Death the Leveller to Release Debut Album II on Cruz Del Sur

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I was fortunate enough to be in Dublin, Ireland, in 2017 for the Emerald Haze festival (review here), which was a goddamn blast, and at which Death the Leveller featured. They were awesome, to the point that I made a note to myself in the review to go back later and check out their EP, I, as I had not been exposed to the band before that. As Cruz Del Sur has been on a bit of a tear in picking up quality bands of late — Ogre and Orodruin both had killer albums out this year, and Tower were newly picked up among others in newer movement of traditionalist metal and doom — but Death the Leveller aren’t so easily categorized, and that’s definitely part of the appeal.

Their debut full-length, counterintuitively titled II, will be out in March 2020, and if you’re not stoked on that news, really, take a minute to listen to the EP and give it a fair shake. I definitely got the impression live that they were onto something — and apparently the label did as well — but I think that comes through in the recording as well.

Enjoy:

Death the Leveller live at Emerald Haze 2017 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Irish Doomsters DEATH THE LEVELLER Sign With Cruz Del Sur Music

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Dublin, Ireland doom metallers Death The Leveller. The label will release the band’s first proper full-length album, “II”, in March 2020.

Originally formed in 2016 out of the ashes of long-running Irish metal ensemble MAEL MÓRDHA, DEATH THE LEVELLER released their debut “I” EP in 2017 to critical acclaim and positive fan reaction. The band’s sound — a melancholic, but strikingly epic take on doom metal — is the result of its four members taking their combined experience and working to create something entirely distinct.

“I think the big takeaway for us was the whole approach to DEATH THE LEVELLER had to be honest, about us, our lives, our losses and our passions,” says drummer Shane Achill. “Sure, we are all influenced by one thing or another, but I can’t say the bands we were in in the past influenced us in any big meaningful way. I know we are certainly influenced by the mistakes we made in the past and how not to recreate those mistakes in DEATH THE LEVELLER.”

DEATH THE LEVELLER (who are rounded out by vocalist Denis Dowling, guitarist Ger Clince and bassist Dave Murphy) fell onto Cruz Del Sur’s radar by way of fellow Irish metallers (and Cruz Del Sur act) Darkest Era. Cruz Del Sur label head Enrico Leccese was instantly a fan of “I” and started up a conversation with the band, with the two parties eventually putting pen to paper in 2019.

“The great thing about Cruz is the quality of bands writing quality music being released by a guy who is a fan of the bands and music he releases,” notes Cahill. “There are not many out there like Enrico at the moment and it was very refreshing for us to find a home for our music that cuts out all the crap that takes away from creating and writing music. Enrico is not looking for the next trend or fashion statement, which is good for us, right? Shortly after that, we demoed three tracks and we finally met at Doom Over Vienna where our relationship was cemented and Enrico got to see us live for the first time. Suddenly it looked like we had a label and that ‘II’ was starting to become a reality.”

The band is currently holed up at Trackmix Recording Studio in Dublin with engineer Michael Richards for the recording of “II”. According to Cahill, the album will comprise of four songs at 42 minutes that are more “introspective” and “reaches more emotional depths than ‘I’.”

“We’re still exploring the human relationship with death and concepts of mortality, but whereas the first release approached the idea of legacy after death, this one goes on a more soul-searching journey to some darker personal places of loss but ultimately also has its uplifting moments,” he says. “Sound-wise, this one has a more laid-back feel in places, giving the general tone of the album more space to breathe and a much more natural sound to come through. On saying that, it also has some of the heaviest sections we’ve done so far. For us, writing each song is a journey, and as we write this, we’re in the studio putting the final pieces of the jigsaw together and the landscape forms in front of us.”

The remainder of 2019 will find DEATH THE LEVELLER putting the finishing touches on “II” while preparing for a run of dates in Europe and Ireland alongside new labelmates, Argus. The band will also be appearing at the bi-annual Redemption Festival in Dublin, as well as Little Devil Doom Days in Holland.

“The main focus for 2020 is to get out there and play to as many people as possible,” wraps Cahill. “These songs mean the world to us. It was a fairly personal and at times, a very emotional journey, but now it’s time to have some fun and bring all of that to the stage and let it rip.”

https://www.facebook.com/deaththelevellerdoom/
https://deaththeleveller.bandcamp.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Death the Leveller, I (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Pelican, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Greenbeard, Mount Soma, Nibiru, Cable, Reino Ermitaño, Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

More computer bullshit this morning. I lost about 45 minutes because my graphics driver and Windows 10 apparently hate each other and before I could disable the former, the machine decided the best it could do for me was to load a blank screen. Hard to find the Pelican record on my desktop when I can’t see my desktop. The Patient Mrs. woke up while I was trying to fix it and suggested HDMIing it to the tv. When I did that, it didn’t project as was hoped, but the display came on — because go figure — and I was able to shut off the driver, the only real advantage of which is it lets me use the night light feature so it’s easier on my eyes. That’s nice, but I’d rather have the laptop function. Not really working on a level of “give me soft red light or give me death!” at this point. I may yet get there in my life.

Today’s the last day of this beast, wrapping up the last of the 60 reviews, and I’m already in the hole for the better part of an hour thanks to this technical issue, the second of the week. Been an adventure, this one. Let’s close it out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Nighttime Stories

pelican nighttime stories

Split into two LPs each with its own three-minute mood-setter — those being “WST” and “It Stared at Me,” respectively — Pelican‘s Nighttime Stories (on Southern Lord) carries the foreboding sensibility of its title into an aggressive push throughout the album, which deals from the outset with the pain of loss. The lead single “Midnight and Mescaline” represents this well in directly following “WST,” with shades of more extreme sounds in the sharp-turning guitar interplay and tense drums, but it carries through the blastbeats of “Abyssal Plain” and the bombastic crashes of presumed side B closer “Cold Hope” as well, which flow via a last tonal wash toward the melancholy “It Stared at Me” and the even-more-aggro title-track, the consuming “Arteries of Blacktop” and the eight-minute “Full Moon, Black Water,” which offers a build of maddening chug — a Pelican hallmark — before resolving in melodic serenity, moving, perhaps, forward with and through its grief. It’s been six years since Pelican‘s last LP, Forever Becoming (review here), and they’ve responded to that time differential with the hardest-hitting record they’ve ever done.

Pelican on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Swan Valley Heights, The Heavy Seed

swan valley heights the heavy seed

Though the peaceful beginning of 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Heavy Seed,” for which the five-song album is named, reminds of Swan Valley Heights‘ Munich compatriots in Colour Haze, the ultimate impression the band make on their Fuzzorama Records debut and second album overall behind a 2016 self-titled (review here) is more varied in its execution, with cuts like “Vaporizer Woman” and the centerpiece “Take a Swim in God’s Washing Machine” manifesting ebbs and flows and rolling out a fuzzy largesse to lead into dream-toned ethereality and layered vocals that immediately call to mind Elephant Tree. There’s a propensity for jamming, but they’re not a jam band, and seem always to have a direction in mind. That’s true even on the three-minute instrumental “My First Knife Fight,” which unfurls around a nod riff and simple drum progression to bridge into closer “Teeth and Waves,” a bookend to The Heavy Seed‘s title-track that revives that initial grace and uses it as a stepping stone for the crunch to come. It’s a balance that works and should be well received.

Swan Valley Heights on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records on Bandcamp

 

Mark Deutrom, The Blue Bird

Mark Deutrom The Blue Bird

Released in the wee hours of 2019, Mark Deutrom‘s The Blue Bird marks the first new solo release from the prolific Austin-based songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist through Season of Mist, and it’s a 50-minute run of genre-spanning outsider art, bringing ’70s folk vibes to the weepy guitar echoes of “Radiant Gravity” right before “O Ye of Little Faith” dooms out for six of its seven minutes and “Our Revels Now Are Ended” basks in 77 seconds of experimentalist winding guitar. It goes like that. Vocals are intermittent enough to not necessarily be expected, but not entirely absent through the midsection of “Hell is a City,” “Somnambulist” and “Maximum Hemingway,” and if there’s traditionalism at play anywhere, it might be in “They Have Won” and “The Happiness Machine,” which, toward the back end of the album, bring a sax-laden melancholy vibe and a straightforward heavy rock feel, respectively, ahead of the closer “Nothing out There,” which ties them together, somehow accounting for the 1:34 “On Fathers Day” as well in its sweetness. Don’t go into The Blue Bird asking it to make sense on any level other than its own and you should be fine. It’s not a minor undertaking at 50 minutes, and not without its indulgences, but even the briefest of pieces helps develop the character of the whole, which of course is essential to any good story.

Mark Deutrom website

Season of Mist website

 

Greenbeard, Onward, Pillager

greenbeard onward pillager

Austin bringers of hard-boogie Greenbeard reportedly issued the three-song Onward, Pillager as a precursor to their next full-length — even the name hints toward it being something of a stopgap — but its tracks stand well on their own, whether it’s the keyboard-laced “Contact High II,” which is presumably a sequel to another track on the forthcoming record, or the chunkier roll of “WCCQ” and the catchy finisher “Kill to Love Yourself,” with its overlaid guitar solo adding to a dramatic ending. It hasn’t been that long since 2017’s Lödarödböl (review here), but clearly these guys are committed to moving forward in neo-stoner rock fashion, and their emergence as songwriters is highlighted particularly throughout “WCCQ” and “Kill to Love Yourself,” while “Contact High II” is more of an intro or a would-be interlude on the full-length. It may only be pieces of a larger, to-be-revealed picture, but Onward, Pillager shows three different sides of what Greenbeard have on offer, and the promise of more to come is one that will hopefully be kept sooner rather than later.

Greenbeard on Thee Facebooks

Sailor Records on Bandcamp

 

Mount Soma, Nirodha

mount_soma_nirodha

Each of the three songs on Mount Soma‘s densely-weighted, live-recorded self-released Nirodha EP makes some mention of suffering in its lyrics, and indeed, that seems to be the theme drawing together “Dark Sun Destroyer” (7:40), “Emerge the Wolf” (5:50) and “Resurfacing” (9:14): a quest for transcendence perhaps in part due to the volume of the music and the act itself of creating it. Whatever gets them there, the trajectory of Nirodha is such that by the time they hit into the YOB-style galloping toward the end of “Resurfacing,” the gruff shouts of “rebirth!” feel more celebratory than ambitious. Based in Dublin, the four-piece bring a fair sense of space to their otherwise crush-minded approach, and though the EP is rough — it is their second short release following 2016’s Origins — they seem to have found a way to tie together outer and inner cosmos with an earthbound sense of gravity and heft, and with the more intense shove of “Emerge the Wolf” between the two longer tracks, they prove themselves capable of bringing a noisy charge amid all that roar and crash. They did the first EP live as well. I wonder if they’d do the same for a full-length.

Mount Soma on Thee Facebooks

Mount Soma on Bandcamp

 

Nibiru, Salbrox

nibiru salbrox

One might get lost in the unmanageable 64-minute wash of Nibiru‘s fifth full-length (first for Ritual Productions), Salbrox, but the opaque nature of the proceedings is part of the point. The Italian ritualists bring forth a chaotic depth of noise and harsh semi-spoken rasps of vocals reportedly in the Enochian language, and from 14-minute opener “EHNB” — also the longest track (immediate points) — through the morass that follows in “Exarp,” “Hcoma,” “Nanta” and so on, the album is a willful slog that challenges the listener on nearly every level. This is par for the course for Nibiru, whose last outing was 2017’s Qaal Babalon (review here), and they seem to revel in the slow-churning gruel of their distortion, turning from it only to break to minimalism in the second half of the album with “Abalpt” and “Bitom” before 13-minute closer “Rziorn” storms in like a tsunami of spiritually desolate plunge. It is vicious and difficult to hear, and again, that is exactly what it’s intended to be.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Cable, Take the Stairs to Hell

Cable Take the Stairs to Hell

The gift of Cable was to take typically raw Northeastern disaffection and channel it into a noise rock that wasn’t quite as post-this-or-that as Isis, but still had a cerebral edge that more primitive fare lacked. They were methodical, and 10 years after their last record, the Hartford, Connecticut, outfit return with the nine-song/30-minute Take the Stairs to Hell (on Translation Loss), which brings them back into the modern sphere with a sound that is no less relevant than it was bouncing between This Dark Reign, Hydra Head and Translation Loss between 2001 and 2004. They were underrated then and may continue to be now, but the combination of melody and bite in “Black Medicine” and the gutty crunch of “Eyes Rolled Back,” the post-Southern heavy of the title-track and the lumbering pummel of “Rivers of Old” before it remind of how much of a standout Cable was in the past, reinforcing that not only were they ahead of their time then, but that they still have plenty to offer going forward. They may continue to be underrated as they always were, but their return is significant and welcome.

Cable on Instagram

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

Reino Ermitaño, Reino Ermitaño

Reino Ermitano Reino Ermitano

Originally released in 2003, the self-titled debut from Lima, Peru’s Reino Ermitaño was a beacon and landmark in Latin American doom, with a sound derived from the genre’s traditions — Sabbath, Trouble, etc. — and melded with not only Spanish-language lyrics, but elements of South American folk and stylizations. Reissued on vinyl some 16 years later, it maintains its power through the outside-time level of its craft, sliding into that unplaceable realm of doom that could be from any point from about 1985 onward, while the melodies in the guitar of Henry Guevara and the vocals of Tania Duarte hold sway over the central groove of bassist Marcos Coifman and drummer Julio “Ñaka” Almeida. Those who were turned onto the band at the time will likely know they’ve released five LPs to-date, with the latest one from 2014, but the Necio Records version marks the first time the debut has been pressed to vinyl, and so is of extra interest apart from the standard putting-it-out-there-again reissue. Collectors and a new generation of doomers alike would be well advised on an educational level, and of course the appeal of the album itself far exceeds that.

Reino Ermitaño on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Split

cardinals folly lucifers fall split

Though one hails from Helsinki, Finland, and the other from Adelaide, Australia, Cardinals Folly and Lucifer’s Fall could hardly be better suited to share the six-song Cruz Del Sur split LP that they do, which checks in at 35 minutes of trad doom riffing and dirtier fare. The former is provided by Cardinals Folly, who bring a Reverend Bizarre-style stateliness to “Spiritual North” and “Walvater Proclaimed!” before betraying their extreme metal roots on “Sworn Through Odin’s and Satan’s Blood,” while the Oz contingent throw down Saint Vitus-esque punk-born fuckall through “Die Witch Die,” the crawling “Call of the Wild” and the particularly brash and speedier “The Gates of Hell.” The uniting thread of course is homage to doom itself, but each band brings enough of their own take to complement each other without either contradicting or making one or the other of them feel redundant, and rather, the split works out to be a rampaging, deeply-drunk, pagan-feeling celebration of what doom is and how it has been internalized by each of these groups. Doom over the world? Yeah, something like that.

Cardinals Folly on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Temple of the Fuzz Witch

A strong current of Electric Wizard runs through the self-titled debut full-length from Detroit’s Temple of the Fuzz Witch (on Seeing Red Records), but even to that, the outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner bring a nascent measure of individuality, droning into and through “Death Hails” after opening with “Bathsheba” and ahead of unveiling a harmonized vocal on “The Glowing of Satan” that suits the low end distortion surprisingly well. They continue to offer surprises throughout, whether it’s the spaciousness of centerpiece “329” and “Infidel,” which follows, or the offsetting of minimalism and crush on “The Fuzz Witch” and the creeper noise in the ending of “Servants of the Sun,” and though there are certainly familiar elements at play, Temple of the Fuzz Witch come across with an intent to take what’s been done before and make it theirs. In that regard, they would seem to be on the right track, and in their 41 minutes, they find footing in a murky aesthetic and are able to convey a sense of songwriting without sounding heavy-handed. There’s nothing else I’d ask of their first album.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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Mount Soma to Release Nirodha EP May 1; Stream “Dark Sun Destroyer”

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Mount soma

Some rather lofty ideas brought to bear in the second EP, Nirodha, from Dublin four-piece Mount Soma, and some lofty riffing to correspond. The Irish sludge purveyors will issue the three-songer on May 1 and they’re streaming the opening track from it now if you’ve got the time and headspace to support listening.

A worthy endeavor, that is, and Mount Soma capture a presence at once human and based on sonic largesse, the atmosphere natural even as it departs the ground to go crush, what, everything? I’m not sure. Parts unknown. Either way, they get where they’re going and there’s plenty of crushing to be had. If the goal if the EP — along with the concept stated below — is to give their audience something to dig into before they inevitably take on the task of a longer work, then yes, that’s a target well achieved.

If you like a bit of sludge in your doom and a bit of doom in your heavy and a bit of heavy on your skull, I humbly submit the following:

mount_soma_nirodha

Mount Soma are a 4 piece heavy band based in Dublin, Ireland. Having formed in 2014 they released their debut EP ‘Origins’ in 2016.

Their second EP ‘Nirodha’ was recorded live at The Meadow studio in November 2018. Recorded and mixed by The Deaf Brothers, mastered by James Plotkin and artwork/photography by Samantha Muljat.

Track Listing:
1: Dark Sun Destroyer
2. Emerge The Wolf
3. Resurfacing

EP Concept:

Sorrow and beauty exist side by side in the realisation that we, as humans, emerge from star dust and light in vast nebula to take form here on Earth with conscious minds and open hearts and an often profound sense of loneliness stemming from our existence within a vast universe. We come raging from the stars, crashing to Earth, broken and beaten and destroyed, yet willing to rise again. We love and are loved and exhale unimaginable beauty and light into our own and each other’s existence. And yet we suffer, we lose our way, we bend under addiction, we anxiously strain at the light beneath immense skies and while much is outside our comprehension, we wonder, we evolve, we grow.

Fuck suffering – that is the theme of Nirodha. In ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran it states ‘Much of your pain is self-chosen’ – this realisation, allied with the conscious intent to choose to be better, to choose to transcend attachment, craving and aversion, to choose to live and emerge from the cycles of suffering and dislocation, is the primal yelp at the heart of our music.

We struggle to exist as a band because life is complicated, so if this is our last transmission then let it be thus: At the heart of everything there is light, a light which connects us all, and there is in reality no point at which one of us ends and another begins. We are one, created in the furnace of exploding stars and imbued with the incredible gift of conscious awareness. This awareness comes with a price and a challenge: the price is that we are beings who suffer amidst this beauty, and the challenge is to use our ultimate human freedom, the freedom of choice, to choose how we react to that suffering and to choose how to live our lives while we are so briefly here. Love one another and do no harm. Though we rage, we choose to transcend our suffering and emerge anew.

Members:
Brian Killoran (Vocals/Guitar)
Keith Walsh (Lead Guitar)
Conrad Coyle (Bass/Backing Vocals)
Aaron Carroll (Drums)

https://mountsoma.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MountSomaBand/

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Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

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Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

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Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

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Primordial Post “Stolen Years” Video; Exile Amongst the Ruins out March 30

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

primordial

Many bands, one Primordial. Going on nine records deep into a career that in 2018 hits 25 years since the release of their first demo, the Dublin-based metallers are one of a kind. Over their time, they’ve transcended black metal, pagan metal, Celtic metal, doom and however many other subgenres on their way to defining and refining their sound, and with the forthcoming Exile Amongst the Ruins — out March 30 on Metal Blade — the five-piece will once again showcase the individualized take and particular dramatic bent that makes them who they are: not only distinct sonically, but one of heavy metal’s most affecting bands, capable of stirring the soul in a way few groups can.

To whatever degree a given listener is emotionally affected — that is to say, different people buy in at different levels; investment is subjective — I firmly believe that anyone who’s seen Primordial live can at very least appreciate the landmark-style presence they bring to the stage. That is the focus, rightly, of their new Costin Chioreanu-directed videoprimordial exile amongst the ruins for “Stolen Years,” which is the first track to be unveiled from Exile Amongst the Ruins. We see the band, led as ever by frontman Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill, essentially preparing for a show. The rest of the group — founding guitarist Ciáran MacUiliam and bassist Pól MacAmlaigh, guitarist Micheál O’Floinn and drummer Simon O’Laoghaire — laughs and drinks and checks gear as Averill ritualistically dons the stage makeup he’ll wear during the set. Shot in black and white and slow motion, the spirit of the clip portrays a sense of import, of meaning, to what becomes to the band and to fans clearly more than just another night at a gig.

And as for the song itself, “Stolen Years” is something of a surprise. When one thinks of “lead single,” it’s hardly the kind of fare imagined. With a subdued melancholy and a structure that pulls away from the hooks the band often proffers, it feels more meditative than a lot of what Primordial does, but it’s still undeniably theirs. As it appears late in the tracklisting for Exile Amongst the Ruins, which you can see in the album announcement that follows the video here, it leads one to wonder what sort of atmospheres Primordial might dig into as side B of their latest offering plays through. For the time being, I can only look forward to finding out.

Check out Primordial‘s “Stolen Years” on the player below, followed by the aforementioned details courtesy of the PR wire, and please enjoy:

Primordial, “Stolen Years” official video

Primordial announces new album “Exile Amongst The Ruins” for March 30th!

Irish pagan metal gods PRIMORDIAL announces their new album Exile Amongst The Ruins for a March 30th release through Metal Blade Records. The band teamed with producer Ola Ersfjord, who worked on their 2016 live album Gods to the Godless. The record was tracked at Dublin’s Camelot Studios, located adjacent to PRIMORDIAL’s rehearsal room.

Visit metalblade.com/primordial to check out the video for the first single “Stolen Years.” At the same location, fans can pre-order Exile Amongst The Ruins in the following formats:

–ltd. 1st ed. Digibook-CD with bonus-CD
–jewelcase-CD
–ltd. ed. Artbook (incl. 5 x 10″ in golden vinyl)
–180g black vinyl
–clear gray-brown marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 700 copies)
–violet red purple marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 300 copies)
–clear pale pink/white splattered vinyl (EU eBay exclusive – limited to 100 copies)
–purple red marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 200 copies)
–transparent green vinyl (Blast exclusive – limited to 200 copies)
–dead gold marbled vinyl (Napalm exclusive – limited to 300 copies)
–rosy brown/purple marbled vinyl (US exclusive – limited to 400 copies)
–tan clear vinyl (US exclusive – limited to 200 copies)

Once again building upon their signature sound, the follow up to 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a more raw, “old school sounding” record than its predecessor. Hitting home with what vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga describes as “a direct energy” and wielding an urgency that is undeniable, the Irish quintet once again effortlessly blend elements of tragedy and might like no one else. Likewise, the evolution in their sound continues to be organic and unforced, ensuring that Exile Amongst The Ruins is essential listening for both their long term faithful and those only now drawn into their world.

Commenting about the album’s first single, ‘Stolen Years’, A.A. Nemtheanga added: “‘Stolen Years’ may seem like a strange choice as our lead single, and on the face of if I guess it is. It’s not a blood and thunder epic about tragedy and might and the ruin of nations, nor is it 9 minute epistle of doom. Have no fear, the album does contain those also but to open this time we chose something different. This album has some surprises and this is one of them, a short and painfully simple song which almost didn’t make the final cut if you can believe so. The video, cut by Costin Chioreanu, is about the journey involved in finally getting to that moment where you walk on stage, the song itself about that last night on earth that comes to us all, sometimes we never know when that might be, hold your loved ones tight tonight, this could be it…”

Exile Amongst The Ruins track listing:
1. Nail Their Tongues
2. To Hell or the Hangman
3. Where Lie the Gods
4. Exile Amongst the Ruins
5. Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed
6. Stolen Years
7. Sunken Lungs
8. Last Call

To coincide with the album release the Irishmen have just announced two special and rather intimate album-release shows in Germany as well as their appearance on the Heathen Crusade European tour with Finnish MOONSORROW as co-headliners and German DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT as support act!

PRIMORDIAL Exile Amongst The Ruins release shows:
30/03/18 DE Berlin Cassiopeia
31/03/18 DE Köln Jungle Club

Heathen Crusade 2018
PRIMORDIAL
+ MOONSORROW
+ DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT
12/04/18 NL Leeuwarden Neushoorn
13/04/18 NL Tilburg 013
14/04/18 FR Paris Trabendo
15/04/18 BE Brugge Entrepot
16/04/18 UK London Islington Assembly Hall
17/04/18 LU Esch-sur-Alzette Kulturfabrik
18/04/18 CH Pratteln Z7
19/04/18 DE Ludwigsburg Rockfabrik
20/04/18 DE Leipzig Hellraiser
21/04/18 CZ Prague Akropolis
22/04/18 SK Kosice Colloseum
23/04/18 HU Budapest Barba Negra
24/04/18 AT Wien Szene
25/04/18 DE München Backstage
26/04/18 DE Aschaffenburg Colos-Saal
27/04/18 DE Bochum Matrix
28/04/18 DE Hamburg Markthalle

Get your tickets now: dragon-productions.eu
Further info here: facebook.com/HeathenCrusade

Further PRIMORDIAL festival appearances:
12/05/18 NO Haugesund Karmoygeddon
09/06/18 SE Sölvesborg Sweden Rock
14/07/18 DE Balingen Bang Your Head!!!
20/07/18 DE Bertingen Rock Unter Den Eichen
27/07/18 SI Tolmin Metaldays
11/08/18 ES Villena Leyendas Del Rock
12/08/18 BE Kortrijk Alcatraz Metal Festival
26/08/18 RO Suceava Bucovina Rock Castle

PRIMORDIAL line-up:
A.A. Nemtheanga – Vocals
Ciarán MacUilliam – Guitar
Michael O’Floinn – Guitar
Pól MacAmlaigh – Bass
Simon O’Laoghaire – Drums

Primordial website

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Primordial on Bandcamp

Primordial on YouTube

Primordial at Metal Blade Records

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Metal Blade Records on Twitter

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Wild Rocket, Disassociation Mechanics: Headfirst into the Ion Storm

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

WILD ROCKET DISASSOCIATION MECHANICS

If you’re going to push your listeners out into a churning realm of bright-feeling psychedelic noise wash, it helps to start with a hook. Wild Rocket clearly know this, and so their sophomore album, Disassociation Mechanics (on Art for Blind), begins with “Caught in the Triangle Again,” a song that finds the Dublin four-piece playing lumber and blast directly off each other, finding a line between heavy and space rock. That niche, which on paper seems so obvious it might as well be a punch in the face — and in the case of some of the freakouts on the ensuing five-song offering, it kind of feels like one — is deceptively individualized in the care of Niallo, Moose, Jon and Bres, and while there persists a strong current of Hawkwind blowing through “Caught in the Triangle Again,” the band neglects nothing in their songwriting, returning after eliciting this massive nine-minutes-plus sprawl to the chorus as if to let their listeners know how in control they actually are as artists.

They complement this broad-reaching vibe with a tonality that feels as geared toward altitude as the mix of the record is toward depth, and while only the 15-minute penultimate “The Future Echoes” will match and surpass “Caught in the Triangle Again” for runtime, Wild Rocket nonetheless stretch themselves down to the molecules as they plow through “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger,” the centerpiece “Into the Black Hole” and closer “The Edges of Reality,” the last of which in particular presents a mirror-universe chorus to complement “Caught in the Triangle Again” and give a sense of the journey’s destination being perhaps not so distant after all from its starting point, at least the way the limited human mind perceives the spaces between one thing and the other. Still, you might lose time as the 43-minute LP unfolds, and that’s cool. Check under your seat for a flotation device. Also headphones. You’ll want both.

I’ll readily admit that my opinion of Wild Rocket and the work they do in fuzz-echo-tripping their way through “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger” and the rest of the tracks here is affected by having recently seen the band perform at the inaugural and Obelisk co-sponsored Emerald Haze fest in their hometown (review here). I’m not sure why that would be an issue, especially with the energy the foursome put into their thrust being so in kind with their live show, but it feels like it’s worth mentioning all the same in a full-disclosure kind of way, and also because I feel like seeing the band on stage before and after having experienced Disassociation Mechanics was helpful in giving a fuller sense of the heavy psychedelic blend they for which they are shooting in these tracks.

Having seen them bring it to life, it’s a blend I’d argue they achieve on the CD (LP release impending), much aided by an almost constant fullness of sound brought on through the use of synth and keys that adds wash to “Caught in the Triangle Again” and “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger” while giving the opening of “Into the Black Hole” a sense of more straightforward keyboard drama before the shouted echoes of the first verse bring the centerpiece to one of the album’s most singularly intense moments. For a release like this to work at all, it is essential that it be fluid in its transitions within and between its tracks and dynamic in how it presents its style, and Disassociation Mechanics is both of these things, to be sure. Taken as a whole in linear form — CD or digital — it brims with immersion and offers standout moments whether it’s the aforementioned repeated choruses of “Caught in the Triangle Again” and “The Edges of Reality” or the bounce and delivery of the title line in “Into the Black Hole,” or even just the sprawl of “The Future Echoes,” which invariably feels like and is a significant landing/launch point for Wild Rocket as they careen through the cosmos, remaining structurally intact all the while.

wild rocket

It is that factor, ultimately, that makes Disassociation Mechanics work so well. Yes, Wild Rocket beef up space rock impulses and present their material with nuance, vitality and flow. None of that is to be understated in how crucial it is. None of it. But it’s the underlying structural integrity of the work that gives it the legs on which to stand and lets it convey its resonant and exploratory sensibility without getting lost in its own wash of noise. Even “The Future Echoes” holds itself together as effects and backwards swirl top a temporary slowdown two minutes in before the push resumes — a thrill as much of pace as tone, and not by any means the last on offer. Indeed, they shift through that time warp again and hold the gruel even longer the second time around, a space-doom march emerging that holds firm and lumbers “The Future Echoes” just about to its midpoint before impulse power is restored.

At that point, the outward course is set and Wild Rocket engage with due fervency an instrumental kosmiche shove that will consume the rest of “The Future Echoes,” drums varying in snare punctuation even as they’re responsible for holding together the fluidity emanating from the righteous bass and guitar tones, no less elemental than the keys to the overall spirit of the piece. There’s a somewhat expected devolution that starts at about 14 minutes in as “The Future Echoes” blows itself out, and by its final minute, the instruments have crashed and only slow-fading static noise remains. This makes the side B companion “The Edges of Reality” something of an epilogue, but again, its purpose seems to lie as much in hearkening back to the opener as following-up “The Future Echoes,” and it does that well, taking off patiently with faded-in drums over an intro of synth with an emphasis on space rock rhythm. The repeated line, “Pushing at the edges of reality,” gives an initial foothold in an early verse, and will be repeated twice more as the finale moves further and further into phase-shifted, pulsating drift, including during the last fadeout, where it provides a telling moment of humanity at the core of what might otherwise come across as cold and void of life.

Ultimately, Disassociation Mechanics is anything but, and in answering the tonal and aesthetic promise of their 2014 debut, Geomagnetic HallucinationsWild Rocket further establish themselves through a cohesive and forceful execution of a brand of space rock that, wielded less capably, would simply unwind into a sonic mess. This speaks to a progressive edge in their craft that may or may not continue to take hold as they move forward from these tracks toward their inevitable next release, but whatever direction they take over the longer term — and they’re by no means limited to choosing one path over another; clearly capable as they are of adopting multiple stylistic facets as suits their purpose in a given song — their second album brings them to a dimension of color and warmth, and it is an utter joy for the listener to join them there.

Wild Rocket, Disassociation Mechanics (2017)

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Emerald Haze Trip Pt. 3: Watch it Grow

Posted in Features on September 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

emerald haze 2017 flyers

09.04.17 – 11:24 AM Eastern – Monday morning – Madison, CT

As the plane taxied to the gate last night at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, I could see my car waiting for me in long-term parking lot E. Still there. I wanted to get up and tell the pilot, “It’s cool — you can let me off here and I’ll walk. Let me just grab my bag.” No dice, of course. Minimal rigmarole getting out of the smaller airport after the seven-hour flight though, and soon enough I was barreling down I-495, headed home to see The Patient Mrs. Never actually hit 100mph, but I looked down as I was listening to Blind Guardian and was well over 90 a couple times.

One thing I haven’t yet stressed about this trip: The utter fucking professionalism on display from Emerald Haze itself. Supported by the Dublin City Council, fest-organizers Sid Daly and Matt Casciani, Fiona Killeen and all at Voodoo Lounge were on it. I’ve been to (and put on) amateur-ish shows, and while a lot of emphasis was put on this being the first Emerald Haze and I was all the more honored to be among the presenters because of that, it was pro-shop across the board. It stuck to the schedule, the bands went home happy, it brought people in, represented its local scene well and set up a reach that I hope will only continue to expand in the years forward.

About that as well — I have no delusions about my place in this thing. Emerald Haze 2017 opened its arms to me, welcomed me in and brought me on board out of the kindness of its heart. I can safely say I added just about nothing to the proceedings that wouldn’t have been there without me, except maybe a bunch of words posted here for whatever that’s worth. There’s no reason to think that if/when they do this again next year they’d want me involved on any level — it’s certainly not something I earned — but man, I hope this fest keeps going. To see it play out over Friday and Saturday, there was so much obvious potential there, and the mission behind it, the belief in Irish heavy that justified itself more and more with each passing set, was beyond honorable.

It’s a lot of work to put an event on like this — and more to do it on the level Emerald Haze did it, so that it’s more than just a slapped-together coterie of bands who play heavy riffs — but it’s easy to see Emerald Haze going a long way toward helping further establish Irish heavy as an international presence, and given the quality of bands and the outreach, it would be well deserved. Whether I’m there or not to see it, I hope to, as Church of the Cosmic Skull says, “watch it grow,” for years to come.

jj koczan photo by sid dalyThanks from the bottom of my doomed heart first to my family, who in the aftermath of my grandmother’s death, still insisted I make the trip abroad. The support from my mother and my sister on every level means more to me than I can say.

Thanks to The Patient Mrs. for being the most unreal partner I could ever ask for in life. In less than a month, we’ll celebrate 20 years together — our relationship is a ’90s original; can legit be called “classic rock” at this point — and at some point in the next six weeks, we’ll welcome our son, The Pecan, into the world. I’ve never been more excited to share a past and a future in my life than I am right now with such a wonderful person. Thanks for that, baby. Let’s have lunch and go hit the laundromat and spend the rest of the day watching Star Trek. Romance!

Thanks to Sid, Matt, Olga, Fiona, everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for the condolences, the great conversation as always, and for generally being awesome. Great as always to share a space in front of the stage with Falk, as well as with Kirsten Seubert, whom it was a pleasure to meet. Thanks to Jamie Cansdale, Jake Wallace, Moose from Wild Rocket, the dudes from Ten Ton Slug and everyone else I met and shook hands with over the course of the two days. I am a painfully awkward individual. I know this. I have a hard time meeting people. I feel a lot of the time like I come off like a prick when I don’t mean to. So please take my word for it when I say it was a joy to be so welcomed into the Dublin scene as a visitor for a couple days and to sample not just the high grade sounds on offer, but to be fortunate enough to meet the excellent people behind it all as well.

All weekend I felt so stupidly lucky to be there. Really. And proud. Front to back across a 24-band bill; just crazy to see. And for that, I owe my thanks not just to Emerald Haze itself for having me over, but to you for reading. Thank you for your support of this site, this ongoing project, because without it I know damn well things like this would never happen. For reading. For commenting. For sharing. For correcting my spelling. All of it. Thank you.

Complete coverage of the fest can be found by clicking here.

Titles for the travel posts came from songs by Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket (go listen to that album!) and Electric Octopus.

Thanks again.

With utmost sincerity and in riffs,
JJ Koczan

 

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Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night Two, Sept. 2, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.15 – Saturday night/Sunday morning – Sid’s house

Yesterday was not short. Today was notter-shorter. The bummer news as of last night was that Mother Mooch would have to pull out because of a schedule conflict between the after-party and the venue. I had been looking forward to seeing fest-organizer Sid Daly‘s band as a part of Emerald Haze 2017, but he had to cut someone, and decided it was better to cut himself than anyone else, and that’s the noble thing to do so it’s hard to fault him. I was still hopeful this morning they’d be able to pull it out and make it happen.

There was, however, plenty going on even with 14 bands instead of the original 15. A packed day, to be sure. Like yesterday, it was a lot of back and forth between The Obelisk Stage downstairs and the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect after the first night, so when things got rolling in the afternoon, I felt at least a little bit prepared for what was coming. Vaguely. A smidgen. Okay, not really, but still. I did my best.

It went like this:

Gourd

gourd-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

They were the first duo of the weekend and inarguably one of the nastiest acts who played at any point of Emerald Haze, though by the end of today, Gourd would have some pretty stiff competition in that regard. Still, ultra-crawling, ultra-lurching, fuckall-laden extremity was the order of the opening salvo on the downstairs stage at the Voodoo Lounge, and Hick and Ray, who released a self-titled EP last year that seems to be their only offering to-date, brought drone to blackened-to-a-crisp extremity in that already-dead, post-Khanate fashion that’s just as much at home in arthouse as in a dank, mold-stenched basement with a shitty P.A. and a couple disaffected hangers about for a crowd. As it was, they did pretty well filling the bigger space at Emerald Haze with volume — this too would be a running theme for the evening — and they served as an immediate signal that today’s mission was going to be much, much different from yesterdays. And so it was.

Korvid

korvid (photo jj koczan)

I didn’t even see a window to look out of, but if I had, I probably would’ve been surprised it was still daylight. Just as my brain was beginning to process the onslaught that was Gourd, I clomped upstairs to check out Belfast five-piece Korvid, who would set in motion the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage with their own brand of extreme sludge, two guitars riffing out with cupped-mic-and-crazy-eyes standalone vocals cutting through, screaming, growing, the whole nine. The humor was good though. I mean, how many times in your life are you going to hear a lead singer say, “This one’s called ‘Zombie Sludge Groove’?” Six? Maybe seven? For most people, probably not more than three. In any case, for all the pummel they brought, vocalist Jonny Gault, guitarists Thomas Carmichael and Alex Keys, bassist Theo Gordon-Boyd and drummer David Malone didn’t forget to have a good time doing it, and while that put them in immediate contrast with Gourd, still misanthroping away downstairs, their own brand of sludge was light neither on tone nor aggression. Plus a zombie apocalypse happened. That’s always bleak in its own way.

Ten Ton Slug

ten-ton-slug-photo-jj-koczan

If Emerald Haze had a quota for burl, Ten Ton Slug filled it. In about the first three minutes of their set. The Galway five-piece have a new EP to follow-up last year’s Brutal Gluttonous Beast (review here) from which they aired “Slug Grinder,” but that was right in the mix with the rest of their attack, which centered around densely-packed chugs and metallic growls and screams. It felt early for something so dudely — didn’t I just finish my coffee? — but Ten Ton Slug had their own agenda, and as the downstairs room started to fill up, they beat the living crap right out of it for a half-hour solid. No-letup sludge metal that handed out punishment the way one thinks of construction equipment as vigorous in its purposes. As they played, I wrote the words “very heavy” in my notebook and wondered how many more times throughout the day I’d wind up using that exact phrase. To say the least, several. They closed with “Siege” and yet more testosterone oozed from the stage in voluminous form. That new EP was reportedly recorded at Dead Dog Studio in Drogheda, and one can’t help but look forward to how Ten Ton Slug‘s tones might come out of that process. My advanced, thinking man’s critically-minded guess? “Very heavy.”

Vulpynes

vulpynes-photo-jj-koczan

Riot grrl comparisons are bound to ensue when you’re a ’90s-influenced two-piece like Dublin’s own Vulpynes, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Maeve Molly and drummer Kaz, but to my ears they were rawer in their presentation than the likes of Babes in Toyland and more punk than L7 seemed interested in being most of the time. There was still a definite air of post-grunge, however, so I suppose in the world of ready-made genre classifications, riot grrl works just as well as anything else. It’s more concise than “raw and semi-aggro heavy garage punk rock,” at least, even if that’s more what Vulpynes seemed to be up to to me. The rawness is worth emphasizing though, especially since that seemed to be half the point and since it suited them so well. They were nowhere near as mosh-ready as Ten Ton Slug back downstairs, of course, but neither did they want to be, and though the afternoon/evening was just getting going, Vulpynes were already a refreshing change of pace from the viciousness that had thus far been served. Nice to be reminded that not everything needs to crush to be effective — though of course that’s plenty of fun too.

Iron Void

iron-void-photo-jj-koczan

Doom! File Iron Void under “hell yes I’ll have more of that please” in being the Emerald Haze night two’s first representation of oldschool doom righteousness. Fair perhaps to think of the UK trio, who toured this Spring alongside Indianapolis-based The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch, as a preface to Lord Vicar still to come, but that only made them more welcome in my book, and while they played, I went out to the merch area to buy a copy of their 2015 outing, Doomsday and its 2012 predecessor, Spell of Ruin. No regrets there, but as I was on my way back into the venue proper, I got stopped by Rando-Dude-Who-Works-at-the-Venue who told me my backpack — aka my camera bag, which I’d had on my person all along — wasn’t allowed in and would need to be checked. As it also held my laptop and I’d carried it with me the entire night before without word one from anybody, my position was hell no I’m not checking this bag, and no shit, dude wound up manhandling me and kicking me out of the venue. Out of fucking nowhere. Felt pretty fucking special to get kicked out of a show I was supposedly helping to present, let me tell you. The bummer was that while I was dealing with his completely needless bullshit, I was missing Iron Void back inside. I didn’t check it, but left it with Sid‘s girlfriend Olga who was working the door and was kind enough to come to my rescue outside, and yeah, I eventually got back in well in time to see Iron Void finish their set with “The Devil’s Daughter” from Doomsday, but I’ll readily admit that one threw me for a loop and it was a while before I was able to really get my head back into the show the way it should’ve been all along. Moral of the story? Fuck you, Rando Dude. Either do your job all the way and round up every backpack in the place, including mine the first night, or don’t bother. And either way, fuck you twice as hard when there’s killer doom to be had.

Crowhammer

crowhammer-photo-jj-koczan

Maybe had I not been so thoroughly distracted by that just-discussed unfortunate bit of whatnot I’d have had an easier time getting a handle on Crowhammer‘s sound, but somehow I doubt it. It was my first exposure to the Dublin trio — who also boasted the weekend’s first singing drummer, though not the last of the day — and they played the sort of part-psych weirdo rock that’s probably best described as “progressive” and left at that, though that’s hardly a summary of the willfully bizarre krautrocking chicanery that was actually on display during their set. Again, I was all out of sorts and didn’t get to see nearly as much as I would’ve liked to otherwise, but while they seem to just have a single out that was released in 2013, there was no doubt Crowhammer were in a niche of their own among the rest of the Emerald Haze lineup, and that would come to kind of be the message of the day from the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage: strange things will ensue. And for sure they did for what I caught of these guys.

Witchsorrow

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I recalled digging Witchsorrow‘s 2015 outing, No Light, Only Fire (review here) when I heard it, as well as their prior sophomore full-length, 2012’s God Curse Us (review here), so to see them in the flesh back downstairs in the larger room was something of a treat. They had more NWOBHM-style gallop than I remembered, but that might’ve just been a proximity comparison to Iron Void, who rolled pretty steadily for the duration, though drummer Dave Wilbraham (also of Twelve Boar) had plenty of double-kick behind the riffs of guitarist/vocalist Nick “Necroskull” Ruskell and the basslines of Emily Witch to act as a means of propulsion. That lent Witchsorrow a deceptively uptempo feel for how thick they were tonally, but though I was still kind of looking around the room and playing my own private game of ‘Count the Backpacks’ — there were many to be found — it was still easy to appreciate the underlying motion cutting through all that heft. They’ll be out in the UK and Europe with The Moth later this Fall and they seem like they’re about due for a new release. Maybe in 2018? If so, it would be one to watch out for.

The Magnapinna

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Say, is your name a dick joke? Nothing wrong with that, said Obelisk Guy. Things got off-kilter quick with Cork fivesome The Magnapinna, who were all dressed up with ties and whatnot and unleashed a barrage of hard-alt-rocking strangeness somewhere betwixt Mr. Bungle and a multi-singer early incarnation of System of a Down — aggressive at their core, but still definitely with an experimentalist edge. They had some pretty significant depth of arrangement the vocal department between their frontman and the guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but the pervasive everything-weirder-than-everything-else ethic that seemed to infiltrate every move they made remained the dominant flavor of their set on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like Crowhammer before them, they served notice that not only is the Irish scene rich when it comes to sludge and heavy rock, but that there are groups legitimately pushing stylistic boundaries as well. The Magnapinna — dick joke or not — were a vastly different kind of freakout from everyone else who played this weekend at Emerald Haze, and since standing out was apparently the top priority, I can only call their efforts at not fitting in a success. Nicely and strangely done.

Death the Leveller

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A break downstairs essentially funneled everyone who wasn’t going to eat dinner up to the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage to see Death the Leveller. Fair enough. The Dublin four-piece are new — as in I think this might’ve been their fifth show — but it was clear they had roots somewhere, and one finds them in Cursed Earth and Mael Mórdha. One of those bands almost too much on lockdown to actually be newcomers. There was no question they knew what they were doing, no question about their sound — goth-tinged doom; healthy sense of drama to the show, and very much a show, but not at all half-hearted or insincere for that — and they owned the room in a way that completely undercut the fact that they only have one EP out and are still waiting for the vinyl to be pressed. No substitute for experience, in other words, and Death the Leveller, while fresh, had a professional presentation and a professional presence that brought the upstairs room to a different level and once again represented another, darker but still nuanced side of what Dublin and the greater Irish underground has to offer those who’d investigate. I wondered looking around the room for how many of the attendees this set was their first exposure to Death the Leveller, and I suspect the answer is at least a few apart from myself, but watching the band take charge of that space, it was hard to argue they didn’t absolutely deserve to be the focal point that the scheduling made them. Tons of promise there. Gotta chase down that EP at some point in the near future.

Dread Sovereign

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Speaking of presence: there’s only one Nemtheanga. Also known as Alan Averill, the vocalist of premier Irish post-black metallers Primordial and arguably one of the country’s key underground figureheads can hold down a stage like few frontmen I’ve ever seen, and while he also handles bass in Dread Sovereign — his tone might be the most “dread” element of all in the band; the downstairs floor at Voodoo Lounge shook with each note he hit — he still was very much at the helm alongside shred-prone guitarist Daniel “Bones” Holohan, drummer Johnny “Con Ri” King and a synthesist/noisemaker who may or may not have been Nemtheanga‘s cousin, Gareth Averill filling out the wash. I picked up a copy of their 2017 sophomore long-player, For Doom the Bell Tolls (review here), without further incident, and considered that a win, and while the vibe of their time onstage definitely leaned toward the oldschool — they nestled into a partial cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” for a minute there and it felt earned — they were lung-collapsingly weighted in tone, and flattened the room like an early headliner or, at the very least for me, a highlight of the weekend. It wasn’t my first time seeing them — though it was my first time seeing them with synth, which worked well — so I wouldn’t call what they were doing a surprise, but it was a tooth-rattling, grim-of-spirit, trod-all-over-your-soul joy in any case.

Gorilla Pulp

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Things got kind of complicated when it came time for Gorilla Pulp to play upstairs. The Italian four-piece were originally slated to close out the downstairs stage after Sólstafir, but when Mother Mooch dropped off the bill, it was basically to give their time slot to Gorilla Pulp so they could still have a showcase. Fine, but no question the speedy, upbeat, almost-metallized heavy rock with psychedelic flashes — also a theremin! — that Gorilla Pulp brought forth was a departure from what Mother Mooch would’ve been doing, and the simple fact of the geographic shift was also noteworthy in that they were the only band not from Ireland or Northern Ireland to play all day on that stage, including Nomadic Rituals, who followed and closed it out. I guess sometimes when you put together an event like this, adjustments have to be made, and to Gorilla Pulp‘s benefit, the context in which they appeared, following Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Crowhammer, Vulpynes and Korvid, had already touched on so many different styles that by the time they got around to also being all over the place, the door was wide open for them. Their next show? A wedding later this month. Because of course it is. They may not have been Irish natives, but they only wound up adding to the variety of the day’s presentation on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and even as downstairs continued to thunder with Dread Sovereign‘s lumbering, Gorilla Pulp did well in offsetting that darkness with a bit of a stylistic challenge that was only more fun to try to keep up with once they got that theremin warmed up. Good times.

Lord Vicar

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And then sometimes you just have to bow your head and realize you’re in the company of masters. Watching Kimi Kärki play doom riffs while Christian “Chritus” Linderson fronted Lord Vicar, yeah, that was definitely the way it went. The former Reverend Bizarre guitarist and the former Saint Vitus/Count Raven vocalist — both of whom have been involved in a slew of projects over the years and decades from Orne and solo work for Kärki to Goatess and Terra Firma for Linderson — were hands-down a focal point for attention from the crowd, which packed in as tightly as I’d seen all weekend to watch them in the downstairs space, but as is universal for quality doom, the contributions of the rhythm section were not to be overlooked. With relative newcomer bassist Rich Jones and founding drummer Gareth Millsted providing the groove behind them, Kärki and Linderson flourished, leading the way through cuts from last year’s Gates of Flesh (review here) like a jammy take on “Birth of Wine” complete with last-measure boogie shuffle, or “The Green Man” and “Leper, Leper,” leaving a particularly resonant extended finale for “The Funeral Pyre” from their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain, which I can only say was flat out awesome from the second it started to the second it brought the house down at the end. Line of the weekend also has to go to Linderson who said from the stage atsome point between songs, “We have a new album out. It’s called British Steel.” Cheers sir. Seeing Lord Vicar — the kind of thing that someone in my position never really thinks is going to happen — only underscored how stupid lucky I am to be in Dublin at all for this weekend, and the proceedings only got more righteous as they warmed up and dug further in. Like I said, the company of masters.

Nomadic Rituals

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I had checked out Nomadic Rituals‘ 2017 release, Marking the Day — I also bought a copy of 2013’s Holy Giants — and knew they were something I wanted to behold for myself. The final band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, the Belfast trio might’ve also been the heaviest, as they conjured a tectonic wash of low end and noise driven by synth and geared toward maximum abrasion. Guitarist Peter Hunter and bassist Craig Carson both contributed screams and growls to the proceedings while Mark Smyth plodded away behind them, and with as much as this second and final day of the inaugural Emerald Haze had already had to offer in terms of sludgy extremity, Nomadic Rituals — their moniker not at all to be confused with the name of the Yawning Man record from 2010, which was Nomadic Pursuits — still managed to distinguish themselves through the ferocity of their volume and the unmitigated slow-motion violence of their assault. Rightfully so, they seemed to be an apex point for the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage– pushing that space, that soundsystem and the eardrums of those standing in attendance to an absolute limit — no place left to go or to run away from their all-consuming post-sludge. Even when I stumbled back downstairs to catch the end of Lord Vicar and get a spot up front for Sólstafir, I could still hear Nomadic Rituals living up to the savagery implied. They were nothing if not thorough in that endeavor.

Sólstafir

Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Timing, of course, is everything, but even before Icelandic overlords of melancholy Sólstafir took the stage downstairs — took The Obelisk Stage, god damn it — to the cap on Emerald Haze 2017, it occurred to me that I watched at least some portion of every single band that played this weekend. Two stages, two days; a total of 24 acts between the 10 yesterday and the 14 today. And you know what? If Mother Mooch had played, I’d have watched them too. Gladly. Accordingly, seeing Sólstafir do the title-track from 2014’s golly-that’s-still-brilliant Ótta (review here) and cuts from this year’s worthy follow-up Berdreyminn (review here) was like a victory lap, and as much as the crowd was pressing in, and as much as my back hurt, and as much as I miss my wife and as much as I haven’t had a meal in the last two days that wasn’t comprised either of protein powder, a protein bar or a three-ounce package of vacuum-sealed salmon I brought with me, Sólstafir were magnetic onstage as I knew they’d be. I’d only ever caught them before at Roadburn, so to watch them play at a venue of the size of even the downstairs space at the Voodoo Lounge felt really special, and it was. It was. It was one last reminder that, whatever else was a part of this experience, I’m so unbelievably fortunate to have been in Dublin this weekend, and if it comes to it, I’ll absolutely play the role of the tourism council: FUCK YES. COME TO IRELAND. There’s rock and roll here from within and without, and while Sólstafir fall into the latter category, they received a hero’s welcome just the same. There were afterparties to be had when they were done, and for the take-themselves-way-too-seriously/no-fun blogger types, writing to do, so I hightailed it sooner or later and made my way back up the road, but not before taking a final lap through Emerald Haze, trying to imprint it all on my memory, where I can only hope it will stay for a duration much longer than this trip will actually be by the time I fly out of the country tomorrow afternoon.

Holy shit, did I really just say “tomorrow afternoon?”

Turns out, yes.

I’ll have a post up to close out this series probably Monday, but before I turn you over to the photo gallery, I just want to extend a quick preliminary thanks to Sid Daly, Olga, Fiona and everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge (with one noteworthy exception), as well as all the bands who took part in this weekend. It was truly an honor to be involved in this event in the minuscule, didn’t-actually-contribute-anything way I was, and whether or not they decide to bring my ass back again, I hope they keep it going into perpetuity.

More to come. Pics follow here. Thanks for reading and as we get on toward three in the fucking morning, good night.

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