Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night Three, 06.24.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland-doom-fest-2018-night-three-poster

Before I get started on the last night of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for the incredible work they’ve put into making this event something truly special. Think Maryland was ready for a festival to help define and codify its generations-spanning underground scene? Maryland Doom Fest has done so in four years’ time, and not only has it helped give an understanding to what Maryland doom is, but it’s working actively to broaden those horizons as well. And its reach is growing. Not only in bands. Last night the dude standing to my left was there with friends from Portland, Oregon, and to my right was a handful of folks from Albuquerque, New Mexico, all packed right at the front of the stage. It’s growing, and quickly.

But as Maryland Doom Fest enters what might be its Golden Age in presenting shows people will talk about years later — “ah yeah, were you at Doom Fest when Windhand played?”, etc. — the event has also kept its head on its shoulders about the work in progress. It’s a grounded experience, very much of its place, and a thrill to be able to return here and see it, especially after missing last year. I very much hope to be back to Frederick and back to Cafe 611 in 2019.

I don’t mind telling you I rolled into the venue in time to catch the first band feeling like I’d had my ass kicked up and down 6th St. already — because I had, two days running — but the momentum of the final day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018 was as thick as the riffs and it was a pleasure to be shoved along to a riotous finish.

Happened like this:

Gateway to Hell

Gateway to Hell (Photo JJ Koczan)

Baltimore natives Gateway to Hell started a few minutes late, which unless I’m mistaken resulted in a shortening of their set. If so, all the more a bummer, because when they were done, I wanted more. They made their debut last year with the EP, Clovers (review here), and though I had a more metallic impression of them in my mind from that going into their set opening the last day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018, with an orchestra of effects there was an experimentalist psych edge to the guitar work of Alex Briscoe that blended with straight-ahead rhythms from bassist Eric Responsible (who wins the weekend as regards surnames) and drummer Dan Petrucelli, all of which gave frontman Jerrod Bronson ground to belt out lyrics over top. They had intense moments to be sure, but I wondered if their next release might bring more of that weirdo sensibility to bear in their sound. Fingers crossed. It worked really well on stage.

Bedowyn

Bedowyn (Photo JJ Koczan)

Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Alex Traboulsi, guitarist Mark Peters, newcomer bassist Channing Azure and drummer Marc Campbell, Raleigh, North Carolina’s Bedowyn were about as close as Doom Fest got to black metal this year, and well, it was pretty close. Bedowyn, who got their start in 2011 and have an EP and full-length under their collective belt, blend that genre with a handful of others — thrash, classic metal, heavy rock, and so on — to conjure an aggressive but still poised sound, and Traboulsi‘s vocals turned from screams to sort of cleaner shouts while Campbell‘s drums held together all the part changes and stylistic turns. They went on early, so got an extra five minutes to play and made the most of it as a standout coming from someplace different than just about everything on the bill, which, again, was packed the whole way through. Also, if I remember right, I was told Campbell played drums with two broken fingers, thereby earning immeasurable bonus points. So there’s that too.

Saints and Winos

Saints and Winos (Photo JJ Koczan)

I guess everyone was on the 4:15 doombus to Frederick, because all of a sudden I turned around and the room was was pretty full for Saints and Winos from Rochester, New York. Mixing clean and harsh vocals, they tipped hats to more extreme and sludgy sounds, but had their basis in heavy rock and roll and a somewhat classic style, with plenty of low end fuzz and metallic swing very much in the spirit of the weekend in those terms and as regards general ease of pace. Their debut album, the all-caps WE RISE, came out late last year and featured three-part harmonies from guitarist Joe Dellaquila, bassist Amanda Rampe and drummer J.B. Rodgers on songs like “Great Wall,” and there was some of that on stage as well but it didn’t quite come through the house P.A. with the same kind of balance. Hazards of being the third band on the bill with complex arrangements. They were engaging enough to make me dig into the record anyway, and while there’s room to grow in their sound, it was plain to hear that potential during their set.

Book of Wyrms

Book of Wyrms (Photo JJ Koczan)

Look, I don’t want to say classic doom will never die, because let’s face it: everything fucking dies. Someday the ocean is going rise up and eat us all about 30 seconds before the asteroid hits and splits the planet in two, only to be later consumed by the sun, also dying, so yeah. Classic doom will die, but it sure as shit ain’t dead yet. Book of Wyrms made an intriguing opening statement with 2017’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), which came out via respected tonal specialists Twin Earth Records. The lineup of vocalist/effects-bringer Sarah Moore Lindsey, guitarists Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven dug into traditional stoner-doom vibes that were, indeed, a pleasure to witness, and their potential was writ large over their time on stage in much the same fashion as on the record. I don’t know if it’s the balance of samples vs. riffs or doomed aspects and more heavy rock roll and melody in Lindsey‘s vocals, but there’s something waiting to be tapped in their sound that, if they get there, will make all the difference for them. As it was, they carried the room with ease.

Sierra

Sierra (Photo JJ Koczan)

What a way to start a tour. And what a tour to start. Canadian three-piece Sierra obviously enjoyed launching a run of shows as they did last year at Maryland Doom Fest 2017, because they were doing the same thing all over again. This time, they’ll be out supporting fest-headliners Weedeater, and as they’ve been a steady presence on the Tone Deaf Touring circuit the last several years — they’ll also be at de facto sister fest Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh this September — they’re tight enough in their delivery to have a professional sheen. They’re a tricky band as well, because it’s easy to watch them and say, “Okay, heavy rock, fair enough,” but that’s not it. There’s more just under the surface. To say Rush is a lazy comparison based on the simple fact of their northern origins, but they’re more prog than they let on, and they work smoothly in tipping that balance back and forth between the straightforward and the more complex. Of course, that makes them more exciting to watch, since they’re neither purely clinical nor just another collective bearing riffs, but instead offer something more varied between the two. It was my first time seeing them, and they were better than I knew, making a highlight of “Rainbows End” before finishing out with a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Into the Void.”

Curse the Son

Curse the Son (Photo JJ Koczan)

However, I knew damn well that Curse the Son were going to be incredible. Perfect band for the setting, great slot, a room that would just bounce their volume off the walls. Yeah, it was gonna work out. And it did. It’s been a little bit — more than I’d prefer, certainly — since I last saw the Hamden, Connecticut, trio, and in that time, they’ve released their third album, Isolator (review here), signed to Ripple Music and brought in drummer Robert Ives alongside bassist/backing vocalist Brandon Keefe and founding guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, so yeah, it’s been reasonably busy. Another band Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is sharing with Descendants of Crom, they also appeared at this Spring’s inaugural New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and as Vanacore announced from the stage, they’re working toward a new album for early 2019. “Huzzah” would be putting it mildly. They were the first band all weekend for whom I removed my earplugs and let go a little bit to headbang and really take in. A lot of Maryland doom resides in a mid-paced groove. Curse the Son play slower and lower, and that nod was exactly what my weary soul needed. With Vanacore‘s tonal morass and vocals cutting through, older cuts like “Spider Stole the Weed” and “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” were familiar and welcome, and though he had some rather significant shoes to fill, the swing and intensity Ives brought to the drums was a dead-on fit. They don’t really tour, but still, theirs was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend, and if you’re reading this and you ever get the chance to see them live, do it.

Backwoods Payback

Backwoods Payback (Photo JJ Koczan)

Under general circumstances, I’m not one to gush, but I tell you know lie, I went up to each member of Backwoods Payback individually — to guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson, each separately — and told them how incredible their new album, Future Slum, is. I don’t even know how many times the word “awesome” left my mouth, but needless to say it was an embarrassing number. The thing about it is, they just absolutely nailed it. Same could easily be said of their set at Maryland Doom Fest 2018. Playing new material and old after opening with “You Don’t Move” from their most recent outing, 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), they absolutely laid waste to Cafe 611. And it’s for the same reason: everything has clicked. The songs, the lineup, the performance, the presence — it’s all in the same place and they’re experienced enough and smart enough to throw it at the audience in just the right way. And the conviction from all three of them. Plenty of bands this weekend meant what they were doing. To be blunt, nobody was phoning it in. But with Backwoods Payback, it was another level entirely, and when Cummings jumped off the stage toward the end of the set and shared the mic with a couple kids in the crowd who knew the words, it felt like a moment that encapsulated the band’s capacity to hit hard and still translate that their conviction into a meaningful experience. I’ll have more to say about the new record and I’ve already made plans to see them again next month, but this one was a landmark not to be forgotten anytime soon.

Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova (Photo JJ Koczan)

I knew Caustic Casanova were underrated, and seeing them for the first time, I guess I was interested to find out if I could find a reason why. Their sound is certainly accessible enough; the Washington, D.C./Frederick trio play a style of heavy rock that in part feels drawn from ’90s college/art rock weirdoism and part drawn from a desire to mash that against sonic pummel and punker drive, but they’re also a thoughtful band. Each part has its purpose, and even in their delivery live, there was a sense of focus that pervaded what they were doing. It was fun to watch, definitely, but there was a strong intent there — nothing felt like an accident, however experimental it may have been in the composition. One knows they’re Melvins fans because they did a cover of “Cow” on their latest 7″, but their style has much more to it than just post-Buzzo riffing and tryhard avant gardeship so often resulting from that influence. And if Caustic Casanova are underrated, the reason is precisely because they’re not easy to pin down. They’re a dynamic, complex trio given to deft rhythmic turns and an indie aspect to complement/contrast their heavier elements, and they don’t fit into any single genre tag necessarily beyond the blanket “progressive heavy rock,” which is a pale descriptor for the actual depth of character in the music they make.

Duel

Duel (Photo JJ Koczan)

The rest of the night would be given to riotousness, and Duel were the start of that. Up from their home in Austin, Texas, this would mark the largest tour they’ve undertaken in the US, but they come into it with multiple European stints on their CV. Recently also announced for Heavy Mash 2018 in October (info here), their latest release is actually a live album called Live at the Electric Church (review here) that Heavy Psych Sounds put out as a complement to their two to-date studio LPs, 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and from that, I thought I had a pretty decent idea what to expect. What took me by surprise, though, was the energy behind what they were doing. They’re classic heavy rock in their stylistic root, but rather than present it as some staid relic to be showcased like a museum piece under glass, they instead break that glass with their bare hands, smear the blood over their faces and proceed to capture the dangerous spirit that drove the earliest days of riffery in the first place. Actually, they do more than just capture it. They make it their own, so that this sound so often associated with the past becomes something inextricably forward thinking. I dug the records, so wasn’t surprised to be into the live show, but the sheer vitality of it was staggering. They made it a celebration.

The Midnight Ghost Train

The Midnight Ghost Train (Photo JJ Koczan)

Their last show. Heavy rock and roll loses one of its most potent live acts in The Midnight Ghost Train, who made Maryland Doom Fest 2018 the occasion for their final gig. Ever? Maybe. One has learned time and again never to say never in rock and roll, but the band made it known in April they were calling it quits, and this was their version of going out with a bang. Did you ever get to see The Midnight Ghost Train? It’s a question I can see myself asking in conversation for years to come — they are a litmus test for music and performance as a kinetic force, and a comparison point to which few will be able to live up. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss and ending with longtime drummer Brandon Burghart (I don’t know what else he’s got going, but I can’t imagine any band not wanting him in its lineup) and relative newcomer bassist Tyler Harper (also of Capra), they were fury incarnate with a bittersweet underpinning. I’ve watched The Midnight Ghost Train shows for a decade, and I tell you with no reservation that they’re among the most powerful heavy rock bands I’ve ever seen. Moss transforms into a shuffle-blues madman, Burghart‘s swing is nigh-unmatchable, and Harper stood toe-to-toe with the guitar, which is saying something. They will be missed. But they went out as they always were — on fire — and I stayed up front the whole time and felt fortunate to be there to see it, as I think did everyone else in the room. They were a big part of what made the day so special. And even if they get back together at some point, years down the line or whatever, the impact of this night, this set, stands as a monument to who they were as a group and Moss‘ realized vision of heavy, funky, bluesy righteousness.

Weedeater

Weedeater (Photo JJ Koczan)

Well, if one band over the course of the three-day event was going to ignite a genuine mosh, it might as well be Weedeater, whose tonal dominance was evident from soundcheck onward despite “Dixie” Dave Collins breaking a string on his bass. Years of near-constant touring have given North Carolina’s Weedeater a reputation that well precedes them, and though it had been years since I last caught them, I knew the lumbering sludge that was about to unfold as soon as they hit into “God Luck and Good Speed” to open their set, with guitarist Dave Shepherd and drummer Carlos Denogean doing no shortage of the heavy lifting when it came to rolling out massive, lumbering nod. I’m too old for that slam-dancing shit, so I hightailed it from the front of the stage on the quick, but Weedeater left no question as to why they were headlining. What the hell else could possibly follow them? They’ve made a career on sounding unhinged, and even down to Denogean wailing away at his kit, they lived up to that, but they’re long since veterans, too, so they’re not just fucking around. They’re professionally fucking around. Good work if you can get it. The crowd knew the set the whole way through, and though Weedeater are coming up on due for a follow-up to 2015’s Goliathan (review here), which they’ve basically been on tour supporting since it came out, their command of the stage wasn’t something that just happened. It was whittled down from the years of grinding on the road they’ve done. Worth it? You’d have to ask them, but watching them play for the first time in a long-enough while, they looked like a band that made themselves headliners the hard way, and who have earned every accolade, every top slot, every laudatory hyperbole they’ve gotten. Like so much of the festival that led up to them, they were the right band, right time.

I saw and met a lot of really wonderful people this weekend who had absurdly nice things to say about this site and whatnot, from the Horseburner guys to hanging out with Mike from Backwoods Payback and Leanne Ridgeway from Riff Relevant, to seeing Paul-forever-to-be-known-as-MadJohnShaft and talking about the various European fests he hits, Dave Benzotti, Erik Larson, Earl Walker Lundy, Ron Vanacore, Deanne Firkin, Billy from Philly and the gents from The Age of Truth, Mark and Pete from ZED, Uncle Fezzy, Darren Waters, Dee Calhoun, Shy Kennedy, Pat Harrington, the dudes from Bailjack, Steve Moss, Melanie Streko, Lisa Hass, Chuck Dukeheart and the Foghound gang, Mat from Castle, Doomstress Alexis, Mark Schaff, Justin from Molasses Barge, Brenna from Lightning Born, on and on and on.

Thank you is my point. People say incredible stuff about this site, and I can’t ever really let myself hear it, but I’m happy if someone feels positively about a thing that happens here. Every now and then I do too. This weekend was one of those times. Thank you for reading and being a part of it.

It was five and a half hours north in the car when I let out of the Super 8 in Frederick to get to Connecticut, which is how this review ended up being later than I’d prefer, but so it goes. Before I end the post, I need to send a special thanks to The Patient Mrs., whose management and running point on The Pecan the last few days made this trip possible in the first place. That’s a hard job, even more for her than for me, and I owe her eternally for her efforts in allowing me to pursue crazy ideas like, “so I’m gonna go to Frederick for a weekend and hit Doom Fest you got the baby okay cool thanks.” It means more to me than I can say.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again all.

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The Obelisk Presents: Heavy Mash 2018, Oct. 13 in Arlington, TX

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on June 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

heavy mash 2018 poster

After being fortunate enough to have been asked last year, there was no way I wasn’t going to be up for having The Obelisk on board to present Heavy Mash 2018. The second edition of the Arlington, Texas-based festival will take place on Oct. 13 and feature a full day and a full lineup of all-killer heavy rock, doom, psych and whatnot, with Austin-dwellers Duel as the headliners on the heels of their 2017 sophomore album, Witchbanger (review here). In fact, when fest organizer Mark Kitchens — also of Stone Machine Electric — brought up the issue recently, my only question was whether the awesome frog from last year’s poster would make a return. To the benefit of all humanity, you can see clearly above that it has.

Duel sit atop the lineup with Californian imports Great Electric Quest and Dallas’ Mountain of Smoke, whose second album, Gods of Biomechanics, will be out July 7 and is an absolute crusher. As it turns out, Great Electric Quest are the only non-Texas band on the bill, as amid the roster of DoomstressStone Machine ElectricSwitchblade JesusOrthodox FuzzGypsy Sun RevivalWitchcryer and Dead Hawke, there isn’t one group that doesn’t call the Lone Star State home. I guess that’s what happens when the place you’re from is awash in creativity and, uh, huge. Just ask California.

The geographic theme at play only makes Heavy Mash 2018 more special, since Texas’ heavy underground is nothing if not worth highlighting, and no doubt at least some of the acts will have shared stages in the past, making it all the more of a party at Division Brewing, which once again will host the event and seems to just be asking for trouble in so doing. So much riffs. So much beer. I hope they have a good mop for afterward.

Get your ass to Texas:

The Obelisk Presents: Heavy Mash 2018

Oct 13 at 1 PM

Division Brewing
506 E Main St, Arlington, Texas 76010

After last year’s successful event, we are pleased to announce this year’s Heavy Mash! Once again, our great friend Wade hosts this event at Division Brewing in Arlington, TX on October 13th, 2018.

Nothing but heavy music and great beer! Here is this year’s line-up:

DUEL – 11pm
Great Electric Quest – 10pm
Mountain of Smoke – 9pm
Doomstress – 8pm
Stone Machine Electric – 7pm
Switchblade Jesus – 6pm
Orthodox Fuzz – 5pm
Witchcryer – 4pm
Gypsy Sun Revival – 3pm
DEAD HAWKE – 2pm

Duel, Witchbanger (2017)

Heavy Mash 2018 event page

Heavy Mash on Thee Facebooks

Division Brewing website

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Duel, Live at the Electric Church

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

duel live at the electric church

[Click play above to stream Duel’s Live at the Electric Church in full. Album is out May 18 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]

On Cesar Chavez St. in Austin, Texas, far enough from the 6th St. epicenter of the hype machine known as SXSW, the weirdos seem to have made a haven called The Electric Church. On a given night, one might see an open mic/psych jam played out while video games are projected on the wall outside — they call it “Triptendo,” and rightly so — or local acts like Greenbeard, Amplified Heat or Peyote Coyote. I don’t know when Duel recorded Live at the Electric Church there, and I kind of like that. I’m sure somewhere on the CD or LP package there’s the date (digital promo) or I’m sure if you asked the band when they played that particular set, they wouldn’t keep it a secret, but I kind of like the thought of not knowing. If you’ve never been to Austin, it has traditionally been an enclave in Texas for artists, musicians, hippies and others who don’t fit the norm.

It’s cool to think that one might head up to a kind of off-the-path locale on the other side of the highway and find creativity flourishing in all its constantly misunderstood glory. Maybe Duel are on stage. The four-piece outfit have made themselves ambassadors of classic stoner rock, delivering the goods with ’70s flair, modern fuzz, and abundant hooks as they bounce and careen through deceptively memorable tracks. They’ve got two full-lengths out via Heavy Psych Sounds in 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and with Live at the Electric Church, they show off the energy and the clear delivery that typifies the approach they’ve developed on tours of the US and Europe.

The set is a little over half an hour long and is comprised of six songs, four of which come from Fears of the Dead, with only “The Snake Queen” and the subsequent “Heart of the Sun” taken from Witchbanger. Likely that has more to do with the timing of when the show was taped than some aesthetic consideration or a preference for the band for their debut over their sophomore outing. That is, Witchbanger probably just hadn’t been out all that long when they played that gig, or the four/two split might just as easily be reversed. As it is, “The Snake Queen” and “Heart of the Sun” make up the middle third of the set, with the brash “This Old Crow” and the righteous hook of “Electricity” before and the Fears of the Dead title-track and longer closer “Locked Outside” after.

duel

Throughout, on new material and old, Duel‘s lineup of guitarist/vocalist Tom Frank, guitarist Jeff Henson, bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants and drummer JD Shadowz leave no question as to why they’d want to release this particular evening’s set as they not only sound dynamic in terms of speeding up or slowing down songs, but also in bringing different vibes through in their material, such as the transition from “Electricity” to the largely more subdued “Snake Queen,” which forsakes the all-go-all-destroy live ethic of some bands — nothing against it, especially for a shorter set — in favor of something richer on the whole. Captured by Crow Studios on a mobile recording unit, Live at the Electric Church is crisp and sharp sounding, but doesn’t lose its live edge in order to preserve its underlying melody or the aforementioned dynamic of approach. As with Duel on the whole, it finds a balance that works.

And if on this particular night they happened to play more cuts from the first album, so be it. I don’t think I’d trade the slow-roll-into-reignition of “Fears of the Dead” for much anyway. That song and the 8:49 “Locked Outside” are the longest two on Live at the Electric Church, and as on Fears of the Dead, much of the second half of the closer is given to a last instrumental push that after the shared vocals of Frank and Avants in the trippy midsection takes hold fluidly and moves with natural ease toward the eventual grand crescendo of the set as a whole. From the quick and straightforward bruiser “This Old Crow” at the start, it’s a pretty wide-ranging journey toward “Locked Outside,” but as Duel shuffle and boogie their way through, they leave a trail of hooks behind for the audience to follow, and from the whoops and shouts between the songs, it sounds like they succeeded in that.

I haven’t had the pleasure of watching Duel live and I’m quite sure that if I had I’d be speaking about Live at the Electric Church in a different way, but part of the purpose of live albums in the first place isn’t just to give ans something else to latch onto between studio releases, but to give those who haven’t seen the band yet a teaser of what they’ve been missing. As someone in the latter category, I can only say Live at the Electric Church succeeds there as well, showcasing both the songwriting prowess and the vitality of the band while holding to the brazen feel that the songs demand. Everything works. Band, songs, performance. If you’ve got experience with Duel‘s prior work or you want a 32-minute sampler of what they can do, Live at the Electric Church serves to inform and thrill in kind.

Duel on Thee Facebooks

Duel on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

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Onségen Ensemble Post Video for Title-Track of New Album Duel

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Onsegen Ensemble

I don’t have an excuse for missing out on Onségen Ensemble‘s early 2016 debut release, Awalaï. I’m sure you heard it, because you’re on your stuff like that. The album was released by Pink Tank Records, who are a label I hear from regularly, and the Finnish psychedelic collective’s work is so much right up my alley that I’m a little sad no one tipped me off between then and now and said, “Uh hey dude you should probably check his stuff out,” because god damn, I wish I had. It’s the kind of thing I might end up closing out a week with just so I can talk about it. Friday Full-Length, and all that.

Anyway, the better news — though I’m not sure finding out about an awesome band counts as “bad news,” even when one factors in the punk rock guilt of not getting in on the ground floor — is that Onségen Ensemble have a second record, titled Duel, coming out this summer. Based in the psychedelic hotbed of Oulu, the band’s own Esa Juujärvi brought the work to my attention by sending the link to the video for the title-track, and maybe it was the resonance of the juxtaposition in the lyrics “We are all in this together/Burn, burn the world” that hit me so hard, or maybe it was just the spaciousness of the whole thing, or the chill of the video, but yeah, if it wasn’t so soothing, I’d say it hit me like a ton of bricks.

So I’m posting the video as advance notice of the album. It’s been out for a few days already, but screw it. I don’t think Onségen Ensemble have a set release date for Duel, but when I hear of one I’ll get it posted accordingly. Now that I have my head out of my ass on the matter (and only on this matter, rest assured), I’ll try not to let any news/updates slip by. Fingers crossed it’s out sooner than later.

Dig the video below, and please enjoy:

Onségen Ensemble, “Duel” official video

DUEL – the second album by Onségen Ensemble out this summer. Check out the title song now!

Onségen Ensemble is a group of musicians from northern Finland. This periodically active ensemble continues Onségen’s musical legacy with a new album which will be released in the summer of 2018. The album contains a multilevel and experimental fusion of postrock, jazz and stoner, mixed with touches of cinematic and flamboyant overtones.

Onségen Ensemble – Duel
1. Think Neither Good Nor Evil
2. Duel
3. Dogma MMXVIII
4. Zodiacal Lights of Onségen
5. Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher

Onségen Ensemble is:
Juggis Aalto, Heikki Häkkilä, Esa Juujärvi, Merja Järvelin, Sami Lehtiniemi, Samuli Lindberg, Joni Mäkelä, Jaakko Tuomivaara, Niina Vahtola and Mikko Vuorela.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onségen Ensemble on Bandcamp

Onségen Ensemble website

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Electric Funeral Fest III Lineup Announced; Speedwolf and Weedeater to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I wanna go to this. Let me not mince words. I know it’s the week after Maryland Doom Fest and that for a dude who lives in Massachusetts and has a baby and is already planning on hitting the Netherlands, Germany and Las Vegas this spring and summer that’s an awful lot of travel, but man, Electric Funeral Fest III looks like an absolute blast. How could you look at a lineup with The Midnight Ghost Train, Amplified Heat and Cloud Catcher and not want to be there? And then after all that boogie you’ve got Primitive Man to flatten the earth so Weedeater have a nice clean surface to get absolutely filthy with their sludge? Come on.

Will I get to go? Yeah, probably not. But it’s nice to think about. Check out the poster and the full lineup from the PR wire and see if you don’t agree:

electric funeral fest iii poster

ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST III To Take Place June 29th-30th In Denver; Initial Lineup Includes Headlining Appearances By Speedwolf And Weedeater + Tickets On Sale TODAY

The third edition of Dust Present’s ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST will return to Denver, Colorado on June 29th-30th, 2018!

The annual South Broadway festival, known loosely as The Blowout on Broadway, will be grander than ever in its third iteration, expanding to include a third stage inside the Mutiny Information Cafe, a spot known city-wide for its welcoming atmosphere and promotion of DIY events of all types. Located across the street from Hi Dive and just a block north of 3 Kings Tavern – the two hosting venues of last year’s festival, and two Denver favorites – the Mutiny stage will be the first all-ages stage offered at ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST and its central location will bolster the street festival environment cultivated over the last two years that’s become an integral part of the Electric Funeral’s attraction.

Friday June 29th will mark the one-night return of Denver speed metal legends Speedwolf as the group reunites for their first show in over four years with a headlining slot at 3 Kings. There may be no band in recent memory that’s achieved the cult status in Denver that Speedwolf has, and a raucous in-your-face performance inside 3 Kings will surely invoke wild memories (or forgotten ones) of infamous Speedwolf appearances of yore. Friday’s support spans from the soaring dual harmonies of 2017 MVPs Spirit Adrift, crushing Iowa doom trio Aseethe, the unmatched ’70s blues-boogie of Amplified Heat, Portland’s self-proclaimed street doom merchants R.I.P. and many more.

The top slot Saturday June 30th will see the aggressive stoner metal onslaught of Wilmington, North Carolina’s Weedeater. Driven by the gutteral growl and enthralling stage energy of bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins, North Carolina’s manic sons are poised to lift the crowd a bit higher than usual. The meat of the day two lineup matches the versatility of day one, including the misanthropic punishment of Primitive Man, Duel’s high-flying proto-metal roar, the manic blues attack of The Midnight Ghost Train, Opoponax Records sleepers Grey Gallows and many more.

A full festival lineup will be released in the coming weeks.

ELECTRIC FUNERAL is Denver’s premiere heavy music festival, built as a bridge between one of North America’s most powerful and vibrant cities for heavy music and the legions of bands and fans who visit the Mile High City each year. ELECTRIC FUNERAL, an event run and produced by musicians, stands as the antithesis to corporate driven rock festivals. Founded as a beacon for the Denver scene, ELECTRIC FUNERAL FEST 2018 ramps the spotlight up a little brighter this year, showcasing over fifteen bands from Denver, including a few behemoths holding down headlining and top support slots.

Venues:
Hi Dive (21+), 3 Kings Tavern (21+), Mutiny Information Cafe (all ages)

Ticket Options:
$50 early-bird two-day pass (50 available)
$32 one-day pass
$60 two-day pass

Tickets available at: http://www.electricfuneralfestiii.eventbrite.com

Friday, June 29th:
Headliner: Speedwolf (reunion show)
Support: Spirit Adrift, Aseethe, R.I.P., Amplified Heat, Forming The Void, Love Gang, Urn, Smokey Mirror, Augur, Necropanther, Bandits, Green Druid, Keef Duster

Saturday, June 30th:
Headliner: Weedeater
Support: Primitive Man, The Midnight Ghost Train, Duel, Grey Gallows, Cloud Catcher, The Munsens, Loom, White Dog, Vexing, Wizzerd, Space in Time, Smolder & Burn, Alone, Still Valley

https://www.facebook.com/events/1976102246000271/
https://www.eventbrite.com/o/dust-presents-12848870878
http://www.facebook.com/dustpresents
http://instagram.com/dustpresents

Cloud Catcher, “The Whip” Live at Electric Funeral Fest 2017

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Thin Lizzy Tribute Bow to Your Masters Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

While one could hardly at all argue that the title Bow to Your Masters is in any way inappropriate for a tribute to Irish heavy rock legends Thin Lizzy, it seems the intention on the part of Glory or Death Records is to make it an ongoing series, perhaps featuring different acts along the way in the spirit of Magnetic Eye‘s homages to Jimi Hendrix, Helmet and Pink Floyd? That’s of course if I’m correctly reading the preorder info — and hey, I’m pretty much a clueless moron so there’s always a chance I’m not — below for the first LP of the two currently slated to arrive for Bow to Your Masters: Thin Lizzy early this year and including a special screenprint of the album art and immediate streaming option.

You can see the LP1 and LP2 tracklistings below. They, uh, rule.

No really, I mean it. Killer assemblage:

Welcome to the first release from Glory or Death Records Bow to Your Masters series of tribute albums. For this first release we chose something special: Thin Lizzy, one of the most influential rock-and-roll bands of all time.

There are two vinyl options:
-“Glory” green LP1 vinyl and “Death” colored/patterned LP2 vinyl
-“Death” orange/black splatter LP1 vinyl and “Death” colored/patterned LP2 vinyl

There is also a tri-fold CD option!

All editions come with a 12×12 screen print of the album cover. Final shipping date TBD-likely early 2018.

LP1 live for preorder buyers now. Preorder on Big Cartel and we’ll send a link to listen to the entire first LP. You know you want it! Just to clarify, the preorder includes physical and digital files for both LPs!

Track Listing for LP1 (available to stream for preorder buyers)

Are you Ready – Mothership
Massacre – Mos Generator
Don’t Believe a Word – White Dog
Suicide – Egypt
Chinatown – Red Wizard
Thunder and Lightning – KOOK
She Knows – Slow Season
Cold Sweat – Great Electric Quest
Cowboy Song – Goya

Track Listing for LP 2 (not available to stream yet)

It’s Only Money – Wo Fat
Johnny – Worshipper
Jailbreak – DUEL
Emerald – Gygax
Still in Love with You – Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless)
Opium Trail – Jeff Matz (High on Fire), Mark Yalowitz (Zeke), Mike Scheidt (Yob), and more
The Rocker – Bow to Your Masters Supergroup
????? – High On Fire
And more…

http://gloryordeathrecords.bigcartel.com/product/bow-to-your-masters-volume-i-thin-lizzy
https://www.facebook.com/Gloryordeathrecords/

Thin Lizzy, “Cowboy Song”

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Descendants of Crom 2018 Announces Initial Lineup with Geezer, Devil to Pay, Kind, Curse the Son, Come to Grief, Heavy Temple and Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

There are still headliners to be announced and others to come as well, and no doubt between now and then there will be one or two shakeups to what’s listed here between bands being added and bands dropping off as will invariably happen, but kudos all the same to organizer Shy Kennedy for the super-early unveiling of what’s probably the bulk of the lineup for Descendants of Crom 2018, the second installment of the Pittsburgh-based heavy fest. In addition to her own band, Horehound, Kennedy has already assembled a killer roster of acts, from Heavy Temple to Come to Grief to a slew of Steel City reserves in OutsideInside, Molasses Barge and others, and even if this was going to be the ultimate shape the festival would take — that is, if no one else was going to be added, which, again, they are — you’d still have to call it a good time in the making.

If you’ve got a 2018 calendar yet, mark it. Earlybird tickets are linked below. Here’s the announcement as posted by the fest, along with a quote graciously provided by Kennedy herself:

descendants of crom 2018

Blackseed Records Presents: Descendants of Crom 2018

The Descendants of Crom 2018 will be held in Pittsburgh, PA, USA in September 2018.

Pre Gala at Howlers in the evening on Thursday, September 27th.

Full days on September 28th and 29th at Cattivo.

“Descendants of Crom has been one of the most incredibly rewarding endeavors I’ve ever been involved with,” says fest organizer Shy Kennedy. “Having so many great people working and coming together for their underground music community the way they did that day was inspiring enough to erase any doubt that it has to grow. It has to be an annual event. Next year’s event may seem far away but it lends the time to really build it and get more people aware of it. As you know, a lot of work goes into a musical festival and if you take your time, it becomes a very enjoyable task. Descendants of Crom 2018 will be here all too soon and I, for one, cannot wait!”

Once upon a time there were 17 bands who joined forces to create one killer day of live, riff-ripping performances to celebrate the great community of our heavy, underground music here in the Northeast of the United States. That time was just a couple months back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The all day event was a great collaboration in effort by local organization, bands from the region as well as a few touring and some very generous scene contributors. It was called the Descendants of Crom. Let’s do it again!

The second annual Descendants of Crom will be held on the last weekend of September of 2018 in Pittsburgh again. This time span three days in length as we are including a Thursday evening pre gala and all day events happening Friday and Saturday. There will be over 30 bands in total coming from all over the United States with a strong regional focus.

Tickets will be offered for single day to day events or in combinations. An Early Crow ticket sale will be held for the weekend combo for a 3 month period, limited to 125. These will be live soon today.

Stay tuned to find out the bands who will be rounding out the evenings of each night as well as the completed schedule.

Today, we announce the “meat” of the Descendants of Crom. These bands are the ones supporting this scene locally, regionally and or nationally. They are strong, beautiful creators of the jam, the breakdown, the beat, and the undeniable riff… they are the Descendants of Crom:

Descendants of Crom 2018 lineup:
The Long Hunt (PGH)
JaketheHawk (PGH)
Mires (PGH)
Solarburn (PGH)
Doctor Smoke (PGH)
Fist Fight In The Parking Lot (PGH)
Thunderbird Divine
Cloud
Curse the Son
Disenchanter
Molasses Barge (PGH)
OutsideInside
Wolftooth
Sierra
Horehound (PGH)
Cavern
Doomstress
Heavy Temple
Devil to Pay
Serpents of Secrecy
Eternal Black
Demon Eye
Geezer
Kind
Freedom Hawk
Duel
Come to Grief

Headliners and sub-headliners to be announced soon.
Early Crow tickets available for all event and 2 day passes for 3 months (11/23 – 2/23).

https://www.facebook.com/DescendantsOfCrom/
https://www.facebook.com/events/177536592803763
https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3186333
http://descendantsofcrom.com

Solace, Live at Descendants of Crom 2017

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