Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night One, Sept. 1, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.30 – Friday night/Saturday morning – Sid’s house

First night of an inaugural edition of a festival. I couldn’t help but be affected by a kind of ambient level of anxiety in the room, though I’ll say as well that the hypercaffeination factor probably didn’t help in that regard. It was a cloudy day in Dublin with just a bit of a chill in the air and 10 bands on the bill, and before I put myself in the darkened recesses of the Voodoo Lounge for the evening, I sat at the coffee shop and could see the sundry black-t-shirt-clad weirdos who’d be attending the fest. They were easy enough to pick out.

The show got underway at 19.00 with Elder Druid on The Obelisk Stage, which even though I’m here and have seen it in-person still seems more than a little unreal, and was just about nonstop from there until Wild Rocket finished on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage after midnight, so there was plenty to see. I did the best I could with the back and forth and tried not to look like too much of an ass taking notes in between. Here are the results of that effort:

Elder Druid

elder-druid-photo-jj-koczan

Well, if you want to get things rolling, you might as well get someone that rolls, and Elder Druid have that part down. The Northern Irish sludgers weren’t heretofore unknown to me, having checked out their 2016 debut EP, Magicka (review here), and they broke out riff after sludgy riff for the early crowd filing in. It hardly seemed like a coincidence they were starting off the show. Although they’re from up north, like a lot of the representation Irish heavy would get throughout the night to follow, they were young and hungry, and looking to establish themselves as a force to the audience assembled. Aggro vocals over Southern-style riffs aren’t necessarily uncharted territory, but for a newer group, they worked quickly to find their momentum and held people in check for the duration, sounding full and mean through the Voodoo Lounge soundsystem with pro-shop lighting flashing behind them. They were angrier than a lot of the vibe would be for the rest of the night, but definitely drew people right into the thick of it with their set. They’re about to release their debut album, Carmina Satanae, on Oct. 6, and I hope I get to dig into it, because it was a fast half-hour from them to start the night.

Blaak Heat

blaak-heat-photo-jj-koczan

Talk about a band who deserves more respect than they get. I suppose that’ll happen when your stuff is so head-spinningly complex, full of frenetic rhythmic changes, blinding turns, obscure Eastern-inflected scales and progressive melodies, but still. Playing as a five-piece and sharing three members with Abrahma in percussionist Sacha Viken, guitarist Nicolas Heller and bassist  Guillaume Theoden — which left just guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier and drummer Mike Amster in the lineup from when I last saw them — they opened with “Sword of Hakim” and “Al-Andalus” from their new 7″ The Arabian Fuzz (review here) and proved once again how absolutely underrated they are and have been basically since they started. I had talked to them earlier in the day and Bellier said they had new stuff in the works, demos and whatnot (which I’d love to hear, though he doesn’t seem the type to send something unfinished, even just to check out), and while their 2016 full-length, Shifting Mirrors (review here), was the farthest they’d yet reached, the new single proves they’re still progressing, still pushing themselves, and I hope that will continue, because the results have never been anything less than stellar. They might be underrated, they might deserve more respect than they get, but clearly they’re chasing something within themselves sonically and that journey seems to thrive on the validation from the creativity that results from its undertaking.

Zlatanera

zlatanera-photo-jj-koczan

They were the first act upstairs on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like much of what followed them in the smaller room, they played a more straightforward vibe and did well representing the native Irish scene. I hadn’t quite realized the shape the evening would take until I actually looked at the schedule, with international bands exclusively downstairs and Irish acts upstairs, but it made sense, and it was clear to see who the locals were once the double-guitar five-piece got going. As had Elder DruidZlatanera drew a good early crowd, and though I was kind of in and out for their set as I wanted to catch the end of Blaak Heat back downstairs — conflicts, conflicts, conflicts; back and forth is life at a festival — when I went back down I could still hear them from the back of the bigger room, so they were clearly doing something right. Light on frills, but their sound filled that upstairs room perfectly.

Abrahma

abrahma-photo-jj-koczan

Parisian progressive heavy rockers Abrahma kept the theme — and the lineup — rolling from Blaak HeatViken moved behind the drum kit at the back of the deep downstairs stage, and Theoden and Heller switched sides from left to right as founding Abrahma guitarist/vocalist Sebastien Bismuth took the center spot. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch Abrahma live once before, in the Netherlands for Roadburn 2015 (review here), but neither Theoden nor Viken were in the band at that point, so it was half like seeing them for the first time anyway, even knowing how dynamic a frontman Bismuth is onstage. And he is. They said earlier this summer they’d be recording a new album this Fall as a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), and I hope they get there, because they seemed to be pretty locked in when it came to their presentation, right down to a pleasant-as-hell-surprise cover of Type O Negative‘s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” from October Rust. Unexpected, to be sure, and twice as daring without keys, but Bismuth led the charge through a two-guitar interpretation, and it’s worth noting that even after the show that song continues to be stuck in my head, where I hope it will stay for, I don’t know, ever? In all seriousness, I’m very, very intrigued to hear where their new (original) material takes AbrahmaReflections in the Bowels of a Bird added to much to their sound even compared to the preceding 2012 outing, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), that I can only wonder what the next step in that process will be. One to look forward to for 2018, at the very least.

Mount Soma

mount-soma-photo-jj-koczan

I was really hoping they’d be good, because I bought one of their shirts even before they started playing. Long story. Not really, but a boring story, so we’ll call it long and leave it at that. Being there to catch Mount Soma‘s mix of melodic and nasty heavy meant again trodding upstairs in my plodding-old-man kind of way, and again, when I got there, I found the native Dubliners, like Zlatanera before them, giving a right-on impression of Irish underground heavy. The scene representing itself to itself: here we are. Obviously I’m an outsider and no expert to start with, but the understanding I’ve come to is that while the UK has been in something of a boom the last decade or so, that’s kind of overshadowed what’s actually happening here in terms of outside bands coming to tour and native Irish acts garnering wider attention. Efforts like Emerald Haze, particularly backed by the county of Dublin as this event is, are crucial in making that happen, and I didn’t quite realize until I watched Mount Soma that while it’s great to see the international acts downstairs, perhaps even more attention has gone into curating the Irish groups playing here, because a huge part of the message of this festival is that Ireland’s scene is coming into its own, and while there’s still growing to do, the bands are clearly willing to take that responsibility on their shoulders. Mount Soma proved it with volume and force. No regrets on buying that shirt, to be sure.

The Cosmic Dead

the comic dead (photo jj koczan)

The spaced-out Scots started late. Like, way late. Would you expect anything less of The Cosmic Dead than the bending of time? If so, then perhaps you’ve never heard them before, because that’s kind of what they do. Also, bending space. Also, melting brains. In any case, late start or no, once they got going, the Edinburgh four-piece freaked the royal fuck out — immediately and thoroughly. Killer. All the way. No doubter. Front to back. Green lights flashing. Synth blaring. Low end righteousness under wash of swirl. Melt. Melt. Melt. Space. Space. Space. Right frickin’ on. Like a frequency check for your consciousness. A litmus to see how much jam your brain could take before turning into powder. Every level, they were a lysergic win to behold, and while the running theme for the night was holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-lucky-enough-to-be-here-to-see-this, The Cosmic Dead only underscored the point that, holy crap, I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be here to see this. I’d already purchased every CD they had for sale and though I didn’t have enough cash, by the time they were done — they had the lights turned out on them because they were running long (that late start coming back to bite them in the collective ass) — I wanted to go back out to the merch area and pick up a t-shirt too. There were times as they were dug in when each member seemed to be on his own out there, floating without gravity and purposefully so, but when they locked step, whoa. Chills up the spine. Hair standing on end. Pick your cliché and roll with it. Whatever you got, The Cosmic Dead earned it. When they were done, they hung their guitars and bass from the ceiling. Room: conquered.

King Witch

king-witch-photo-JJ-KOCZAN

To the best of my knowledge, they were the only band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage not from Ireland or Northern Ireland, but while they shared a hometown with The Cosmic Dead in Edinburgh, the four-piece King Witch, whose metallic roots came through clearly in the guitar work of Jamie Gilchrist and the vocals of Laura Donnelly, the straight-ahead groove anchored by bassist Joe Turner and drummer Lyle Brown fit them right in with the likes of Mount Soma and Zlatanera before them. Donnelly was, one should note, the evening’s only standalone frontwoman, and she provided melody and force in kind from the stage. They were going even as The Cosmic Dead were still setting up downstairs, so were easy to hear from the start, and while once more I was up and back down again and back up again, King Witch‘s doom-tinged approach was a welcome preface to some of what tomorrow’s even more extended lineup will bring.

Church of the Cosmic Skull

church-of-the-cosmic-skull-Photo-jj-koczan

I have to admit, on paper it looks a little strange. Granted, it was one of 2016’s best debut albums, but still, UK seven-piece cult proggers Church of the Cosmic Skull only have one record out in the stellar Is Satan Real? (review here), so to find them headlining the bigger of the two stages could’ve been taken as something of a surprise. Until about 10 seconds in. I’d watched them soundcheck earlier in the day, and even that did little to prepare me for the righteousness of their presentation. Whether it was the interlude samples timed to videos between their songs or the harmonies between guitarist Bill Fisher, vocalists Caroline Cawley and Jo Joyce, bassist Sam Lloyd and Hammond organist Michael Wetherburn, or the brought-to-life memorability of cuts like “Mountain Heart,” set and album closer “Evil in Your Eye” or personal highlight “Watch it Grow,” they were nothing less than a celebration. A joy to witness. Really. Wetherburn‘s Hammond had been onstage all night, and when they finally broke it out, it was like Chekhov’s gun earning its place. Between that, the cello, and Fisher‘s rainbow guitar and stately manner as a chapeaued otherplanetary-cult leader waiting to take the whole venue away on some spaceship hidden behind a comet — pass that Kool-Aid, I’ll give it a shot, carbs or no — there was no place Church of the Cosmic Skull would have worked except at the top of the bill, and the room, which was the most packed it had been all night, knew it. I felt greedy for thinking to myself I hope I get to see them at some point again in my life, especially when they pulled out what I’m pretty sure was a new song during the middle of their time. They didn’t miss a cue in the harmony arrangements, but that did nothing to undercut their tonal presence or the push in Loz Stone‘s drumming, and as positive and affirming as they were, there was just enough evil underlying their work to be truly sinister. Right on.

Electric Octopus

electric-octopus-photo-jj-koczan

In order to prepare myself for seeing Electric Octopus live, the other day I undertook the considerable task of listening to their 2017 offering, Driving Under the Influence of Jams, in its nearly-four-hour entirety. And well, I knew they’d jam. And they jammed. What I didn’t realize was that when I went upstairs to catch them in that, they’d be so funky that they literally had people dancing in front of the stage. Think you can funk out improvised space rock? Because Electric Octopus sure as hell can, and the Belfast-based trio of bassist Dale Hughes (who was pulling double-duty, having also played in Elder Druid at the start of the show), guitarist Tyrell Black and drummer Guy Hetherington were a party unto themselves. I’d say outside world be damned, but the truth is, they seemed to feed off the fun the crowd in front of them was having, and it became this awesome conversation, the band playing the music being danced to and then taking the energy from that dance and translating it back into the music. There was something classic and open about it, but still molten and psychedelic at the same time. Wild Rocket, who’d follow, were more directly galaxial in what they were doing, and ditto that for The Cosmic Dead earlier, but Electric Octopus had their own personality that came through in their play and in their chemistry, and while there was nary a hook to be had in their instrumental explorations, their energy was infectious all the same. I didn’t dance. I don’t dance. I didn’t dance at my wedding. I don’t dance. But I grooved and had a hell of a time doing so as Electric Octopus made me want to go back and download every single thing they’ve ever put out, which is convenient because it’s all name-your-price on Bandcamp. They also had three CDs for sale. I bought all three and I’ll rank them among the wiser purchases I’ve made since becoming unemployed this summer.

Wild Rocket

wild-rocket-photo-JJ-Koczan

Okay, so first thing. If you haven’t heard Wild Rocket‘s new LP, Disassociation Mechanics, do that. In fact, you’ll note that of the 10 bands who played Emerald Haze 2017 tonight, they’re the only one I’m directly linking to on Bandcamp, and that’s not a coincidence. What a blast they were. Only fitting to have a Dublin outfit close out the evening, and Wild Rocket made sure everyone had a final chance to be launched well beyond the atmosphere. Even the dudes from The Cosmic Dead came upstairs and were throwing down at the front of the stage, and that seemed appropriate enough to the proceedings. Certainly well earned. I had seen them last year in Norway at Høstsabbat (review here), but with a little bit more of an idea of what I was getting this time around, it was a pleasure to watch them flatten the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage and give the night the best kind finale it could’ve possibly asked for. How much further out could it go than to have MooseJonBres and Niallo trip so far there was no coming back? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Point is, go listen to that fucking Wild Rocket album. I mean it. The review’s pretty much over anyway. Only thing left to reiterate is how well the band did in giving the city of Dublin one more excellent showing of its own homegrown scene, because they were nothing if they weren’t world-class all the way, and unquestionably ready for export. Did you go listen to the record? Did you hear “Into the Black Hole?” Yeah. Good.

It’s well past 2AM as I finish writing this and there are still pictures to sort through and a full 15-band lineup for tomorrow, so I’m going to leave it there for the time being. I’ll have this posted hopefully before the day starts up again, but hell, it might be tight. We’ll see how it goes. Would you believe me if I said I was anxious about it? Thought so.

Thanks for reading. More to come and more pics after the jump here.

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The Obelisk Presents: Emerald Haze 2017 Announces Full Schedule

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Can I be brutally honest for just a second here? Just a second — won’t take long. I’m not worthy.

I’m sorry. I’m just not. I look at the lineup that’s come together for the first Emerald Haze on Sept. 1 and 2 in Dublin, I see this site’s name on a stage that will be shared by the likes of The Cosmic Dead, Abrahma, Lord Vicar, Sólstafir, Iron Void, Blaak Heat, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Elder Druid, Gourd, WitchSorrow, Gorilla Pulp and Ten Ton Slug, and I have to just shake my head. I’ve done nothing to deserve to be so honored as to be associated with these people. Nothing. I didn’t earn this. I’m not worthy. Seeing a logo for The Obelisk on the posters below, I feel like I’m getting away with some kind of scam.

Again, I’m sorry, but that’s how I really feel about it. This show is so god damn sick. They need me as a part of it the way they need a hole in the head. If you had told me eight-plus years ago when I started this site (1:) that I’d still be doing it in eight-plus years and (2:) that I’d be co-presenting shows in places like Dublin, Ireland, I’d have immediately and rightly told you to screw off. There’s unbelievable and then there’s absurd, and from where I sit, this falls definitively into the realm of the latter.

My flight’s booked. If you’re going, I’ll see you there. Please let me know if you’d like me to tell you all of this in-person, because I am 100 percent ready and willing to do that at any point. What I can’t do is even begin to properly express how grateful I am to be involved in this.

Okay. That’s my piece.

Full schedule for Emerald Haze 2017 follows here:

Emerald Haze 2017 – Full Schedule

Friday, Sept. 1
Doors – 6.00

The Obelisk Stage
7.00–7.30 Elder Druid
7.45–8.15 Blaak Heat
8.30–9.00 Abrahma
9.15–10.00 The Cosmic Dead
10.30–11.20 Church of the Cosmic Skull

MFB Stage
8.00–8.30 Zlatanera
8.45–9.15 Mount Soma
9.30–10.10 King Witch
10.25-11.05 Electric Octopus
11.20–12.20 Wild Rocket

After Party DJs Til Late – On The Rox

Saturday, Sept. 2
Doors – 2.30

The Obelisk Stage
3.30 – 4.00 Gourd?
4.15 – 4.45 Ten Ton Slug?
5.00 – 5.45 Iron Void?
6.00 – 6.45 Witchsorrow?
Break
7.20–8.00 Dread Sovereign
8.15–9.15 Lord Vicar
9.45–10.45 Sólstafir
11.00-11.40 Gorilla Pulp

After Party DJs Til Late – Voodoo Lounge

MFB Stage
3.45–4.15 Korvid
4.30–5.00 Vulpynes
5.15–5.45 Crowhammer
6.00–6.30 The Magnapinna
6.45–7.15 Death The Leveller
Break
8.00–8.30 Mother Mooch
8.45–9.40 Nomadic Rituals

Subject to change

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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Emerald Haze 2017: Individual Day Lineups Announced; Sólstafir & Church of the Cosmic Skull to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It says something about the adventurous nature of the inaugural Emerald Haze festival — set for Sept. 1-2 in Dublin, Ireland and co-presented by The Obelisk — that it will be headlined by Sólstafir and Church of the Cosmic Skull. The former, a genreless Icelandic outfit, specialize in a highly individualized brand of melodic melancholia. The latter are an almost brand new UK outfit whose debut, Is Satan Real? (review here), came out last year and was rife with proggy flourish in keys and vocal arrangements. Both are legit choices, but neither is quite what you’d expect for a festival centered around heavy psych and rock, and as someone fortunate enough to be involved in the fest in the tiny, infinitesimally small fashion I am and who will also be fortunate enough to be there to cover it, I appreciate that unexpected nature of the goings on.

And as I’m pretty sure I’ve said in every single post about Emerald Haze 2017, I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the fest:

EMERALD HAZE ANNOUNCE DAILY LINE-UPS

EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival has announced the daily line-ups for the inaugural edition which takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Friday will see main stage headliners Church of the Cosmic Skull joined by The Cosmic Dead, Wild Rocket, Abrahma, Blaak Heat, Electric Octopus, Elder Druid, King Witch, Mount Soma and Zlatanera while Saturday sees Sólstafir, Belzebong, Lord Vicar, Dread Sovereign, Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Gorilla Pulp, WitchSorrow, Electric Taurus, Ten Ton Slug, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid across two stages in Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox.

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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Emerald Haze 2017: Belzebong, The Cosmic Dead, Blaak Heat, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Electric Taurus, Mount Soma & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Thus far, the inaugural Emerald Haze fest has been pretty metered in posting its lineup additions, but in this final one, they’re pretty much going for broke in welcoming a range of acts from Ireland and beyond, including Poland’s Belzebong, Scottish jammers The Cosmic Dead, US/France-based desert progressives Blaak Heat, and UK doomers Iron Void among a vast slew of others. These as well as a swath of native Irish acts — Electric Taurus, Mother Mooch, Gourd, Vulpynes, Korvid, Death the Leveller, Nomadic Rituals, Bad Boat, Magnapinna and Mount Soma, to see the list below — will converge on Dublin the first weekend in September for the festival co-presented by The Obelisk, and as I’ve said all along, I could not be more thrilled to be involved in the fest in the very minimal way I am and to be able to be there to cover it as it happens. Very, very much looking forward to it.

Like, a lot.

My understanding is this is the last announcement for the lineup, but of course there’s always the possibility of some shakeup between now and September, so I’ll keep an eye out. Tickets are available in the meantime via the links below, so get on that. Meet me in Dublin. We’ll hang out. It’ll be awesome.

Here’s word from the PR wire:

emerald-haze-2017-final-poster

EMERALD HAZE: Final band announcements- Belzebong, The Cosmic Dead, Iron Void and more

For further information, interview requests and/or press passes, please contact: emeraldhazedublin@gmail.com

The final bands have been announced for the inaugural Emerald Haze, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival. Poland’s heavy doom/fuzz metallers Belzebong and Scottish psychonauts The Cosmic Dead head the list along with international acts Blaak Heat from France and British doomsters Iron Void. The last of the home grown talent to be announced come from all four corners of Ireland and spans the full spectrum of heavy psychedelic sounds – Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Electric Taurus, Mother Mooch, Death The Leveller, The Magnapinna, Mount Soma, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid.

Early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie priced at €35 + €3.50 booking fee.
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

The Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage has been an integral and very successful aspect to CANALAPHONIC Music & Culture Festival since its inception in 2015. EMERALD HAZE creates an opportunity to further develop and nurture Ireland’s contributions to the worldwide aesthetic of heavy psych, draw international attention to the high quality and quantity of acts emerging around the country and provide festival experience to these bands.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Belzebong, Greenferno (2016)

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Emerald Haze 2017: Lord Vicar, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket and Witchsorrow Added

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The second round of announcements from the inaugural Emerald Haze festival in Dublin (presented by The Obelisk, among others) brings further intrigue and anticipation. Also doom of the highest quality, and of course by that I mean Lord Vicar are playing. The Finnish masters released the righteous Gates of Flesh (review here) last year and join a bill already heralding the likes of Dread SovereignAbrahmaTen Ton Slug and Zlanatera. I am unbelievably stoked at the prospect of seeing them live.

Ditto that for Church of the Cosmic Skull, who had one of 2016’s best debut releases in their first full-length, Is Satan Real? (review here), which basked in a lush and classically progressive sensibility marked out by its vocal harmonies and generally fluid approach. Add Wild RocketWitchsorrowElectric OctopusGorilla Pulp and Elder Druid to the mix as well and Emerald Haze 2017 already seems to be taking shape nicely as a diverse, quality bill that, once again, I’m honored to be co-presenting.

And as I said last time, I’m planning on being in Dublin to cover it, so please come and please say hi. I’m super-awkward in person, but always appreciate a chance to shake hands, put faces to names and so on. I hope to see you there.

Here’s the latest announcement from the fest:

emerald haze 2017 poster

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Lord Vicar added to line up for EMERALD HAZE

Rising stars of the UK psych scene Church of the Cosmic Skull and international doom supergroup Lord Vicar are among the bands to be added to the bill for EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Nottingham’s seven-piece multi-vocal prog/psych superstars in the making and self professed new religious movement will headline the opening night of Dublin’s inaugural EMERALD HAZE.

After gaining widespread critical acclaim with the 2016 release of their debut album “Is Satan Real?”, Church of the Cosmic Skull embarked on a a highly commended headline tour of the UK in April, and will perform at a number of European festivals over the summer including Freak Valley Festival and Desertfest Antwerp.

Lord Vicar – whose international line up includes former members of Reverend Bizarre, Count Raven and Saint Vitus – along with Dublin-based space punks Wild Rocket, U.K. doomsters WitchSorrow, Italian rockers Gorilla Pulp and two more bands from the fertile Northern Irish scene, Elder Druid and Electric Octopus have all been added to the previously announced line up of Sólstafir, Dread Sovereign, Abrahma, Ten Ton Slug and Zlatanera, with more Irish and international acts to be named in the coming weeks.

Early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie priced at €35 + €3.50 booking fee.
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Lord Vicar, “Birth of Wine”

Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Black Slug” official video

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Elder Druid Post “Rogue Mystic” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

elder druid

“Rogue Mystic” is the second video from Elder Druid‘s 2016 debut EP, Magicka (review here), which despite sharing its title with the 2000 narrative concept album from Dio — that was Magica, minus the ‘k’ — actually pulls way more influence from the Sleepy end of tonally-dense stoneralia. Like its visually represented predecessor “The Warlock” (posted here), “Rogue Mystic” finds the Northern Irish five-piece roughing up this central influence, as vocalist Gregg McDowell brings a harsher edge to the song’s tale of a wizard who betrays his coven by stealing an amulet and is subsequently hunted down for his efforts.

That story is told over a rolling groove heavy enough that it caught the attention of Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, who issued Magicka through his Black Bow Records imprint last fall. If you needed a compliment to the tones of guitarists Jake Wallace and Mikey Scott and bassist Dale Hughes, who’s joined in the rhythm section by Brien Gillen — whose almost bouncing plod can be heard pushing this track forward — I can’t think of a better one than that. As you can hear in “Rogue Mystic,” though, they well earn it. Elder Druid have some local shows coming up this weekend and over the next few months, but I’m curious to see how long they’ll ultimately be in putting together a follow-up to Magicka and perhaps a first long-player. Revisiting this track, they certainly seem ready for that step.

You can take a listen to “Rogue Mystic” and check out the clip below, and see if you agree.

Hope you enjoy:

Elder Druid, “Rogue Mystic” official video

We’re very happy to announce the release of our brand new music video for ‘Rogue Mystic’ from our latest EP ‘Magicka. Huge thanks to Gryphus Visuals for the incredible job. Prepare yourself for some very trippy, occult viewing. Cheers!

DRACONIAN MASTER OF THE ARCANE
A MYSTIC ENIGMA WITHOUT A NAME

Elder Druid formed in early 2015 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Five lovers of heavy riffs and molten fuzz came together to add their stamp to the world of stoner rock and doom metal. With heavy influences from Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Kyuss and Sleep, the riffs began to take shape and all the elements started to fuse.

After gigging through the summer of 2016 across Northern Ireland, the band went into the studio with Andy Shields (Hornets) and recorded a 5-track EP entitled ‘Magicka’ which was released via Black Bow Records in October 2016.

Elder Druid is:
Gregg McDowell – Vocals
Jake Wallace – Lead Guitar
Mikey Scott – Rhythm Guitar
Dale Hughes – Bass Guitar
Brien Gillen – Drums

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

Elder Druid on Instagram

Black Bow Records website

Gryphus Visuals on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: Bus, Them Bulls, Stinkeye, Buzzard Canyon, Motherbrain, Elder Druid, The Crazy Left Experience, The Watchers, Of the Horizon, Raj

Posted in Reviews on December 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Today is the day the Quarterly Review passes the halfway point. This will be 21-30 of the total 60 for the six days, so there’s still a ways to go — you might say 50 percent — but it’s a milestone nonetheless. Once again it’s another roundup of cool stuff, kind of all over the place a little more than the last two days were, but as we go further along with these things, it’s good to mix it up after a while. There’s only so many times you can throw the word “lysergic” around and talk about jamming. That said, you’re getting some of that today as well from Portugal, so when it pops up, don’t be surprised. Much to do, so no need to delay.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Bus, The Unknown Secretary

bus-the-unknown-secretary

Athenian double-guitar four-piece Bus execute a stylistically cohesive, crisp debut with The Unknown Secretary (on Twin Earth Records), presenting classic heavy rock elements without going full-retro in their sound itself and marking songs like “Masteroid” as immediately distinct through the harmonized vocals of guitarist Bill City, joined in the band by guitarist Johnnie Chez, bassist Chob D’oh and drummer Aris. Together they run through a clean two sides that play back and forth between proto-metallic and doom shading – “Don’t Fear Your Demon” touches on slower Pentagram – while sounding perhaps most comfortable in rockers like “Withered Thorn” or the earlier stomper “New Black Volume,” which puts its two guitars to excellent use ahead of and between unabashedly poppy (not sure a full Ghost comparison is warranted) verse, and craft a highlight in the 7:38 arena-ready thrust of “Rockerbus” prior to the surprisingly nodding finale of “Jimi.” A strikingly efficient and clear-headed first full-length that would seem to hold much promise of things to come from yet another player in Greece’s emergent heavy scene.

Bus on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Them Bulls, Them Bulls

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With the start-stop riff of opener “As Fangs in Stone,” a mastering job by Mathias Schneeberger and the breadth of pop melodicism in cuts that one, the swinging “Made of Ghosts,” and the more percussive “Through the Sun,” Italian four-piece Them Bulls make a pretty strong beeline for early-Queens of the Stone Age-style heavy desert rock. Their self-titled Small Stone debut isn’t without individualized flourish, but the 10-track/41-minute offering makes it clear from the start what its intentions are and then sets about living up to them, whether on the careening Songs for the Deaf-ery of “Pot Gun” or the penultimate “We Must Live Up” itself. Vocal interplay from guitarists Daniele Pollio and Franscesco Pasi – joined by the rhythm section of bassist Paolo Baldini and drummer Giampaolo Farnedi – provides an opportunity for future growth, but it’s worth noting that for a band to take on such a specific stylization, their songwriting needs to be in check, and Them Bulls’ is.

Them Bulls on Thee Facebooks

Them Bulls at Small Stone Records

 

Stinkeye, Llantera Demos

stinkeye-llantera-demos

What seems to be Stinkeye’s debut recording, Llantera Demos, arrives as a free download of four tracks and 16 minutes rife with thickened boogie and dense mecha-stoner fuzz, reminding of Dead Meadow immediately in the echoing vocals and rhythmic bounce of “Orange Man” but moving into some shuffle on the subsequent “Fink Ployd” and “Llantera,” the latter a well-earned showcase of bass tone. While out on the coast, ‘70s vibes reign supreme, the Phoenix, Arizona, trio are on a different tip, looser in their swing and apparently more prone to drift. For what it’s worth, they call it “hash rock,” and fair enough as “Pink Clam,” which closes Llantera Demos, rides more of a grunge-laden nod to an immersive but still relatively quick five-minute finish, building after three minutes in to a satisfying final instrumental push. Loaded with potential in tone, execution, vibe and dynamic between the three-piece, Llantera Demos immediately marks Stinkeye out as a band to watch and is just begging for the right person to come along and press it to tape.

Stinkeye on Thee Facebooks

Stinkeye on Bandcamp

 

Buzzard Canyon, Hellfire and Whiskey

buzzard-canyon-hellfire-and-whiskey.jpg

Want to grab attention with your debut long-player? Calling a song “Louder than God” might be a good way to go. That track, at seven minutes, is the longest on Connecticut five-piece Buzzard Canyon’s Hellfire and Whiskey (on Salt of the Earth), and following a quiet initial stretch, it launches into Down-style Southern chug, the dual vocals of Amber Leigh and guitarist Aaron Lewis (the latter also of When the Deadbolt Breaks) veering into and out of more metallic impulses to build on the initial momentum established on the earlier “Highway Run” and “SomaBitch.” The two-minute “For the End” basks in some nightmarish vision of rockabilly, while “Red Beards Massacre” and “Wyoming” dig into more straightforward stylistic patterning, but if Buzzard Canyon want to get a little weird either here or going forward, that’s clearly not about to hurt them. Closer “Not My Cross” hints at some darker visions to come in how it moves into and out of a droning interlude, adding yet more intrigue to their deceptively multifaceted foundation.

Buzzard Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

 

Motherbrain, Voodoo Nasty

motherbrain voodoo nasty

Though “Atomic Rodeo” dips into some Queens of the Stone Age-style groove, Motherbrain’s third album, Voodoo Nasty (on Setalight Records), comes across as more defined by its nasty than its voodoo as the Berlin four-piece demonstrate a penchant for incorporating harsher sludge tendencies, especially in vocal shouts peppered in amid the otherwise not-unfriendly proceedings. That gives the nine-song/48-minute offering a meaner edge but does little ultimately to take away from the groove on offer in the opening title-track or “Ghoul of Kolkata,” and though it retains its raw spirit, Voodoo Nasty digs into some more complex fare later in longer cuts like “Baptism of Fire” and “Half Past Human,” having found a place in centerpiece “Dismantling God” where blown-out noise aggression and semi-psychedelic swirl can coexist, if not peacefully then at least for a while until Motherbrain decide it’s time to give Kyuss-style desert rock another kick in its ass, as on “Sons of Kong,” which, yes, does proclaim a lineage.

Motherbrain on Thee Facebooks

Setalight Records website

 

Elder Druid, Magicka

elder druid magicka

Sludge-rolling five-piece Elder Druid riff forth with their debut studio offering, the five-song/33-minute Magicka EP, which one might be tempted to tag as a demo were it not for a few prior live-tracked short releases that appear to have served that purpose, the latest of which, The Attic Sessions (discussed here), came out in Jan. 2016. The experience of putting that together as well as their prior singles clearly benefited the Northern Irish outfit on Magicka, and while they retain a shouty spirit on opener “Rogue Mystic,” middle cut “The Warlock” offers nod that reminds of The Kings of Frog Island’s “Welcome to the Void,” and that’s about all I ever need. Ever. Served up with bloated tones and geared toward establishing a blend of gruff vocals and consuming fuzz, Elder Druid’s first studio recording has a solid footing in what it wants to accomplish sound-wise and plainly showcases that, and while they have some growing to do and patience to learn in their songcraft, nothing I hear on Magicka argues against their getting there in time.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

The Crazy Left Experience, Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey

the-crazy-left-experience-bills-108th-space-odyssey

The Crazy Left Experience – the moniker seeming to refer to the side of the brain at work in their processes – present Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey almost as an album within an album. The framework from the at-least-party-improvised Portuguese cosmic jammers on the seven-track/56-minute outing centers around William Millarc, who in 1955 was documented while taking part in LSD experiments. Samples of Millarc are peppered into opener “Subject Bill,” the later “Funky Meteor Drop” and the closing duo “Bill Sided Flashback” and “God of the Outer Rings,” but between the opener and the latter trio of cuts comes “Unarius,” a three-part excursion listed as “Part V” through “Part VII” that presumably is the representation of when our friend Bill has left his body behind. So be it. One can hardly call that departure incongruous either sonically or in terms of The Crazy Left Experience’s chosen theme – though there are some unrelated samples spliced into “Unarius – Part VII (Space Brothers)” that are somewhat jarring – and the entire flow of the record is so hypnotic that the band can basically go wherever they want, which of course they do.

The Crazy Left Experience on Thee Facebooks

The Crazy Left Experience on Bandcamp

 

The Watchers, Sabbath Highway

the watchers sabbath highway

Were it not for the context of knowing that vocalist Tim Narducci and bassist Cornbread hail from SpiralArms and White Witch Canyon, drummer Carter Kennedy from Orchid and guitarist Jeremy Von Eppic from Black Gates, the Sabbath Highway debut EP (on Ripple Music) from California’s The Watchers would be almost impossibly coherent for a first outing. Classic in form but modern in its presentation, the five-tracker – four plus the church-organ interlude “Requiem” between the opening title-cut (video here) and “Call the Priest” – makes the most of Narducci’s ‘70s-style vocal push, reminding of one-time Ripple troupe Stone Axe in his oldschool feel, but as “Today” (premiered here) makes plain, The Watchers are much more focused on learning from the past than repeating it. The straightforward songwriting and all-we’re-here-to-do-is-kick-ass sentiment behind Sabbath Highway might well prove formative compared to what The Watchers do next – presumably that’s a full-length, but one never knows; they sound ready to get down to business  – but it makes its ambitions plain in its hooks and swiftly delivers on its promises.

The Watchers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Of the Horizon, Of the Horizon

of the horizon self-titled

I can’t speak to the present status of California’s Of the Horizon, since last I heard bassist Kayt Vigil was in Italy working with Sonic Wolves, but their self-titled five-track debut full-length arrives via Kozmik Artifactz no less switched on for the half-decade that has passed since it was recorded. Guitarist Mike Hanne howls out throaty incantations to suit the post-Sleep riffing of opener “3 Feet” and drummer Shig pushes the roll of “Caravan” forward into its final crashing slowdown effectively as Vigil ensures the subsequent centerpiece “Unknown” is duly thick beneath its spacious, jammy strum. The two longest slabs hit at the end in “Gladhander” (8:55) and the righteously lumbering “Hall of the Drunken King” (10:31) and feel somewhat like an album unto themselves, but when/if Of the Horizon make a return, they’ve established a working modus on this first full-length that should well satisfy the nod-converted and that demonstrates the timelessness of well-executed tonal onslaught.

Of the Horizon on Thee Facebooks

Of the Horizon at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Raj, Raj

raj self titled

Though it’s fair enough in terms of runtime, it almost seems like Milano sludge-rollers Raj (also written stylized in all-caps: RAJ) do the six tracks of their 20-minute self-titled debut EP a disservice by cramming them onto a single LP side. Not that one gets lost or the band fails to make an impression – far from it – but just that sounds so geared toward largesse and spaciousness beg for more room to flesh out. That, perhaps, is the interesting duality in Raj’s Raj, since even the massive plod of closer “Iron Matrix” lumbers through its course in a relatively short 4:45, never mind the speedier “Magic Wand” (2:47) or drone interlude “Black Mumbai” (1:51) – gone in a flash. The release moves through these, the earlier “Omegagame” and “Eurasia” and the penultimate “Kaluza” with marked fluidity and efficiency, giving Raj a mini-album feel, and with the atmosphere in “Black Mumbai” and in the surrounding material, their rumble sets up a dynamic that seems primed for further exploration.

Raj on Thee Facebooks

Raj on Bandcamp

 

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Elder Druid Post Video for “The Warlock”; New EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 9th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

elder druid (Photo by James Hughes)

Belfast five-piece Elder Druid released their The Attic Sessions four-tracker in the early going of 2016. Presumably that’s a change of venue for the heavy grooving outfit, as their two prior 2015 singles, “Otherworld” and “The Ides of March,” were tracked under the banner of “Live Loft Sessions,” though I suppose they could’ve just renamed the loft an attic and rolled with it. Rolling is a theme of the EP, as it happens. Shades of early Clutch and Orange Goblin show up in opener “Sellsword,” and the later “Red Priestess” — both titles commonly appearing in the George R.R. Martin pantheon — has a thickness to its double-guitar approach that lends an already heavy progression even more heft.

The band’s first outing, they obviously believe enough in The Attic Sessions enough to give it away as a means to entice listeners to check it out, and it doesn’t take me much more than that, frankly. To further spread the word, they’ve got a new clip for “The Warlock,” which is the longest cut on the EP at 6:31 — “Reigning Hell” rounds out with a sludgier take — that features some basic performance footage outside of the attic, the band spread around in the woods and some burnt out looking spaces as they dig into the track. It’s a kind of basic and encouragingly unpretentious beginning for the group, who got together early in 2015, but working from a place of clear motivation and with an intent toward making themselves heard.

So be it. Find the clip for “The Warlock” below, followed by more info from the band:

Elder Druid, “The Warlock” official video

ANNOUNCEMENT & VIDEO: To celebrate the fact that Elder Druid’s ‘The Attic Sessions’ is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music amongst other online music outlets and streaming services, we’ve released the whole EP on Youtube! Now you can have the Druid with you wherever you are and it’s a pretty damn awesome feeling! Big cheers to everyone for the support. Keep enjoying this Live EP for the moment and keep an eye out for NEW music on the horizons!

The official music video for ‘The Warlock’ from The Attic Sessions Live EP.

Download for FREE @ http://elderdruid.bandcamp.com/album/the-attic-sessions

Filmed and directed by Brandon Kelly.

Massive thanks to Brandon and his crew for making this a possibility.

Gregg McDowell – Vocals
Jake Wallace – Lead Guitar
Mikey Scott – Rhythm Guitar
Dale Hughes – Bass Guitar
Brien Gillen – Drums

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Instagram

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

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