Desertfest Belgium 2017 Completes Lineup; High Fighter, King Hiss & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Certainly by the time Oct. 13 got here and the fest actually started, but Desertfest Belgium 2017 beat that mark considerably in completing its lineup announcements for the year. Stop me if you’ve heard me say so 50 times already, but the lineup is pretty gosh darn staggering this time around, and last-minute additions of High FighterDÿse, Steak Number EightKing Hiss and A Supernaut, while not necessarily packing the star power of Graveyard or the Melvins invariably do as headliners, only make the proceedings that much fuller, giving show-goers even more exposure to some of the finest wares the heavy underground has to offer. I mean, really, look at this fricking bill.

Imagine spending three days doing this? I can’t wait to see how the schedule breaks down. Until then, kudos to the fest on rounding out the following assemblage:

desertfest-belgium-2017-full-lineup

DF Antwerp 2017: The Last of the Line-Up – Dyse, King Hiss & More

Our last update that completes the line-up for Desertfest Antwerp 2017 is more than just a matter of “filling in the gaps”.

We’ve always tried to offer our very international crowd a taste of what’s good and heavy right here in Belgium, so in closing we want to introduce you to three bands that have been making waves in the national scene for years now. Steak Number Eight and King Hiss are both high profile rock bands that are in high demand at the country’s clubs and festivals, yet their sound remains uncompromising and pounding as fuck. A Supernaut from Brussels serves up more of a loud boogie sound, but the influence of the melting pot town they hail from shines through regardless.

And to close off: Dÿse and High Fighter from Germany are two remarkable bands that we feel you must urgently discover, if you haven’t already.

With all the good news that has been coming, there was bound to be some setbacks as well. Luckily, this year we’ve only encountered one – and here it is: due to unforeseen circumstances, White Hills has been forced to cancel their appearance at the fest.

So there you go, we’d say we’re all set for another killer edition of Desertfest Belgium. We have the headliners, we have the scene favorites, we have the undiscovered gems… now all we need is a crowd and that means YOU! Thank you all so much for your continued support, and we’ll see you in Antwerp, just a little over a month from now!

DYSE

As intricate as Dÿse sound on record, the German noise-rock duo really shines on the stage. For almost 15 years now, Jari and André have been honing their skills and perfecting their music, never losing sight of a keen sense of humour and just the right amount of experiment. If you don’t know them yet, get ready to be surprised!

STEAK NUMBER EIGHT

One of the most respected heavy bands in Belgium, Steak Number Eight landed in the spotlight while still in their teenage years, earning first place in the country’s most notorious rock contest. A decade later, and they manage to bring postmetal and noise to a wider audience while still making no compromises on their sound. A spot at Desertfest only serves them right.

KING HISS

Another mainstay of the national underground rock scene, any Belgian who hasn’t yet seen ’em live must be living under a rock. Sold-out clubs? Check! Festivals, both big and small? Check! Features in all the relevant magazines, off- and online? Check! The new album ‘Mastosaurus’ not only revives the idea of the concept album, it is also a marvelous feat that offers no compromises, no pulling punches. Just 10 times TKO causing maximum damage.

A SUPERNAUT

What is A Supernaut? It’s Rock, it’s soul, it’s Psychedelia and it’s pure love. It’s beautiful, it shakes you up, it reminds you of ZZ Top without the beards, or GrandFunk Railroad that’s slightly derailed. But above all, it’s Brussels – city of their untamed rock ‘n roller hearts, and their music serves as a dark and magic homage to their hometown.

HIGH FIGHTER

High Fighter was formed in the summer of 2014 by former band members of A Million Miles, Buffalo Hump and Pyogenesis. They offer a volatile cocktail of heavy as hell riffs fuelled by beer and the mighty weedian riffs. Add a heavy dose of the blues as well as some deadly schizophrenic vocals, and it is clear why the band got thumbs up by John Garcia and Conan!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/264364590656095/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

High Fighter, Scars and Crosses (2016)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

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.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Presents: 12 of 2016’s Best Album Covers

Posted in Features, Visual Evidence on December 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

This list could easily go to 20. Or 30. Or 50. The democratization of media and the flourishing of aesthetic thanks to wide-open digital interaction across national and cultural borders has meant that bands in Texas can get artwork from Spain easily — something we’ve come to take for granted in this age of messages flying through space in indeterminate instants. There’s a lot of art out there. A lot of it is very, very good. Not all, but a lot.

In the particular realm of heavy rock and doom, I’ve spent a lot of time this year being discouraged at the continued and apparently flourishing objectification of women. Cartoon tits. Get out of here with that shit. You’ll notice none of the covers on this list go that route. It’s boring, it’s easy and it’s sexist. If you want to establish your masculine dominance, go pull your dick out at the mall and see how that does for you. Putting other people down to make yourself feel bigger is for kindergarten. As human beings, we should be past it.

Nonetheless — and I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t also note the lack of women on this list — there is a ton of interesting and forward-moving work being done around the world and I think that’s worth taking a couple minutes to celebrate even just a fraction of it. Hopefully you agree, and if you have some favorite art you’d like to add to the list, please hit up the comments.

Ordered alphabetically by artist

Sourvein, Aquatic Occult

sourvein aquatic occult

Cover by Jordan Barlow. Artist website.

Sourvein‘s Aquatic Occult (review here) was a dense, multi-faceted work, and one imagines that for Jordan Barlow of New Orleans’ Abracadabra Tattoo, part of the challenge was in either finding or creating a design that coincided with that without coming across as confused or off-theme. This bevvy of undersea elements gives us a central figure in a frustrated Neptune with a shark-teeth crown, a human presence in the two diver helmets (is anyone in there?) and highlights the dangers of the ocean with its hammerheads and threatening-looking seahorse, as well as what seems to be a whirlpool and another swirl in opposite top corners. All told, the deep blue and green tones complement the morass of Sourvein‘s sound, raw and natural as it is, and provide moody intrigue to coincide with the wide variety of songwriting on display. Like the album, it is defined in no small part by its haze.

Holy Grove, Holy Grove

holy grove holy grove

Cover by Adam Burke. Artist website.

Portland-based Adam Burke is something of a repeat offender when it comes to badass artwork. He regularly posts works in progress on social media and the lushness of his technique astounds me nearly every time out. Holy Grove‘s self-titled debut (review here) was far from the only piece of his a band used this year, but what stood it out most was the balance between nighttime — as seen in the stars and the darkness of the sky and trees — and the aurora borealis that offered such a rich, otherworldly feel. Beautiful, immediately recognizable as Burke‘s, and it pays subtle homage to his and the band’s Cascadian home region with the shapes of the tall evergreens in the foreground, speaking all the more to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the classic soul fused into the record itself.

Duel, Fears of the Dead

duel fears of the dead

Cover by Pol Abran Cantador. Artist website.

How could one not look at the cover of Duel‘s debut album, Fears of the Dead (review here), and not immediately think of the Misfits? And yet, Barcelona-based Pol Abran Cantador, operating under the banner of Branca Studio, brings a freshness to the striking, landmark skull design. The face is off-center, the eyes looking outward. While there’s little doubt as to the visual reference being made, it’s just that — a reference, not an emulation. Treading that balance would be admirable enough for inclusion here, but impact of the piece becomes greater with the distressed look and the deep blood red surrounding, giving dimension as a backdrop, reinforcing the perspective of the figure, and providing Duel with a horror-cinema vibe that begs the question of just what those eyes are staring at.

Brutus, Wandering Blind

brutus wandering blind

Cover by Maarten Donders. Artist website.

Sometimes something just stays with you. On the surface, Dutch artist Maarten Donders brings forward a pretty simple idea for Norwegian boogie rockers Brutus‘ third album, Wandering Blind (review here). Images from ’60s-style psychedelic pulp horror come to mind — the bat, the spiderwebs, the blank stare on the face, the flowing hair through the open mouth of the skull, the monster eyeballs, the purposefully hand-drawn logo — but at the same time, the execution of these things is so intricate. Look at the bags under those eyes, the black holes where the teeth of that skull should be, the weird bubbles by the eyeballs, and the comic-style lettering of the album title itself, which switches back and forth between capitalized and lowercase letters. Look at the shadowed impression of a vinyl record that encircles the design but lets the chin of the skull and the band’s logo protrude. It’s so immediate but so deceptive, hiding its devils in its details.

Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts

tranquonauts seedy jeezus isaiah mitchell
Cover by Mr. Frumpy. Artist website.

While it’s true that for this collaboration between Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell and Melbourne heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus, the front cover only tells half the story of the full Tranquonauts (review here) gatefold, even 50 percent is enough to justify inclusion here. Put together by Mr. Frumpy Frumpedia, aka Seedy Jeezus guitarist Lex Waterreus, it was one of several artworks this year to feature smaller figures against a grand backdrop — Geezer‘s self-titled and Sunnata‘s Zorya, featured below, come to mind immediately, as well as the last Fu Manchu — but it was the openness of the space itself that Waterreus captured, both on the ground and in the sky, and the atmosphere that brought to the instrumental, jammed-put proceedings on the LP’s two sides, that made it work so well. The humanoid figures — maybe the total four-piece of the lineup? — are so utterly overwhelmed by their surroundings, and yet they seem more than ready to make their journey through them, finding life along what seems to be a barren path.

Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Cover by Sebastian Jerke. Artist website.

Sebastian Jerke has kind of become Napalm Records‘ go-to artist over the last couple years, as his past and upcoming work for the likes of My Sleeping Karma, monkey3, Ahab, The Answer and others can attest, but the strangeness of the natural world, the three-dimensional protrusion of the trees, the layered depths, and the commanding presence of the bear, owl, snake and winged insects standing above it all made his work for Greenleaf‘s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) my favorite album cover of the year. It’s very much in his painterly, somewhat classical style, but the way the light seems to come from the band’s logo and behind the planet, the use of shadow and shading on the trees, and the monstrously blank eyes of the bear and owl give it a depth and narrative that remains nothing short of breathtaking. Clearly a labor of love.

Beastwars, The Death of all Things

beastwars the death of all things

Cover by Nick Keller. Artist website.

My only question was whether it was the cover for The Death of all Things (review here) I’d include or Keller‘s piece that was used for Child‘s new album, Blueside (review here), but with the context of this very likely being the final offering from New Zealand sludgecrushers Beastwars, the answer was plain. Either way, Keller‘s sense of scale and scope remains immense and he continues to bring a feel of the epic to his work here as he did to his two prior covers for Beastwars, on 2013’s Blood Becomes Fire (review here) and the band’s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), resulting in a more than suitable pairing of visual representation and impact of sound. Rarely does one find an artist and a band so much on the same page.

Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management

goatess ii purgatory under new management

Cover by Göran Nilsson. Artist website.

Charm goes a long way in my book, always, and Göran Nilsson‘s cover for the second outing by Swedish doomers GoatessII: Purgatory Under New Management (review here), has it in bulk supply. The underlying mischief of depicting the four-piece as medieval-esque saints painted on wood like something out of the Middle Ages — their faces grim with a seriousness of purpose not at all letting on to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the record’s title — with halos behind their heads and scripture in tow, well, it’s got a humor that most doom wouldn’t dare go near for fear of losing the edge of its miseries. For Goatess, however, it works perfectly in conveying an essential piece of where the band is coming from, in that their output in the first place seems to be as much about getting together and celebrating the act of writing songs as a unit as it is worshiping the traditions of the style.

Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids

Cover by Eli Quinn. Artist website.

While a jpeg of the cover alone doesn’t quite do justice to the full presentation of Eli Quinn‘s artwork for Droids Attacks‘ Sci-Fi or Die (review here), which went so far as to print the title of the record in gold ink on the CD case, feature even more detailed work inside and even go so far as to create an entirely separate artwork scheme for a bonus track hidden on a mini-CD under the back tray under the disc for the album (detailed here), I still find the image of the launching South American-style pyramid as a full diamond taking off — especially with the lights beaming out the bottom — among the most striking of 2016. Reminiscent of Arik Roper‘s detailed style, Quinn‘s cover added depth and purpose to the band’s never-tighter songcraft while also speaking to the love of science-fiction storytelling that drove them to use the title in the first place. Hard not to win with ancient aliens.

Sunnata, Zorya

sunnata zorya

Cover by Jeffrey Smith. Artist website.

Derived it would seem at least in part from a piece called “Erosion of Self,” or at very least of a kin to it, like a lot of Smith‘s work, his art for Zorya (review here) by Polish heavy rockers Sunnata treats light with a religious reverence. Like a Kubrick shot, the sun is dead-center of the painting itself, framed and encircled by gaseous-looking clouds, and as the dawn seems to break over this landscape (or is it sunset?), it becomes difficult to tell where the robed monks end and the rocky protrusions begin. Our eyes are drawn immediately toward the light, and it’s the light that ultimately defines the story here, the way the beams of light shoot outward and turn the desert floor white so that it almost reminds of a body of water as much as a place where nothing seems to grow. Stark but consuming.

High Fighter, Scars and Crosses

high fighter scars and crosses

Cover by Dominic Sohor. Artist website.

This one was so dark, so malevolent, with such a violent bend in its prominent central figure, that it seemed to encapsulate the underlying threat that always seemed to loom over High Fighter‘s Svart Records debut album, Scars and Crosses (review here). Because the faceless blue skin and hanging, stringy hair are so reminiscent of Japanese horror films, and because the heart  in the right hand stands out so much in its silvery tone and because the pattern on the dress/cowl is so intricate, you almost don’t notice at first that it’s blood shooting out of that figure’s left wrist filled with upside-down and rightside-up crosses or that it seems to be veins in the top left corner acting as puppet strings, propping up the entire play. But it definitely is, and that only furthers the horrific, nightmarish imagery surrounding, where even the shaded background seems to want to lure you in with no hope of escape.

Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes

bridesmaid international house of mancakes

Cover by W. Ralph Walters. Artist website.

Come on. So you mean to tell me you went ahead an reinvented KISS‘ cover for Destroyer with Ohio heavy rockers Bridesmaid dressed as the Village People? Be still my beating heart. The art for International House of Mancakes (review here) offers subversive humor without judgment, winking at the homoeroticism that has always been and likely will always be a part of rock and roll, and ultimately mocks the ridiculousness of the denial of that same homoeroticism. From the hands raised in triumph on either side (an element pulled right from the original KISS cover) to the stacks of pancakes the instrumental outfit is standing on, it functioned as artwork to say so much about the band and was perhaps all the more effective in conveying its message and their message since there were no lyrics to pull in other directions. It’s all right there in your face; bright and brilliant.

Because I can’t seem to get out of one of these lists without a series of honorable mentions, I’ll say too that 2016 offerings from Borracho, SubRosa, Inter Arma, Mars Red Sky, Vokonis, Elephant Tree, EYE, Slomatics, Gozu and Black Moon Circle managed to strike on one level or another.

Thanks for reading. Like I said at the outset, this is barely a fraction of the amazing art that came down the line this year. If you’ve got something to add, please hit up the comments.

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Conan Announce March 2017 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Conan‘s third album has taken them around the world. They’ve done Europe, North America, Australia. Have they been to Japan yet? If not, they’re sure to go at some point, and early 2016’s Revengeance (review here) is a powerful vehicle to propel them, showcasing the raw assault that’s always been and one suspects will always be at the core of their sound while also emphasizing growth within their aesthetic that’s an underrated but ever-present facet of what they do. They’ve got a good track record by now of releases in even years, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect to hear something new from them in 2017 at least in terms of a complete LP — though one never knows — but when they get around to their fourth outing, look out.

They’ll continue to support Revengeance into the New Year, as the PR wire brings word of another European run, this one headlining alongside Downfall of GaiaHark and High Fighter. Dig it:

conan-tour-poster-700

CONAN – To Tour Europe In March 2017!

England’s heaviest and finest doom export CONAN never stands still. After their 3rd successful studio release ‘Revengeance’ (2016, Napalm Records), it seems the 3-piece band is constantly touring the world, and for a good reason, already left their stamp in nowadays doom and metal scene. Now CONAN have announced an extensive European headlining tour for March 2017! They will be joined by special guests DOWNFALL OF GAIA, Welsh progressive-power-sludge band HARK as well as Hamburg’s finest sludge, heavy stoner and doom outfit HIGH FIGHTER!

“We are looking forward to getting on the road again to cast forth a swarm of riffs at mainland Europe! Allied with our friends in Hark, Downfall of Gaia and High Fighter we will defeat all of your end of level bosses.“ CONAN comments about the upcoming tour.

A tour steamroller which will indeed make every doom heart and beyond its genre beat faster. Make sure to catch this exciting and heavy band package live and on the following dates!

CONAN, DOWNFALL OF GAIA, HARK & HIGH FIGHTER LIVE:
08.03.2017 DE, Wiesbaden – Schlachthof
09.03.2017 DE, Weinheim – Café Central
10.03.2017 CZ, Prague – 007
11.03.2017 PL, Warsaw – Poglos
12.03.2017 DE, Dresden – Puschkin
13.03.2017 DE, München – Feierwerk
14.03.2017 HU, Budapest – Durer Kert
15.03.2017 AT, Vienna – Arena
16.03.2017 CH, Olten – Coq D’Or
17.03.2017 FR, Lyon – TBA
18.03.2017 ESP, Barcelona – TBA
19.03.2017 ESP, Madrid – Caracol
20.03.2017 FR, Toulouse – Rex
21.03.2017 FR, Nantes – Le Ferrailleur
22.03.2017 FR, Paris – Boule Noire
23.03.2017 NL, Rotterdam – Baroeg
24.03.2017 DE, Köln – MTC
25.03.2017 BE, Brussel – Magasin 4
26.03.2017 NL, Arnhem – Willemeen

www.hailconan.com/
www.facebook.com/conandoom
http://conanusamerch.bigcartel.com/
napalmrecords.com

Conan, “Throne of Fire” official video

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High Fighter Post “Darkest Days” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

high-fighter

Among the benefits of the democratization of the digital media apparatus is that it lets bands show what they’re all about on their own terms. It raises the possibilities of what an outfit working DIY to whatever degree can accomplish. One still needs skill, but skill and some editing software can get you pretty far in making your own video, without the need for a cutting room, a floor, scissors, or whatever else might’ve been involved in that process in years gone.

When it comes to showing what they’re all about, Hamburg sludge metallers High Fighter — whose new video for “Darkest Days” was put together by bassist Constantin Wüst as a DIY effort — have little use for ambiguity: They’re about kicking ass on stage, having a good time and occasionally tripping out with some psychedelic edge in their music. That was the case across their 2016 Svart Records debut album, Scars and Crosses (review here), and “Darkest Days” summarizes it well, bringing together onstage and backstage footage with a few visual effects, quick cuts to match the song’s intensity of drive, and a fitting depiction of the energy High Fighter bring to their delivery.

The clip also finds the five-piece of Wüst, vocalist Mona Miluski, guitarists Christian “Shi” Pappas and Ingwer Boysen, and drummer/backing vocalist Thomas Wildelau marking their second anniversary as a band. It’s been a productive two years, to say the least. They made a quick debut in 2014 with the EP The Goat Ritual (review here) and have toured steadily to support their offerings — and, as a result, compiled footage from which to build videos — appearing at club shows and festivals around Europe’s heavy underground alongside the likes of Earth Ship and, most recently, heavy prog forerunners Elder.

Cheers to High Fighter on the anniversary and all the fruits their fervency has yielded thus far. One can’t help but get the sense they’re still just getting started.

Enjoy “Darkest Days” below, followed by PR wire info and some comment from Miluski:

High Fighter, “Darkest Days” official video

The Hamburg based 5-piece sludge and stoner metal band has just returned from a quick tour with Elder in October, a busy festival summer with live appearances at such as Summer Breeze Festival, Desertfest Berlin, Up in Smoke and alongside many more shows and tours around Europe in 2016, with their first and critically acclaimed debut album ‘Scars & Crosses’, which came out this summer on Svart Records, HIGH FIGHTER have just released a brand new video for the album track ‘Darkest Days’!

In the typical High Fighter manner, this new video comes like the previous visual works of the band, in a 100% DIY-production. Fuzzy, dark, lots of headbanging and with a wild soundmix of bluesy stoner riffs, screams you will feel to your bone and some heavy sludge tunes, get on your next trip with High Fighter right HERE.

Mona Miluski, vocalist of the band, explains: “Since we’re releasing this video today, exactly two years ago when we unveiled the band to public & released our first EP that day, so many great moments, shows, new friends and experiences followed for us, I see this new video for ‘Darkest Days’ as some cool and trippin summary. Of two more than amazing years of our short and young band history already. Our bassist Constantin again did such great job on the video! He edited it all by himself and it’s again a pure do-it-yourself production. We used several live footage from our shows the past two years, and took some behind the scenes from tours & when we’ve been on the road…It’s a very dark track and video but also visually weird, wild and psychedelic on the other hand. But that’s what you get with High Fighter and on our album ‘Scars & Crosses’ in general: It’s not an easy-listening record, it’s more of a trip, and there’s also a lot of pain and beauty happening to the same time. Choosing the track ‘Darkest Days’ for a new video of High Fighter has only been a matter of course, soundwise, we all dig that song, from the lyrics’ perspective and its representation of our album vibe, but then this heavy contrast which comes with the visual footage of two awesome years with High Fighter. Seems we love contrasts!”

High Fighter on Thee Facebooks

High Fighter website

High Fighter on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

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Up in Smoke 2016: Lineup Final; Trailer Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

The final addition to the lineup for Up in Smoke 2016, which starts this Friday at Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland? Camping space. Namely the floor of the venue, which will be cleaned after the last band finishes each night so that fest goers can grab their sleeping bags and bed down for the night, only to find breakfast waiting when they roll back to consciousness the next morning. I’ve never slept on a venue floor before. That would be a new one. But provided they get the beer/other fluids up, which I’ve no doubt they’ll be able to do because it’s Switzerland and things like that increase the likelihood that anyone gives a shit about what they’re doing, it seems like a cool way to achieve total immersion in a festival atmosphere. I’ve never gone camping either, though, so don’t necessarily take my word as an expert or anything.

With the festival’s most massive lineup yet, Up in Smoke 2016 kicks off this Friday. A new trailer for the fest with some 1000mods in it has been posted and you can find that under the camping info and complete billing below:

up-in-smoke-2016-timetable

SOUND OF LIBERATION and Z7 KONZERTFABRIK PRATTELN proudly present the 4th edition of UP IN SMOKE INDOOR FESTIVAL on September 30th and October 1st 2016! Musical Highlights include Electric Wizard, Yob, Truckfighters, Pentagram and many many more.

Many of you asked for the chance to sleep over in the venue, like we offered in the last editions. Here´s the procedure:

After the last band is done playing, we will go on partying with Dj music for another hour. Then afterwards, we will ask everybody to step out of the main hall for a few minutes. The floor will be cleaned and covered with a sheet so that the place gets clean for all our “in site – campers”. If you want to sleep over in the venue, you should bring your sleeping bag and camping mat. Upon your arrival on the festival site you can store your belongings in the wardrobe and get it back for the night.

In the morning, we will offer you a nice breakfast with coffee/tea, bread and breadrolls, meat and cheese and sweet stuff to get you in shape for the next festival day! The price for sleep over and breakfast is 15.- CHF per person/night. There´s no option of separate bookings like ” only sleep over and no breakfast” or “only breakfast”.

Up in Smoke 2016 Final Line Up
Electric Wizard
Pentagram
Truckfighters
YOB
Elder
Greenleaf
Monkey 3
Cough
Black Cobra
1000mods
Yawning Man
Fatso Jetson
Dyse
Wucan
Desert Mountain Tribe
Giobia
High Fighter
Mother’s Cake
Ephedra

Also not to forget: No overlapping set times, sleep over/breakfast possibiity in the venue + some more specials to be announced soon to sweeten you the “TWO NOT TO BE MISSED DAYS OF VOLUME WORSHIP” !!! Grab your ticket (2-day passes) right now on our website, on www.z-7.ch and on our Facebook (tab ‘Buy Tickets’). If you prefer to buy an original, real hard-ticket, our partner Woolheads is selling them!

http://woolheads.com/cms/shop-2/festivalmerchandise/up-in-smoke-the-indoor-festival-vol-iv-ticket/
http://www.upinsmoke.de/eventinfo-indoor-festival
https://www.facebook.com/UpInSmokeIndoorFestivalInZ7
https://www.soundofliberation.com

Up in Smoke 2016, festival trailer

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High Fighter, Scars and Crosses: Trials to Bear

Posted in Reviews on July 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

high fighter scars and crosses

What ultimately stands High Fighter‘s Svart-delivered debut long-player, Scars and Crosses apart, aesthetically, is its aggression. The Hamburg, Germany, five-piece of vocalist Mona Miluski, guitarists Christian “Shi” Pappas and Ingwer Boysen, bassist Constantin Wüst and drummer/backing vocalist Thomas Wildelau made their debut in 2014 with the impressively cohesive The Goat Ritual EP (review here), and at its foundation, the story was much the same. Though High Fighter have been duly embraced by the heavy rock community in Europe and beyond, they’re really a metal band. That’s audible in their tonality, their attention to detail, in the clean singing and screams and growls of Miluski and in the arrangements of how and when she switches between them.

Mixed and mastered by Toshi Kasai (Melvins, Leeches of Lore, etc.) from a recording by Jens Siefert at RAMA Studio in Mannheim, the album’s 41-minute span is vehemently straightforward, with some flourish of effects in the guitars and bluesy undertone, but interested primarily in thrust, and when there’s any letup at all as on the swaying start of “Portrait Mind,” it doesn’t last long. It’s an active listen, and the energy with which they deliver the included eight tracks gives the impression of an active band — punching someone in the face, after all, can be a real workout — but what’s going to be the deciding factor for many listeners particularly within the sphere of the heavy underground is whether they view High Fighter‘s metallurgy as righteous in its defiance of a genre status quo that’s only gotten lazier over the last half-decade or a group simply trying to meld styles to whatever degree of success depending on the audience’s point of view.

Listening to the command with which Miluski and the band behind her execute this material makes it easier to argue toward the former. Adrenaline is a major element at work even in the slower chug and wah of the penultimate “Down to the Sky,” but in its more intense moments — looking at you, “Blinders” — Scars and Crosses plays to modern metal sensibilities with a viscerally screamed verse and soaring clean chorus. The dual guitars of Pappas and Boysen careen through riffs of winding thrash on that song but are no less comfortable dug into the more rolling groove of the preceding “The Gatekeeper,” which also trades melody for screams between its verses and choruses, but swaps the structure to suit the groove and the linear built taking place over the song’s five and a half minutes.

high fighter

Following 6:33 opener and longest track (immediate points) “A Silver Heart” and the subsequent “Darkest Days” — which features a choice “ough” grunt from Miluski and the most satisfying direct linear build on offer — “The Gatekeeper” expands the context of Scars and Crosses to a degree, finds High Fighter leaning more toward groove than assault, but as noted, “Blinders” is perhaps the most raging cut on the record, so the balance is readjusted almost immediately as side A rounds out. What unites those two tracks, the first two, and the four still to come on side B is the songwriting and the confidence in execution that High Fighter show across the board. The Goat Ritual showed solid potential, but Scars and Crosses takes pivotal steps in positioning High Fighter where they would seem to want to be sound-wise — in a space between worlds that few bands would be so bold as to willfully inhabit.

“Portrait Mind” continues the thread at the launch of the album’s second half but also boasts a highlight guitar solo, while the subsequent “Gods” seems to nod back at “The Gatekeeper” with a desert rock riff reconstituted to suit High Fighter‘s purposes, giving a fuller look at what might become an expanded context over time for their approach. That continues in “Down to the Sky” as they draw back on some of the urgency in order to let a fluidity take hold for a few minutes in the song’s first half, Wildelau‘s kick offering firm punctuation throughout and signaling the launch of the solo section in the final third with an uptick in pace leading back to the chorus. This leaves the title-track with an even more difficult task of summarizing the album as a whole.

It does so with a central push derived in part from Kyuss‘ “Odyssey” that arrives offset by a slowdown hook and layered-in lead work that solidifies around a still-upbeat but nod-ready groove before expanding outward with effects on the guitar, vocal harmonies and a move into the apex of the record itself before a final minute filled only by the hum of feedback. Certainly that says it all as much as anything I could come up with, and “Scars and Crosses” rounds out the album by emphasizing what are already the band’s strengths in songwriting and performance while also giving a look at possible sides of their personality they might play with going forward. Make no mistake, they’re already a solid band, and I think Scars and Crosses deserves consideration among 2016’s most accomplished debuts, but High Fighter give no indication in these songs that this is the sum total of what they have to say as a unit, and that only bodes well for their future progress.

High Fighter, “Blinders” official video

High Fighter on Thee Facebooks

High Fighter website

High Fighter on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

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Up in Smoke 2016 Lineup Complete; Black Cobra, Dÿse, Mother’s Cake and High Fighter Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

up in smoke header

With the additions of Black Cobra, Dÿse, Mother’s Cake and High Fighter, the lineup for Up in Smoke 2016 is complete. The Pratteln, Switzerland-based festival runs for two nights, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, and will be headlined by Electric Wizard, John Garcia, Pentagram and Truckfighters, with YOB, Elder, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson and more listed below on the bill.

Black Cobra and High Fighter are particularly interesting of this final batch of adds. I’m not an expert on Desert Mountain Tribe or Ephedra to say for sure, but it would seem the San Francisco heavy thrash duo and the German sludgecore rockers are the two most aggressive acts playing. I guess you could make an argument for Cough, but they’re more about drowning you in tone than getting a pit going, where it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that in the right setting Black Cobra or High Fighter would do just that.

The PR wire has this:

up in smoke 2016 final poster

UP IN SMOKE 2016! Sept. 30th / Oct. 1st … Black Cobra, Dÿse, Mother’s Cake & High Fighter complete the line-up!

Summer is here, and before you all go on vacation trying to find the sun far, far away (…), we’d like to give you the last bands confirmed for our Up In Smoke Indoor Festival 2016! We are thrilled to welcome San Francisco’s Hardcore-fueled Sludge Metal duo Black Cobra, Berlin’s incredible Noiserock stage freaks Dÿse, Austrian Alternative Space Rock outfit Mother’s Cake (touring with John Garcia next fall) and Hamburg’s rising Heavy Stoner Bluescore band High Fighter (who just released their debut album ‘Scars & Crosses’ on Svart Records)!!

Taking place on September 30th and October 1st 2016, in our dear Z7 Konzertfabrik (Pratteln / near Basel / Dreiländereck) this year’s edition also features Electric Wizard, John Garcia, Pentagram, Truckfighters, Yob, Elder, Cough, Greenleaf, Monkey3, 1000Mods, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Wucan, Giöbia, Desert Mountain Tribe and Ephedra.

Unfortunately, the Italian band Noon had to cancel their appearance for medical reason.

Also not to forget: No overlapping set times, sleep over/breakfast possibiity in the venue + some more specials to be announced soon to sweeten you the “TWO NOT TO BE MISSED DAYS OF VOLUME WORSHIP” !!! Grab your ticket (2-day passes) right now on our website, on www.z-7.ch and on our Facebook (tab ‘Buy Tickets’). If you prefer to buy an original, real hard-ticket, our partner Woolheads is selling them!

http://woolheads.com/cms/shop-2/festivalmerchandise/up-in-smoke-the-indoor-festival-vol-iv-ticket/
http://www.upinsmoke.de/eventinfo-indoor-festival
https://www.facebook.com/UpInSmokeIndoorFestivalInZ7
https://www.soundofliberation.com

Black Cobra, “Imperium Simulacra”

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