pokalen, they played Parliament, which was an enjoyable irony, but after catching my breath and making sure my head wasn’t going to explode, I was back up to watch Bong again, their slogging sound just too much the soundtrack for my jetlag to be missed any more than medically necessary.

MaidaVale

maidavale-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

As time has gone on and the heavy rock underground has kind of moved past the hey-let’s-pretend-it’s-1972 ethic of vintage worship — at least for the most part — the impetus has been toward blending the classic and the modern, so that clarity of sound and tone don’t need to be sacrificed to tap into an essential swing. Swedish four-piece MaidaVale arrive at this moment and make themselves right at home. Their debut album, Tales of the Wicked West, came out last month on The Sign Records, and from it they plucked the tracks “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” “Dirty War” and “Standby Swing,” among others. The swing, by the way, was not at all on standby. It was front and center and thrust forward by the bass and drums as vocalist Matilda Roth met it head-on, dancing and soulfully pushing her voice to its limits as the lineup of Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström and Johanna Hansson behind her left no question as to how a group who just released their first album might come to headline the night on the Pokalen stage. The songs were fluid, the bounce in the drums refreshing, and the tones warm and classic-feeling, again, without tapping directly into retroism. As they belted out “Dirty War” late in the set, they sounded very much like a group at the beginning of a growth process, but their stage presence was formidable all the same and the sense one got was that their progression will only make it more so as time goes on. Need to check out that album, is the bottom line.

Conan

conan-2-photo-by-jj-koczan

Five bands and five distinct looks at different kinds of heavy at Høstsabbat, and then suddenly it was time for Conan to come on and — as they will — destroy everything in their path. By the time they went on at midnight, I was hours past dead on my feet, but to see “Thunderhoof” into “Battle in the Swamp?” Oh yes, easily worth it. You can sleep anytime. Conan don’t just happen every day — or at least not in the same city. That was actually the most striking impression. It’s been a little more than a year since I last saw them, they’ve gotten even tighter with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding and the aforementioned Rich Lewis on drums. The stage dynamic between the three has been (war)hammered out and they were absolutely on fire, Lewis adding some of his own flourish to the gallop of “Gravity Chasm.” As a unit, all pro. I was also struck by what seemed to be an emergent YOB influence from Davis in his vocals. As Fielding has come to handle lower-register growling parts, Davis‘ exploration of cleaner singing has a tinge of Mike Scheidt to it that’s somewhat unexpected, but fits well repurposed into the shouting context of “Hawk as Weapon.” They were locked in in such a way as to make me think that their next album will be something really special. I won’t say a bad word about early 2016’s Revengeance (review here), but Conan made it plain to see they’re more than ready to move forward to their next vista of smoldering landscapes during this earned-through-devastation headlining set, and I’ll look forward to when they get there. Until then, “Total Conquest” never sounded more apt a title.

Night Two kicks off in a couple hours, so I gotta get ready. Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Blowup Vol. 2: Complete Lineup Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

In October, just as an ultra-busy Fall festival season begins to wind down so everyone can go back and record new albums, Helsinki venue Korjaamo will play host to Blowup Vol. 2. With the likes of Conan, Monolord, Lucifer and native Finnish acts like Skepticism, Oranssi Pazuzu, Lord Vicar, Atomikylä, Albinö Rhino and Morbid Evils, the broad and often bizarre spectrum of the country’s heavy scene is well represented, and those selected from outside Finland’s borders show a keen curation process at work.

The fest is set for Oct. 14 and 15, and will also feature a live-scored cinematic showing of 1967’s banned documentary, Titicut Follies, about a patient in a mental hospital in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, which by amazing coincidence is the next town over from where I live. Go figure.

The final lineup and show info came down the PR wire:

blowup-vol-2-poster

Blowup Vol. 2

October 14-15
Korjaamo
Töölönkatu 51 a-b, 00250 Helsinki

BlowUp Vol. 2 is taking place 14 -15 October 2016 in Helsinki, Finland. The venue is Korjaamo Culture Factory, one of the largest independent art centres in the Nordic countries. Korjaamo was founded in an old tram depot in Töölö in 2004, and now hosts a concert venue as well as six smaller creative spaces for meetings and seminars plus movie theatre. The Vaunuhalli building is also home to Helsinki City Museum’s Tram Museum.

Blowup Vol. 2 also offers the cinematic art. Titicut Follies is directed by Frederick Wiseman documentary in 1967, which follows the lives of Massachusetts Bridgewater inmate in a mental hospital. Although the movie was awarded with freshly festivals in Germany and Italy, the United States, it crashed into censorship. Titicut Follies was shown to the public for the first time only in 1992. At Blowup Vol 2 it is presented in the early evening on Friday, 14 October.

Titicut Follies screen will be accompanied by Veli-Matti O. “Heap” Äijälän and Markku Leinonen, duo that made new music for the movie, which will necessarily be heard a second time.

Final line up for Blowup Vol. 2:

Friday 14.10.2016
Lucifer (UK)
Bastard Noise (US)
Oranssi Pazuzu (FIN)
Au-Dessus (LT)
Atomikylä (FIN)

Friday 14.10.2016
Film concert: Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman, 1967)
Score by Veli-Matti O. Äijälä & Markku Leinonen
http://www.zipporah.com/films/22
https://www.facebook.com/events/173514406381582/

Saturday 15.10.2016
Conan (UK)
Monolord (SWE)
Skepticism (FIN)
Lord Vicar (FIN)
Albinö Rhino & Morbid Evils (FIN) – Split Live Experience.

https://www.facebook.com/events/977786362259558/
https://www.tiketti.fi/Blowup-Festival-Vol-2-Korjaamo-Helsinki-lippuja/36753

Atomikylä, Keräily (2016)

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Høstsabbat 2016: Bong, Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus, Cult of Occult and Day of the Jackalope Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Høstsabbat 2016 is set for Sept. 16 and 17 at Vulkan Arena in Oslo, Norway. Already confirmed at the top of the current bill are Conan and Truckfighters, and newly announced as joining are UK drone improvisationalists Bong, Swedish heavy psych rockers Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, French blackened metallers Cult of Occult and native Norwegian heavy rockers Day of the Jackalope. That’s a pretty wide spectrum for a single round of fest additions to cover, but as Høstsabbat has grown over the past couple years, it’s only broadened its stylistic reach, though it seems fair to use “heavy” as a kind of universally applicable umbrella for what’s on offer.

To wit, the full lineup and new band announcements below:

Høstsabbat 2016

September 16 – September 17
Vulkan Arena
Vulkan 26, 0175 Oslo, Norway

Conan
Truckfighters
BONG
Siena Root
Cult of Occult
Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus
Kollwitz
Mammoth Storm
Slomatics
Reptile Master
WILD ROCKET
MaidaVale
Day of the Jackalope

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally set to announce four new acts for this years edition of Høstsabbat.

BONG

First out, and for the first time in Norway, the British masters of droning doom; BONG. They’re back after a brief hiatus and returning in their original state as a power trio.

Solemn in its delivery and frightening in its implications, as masters of mesmeric drone, freeing listeners from the increasingly unfamiliar material world and mercifully trapping them in the weightlessness of Bong’s sonic void.

Expect the same Amon Duul, Ash Ra Temple Improvisational basslines, glacial tempo and crushing guitar fuzz drone tones.

Cult of Occult

Concealed from the view of the moribund mass of humanity, hidden in the darkness of the gates of Hell, waiting to spread the evil sound of the extermination of life is the most powerful and misanthropic force; Cult of Occult.

Fed by hatred, loudness and alcohol, the four headed monster of Apocalypse will destroy everything on its way with its unwavering wall of sound. Like the scream of Satan himself, the rising trio Cult of Occult, will make another first time appearance in the North.

Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus

From our beloved neighbor in the East, another Ratgang has emerged from its extremely vibrant scene. Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus rides the astral wave of psychedelic-progressive-desert rock, firmly rooted in the 70’s.

This band is the musical, northwest passage between classic rock and the unholy spirit of Pink Floyd.

They have been around, brimming in the underground for quite some time. Releasing albums on Transubstans and Small Stone Records, playing festivals such as Freak Valley and Desertfest, we’re surely in for a treat at Høstsabbat.

Day of the Jackalope

The last year, Day of the Jackalope has become a name on everyone’s lips, who’s following the underground scene in Norway. Filled with energy and groove, fusing old school 70’s bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with modern stoner rock, Day of the Jackalope are ready to get it on. Having existed for years with changing lineups in various rehearsal spaces, the band is now finally complete, the debut EP is out to rave reviews, and Day of the Jackalope is hitting the stage. Taking inspiration from bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Clutch, Church of Misery and the ever imminent collapse of human civilization, Day of the Jackalope invites you into their universe. It is a fuzzy and warm place of dark and confusing lyrical landscapes, screaming guitars and thumping rhythms.

Catch them live at Høstsabbat!

See you in September!

http://www.ticketmaster.no/event/festivalpass-hstsabbat-2016-billetter/489339
https://www.facebook.com/events/685619441581239/
https://www.facebook.com/hostsabbat/

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Live in Brazil 2015

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Buried Treasure at The Sound Garden in Baltimore

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sound garden haul

Try to stay with me on this one. Last weekend was Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I drove down from Massachusetts last Friday to Frederick, MD, for it with The Patient Mrs., dropping her off first at family friends’ outside of Baltimore. We had her car, which, on Sunday, died in the parking spot outside the venue and had to be towed to a garage to receive a new alternator. Okay. That’s step one.

Step two: I had to get back to Massachusetts on Monday to start my new job on Tuesday. As her car would not be ready in time, The Patient Mrs. rented another vehicle and came and picked me up in Frederick and north we went. The repair would end up costing $900, but I made it to work on Tuesday and all went well, so it could’ve been much worse. The snag was that her car remained in that garage in Frederick and the rental would also need to be returned to Maryland, so looming all week was this impending journey back down I-95/I-78 to swap out cars again.

My job is in Rhode Island and gets out early on Fridays. 1PM. After swinging through Frederick to get her car and dropping off the rental, we got to where we were staying Friday night at 11PM. Between that, the fact that I’d survived my first week at a new job while still feeling positive about the experience, and the likewise impending trip back north, there was basically zero fucking chance I wasn’t going to The Sound Garden in Baltimore to do some serious-business record shopping before we hit the road.

So that was Saturday morning. My foot still screwed up, I hobbled toward the Psychedelic section (which had moved since last I was there) and started grabbing discs. Some new, some old, some in between, but The Sound Garden is arguably the best record store I’ve been to on the Eastern Seaboard — my heart will always hold a place for Vintage Vinyl in NJ, of course — so I knew I was going to find plenty.

I don’t record shop the way I used to. It used to be constant, a snag-this-snag-that process to put CDs on the shelf. I’m a little less likely to find stuff now, buy more online and direct from bands, and so on, but though I couldn’t really walk in the early part of the day, I still very much enjoyed digging through the rows to see what there was that needed to get bought. Turned out I did fine:

Maria Bamford, Ask Me About My New God!
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
Causa Sui, Return to Sky
Comet Control, Center of the Maze
Conan, Revengeance
Death, For all the World to See
Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
Flower Travellin’ Band, Satori
Graves at Sea, The Curse that is Graves at Sea
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Noeth ac Anoeth
The Meters, Look-Ka Py Py
Monolithe, Epsilon Aurigae
The Motherhood, I Feel so Free
The Peace, Black Power
The Pretty Things, S.F. Sorrow
Valley of the Sun, Volume Rock

Some of that was stuff I had to own on principle. How often do you run into a US-based store with El Paraiso Records distribution? Causa Sui, then, was a must. I was likewise surprised and thrilled to see Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Monolithe, so those were musts. The Death record (and documentary) was recently re-recommended to me from a trusted source, so I figured I’d grab that, and then stuff like Graves at Sea, the Earthless / Harsh Toke split, Comet Control, Valley of the Sun and Beastmaker were records I’d written about that I wanted physical copies of anyway. I’m about 80 percent sure I already have a copy of the latest Conan. but thought I’d get it while I was there, and if I wound up with a double, worse things have certainly happened.

From the aforementioned Psychedelic section, a couple treasures in Flower Travellin’ Band‘s Satori, which was also the first of the haul I put on, its hard-thudding krautrock-inspired proggy proto-metal enough to gloriously alienate a room, and The Pretty Things‘ concept album S.F. Sorrow, and The Motherhood‘s I Feel so Free — all ’70s-era outings. The Funk/Soul section yielded The Peace and The Meters, and Comedy/Spoken Word the Maria Bamford, which I picked up in no small part because her show on Netflix, Lady Dynamite, is so remarkably brilliant. If you haven’t yet watched it, do so immediately.

By the time I got through finding Monolithe, Graves at Sea and Beastmaker in the metal section to grabbing the Death record as I walked past it on my way to the register, I was feeling considerable discomfort at standing on my right foot, which was in the same supportive cast — I call it “das boot,” well aware that the actual German word means “boat” — I had on at the fest last weekend. That put something of a rush on the tail end of the shopping experience as I needed to get somewhere I could sit down, but while I probably could’ve spent a few more hours dicking around at The Sound Garden, I don’t at all feel like I missed anything except perhaps a t-shirt from the store, which I’ll grab next time, and for a trip that was made under less than ideal circumstances, I definitely felt as I walked out that I’d made the best of the time I had.

There are all kinds of record shop ratings out there, but if you happen to be in Fells Point or the greater region, The Sound Garden really is one of the best stores I’ve ever been to, and it continues to be a destination in my mind for when I’m around. It made the long drive back north that much easier to endure, which is saying something in itself.

The Sound Garden – Baltimore website

The Sound Garden on Twitter

The Sound Garden on Thee Facebooks

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THE OBELISK PRESENTS: The Top 15 Albums of the Year So Far

Posted in Features on July 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

top-15-of-the-year-so-far

Six months in, 2016 has been interesting to say the least. Every year provides its share of highlights — we’re fortunate enough to live in a crowded age when it comes to people doing quality work — but there have been a few unexpected offerings that have grabbed attention and held it well, and as we progress into the second half of the year, it seems entirely likely the pattern will continue.

All the better. As styles and scenes continue to develop, from Swedish boogie to West Coast psych to the party vibes out of the Pacific Northwest, bands are growing and changing. Everything is in motion, personalities are taking shape, and crucially, the new generation of groups is finding its footing building on the traditions of the past. Some of it is definitely formative, but individualism is rarely immediate, and I think we are at an interesting point as a crop of acts is figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound and what are their aspirations musically and practically. The question of the day might be, “How far can we push this?”

And of questions, that’s a good one to be working from. I’ve been asking it myself, but as the social media landscape continues to grow and integrate into the lives of a listenership that’s become accustomed to that kind of immediate access as well as the convenience of streaming outlets like Bandcamp, Spotify, Pandora and Soundcloud, the answer seems to be that the expansion will keep up, at least for a while yet. Frankly, it’s already gone on longer than I would’ve expected for how fickle trends are and the short attention span of the general public, but ‘heavy,’ as a worldwide concept, has continued to flourish.

Part of that stems from the excellent and progressive work being done by current bands — part of it is marketing — and at least for my own taste, those acts pushing the lines of genre seem to be doing so with a brazen confidence that they’ll be able to bring their audience along with them. So far in 2016, that’s pretty much how it’s worked out.

At the end of the year I’ll be doing a Top 30 list, and I expect many of these records will feature there as well, so I’ll try to keep this relatively brief in light of that, but here’s where my head has been at:

The Top 15 Albums of 2016 so Far

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

1. Mars Red Sky, Apex III: Praise for the Burning Soul
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow
3. Gozu, Revival
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
5. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again
6. Zun, Burial Sunrise
7. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
8. Comet Control, Center of the Maze
9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh
10. Conan, Revengeance
11. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
12. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy
13. Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management
14. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
15. Lord, Awake

Honorable mention (in no order): Curse the Son, Holy Grove, Mondo Drag, Joy, Black Black Black, Spidergawd, Beastmaker, High Fighter, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Droids Attack, Cough, Beastwars, New Keepers of the Water Towers, Conclave, Valley of the Sun, Throttlerod, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Ancient Warlocks, Bright Curse, Naxatras, Kaleidobolt, Atomikylä, Black Lung, Lord Vicar, Pooty Owldom, Vokonis, Electric Citizen, Stone Machine Electric, Graves at Sea, and Merchant.

Notes

Some quick notes on the list. First, it’s pretty fluid. On any given day, records from the honorable mentions list could be in there with the numbered stuff, and between the two, I find it striking and encouraging how many of these releases are full-length debuts. Just two in the top 10 with Elephant Tree and Zun — another will be added when King Buffalo‘s album is out in August; we’ll get there — but more in the honorable mentions between Holy GroveHigh FighterVokonisMerchantGraves at Sea and Bright Curse.

To go with that, there are some standbys. I’ve made no secret of my enduring affection for what France’s Mars Red Sky are bringing to the sphere of heavy psychedelia, so to have their Apex III: Praise for the Burning Soul as my album of 2016 so far doesn’t seem out of line. It’s why I booked them to headline the All-Dayer in August (tickets here), and I don’t see that appreciation diminishing anytime soon. The path they’re on seems to me to be one of the most crucial going worldwide, and in a group like Elephant Tree, we can already see the influence they’re having.

No surprise that Gozu would end up near the top — their 2013 album, The Fury of a Patient Man, featured highly on that year’s list as well — and Revival is an even more dynamic outing. It’s pretty much even with Greenleaf in my mind at this point, but I gave the Swedes the edge for the bold forward stride that Rise Above the Meadow represents in its sound and scope. Both of those records will be top-tenners at the end of the year as well, if not top five.

Speaking of bold strides, The Golden Grass‘ more progressive take on Coming Back Again and their melodic charm continue to resonate, and between the expansive desert soundscaping of Zun‘s Burial Sunrise bringing together Gary Arce (Yawning Man), Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, etc.), and the brooding darker heavy rock of Young Hunter‘s self-titled, it’s been a half-year covering a wide sonic range for sure. Comet Control‘s second album is still pretty fresh in my mind, having just reviewed it last week, but its quality is damn near undeniable and I can’t stop listening to it, so it goes in the top 10.

And rounding out to first 10 are two more mainstays in Wo Fat and Conan, who’ve had releases featured in lists around these parts for a while now but who still offer thrills in their newest collections, Wo Fat‘s Midnight Cometh bringing their jazz-jam-fuzz to new levels of exploration and Conan‘s Revengeance building on the aural crush of their prior work and finding founder Jon Davis with a hand-sculpted rhythm section (including producer Chris Fielding) very much suited to the band’s purposes. Their shifting instrumental dynamic made Revengeance almost like a second debut, but it was an album that couldn’t have been born except out of their experience and knowing what works in their aesthetic. Davis once told me he would never try to fix what wasn’t broken in Conan. As he’s lived up to that, they’ve become one of the most recognizable heavy bands in the world.

In the 11-15 range, a pretty broad cross-section between the flowing instrumental experiments of Causa Sui, the motor-ready space-psych of Black Rainbows — whose accomplishments seem to almost be coming too fast for the audience to catch up — the traditional-minded stoner-doom of GoatessBlaak Heat‘s frenetic desert prog and reign-in-chaos sludge of Lord‘s Awake, but sonic diversity is a strength in the current and the upcoming generations of bands, and though some remain underappreciated as yet — Black RainbowsBlaak HeatLord particularly so — it’s tough to ignore the sonic expansion underway in the US, Europe and beyond.

Short Releases

I’m not going to do a separate list for EPs, demos and splits before December, but thought there were more than a few non-full-length releases that warranted attention. From my notes: Mars Red Sky‘s EP, Dos Malés, Bison Machine/SLO/Wild Savages split, The Skull EP, Iron Jawed Guru, LSD and the Search for God, Cultist, River Cult, Karma to Burn, Wren‘s Host EP, Gorilla vs. Grifter, Goya, Brume‘s Donkey, ShallowsThe Moon Rises, Sun Voyager/The Mad Doctors split, Earthless/Harsh Toke split, and the Ragged Barracudas/Pushy split. And many others, no doubt.

Still to Come

I alluded earlier to the King Buffalo album, Orion, which has significant top 10 potential for December. It’s officially out in August, or it would’ve been counted here. Some of these I’ve heard and some I haven’t, but also be on the lookout for: Foghound (out this week), Neurosis (album of the year potential), WorshipperMonolord‘s new EP, Wight, Slomatics, The Wounded Kings, Electric Wizard, Geezer, Devil to Pay, Blues Pills, Baby Woodrose, Backwoods Payback, Beelzefuzz, Them Bulls, Cloud Catcher, Captain Crimson, and of course, Mos Generator.

If I’ve forgotten anyone in any part of this list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Otherwise, thanks for reading and here’s to a great rest of 2016!

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BlowUp Vol. 2 Adds Samothrace, Monolord and Skepticism

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

blowup vol 2 header

Set for this October in Helsinki, Finland, BlowUp Vol. 2 has added MonolordSkepticism and Samothrace to its lineup. They join the ranks of Bastard NoiseConan and Oranssi Pazuzu for the event, which will also have a film component showing a banned documentary apparently filmed about 10 minutes from where I live about the treatment of patients in a mental hospital. Go figure on that one. That’ll have a live soundtrack with it, naturally.

Not sure as to how many acts will comprise the final lineup for BlowUp Vol. 2, but the six they already have already show a solid international draw, and though Europe is silly with festivals this October — BlowUp Vol. 2 is the same weekend as Desertfest Belgium 2016, albeit 26 hours away by car — the Finnish event is clearly going for establishing its own vibe.

Semi-translated info follows:

blowup vol 2 poster

BlowUp Vol. 2 is taking place 14 -15 October 2016 in Helsinki, Finland. The venue is Korjaamo Culture Factory, one of the largest independent art centres in the Nordic countries. Korjaamo was founded in an old tram depot in Töölö in 2004, and now hosts a concert venue as well as six smaller creative spaces for meetings and seminars plus movie theatre. The Vaunuhalli building is also home to Helsinki City Museum’s Tram Museum.

The new names are Swedish doom band Monolord, despair alleys of the American free-moving genre Samothrace, as well as Finnish Skepticism, whose funeral doom is playing live this year only this time in Helsinki.

Blowup Vol. 2 also offers the cinematic art. Titicut Follies is directed by Frederick Wiseman documentary in 1967, which follows the lives of Massachusetts Bridgewater inmate in a mental hospital. Although the movie was awarded with freshly festivals in Germany and Italy, the United States, it crashed into censorship. Titicut Follies was shown to the public for the first time only in 1992. At Blowup Vol 2 it is presented in the early evening on Friday, 14 October.

Titicut Follies screen will be accompanied by Veli-Matti O. “Heap” Äijälän and Markku Leinonen, duo that made new music for the movie, which will necessarily be heard a second time.

Confirmed bands so far are:
Conan (UK)
Monolord (SWE)
Skepticism (FIN)
Samothrace (US)
Bastard Noise (US)
Oranssi Pazuzu (FIN)

https://www.facebook.com/blowupthatgramophone/
https://www.facebook.com/events/977786362259558/
https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/blowupfestival/
https://www.tiketti.fi/Blowup-Festival-Vol-2-Korjaamo-Helsinki-lippuja/36753

BlowUp Vol. 2 trailer

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Temples Festival 2016: Conan, Palehorse and More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Admittedly, it’s not like the full lineup for Temples Festival 2016 is really applicable around here — whoever heard of a band called the Melvins anyway? — but buried under some of the logos on the poster below are acts like BongripperGroundhogsOhmmsEsotericPalehorseGentlemans PistolsTombstonesPrimitive ManUndersmile, and Conan, and so in addition to Carcass and Jucifer and the aforementioned Melvins, there’s plenty to dig into for whatever type of heavy you happen to be looking for. Pretty sure the genre police aren’t watching anyway, but if something here isn’t stoner rock enough for you, I’ll just say lighten up and leave it at that.

If you happen to be in the UK early next month, I humbly submit the following:

temples-festival-2016-lineup-700

Purveyors of all things far-out and heavy shall surely continue in the fine tradition laid down by Neurosis and Sunn O))) (who occupied the same position in the prior years) of masterminding the absolute and final flooring of patrons at the end of a day packed with varied and vicious sets from bands united across nations, styles and stature.

Temples 2016 once again possesses the sheer clout that made the years to date such memorable events. The full line up has already been announced, including Melvins, Mayhem (performing their seminal debut studio album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in its entirety for the first ever time on UK soil), Groundhogs, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and so many more. The full list takes no prisoners.

As is Temples methodology, they will be under-selling the overall capacity of Motion to minimise the strain on each room and ensure the most comfortable experience possible is had. The organisers have secured a number of caterers for 2016 which includes vegan and vegetarian options, and once again they will be offering a fairly priced Ale and Cider bar for the drinking contingency – this time, featuring a bespoke Temples Festival ale.

The time is upon us, making their much awaited return to the Temples Festival domain, please welcome Conan as our special guests on Sunday June 5th – alongside Carcass, Grave, Corrupt Moral Altar, Implore and Venom Prison. Sadly, Iron Reagan have postponed their plans to perform in June and instead will be touring the UK in September.

We are also proud to announce, we are hosting the final ever performance from one of the UK’s finest talents – Palehorse, who will join Jucifer, Mare (Hydra Head), Sonance, Tombstones & Undermsmile on our brand new second stage.

There have been a number of developments to the Motion complex over the past year and all of which are going to make for another exceptional Temples Festival, three stages, a riverside terrace & bar, large courtyard stocked with a myriad of food vendors and over the next couple of weeks we’ll be giving you glimpses of the new layout and begin outlining the site plan, on-site vendors, multiple bars (with bespoke stock lists) and of course, stage times.

With three weeks to go – we are extremely excited to get underway with Temples Festival 2016. There are a limited amount of weekend tickets left available, day tickets for Saturday are fast approaching sold out status, move quickly – www.templesfestival.co.uk/tickets

www.templesfestival.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/TemplesFestival/

Conan, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, March 8, 2016

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The Planet of Doom Trailer Premieres; Kickstarter Launched

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the planet of doom trailer

The title The Planet of Doom has been tossed around for the last eight months or so as artists Tim Granda and David Paul Seymour assembled the team that would bring their story to life. Today the real process of completing the animated film for its stated 2017 release date really begins, with the premiere of the first trailer and the launch tomorrow of a Kickstarter to help fund the remainder of the project.

One need only to look at the roster of bands — The WellGoyaMos GeneratorSummoner, and so on — to know this is a project made with a strong love of music in mind. I’ve only seen the trailer, but it’s plain to see the inheritance from a landmark blend of heavy music and animation like 1981’s Heavy Metal, and the elements of fantasy, beard-clad motorcycle warriors, bizarre (and mostly unclothed) Amazonian-type tribes, and of course a fair heaping of monsters, not only bring these ideas to a new generation of fans, but push those boundaries further with the scope of the project itself.

That said, I could gush and go on and on about the admirable undertaking that is bringing so many artists and bands together for one special project, never mind the distribution at film festivals and three-band package tour (will be very interested to see who winds up on that) to come, but this isn’t a time for a review. You’re better off watching the trailer itself — you’ll notice the Mos Generator right away — getting the details and grabbing the Kickstarter link so that when they open it up tomorrow, Monday, April 11, for contributions, you’re ready to go.

Trailer and info follow, with thanks to Seymour and Granda for letting me host the premiere.

Enjoy:

The Planet of Doom official trailer

Riff Lodge Animation has launched the full-length trailer and Kickstarter campaign for its highly anticipated animated tale of metal and art, “The Planet of Doom.”

The creative duo of Art Director/Writer David Paul Seymour and Director/Animator Tim Granda—the team behind the heavily buzzed-about music video for Conan’s “Throne of Fire” (watch it here)—now offer a full-length animated tale set to 14 of the heaviest new stoner-rock and doom-metal tunes this side of Valhalla.

“‘The Planet of Doom’ is very much in the spirit of music/animated films like ‘Heavy Metal’ and the works of Ralph Bakshi,” said Granda.

Added Seymour, “It’s a tribute to heavy music and the art that accompanies that type of music. With this film, we’re seeking to encapsulate the music and art community that Tim and I are a proud part of with one epic body of work. We are also naturally bringing in all sorts of fringe countercultures who’ve attached to this same community—bikers, skateboarders, comic book and sci-fi fantasy fans. It’s a really vibrant and diversified community and we’ve certainly brought in the right ambassadors to represent it properly.”

“The Planet of Doom” contains no spoken dialogue, opting instead to regale the revenge tale of hero Halvar through the lyrics of the film’s original music. The story unwinds across 14 song-chapters, each interpreted by a different artist-and-band team, including Orchid, Conan, Phillip Cope, Wo Fat, Mos Generator, Slow Season and The Well, paired with artists like Skinner, Vance Kelly, Jason Cruz, Alexis Ziritt, Adam Burke, David Paul Seymour and legendary tattoo artist Forrest Cavacco.

The Bands
Orchid
Phillip Cope (Kylesa)
Conan
Mos Generator
Wo Fat
Slow Season
Scorpion Child
Summoner
The Well
Order of the Owl
Mother Crone
Destroyer of Light
Goya
Ironweed

The Artists
Skinner
David Paul Seymour
Vance Kelly
Jason Cruz
Alexis Ziritt
Adam Burke
Maarten Donders
Tony Papesh
Scott Trerrotola
Simon Berndt
Burney
Gorgeous George
Brian Profilio
Nicholas Coleman
Tim Granda

Every fan of the project can now be a part of “The Helping Hands of Doom” fundraising campaign, which began last March when it raised more than $20,000 in support from company sponsorships. Through the film’s Kickstarter campaign, which launched today, fans can show their love by helping get this worthwhile film underway, while getting some prized goodies in the process—everything from an HHOD official shirt up to having yourself featured in the film as an animated “extra” and more! Fans and supporters can donate to the film at www.theplanetofdoom.com.

“The Planet of Doom” will screen at major music and film festival events, as well as on a cross-country package tour with three of the film bands once production is completed.

The Planet of Doom Kickstarter campaign (starts April 11)

The Planet of Doom on Thee Facebooks

The Planet of Doom on Instagram

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