Prophecy Fest 2017 Lineup Finalized: Sólstafir, Arcturus, Dool, Hypnopazuzu and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Haven’t you ever wanted to go to a festival in a German cave? Fucking of course you have. Don’t even pretend otherwise. And somehow, given the vast sonic swath it covers, from the post-everything metal of Arcturus to the Eastern European folk of The Moon and the Nightspirit to the goth-infused heavy rock of Dool — all of which operates under the banner of Prophecy Productions, it has to be noted — the lineup for Prophecy Fest 2017 couldn’t be more appropriate. The fest is set for July 28 and 29 at Balver Höhle in Balve, Germany.

Yes. It’s really a cave. Yes, you can go there and see cave stuff. There will also be a lineup of bands that emphasizes the unique (not a word I use often) breadth of Prophecy Productions, and that only makes it more special as an event. I don’t know how many fests you go to in the average year — 10? 15? — but I try and hit a few. I’ve never been to one in a cave. I’m ashamed to admit it.

Lineup rules, location rules. Concept rules. I can feel the vibe from here already.

From the PR wire:

prophecy fest 2017

Prophecy Fest 2017 – 28th & 29th July 2017 – Balver Höhle/Germany

Prophecy Fest takes place in a natural cave from Old Stone Age – Balver Höhle. According to Germanic Saga, the blacksmith Wieland had his workshop in the cave. Balve, Germany, is situated between Dortmund, Cologne, Frankfurt and Hannover.

After the amazing work Austrian graphic designer Irrwisch did made for Lotus Thief’s “Gramarye”, he was our choice for the art director function at Prophcy Fest 2017. We are delighted to have him on board and can’t wait for his exhibition in the cave of Balve!

Sun Of The Sleepless, the black metal/experimental side project of Schwadorf (Empyrium, The Vision Bleak), will play its second show ever at Prophecy Fest 2017! As a side note, the first concert was at the first small Prophecy label festival in 1999. Dornenreich will grace us with a special history acoustic concert at Prophecy Fest 2017! The set list will contain songs from all their albums as well as the “Mein Flügelschlag” demo tape. The Vision Bleak will perform with the Shadow Philharmonics for the first time since 2006 again.

We are proud to have Schwadorf and Konstanz back at Prophecy Fest 2017 for a special performance with a classical ensemble of strings, percussion and vocals! We are proud to add DOOL, one of our most exciting signings in recent years, to the billing of Prophecy Fest 2017. Ryanne van Dorst and her pack will prepare a special set with five additional musicians and singers exclusively for this event! The Moon and the Nightspirit will play a one-time show at Prophecy Fest! Their line-up will be extended by a pianist/harpist and a flutist and their set will include songs never played before.

Hypnopazuzu, the new band of David Tibet (Current 93) and Youth (Killing Joke), give their very first concert in Germany! Lotus Thief will be in Europe for the first time and we let them set ancient words to song in the cave of Balve. Hexvessel will prepare an extended performance for us with implemented acoustic set. Arcturus, the epitome of avant-garde metal, will perform at Prophecy Fest. Soror Dolorosa will perform “Severance” in its entirety for the first time. Additionally, they will present their new album “Apollo”.

Glerakur surprised us and blew us away with their performance at Prophecy Fest 2016. It was an easy decision for us to invite them again. Sólstafir will illuminate the cave of Balve! NOÊTA will play their first concert outside Scandinavia at this year’s Prophecy Fest! Spiritual Front will play a special “Armageddon Gigolo” set for Prophecy Fest 2017! Nhor world premiere performance at this year’s Prophecy Fest!

Unlike other festivals, we will not start with the most “unknown” artist and end with the “headliners”.

To us, they are all headliners and were chosen because we expect an amazing performance from them.

Therefore, all artists will receive the playing time they need for their performance, and the running order will reflect what we consider the optimum in terms of dramaturgy and suspension.

http://en.prophecy.de/prophecy-fest/
http://live.weltnetz.lu/en/titel/prophecy-fest-28-07-29-07-2017-balve/

Les Discrets, Live at Prophecy Fest 2016

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 30

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Hexvessel Post New Live Video and Announce Finnish Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hexvessel-Photo-by-Bastiank-Sofortbildfotografie

A three-song pro-shot live video from Hexvessel is a pretty easy sell as far as I’m concerned, but it seems like an especially worthy endeavor in this case since it allows the Finnish weirdo-prog forerunners to not only highlight their latest work and Century Media debut, When We are Death (review here), but to tie it back directly to their prior output. That matters because while just their third album, When We are Death represents a significant sidestep and broadening of their aesthetic, so to have them sandwich “Hunter’s Prayer” and “Earth over Us” from the new offering around “Woods to Conjure” from 2012’s No Holier Temple on stage gives their audience — at the show and watching online — a chance to better understand how the band feels the songs intertwine.

I guess that’s a far cry from, “Dude — it rocks!” but that kind of simplicity has never been Hexvessel‘s thing, though I’ll say that some of the tracks on When We are Death strip song structures down to their essential verse/chorus core. But even then, there are layers of melody and mood built on top of it, not to mention the variety in sound across the whole run of the record, that add complexity. One finds in watching this clip that the sense of ritual that has been at the core of Hexvessel‘s approach since their beginning is well intact as they push into these new avenues of expression. True till death, as the metallers might say, but with an expanding (and cosmic) version of the truth that they continue to refine as they go.

Hexvessel will tour in Finland early next year joined by Death Hawks — which, goodness gracious, is a pairing I’d very much like to see — as well as Kairon Irse. They also managed to sneak out a limited tape called Unfurled in 2016 that, sad to say, is already sold out. Too bad.

More info and some comment from the band follow the clip below, courtesy of the PR wire.

And as always, please enjoy:

Hexvessel, Live at Menuo Juodaragis Festival 2016 official video

HEXVESSEL release concert shortfilm and announce Finland headline tour

In January 2016 HEXVESSEL released their 3rd album “When We Are Death”, and were praised by media, worldwide. The band just calls it psychedelic forest folk.

One of the many live gigs in support of the new album was at the Menuo Juodaragis Festival in the national forest of Lithuania. Finnish filmmaker (and former Sentenced drummer) Vesa Ranta filmed this special event with help from Jaime Gomez Arellano (previously worked on the Hexvessel albums as well as producing bands like Solstafir and Paradise Lost) who took care of the audio live mix.

Songs:
Hunter’s Prayer (from the album “When We Are Death”)
Woods To Conjure (from the album “No Holier Temple”)
Earth Over Us (from the album “When We Are Death”)

The band comments: “Our idea was to try to capture a sense of the transcendental nature of one of our live shows, when you set our music to the backdrop of the forest at an event that has great meaning for us spiritually. There are a few events that have enabled this perfect conjuration of what Hexvessel means to happen. Menuo Juodaragis is one of those such magic events. A pagan festival held deep in the wilds of Lithuania on a beautifully lush island surrounded by forests, It is an event which celebrates our culture and heritage and it is utterly unique in Europe. We were so proud to go there and play the main stage and in our own way offer a sacrifice of sound to the great transformation that was taking place within people at the festival. It’s a place where you can feel the ancients breath, you can sense a great unity of spirit and mind and it’s a very warm and inclusive, familiar atmosphere. We were delighted to feel bound and compelled together with people from all parts of the world who had travelled there to get some sense of an old and almost forgotten religion. When you are there, really brought out of yourself and back into your more primitive awareness, you know that the old religion still exists only waiting to be pulled out again from the earth, the ash and the roots of age-old trees. Here you know the real meaning of what it was to truly know the earth and the universe. It was a beautiful and life-changing event that we are very happy to have this visual and resonant memento of.”

Next step? Three enigmatic pioneers of the current and modern psych rock movement in Finland, take to the roads in February 2017!

HEXVESSEL, Death Hawks, Kairon Irse FINLAND 2017 Tour:
02.02.2017 45 Special, Oulu
03.02.2017 Bar 15, Seinäjoki
04.02.2017 Tanssisali Lutakko, Jyväskylä
09.02.2017 Tavastia-klubi, Helsinki
10.02.2017 Suistoklubi, Hämeenlinna
11.02.2017 Olympia-kortteli, Tampere
17.02.2017 Ravintola Torvi, Lahti
18.02.2017 Dynamo, Turku
24.02.2017 Ravintola Kerubi, Joensuu
25.02.2017 Bar Downtown Kouvola, Kouvola

Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks

Hexvessel Tumblr

Hexvessel at Century Media

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Hexvessel Post “Drugged up on the Universe” Video; German Tour Starts Tonight

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hexvessel-photo-by-bastiank-sofortbildfotografie

I had occasion this past weekend to revisit the third and latest full-length from Finnish forest-progressives HexvesselWhen We are Death (review here) — also their debut on Century Media — and I gotta tell you, the songs hold up. All of them. I listened to this record a lot leading up to reviewing it, was genuinely surprised by the turn the band took from the folkishness of their prior two LPs, and it took a while for that to sink in, but the more I put it on, the more the hooks stuck with me, and they still do. I know it’s only been a few months, but you’ll have to believe me when I say that’s more than many, many albums last in rotation on my mental jukebox (it’s an old fashioned one, with neon), particularly front-to-back in such a manner as When We are Death.

So, as the band head out on a quick run through Germany starting tonight and concluding at the Reeperbahn Festival, their new video for “Drugged up on the Universe” lands with welcome. The clip — which seems to feature a lot of the regular kind of drugged up, in addition to the universe — brings to life the track’s nigh-on-maddening hook, duly otherworldly and tripped out, hippie-tastic, but still weird enough to be of Hexvessel‘s own stock. This is the third video from When We are Death behind ones for “When I am Dead” (posted here) and “Cosmic Truth” (posted here), and I think if you want to get a glimpse at the deep variety Hexvessel display throughout, look no further than each of them, as sure enough, those are three very different videos. Hopefully they keep going, as there honestly isn’t a track on the record not worthy of highlight.

Frontman Mat McNerney has some comment on the clip via the PR wire below, where you’ll also find Hexvessel‘s upcoming live dates.

Enjoy:

Hexvessel, “Drugged up on the Universe” official video

HEXVESSEL’s singer Mat McNerney comments:
“The video references the death of the hippie movement, with a Manson-like shamanic figure, or malevolent spirit. Bringing to life 60s/70s counter culture in an Eyes Wide Shut orgy of drugs, the Alice-like central character takes a spiritual journey. Enticed by the spirit, who has entered her expanded consciousness, her mind expands. She is lead outside and discovers there is a wider universe than the one she knows.

It’s a nature mystic metaphor for how that era has influenced the environmental movement which Hexvessel feel a part of. If you let it in, the spirit of nature will find you and expand your consciousness. You don’t need drugs to get high on the nature of the universe! It was directed by Frenchman David Fitt who has previously worked on videos for King Dude for example.”

HEXVESSEL live
09.20.2016 Bamberg (D), Weinstube Pizzini
09.21.2016 Hannover (D), Chez Heinz (w/ Dead Meadows)
09.22.2016 Cologne (D), MTC (w/ Dead Meadows)
09.23.2016 Osnabrück (D), Bastard Club
09.24.2016 Hamburg (D), Reeperbahn Festival
11.04.2016 Dortmund (D), Tapir Media (pre-Leafmeal Festival show)
11.11.2016 Athens (GR), Gagarin (w/ Ornassi Pazuzu)

HEXVESSEL line-up
Mat McNerney – Vox & guitar
Marja Konttinen – Vox & percussion
Jukka Rämänen – Drums
Simo Kuosmanen – Lead Guitar
Niini Rossi – Bass Guitar
Kimmo Helén – Keys/Trumpet/Violin

Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks

Hexvessel Tumblr

Hexvessel at Century Media

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Roadburn 2016 Audio Streams: Buried at Sea, Full of Hell, Hexvessel, Beastmaker, Misþyrming, Epitaph, Hangman’s Chair & Hair of the Dog

Posted in audiObelisk on May 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Buried at Sea at Roadburn 2016 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As always with these Roadburn streams, some of this stuff I got to see and some of it I didn’t. I’ve said many times and I stand by it: Roadburn means hard choices. Do I watch an American act make a triumphant European debut or go see a local Dutch band I’ll probably never have the chance to watch again. Once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime black metal or another psychedelic jam session? These are hard choices I’m fortunate to be making, and you certainly won’t find me complain about making them, but they’re hard choices all the same.

Roadburn 2016 had a few can’t-miss acts for me though, and two of them are represented here in this latest batch of audio streams in Buried at Sea and Hexvessel. The reasoning behind the former should be obvious to anyone who’s experienced their tonal (and total) doom onslaught either live or on record, and as for Hexvessel, I was curious to find out how they’d bring their new album to life while also doing justice to their last two, executed in a different style. As you can hear in the below, it wasn’t an issue.

I didn’t get to watch them, but I also heard that Beastmaker, Full of Hell and Iceland’s Misþyrming killed, and this round also features Epitaph, Hair of the Dog and Hangman’s Chair, all recorded and mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team from Torture Garden Studio.

Enjoy:

Beastmaker – Live at Roadburn 2016

Buried at Sea – Live at Roadburn 2016

Epitaph – Live at Roadburn 2016

Full of Hell – Live at Roadburn 2016

Hair of The Dog – Live at Roadburn 2016

Hangman’s Chair – Live at Roadburn 2016

Hexvessel – Live at Roadburn 2016

Misþyrming – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Söngvar elds og óreiðu in its entirety)

Special thanks as always to Walter for letting me host the streams. To hear the first batch of Roadburn 2016 audio streams, click here, and for all of this site’s coverage of Roadburn 2016, click here.

Roadburn’s website

Marcel Van De Vondervoort on Thee Facebooks

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ROADBURN 2016 DAY TWO: Living with the Dead

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2016 day two (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.16.16 — 00:40 — Hotel room, Tilburg

When I got in from the show last night, I triumphantly tore my wristband off in accomplishment of having put down day one of Roadburn 2016. Then I looked at the thing and saw it was for all four days. So first thing this morning, obviously enough, was to get a new pass. Needless to say, sheepish grins abounded, but as ever, the Roadburn crew was nothing but delightful and accommodating in the extreme. For the hours of fretting I did about it, was done in about five seconds, then off the finish putting together the second issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, which you can read here.

hexvessel arktau eos 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)That process was less smooth, but better than yesterday, and I got excused from folding pages in time to catch the beginning of Hexvessel and Arktau Eos‘ collaborative set at Het Patronaat. On the Main Stage, it was the Lee Dorrian-curated ‘Rituals for the Blind Dead Pt. 1,’ but that wouldn’t be starting up for a while yet, so Hexvessel & Arktau Eos felt like it was snuck in as a bonus for anyone who showed up early. Plenty of people did, and were greeted by robe-donned, incense-burning ritualism, the group performing a special set called “Mirror Dawn” in honor of Arktau Eos‘ debut album, Mirrorion, and Hexvessel‘s debut album, Dawnbearer, from which it drew its source material.

Flourishes of ritual bowls, keys, violin, acoustic and electric guitar, synth, various bone-looking rattlers and percussion instruments, a carved horn of some sort, but the shrouded Arktau Eos, it was a deeply ambient beginning to the day, patient on the cusp of droning but with stronger currents running under the still-seeming waters. It was clearly a work of passion — I’d be interested to hear it recorded; will attend the hopeful arrival of the audio stream — and distinct completely from what Hexvessel brought to the Main Stage with their set yesterday (review here) in a way that only made it more engrossing to witness. Something special for Roadburn to start the afternoon.

When I left Patronaat, it was to begin a succession of one band into the next that would define the better part of a remarkably busy day. Mondo Drag were going on in the Green Room. Diamanda Galás would follow shortly after on the Main Stage, mondo drag 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)so I headed across the alley to the 013 and hit the Green Room on the quick to get a feel for what Mondo Drag were up to, and was struck almost immediately by the clarity of their tones, but the weight they still carry. I felt fortunate to have been familiar with their new RidingEasy album, The Occultation of Light (review here), since it features the current lineup of keyboardist/vocalist John Gamino, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (the latter also synth), bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia, and the live versions of songs like “The Eye” and “Out of Sight” mirrored the chemistry the band as they are today showcased on the record.

It’s almost like a second debut for Mondo Drag in that, but as they melded those cuts with “Zephyr” and “Plumajilla” from last year’s self-titled LP (review here), there was no less ownership of that material, which featured on record what would become the rhythm section of Blues Pills when it was recorded in the Midwest, where the band lived before moving to the West Coast. Either way, Mondo Drag have clearly worked out their niche sound-wise and are engaged in the process of developing that in the textures of the dual guitars and keys and the classic feel of their songwriting. I’d see a lot of psychedelia as the day went on, but catching Mondo Drag for the first time was a thrill for sure. They sound like a band that is going to keep growing.

During the latter portion of their set, I popped over to the Main Stage to bear witness to Diamanda Galás. The grand dame of the avant garde has a few ground rules for playing. They included: No photos (signs were posted), no bars open (they even turned off the lights), and no leaving until the song in progress was mondo drag 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)finished. Far more free-thinking in her creative spirit, Galás took the stage alone, with a baby grand piano and proceeded to tear gaping holes in sonic convention, her astonishing range matched only by her will to push it to its limits, pulling elements from folk-blues and moving into and out of language for roughly 70 experimentalist minutes. It may have been one of the bravest sets I’ve ever seen at Roadburn — or at least the bravest since Wovenhand in 2011 (review here) — but she kept an impressive portion of the crowd with her for the entire hour-ten, while others waited for the song to end so they could switch out with those waiting on the other side of the door.

I myself went back and watched Mondo Drag finish their set, visited the merch area again when they were done, and still made it back in time to catch the end of Diamanda Galás. All of this was done in anticipation of the next stage in the afternoon/evening’s back and forth, which would see me push from Repulsion to Death Alley to With the Dead to Hills with nary a breath between before catching some of G.I.S.M. and closing out my night with Black Moon Circle and Peter Pan Speedrock, one into the next. There were moments of respite between some sets, but most of it was right in a row. Beats stopping, I guess. No regrets, in any case, though I did sacrifice catching solo sets from Neurosis‘ own Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly in the process, but I saw Kelly in Chicago back in November (review here) and I did some quick math and decided I’d be way likelier to run into Von Till again before Repulsion, so went that way.

Bassist/vocalist Scott Carlson was kind enough to let me have a look at the setlist, which consisted almost entirely of cuts from Repulsion‘s 1989 debut, only album and mega-classic, Horrified. You know why? Because when you fucking repulsion 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)have Horrified, you don’t need anything else. Repulsion was most definitely not closing any bars. In fact, I think a few new ones opened as they tore into the fleshy bits of classics like “Eaten,” “Slaughter,” “Six Feet Under,” “Repulsion,” and “Horrified” itself. Carlson remarked from the stage that Horrified was recorded 30 years ago (in 1986), and he and guitarist Matt Olivo seemed to relish the opportunity to bring them out again. Does it still count as nostalgia when the songs are about cannibals? These and many more important questions were answered.

With Chris Moore (formerly of Magrudergrind, among others) on drums, Repulsion was as filthy and raging as one could’ve possibly hoped, Carlson noting before “Bodily Dismemberment” that he and Olivo wrote the song in Death guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner‘s bedroom while Evil Chuck was out working at Del Taco. Easily the best story I heard from the stage today. When they were done, it was time for Death Alley in the Green Room, which was probably my most anticipated set of the day, foremost because I so very much dug their debut LP, last year’s Black Magick Boogieland (review here), but also because it was billed as Death Alley + Friends, which signaled to me a high potential for some psych weirdness to go with their driving heavy rock and proto-thrash. Add to that the fact that the first time I saw the band was at the Hardrock Hideout in 2014, and basically I wasn’t missing them for anything.

After a line check with all six parties on stage, they started the set with just the core four-piece lineup — vocalist Douwe Truijens, guitarist/backing vocalist Oeds Beydals, bassist/backing vocalist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Ming Boyer — and dove headfirst into their cover of Hawkwind‘s “Motorhead”death alley 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) (premiered here) to begin a kinetic thrust that would only increase in energy as it went along. They were fucking awesome, flat out. I could go on and on in overindulgent language about how righteous Death Alley‘s take on heavy has become, and how expansive, in the two years since I last saw them, but it boils down to the same thing. After the title-track from Black Magick Boogieland, “The Fever” and “Stalk Eyed,” they brought out guitarists Ron van Herpen (also of Astrosoniq, formerly of The Devil’s Blood, currently of ZooN) and Jevin de Groot, who was a bandmate of Duijnhouwer‘s in the wildly underrated — remind me sometime to tell you about how frickin’ underrated they were — cosmic doom outfit Mühr.

The resulting sextet incarnation of Death Alley brought extra fullness of sound and all-out swirl to two cuts that seemed newer, “II’s On” an “Feeding the Lions,” before rounding out with a triumphantly spacious rendition of “Supernatural Predator,” the band three-guitar, pull-the-earplugs-out psych-jamming their way farther out and out and out into the cosmos, utterly hypnotizing the Green Room as they went, BeydalsTruijens and Duijnhouwer sharing the vocal duties that Farida Lemouchi performed on the record — before, with nothing more than a few snare hits from Boyer, they masterfully turned the jam on its head and dug back into the space-rocking-push of the song’s central riff to finish out. A surge of electricity went through the room. They’d wind up being my band of the day, hands down, and the really good news is they play another set on Sunday, closing out the fest where it all began, at Cul de Sac.

As Death Alley were spacing out in the Green Room, With the Dead took the Main Stage for what I think was their third show ever, the four-piece including the day’s curator Lee Dorrian, of Rise Above Records and Cathedral fame (to start with) as well as new drummer Alex Thomas (ex-Bolt Thrower), and new bassist Leo Smee (formerly of Cathedral) in addition to guitarist Tim Bagshaw, whose with the dead 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)tone was as grime-coated as I recalled it being when I saw him with Ramesses here in 2011. They played the bulk of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), including “Living with the Dead” and “The Cross” and “Nephthys.” Come to think of it, it might’ve been the whole record. They had an hour and only have the one album, so, you know, you have to make the most of the time.

Even apart from their pedigree — and I’ll readily admit that it’s difficult to separate these guys from their pedigree — With the Dead‘s material is devastatingly heavy, and Dorrian‘s sneer was as true to the dirt coming from Bagshaw and Smee‘s amps as the riffs were raw and oppressive. Seemingly on the other end of the spectrum entirely, but really only back in the Green Room, after Death Alley finished with the aforementioned jam, Sweden’s Hills followed-up with ultra-groovy heavy psych of their own. The poorly kept secret is that they’re the same band as Goat (though whether all or in part, I don’t know), but if it’s Hills‘ brand of laid back kosmiche or Goat‘s afrobeat-inspired costumed throb, I’ll take the former every time. Sans pretense, they were in a fully molten state by the time they got around to the title-track from 2011’s Master Sleeps, having brought out Svensk Psych Aften label owner and promoter Sven Kruppa for a guest vocal spot earlier in the set that felt kind of random, but in such an open context could hardly be considered out of place.

There was a lot to dig about them, from the trance-inducing aspects to the custom visuals, but it was the peace-through-jam serene atmosphere they proffered that most struck me. At the same time, they weren’t quiet — or at least not all the time — and they had energy in their delivery.hills 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) A lot to dig, but sadly no merch to buy. I was hoping to pick up a CD of last year’s Frid, which is sold out online, but no dice. Apparently you can believe what you read on the internet. While a take-home version of their mesmeric, pulsating and still definitively laid back space rock wasn’t forthcoming, the vibe they set was enjoyable in the moment, though it would soon enough be back to extremity as I got a sampling of G.I.S.M. on the Main Stage.

Granted, it was somewhat obligatory. G.I.S.M. were formed 35 years ago and this marked first show in 14 years and their first show ever outside their native Japan. Showing up wasn’t really optional. I didn’t have quite the same nostalgia factor as I did for Repulsion, but many, many others certainly did, and I watched as G.I.S.M. showcased punk extremity that underscored just how broad Roadburn‘s spectrum has become. I was waiting to close out the night with Black Moon Circle, at Extase, and Peter Pan Speedrock in the Green Room, so I went up to the balcony in the Main Stage room and sat back for the end of G.I.S.M., which of course was no less furious than the start had been.

I knew I was missing Pentagram, and that’s not nothing. But every Roadburn means hard choices, and since Black Moon Circle are Norwegian and Peter Pan Speedrock are playing their last shows — allegedly — ever on their current European tour, priority was given. No regrets. With Roadburn regular Scott “Dr. Space” Heller joining the trio, Black Moon Circle were a more grounded answer to Hills, but still plenty jammy when it came down to it. Dr. Space, whose synth is a swirl factory in itself, always helps in that regard — one recalls his set black moon circle 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)with Carlton Melton a couple years back — and while I was only there for a short while, and I spent a goodly portion of that trying to get my camera to focus in the mostly darkened Extase, which turned down its lights to allow for Black Moon Circle‘s psychedelic oil lightshow, as well as thinking about how I need to get a review up for their new album, Sea of Clouds, they were a pleasure to watch. I had a hard time pulling myself away.

Motivation in the end, though, was that Peter Pan Speedrock, the Eindhoven trio who’ve been blasting out mission-in-the-name heavy punk for over 20 years, are preparing to retire. They’ve got fest dates booked into the summer and more shows in the fall announced, so I don’t know when they’re actually doing that, but from what I hear, it’s true nonetheless. I’d never seen them before, but in about 20 seconds, the sprint was at full speed and guitarist Peter van Elderen seemed to be out to earn the two-decades of reputation again as quickly as possible, manic in his motion from front to back of the stage, foot up on the monitor, standing on the barricade to play directly to the audience, whatever it might’ve been as drummer Bart Nederhand and bassist Bart Geevers locked in grooves with no room left for questions.

Songs came and went in short, intense bursts, and if this, as my first indoctrination to Peter Pan Speedrock live, is also to be my last, then I’m glad at least I got to see the band once. I was clearly in the minority in that, by the way. Granted, Eindhoven’s only a few towns over from Tilburg, but between peter pan speedrock 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)singing along to the Hank Williams track that served as their intro to starting a mosh pit in the Green Room, it was abundantly clear that the majority in attendance were more experienced than I when it came to seeing the band. Fair enough for the near-hometown heroes. The last shows I saw booked for them are in November. Never say never, but if they are done, that’s a loss.

Hardly a bummer ending to the night, though. They were far too upbeat and kick-your-ass for that. There was more going on afterwards, but I needed to get back and get writing, so I made my way through the crowd and out, down a busy Weirdo Canyon and back to the hotel. Tomorrow starts bright and early and ends dark and late, but promises plenty of incredible sights and sounds between. Fortunately I kept my wristband on this time.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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ROADBURN 2016 DAY ONE: Cosmic Truth

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2016 day one (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.15.16 – 00:16 — Hotel room, Tilburg

Already it seems like Roadburn is in full swing. There’s no sense of the outside world, only Roadburn, which always has and always will. Familiar faces abound, and new ones too. A lot of them. That build-out on the 013 allowed for more tickets sold, so inarguably Roadburn 2016 is the most crowded this event has ever been. That’s saying something. Mostly, it’s saying, “get there early if you want to get up front.”

the poisoned glass 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)I did just that what seems like a million hours ago for The Poisoned Glass starting the day — the first day; my god, it’s still the first day — at Het Patronaat, aka the church. The band is new, but the players involved were clearly known to the early crowd, vocalist/noisemaker Edgy59 and bassist G. Stuart Dahlquist both veterans of widely influential doom extremists Burning Witch. By astounding coincidence, their debut album, 10 Swords, came out this week via Ritual Productions, and they played the vast majority of it and then some, the volume of Dahlquist‘s bass loud enough to vibrate earplugs and dissuade any accusations of minimalism one might try to make.

With Edgy59 switching between harsh screaming rasps and cleaner vocals, it was entertaining to look around the room and see so many smiling faces among those in attendance. Yes, the music is unspeakably dark. Yes, it sounds like your soul in a trash compactor. Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Their post-Khanate dystopian oppression found its audience for sure, and it was gripping to watch the seething intensity in Edgy59‘s performance particularly, his movements restless in comparison to the slow motion tempos of the material. They were as heavy in mood as in Dahlquist‘s tone, and inescapable in their rumbling churn. Perfect for the church.

As they were wrapping up, Inverloch were taking the stage in the redone Green Room. I tried to catch some of Mantra Machine, but already the Cul de Sac was full and it would remain so for the duration. I thought about running over to Extase, which is around the other side of the alley behind the Patronaat, to get a sample of Grafir, but wound up marauding through the merch section — like a fucking champ — and back at the church to catch Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand, who, as it turns out, were exactly what I was looking for.

der blutharsch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Later on, I’d go back to the merch area to pick up a full copy of their new record, The Wolvennest Sessions, which came out in December, and grabbing 2012’s The Story About the Digging of the Hole and the Hearing of the Sounds from Hell on a whim, basically because that’s how good Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand Were, the Austrian experimentalists celebrating their 20th anniversary with a short tour in the winding-down stage. Their blend of classic krautrock and forward-thinking psychedelia was a joy to take in, and since their stuff is so far out, I didn’t really know what was coming. Anything would’ve been a surprise. With founder Albin Julius on synth and vocals, they spread their sound out over their hour-long set and seemed right at home in the flow.

There seems to be some threat that this is their last tour. Obviously, I don’t know if that’s true or not, and since they’re pretty prolific, I wouldn’t take that to mean they’re done overall — though one never knows — but even if it’s a year or a few years before they get out again, I felt fortunate to watch them play. It’s the kind of thing I’d never get to see anywhere but at Roadburn, something I didn’t even know how badly I wanted to watch, and though I checked out a little early to go catch The Skull on the Main Stage back at the 013Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand left one of the day’s most memorable impressions. Considering the course of the day, that’s saying something.

Yeah, I watched The Skull last night at the Hardrock Hideout (review here). It’s a fact. I thought this was their set of Trouble songs, and there were a few sprinkled in for good measure, of course — “R.I.P.,” “At the End of My Daze,” “Come Touch the Sky” and so on — the skull rb 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)but was awfully Skull-y for being the Trouble set, which as it turns out is late tomorrow night. Go figure. No harm done, of course. Let “A New Generation” and “The Longing” be the worst things that ever happen at Roadburn. They riffed on “I Want You/She’s so Heavy” and tossed “Till the Sun Turns Black” into the set, which was certainly welcome, and after the swinging “Send Judas Down,” which included a nod to “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” it was once again the title-track from For Those Which are Asleep (review here) rounding out.

To see them on such a huge stage less than 24 hours after seeing them in a club that holds about 200 people was something of a trip, but The Skull were no less in command of the cavernous space than they were the tiny Cul de Sac, where New Keepers of the Water Towers were going on shortly. I ran over quickly to see if there was any room in the building. There was enough for me to buy a copy of their new album, Infernal Machine (review here), but by the time you walked to the bar in the much-longer-than-it-is-wide venue, there was basically no passage through the throng of humanity. Buying the record seemed like the least I could do for having made the attempt to see them and failed, and once I got it, I headed back to the Main Stage to watch The Skull finish and to wait for Hexvessel, who were one of my most anticipated bands for the entire fest, to take the Main Stage.

I said as much in today’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (issue here) but nature-worshiping Finnish outfit Hexvessel‘s new record, When We are Death (review here), stands among the best albums of 2016 so far. Before they went on, I ran over to the merch area — more hexvessel 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)of a waddle, really — and picked up the artbook edition of the album as well as a patch with a fish head on it. They also had owls and bears and several other wildlife options, but you don’t see a lot of fish in underground heavy, so I was all about it. No idea what I’ll do with the thing, not being the battle-vest type, but whatever. For three euro? Sold. Their set more than justified both purchases, focused heavily on the new album and a huge shift in dynamic from when they were here in 2012, having departed from their folkish roots on the strength of infectious, progressive and deeply nuanced songs like “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” a set highlight, and “Cosmic Truth,” which frontman Mat McNerney prefaced by saying it was about, “true love and spaceships.” Needless to say, right up my alley.

Quietly percussive, “Hunter’s Prayer” finished off what seemed to be Hexvessel‘s regular set, after “Cosmic Truth,” “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” “Transparent Eyeball,” “Teeth of the Mountain,” “Mirror Boy,” and “Sacred Marriage” and the earlier “Woods to Conjure” from 2012’s No Holier Temple, but the band did an encore of sorts with “Earth over Us” and “When I’m Dead” back to back, both maddeningly catchy, the former delivered with surprising heft from the stage, before closing with “Invocation Summoning” from their 2011 debut, DawnbearerMcNerney encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along, which of course it did.

Timing worked out that as Hexvessel were finishing, Bang were starting in the Green Room, so I hobbled over there and waited for the Franks and Jake to follow-up their Hardrock Hideout set with another runthrough of their heavy ’70s lost classics. They did not disappoint, and their warm, laid back take on heavy rock continues to thrill. I’ve seen the band I don’t even know how many times at this point — let’s say circa 15 — but their vibe is always right on, and I don’t think I’ve heard bassist Frank Ferrara‘s tone sound as full and inviting as it has last night and tonight. He and guitarist Frankie Gilcken founded the band in 1969 and their self-titled debut was released two years later, and Ferrara remarked from the stage that their first European appearance — this one — was 46 years in the making. Time flies.

bang 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Much to their credit, they lived up to the occasion, and though he’s far from being an original member of the band, Jake Leger‘s drums have become essential to Bang‘s live presence. Maybe they’ll do another record, maybe they won’t, but with Leger swinging away behind, Gilcken and Ferrara are that much more able to nail that spirit every time out. “Lions, Christians” was a highlight, and of course “Our Home,” both from the self-titled, but in the live setting, the much newer “The Maze” is no less vintage-sounding. I think Leger is a big part of that. A third in the power trio, at very least. As they always do, Bang looked to be genuinely enjoying making their European debut, and a crowd that already knew their songs made it seem all the more overdue.

Back on the Main Stage, Converge were finishing up their set playing 2001’s Jane Doe in full: The album that launched 100,000 metalcore bands who were nowhere near as interesting as Converge ever were. Hard to hold that against it, I suppose. I caught the tail end of the set, which was as furious as it would have to be, and the four-piece of vocalist Jacob Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller brought out former bassist Stephen Brodsky (also Cave In) to join them on guitar and melodic vocals for the closing title-track from Jane Doe, its sweep well on the other side of epic. Not really my thing stylistically, but people were jammed into the Main Stage space for them, and I watched as dudes had to be helped out of the front for what I guess was a rare Roadburn pit — unless someone just stepped on that guy’s foot, which would be sadder somehow — so it was clear the room was making the connection to the off-genre elements Jane Doe brought to hardcore, or more likely, they made that connection 15 years ago. Either way.

My second failure at Cul de Sac came after Converge were done when I ran over to try to see the reunited Gomer Pyle. No luck. Same as with New Keepers: I bought a CD and that was about as close as I could get. Fair enough. By this time, I was reconciling myself to the fact that I’d probably not get in to see either Zone Six at Cul de Sac or CHRCH at Extase, both of which were bigtime mental bummers. Still, as consolation, Paradise Lost playing their defining 1991 opus, Gothic, in its entirety ain’t bad. That album turns 25 this year, has been reissued multiple times over, and its paradise lost 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)influence continues to spread, now feeding a new generation a blueprint of how to do death/doom so very, very right.

It would’ve been an event to see Paradise Lost play anything, but “Gothic,” “Shattered,” “Dead Emotion” — this is the stuff of which doom extremity is made. I stayed a while to pay my respects and then did decide after all to not be a defeatist jerk and see if I could get in for Zone Six after all. I could. The key was to be early as hell. That’s an old Roadburn trick. The German space jammers, who feature in their ranks Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt and Komet Lulu, both of Electric Moon, played as a trio with Rainer Neeff on guitar, which meant that synth specialist Modulfix was missing, but the jams were happening either way. I dug the gosh darn heck out of last year’s Love Monster (review here), and they were another act where the safer assumption probably would’ve been that I’d never get to watch them do a set save at Roadburn. I am very, very fortunate to be here.

Zone Six played in the dark. I mean it. Cul de Sac isn’t exactly bright to start with, and Lulu asked before they went on to have the lights turned down so it was like shooting a show in Boston in there. With Sula filling in on synth, their swirl was certainly colorful enough that it would’ve justified a bit of brightness, but I’ll take what I can get and the pictures can work themselves out. I got to see Zone Six. That’s a win. And since I had a hot streak going, I thought maybe I’d give Extase a shot for CHRCH to round out the night on a bludgeoning note of tonal mass, their Unanswered Hymns (review here) debut album on Battleground Records continuing to resonate as one of 2015’s best. As fate would have it, my luck held.

My two gotta-sees for today were Hexvessel and CHRCH. I wish I could say I stayed for the latter’s full set, but between the fact that it zone six 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)was getting on midnight and I had writing to do and the full-crowd press up against the stage in Extase bringing on a need for breathable air that smelled like something other than beer sweat, I indeed did not. Was enough to see them play “Unanswered Hymns” though to justify my anticipation. The Sacramento five-piece are touring to support the aforementioned first LP, and they’re doing numerous fests in the US as well as putting in this abroad road time, so it probably won’t be the last time in my life I run into them, but I was extraordinarily glad I did. Partially veiled frontwoman Eva played up a ritualistic sensibility with incense at the front of the stage, but really, so much of what they did was about absolutely crushing everything in their path — which is a kind of ritual, granted — that their primary impression was one of sheer impact. Switching between screams and cleaner croons, Eva shared vocal duties with guitarist Chris, whose growls underscored the death/doom aspects of CHRCH‘s sound, making them all the more crushing.

Listening to Unanswered Hymns, it was clear CHRCH (who were called Church at the time) were onto something that could be really special. After watching them bring that material to life, I feel no less vehement in my appreciation for just how on-the-right-path they absolutely are. Their second offering will be a big tell. I can’t wait to hear what it has to say.

When it was time to go, I fought my way through the wall of humans at Extase and eventually out into the street wherechrch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) some non-Roadburn-type tourists were taking their picture in front of the big cathedral. Dudes were plastered. I took their picture with one of their phones and told them to have a good night. Theirs might’ve just been beginning, and I suppose in a way mine was too, but with Day One of Roadburn 2016 down, I felt like something really substantial had been accomplished even as I looked at the schedule for tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday and knew that there remains so much more to come.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Hexvessel Post “When I am Dead” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hexvessel (Photo by Tekla Valy)

If you don’t already have the chorus of this song stuck in your head, then you probably haven’t heard it yet. Doesn’t take much more than that for Hexvessel‘s “When I am Dead” to work its bizarro-prog, goth-folk, six-or-seven-other-genres-blended-but-still-catchy-as-hell magic on the listener. The track, taken from the Finnish unit’s latest offering, When We are Death (review here), is a highlight hook from that record, but ultimately one of many spread throughout the front-to-back, richly-varied experience of the album. It isn’t the first video they made from When We are Death — that was the far more subdued “Cosmic Truth” (posted here) — but it’s definitely high on the list of the strongest impressions the record makes, taking the forest folk template of the band’s earlier work and throwing it out the window in favor of something less stylistically rigid but no less organic in its execution.

And if you want an example of the kind of variety When We are Death offers, look at the two clips. “Cosmic Truth” played out its languid hook amid grand and flowing scenes of fog rolling over hills and mountains, aerial views of uncorrupted serenity. “When I am Dead” has the band playing their instruments and singing along to the song — shades of Wayne’s World, for those who might remember — as their Cadillac leaves orbit and explores outer space. It’s called charm, folks. The outward enjoyment they display in the video is no less infectious than the chorus of “When I am Dead” itself or its classic-prog gallop, and though things don’t seem to end well for Hexvessel in the story arc — unless you look at dying and supporting fungal growth as a positive; there’s a case to be made there — they certainly seem to be having a good time on the ride.

Hexvessel are on tour in Europe now, keeping Floydian company with New Keepers of the Water Towers, and the run will finish out in the middle of next month at Roadburn in the Netherlands, where I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. The remaining tour dates, some comment from vocalist/guitarist Mat McNerney and other info follow, courtesy of the PR wire.

Enjoy the clip:

Hexvessel, “When I am Dead” official video

HEXVESSEL post new video, new digital single announced; on tour across Europe now.

Finland’s psychedelic folk rock shooting stars HEXVESSEL have posted a new video for the song “When I’m Dead”, taken from their highly praised third studio album When We Are Death, released on Century Media in January.

Singer Mat McNerney comments on the new video and the tour:

“Nature prevails. We never die, we just change our form. We’re billion year old carbon on a journey through space on an ancient rock. As we leave our beloved Finland, heading out into Europe on tour, this video represents our view of the universe and our strong connection to the cycle of life and death. It’s an existential question that only the forest can answer. You must go on a journey into space to know this. Where will you be when I am dead?”

Catch HEXVESSEL on tour across Europe with New Keepers Of The Water Towers. All dates below.

HEXVESSEL live:
Mar 22 Copenhagen, Denmark – Beta *
Mar 24 Cologne, Germany- Underground *
Mar 25 Hamburg, Germany- Rock Cafe *
Mar 26 Dresden, Germany – Beatpol *
Mar 27 Berlin, Germany- Musik & Frieden *
Mar 29 Poznan, Poland – Minoga* / TICKETS
Mar 30 Prague, Czech Republic- Cross Club *
Mar 31 Vienna, Austria- Chelsea *
Apr 01 Budapest, Hungary – A38*
Apr 02 Club Napoca, Romania – Shelter *
Apr 03 Bucharest, Romania – Control *
Apr 04 Sofia, Bulgaria- Live & Loud
Apr 05 Belgrade, Serbia- TBA
Apr 06 Ljubljana, Slovenia – Channel Zero *
Apr 07 Stuttgart, Germany – 1210 *
Apr 08 Karlsruhe, Germany- Alte Hackerei *
Apr 10 Antwerp, Belgium – Het Bos *
Apr 11 Leeds, United Kingdom – Brudenell Social Club *
Apr 12 London, United Kingdom – 100 Club *
Apr 13 Brighton, United Kingdom – The Prince Albert
Apr 14 – 15 Tilburg, Netherlands – Roadburn
* With New Keepers of The Water Towers

HEXVESSEL line-up:
Mat McNerney – Vox & guitar
Marja Konttinen – Vox & percussion
Jukka Rämänen – Drums
Simo Kuosmanen – Lead Guitar
Niini Rossi – Bass Guitar
Kimmo Helén – Keys/Trumpet/Violin

Hexvessel website

Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks

Hexvessel Tumblr

Century Media

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