The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 20

Posted in Radio on August 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Doing something different this time. In the past, I’ve posted playlists after the show airs, as recaps. This time, it’s before, in case, you know, you actually want to listen to the thing.

Do so at 1PM Eastern here: http://gimmeradio.com.

It’s a good show, and kind of back to normal as regards general methodology. A lot of new music, which makes me happy, and some Acrimony for a classic track, which I feel like I may have done before but seemed relevant to me anyway for reasons that will become clear over the next however long — ooh, intrigue! — and the title-tracks from new High on Fire and Mars Red Sky EPs. Had to get that High on Fire in there in light of Des leaving the band. Still really curious to see what they’re like without him.

A lot of this stuff has been covered around here lately — Horseburner, Pale Grey Lore, Monarch, Wolf Blood, The Ivory Elephant, Dead Feathers — but there’s more that I haven’t yet had the chance to properly write about in bands like Glacier, Sibyl, the new Book of Wyrms and Merlin releases, etc., so I think it’s a cool balance of stuff overall, and the tracks rule. And if you listen to the show, I kind of nerd out a bit about the new Mars Red Sky record, which is always enjoyable. For me, mostly, I suspect. But still.

Fun show. Glad I made it, and it’s the 20th one, which is a genuine surprise. If I was Gimme, I would’ve shitcanned me long ago.

Anyway, check it out if you can, and thanks.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 08.02.19

Pale Grey Lore Before the Fall Eschatology*
Horseburner Drowning Bird The Thief*
High on Fire Bat Salad Bat Salad*
BREAK
Mars Red Sky Collector Collector*
The Ivory Elephant Stoneface Stoneface*
Dead Feathers Horse and Sands All is Lost*
Merlin Chaos Blade The Mortal*
Hippie Death Cult Breeder’s Curse 111*
BREAK
Acrimony Hymns to the Stone Tumuli Shroomaroom (1997)
Sibyl Pendulums The Magic Isn’t Real*
Wolf Blood Slaughterhouse II*
Monarch Counterpart Beyond the Blue Sky*
Book of Wyrms Spirit Drifter Remythologizer*
BREAK
Glacier O! World! I Remain No Longer Here No Light Ever*
Frozen Planet….1969 Rollback Meltdown on the Horizon*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 16. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Review & Track Premiere: Horseburner, The Thief

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

horseburner the thief

[Click play above to stream ‘Drowning Bird’ from Horseburner’s The Thief. Album is out Aug. 9 on Ripple Music.]

Though the inherent energy of their material and the fact that they’re newly signed to Ripple Music read otherwise, West Virginia’s Horseburner are not actually a new band. They played their first show just over a decade ago, and released two EPs before making such a splash with their 2016 full-length debut, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (review here). That album was picked up for release through Hellmistress Records and subsequent touring and response led to the Ripple signing ahead of The Thief, their second LP and label debut. It’s worth mentioning not only for basic background, because when one listens to The Thief front-to-back, Horseburner‘s chemistry is not that of a new band.

While they recently parted ways with guitarist Zach Kaufman and brought in Matt Strobel to take on the role alongside guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jack Thomas, drummer/vocalist Adam Nohe and bassist Seth Bostick, the lineup that appears on the nine-song/46-minute The Thief feels wholly solidified in its songwriting approach, taking cues from modern progressive metal, NWOBHM and shades of traditional doom. Thomas‘s vocals remind here and there of Butch Balich‘s work in Argus — thinking of songs like “A Joyless King” and the later “Fathoms,” but it’s a comparison one might make elsewhere too, and not a comparison made lightly — and the winding course of riffing over which he and Nohe harmony-shout is reminiscent of the likes of Leviathan-era Mastodon in its hard edge and obviously considered composition.

Across intense pieces like “Drowning Bird” and “The Fisherman’s Vow,” they manifest crunch and gallop in kind and still set up a smooth-moving flow within and between the songs. It’s fast, and it’s a lot to keep up with, but that’s the idea, and when Horseburner are at a sprint, as on “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone” (premiered here), the effect is righteously head-spinning. Movements within songs mesh well together and take shape as verses and choruses, and as its two-minute titular introduction, and the likewise-timed centerpiece “Seas Between” and closer “Thiefsong” weave an acoustic-based thread throughout all the heft, the feeling of a masterplan at work becomes all the more prevalent.

If Horseburner are telling a story here — and they may or may not be; I haven’t had the benefit of a lyric sheet — then it’s one that sets up across intricately conceived chapters that balance indulgence and creative will against sheer impact of groove, “A Joyless King,” “Drowning Bird” and “The Fisherman’s Vow” separated by “Seas Between” from the side B salvo “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone,” “The Oak” and “Fathoms.” The underlying modus doesn’t necessarily change between the two sections — in fact, I’d argue The Thief is best enjoyed on a linear format so as to get the whole effect of “Seas Between” as the centerpiece without having to worry about a side flip as one would on vinyl — but flourish of proggy guitar interplay and keyboard in “The Oak” and the fact that “Fathoms” is the only song on the record to top eight minutes does speak to a certain amount of branching out, though there’s no question that in the case of the latter, its position as the full-album payoff is purposeful as well.

 

HORSEBURNER new lineup

One imagines that if Horseburner didn’t already know it when they were writing the song, it quickly became clear in the recording process that “Fathoms” would close out ahead of “Thiefsong,” such is the thump with which it lands and the heights to which it soars in its finishing, solo-topped sway. That puts further emphasis on the flow that’s been happening all along throughout The Thief, as all the more it seems “A Joyless King” and “Drowning Bird” are meant to draw the listener into the varied but linear whole-album progression. The short version is it works, and with deceptive subtlety, because as they’re setting up this linear motion, Horseburner are also bashing and crashing through killer chug and hairpin-turn rhythms, stomping through headbang-ready heavy parts and adding more than hints of nuance to deepen the proceedings beyond what might otherwise be “cool riffs, bro.”

Nothing against that, understand, but The Thief is on a different and more complex mission, and the band bear that out in the means by which they maintain both the thoughtfulness of the material and the conversation they’re having with their audience here. Because whatever layering there might be between Thomas‘s keys and guitar, the recording itself is geared toward capturing a live setting. With so much vitality, it could hardly be otherwise. Tracked at Amish Electric Chair Studios and Green Mist Studios respectively by Neil Tuuri (who also mixed) and Thomas himself, there’s no lack of clarity in the offering, and even the most distorted, driving moments have a crispness to them that speaks further to the band’s will to actively engage their listenership, but the balance with raw energy across The Thief‘s span is striking, and it’s exactly that engagement that’s the reason why.

Horseburner want you to get into this album. They make it plain. The Thief is the output of a band who’ve been around for 10 years, have gotten their shit together, built up some momentum and decided to make a real push at having an impact. They sound hungry more than angry, but most of all they sound ready, and that’s true in the brief quiet interlude in “The Fisherman’s Vow” as much as in the fist-pumping early dual-guitar theatrics and subsequent all-out start-stop crunch of “The Oak.” The only question is what that engagement is leading to? If, after 10 years as a band, Horseburner want to hit the road and make a go of selling full-color t-shirts to various US and eventually European cities, I have no doubt in my mind they could pull that off in a fashion that’s at least no more or less sustainable than anyone else doing the same. Time will tell what their goals ultimately are and whether or not they get there, but most importantly, The Thief is a resonant announcement of their arrival, and that is not at all to be missed.

Horseburner website

Horseburner on Thee Facebooks

Horseburner on Bandcamp

Horseburner on Instagram

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Horseburner Set Aug. 9 Release for The Thief; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

horseburner

Yeah, I’ve got it on now and this one’s pretty sick. Like, gonna-be-on-a-lot-of-lists sick. Maybe mine. Horseburner will make their debut on Ripple Music with The Thief and they’ve already got shows booked into November to support it, so that’s nifty, but listening to the album, it’s got stomper riffs and modern prog metal inflection galore in its winding guitar lines and not-at-all-overplayed drums, taking a cue from the Mastodons of the world without, well, sucking, I guess. It can be a fine line to walk, but Horsebuner would seem to have found the balance between nuance and groove and melody in these tracks that, yes, will be very well received. Bandcamp’s gonna go apeshit for this one. I hope Ripple has an ample supply.

I’m gonna try to set up another track premiere — the first one was here back in March — to go with a review a proper review, but in the meantime, here’s some info from the PR wire:

horseburner the thief

HORSEBURNER: Hard Hitting Road/Riff Merchants Return With New Album + Tour Dates

The Thief by Horseburner is officially released on 9th August on Ripple Music

Pre-order the album now at www.ripple-music.com

Together since 2008 and borne from the wild Appalachian green of West Virginia, Horseburner has never cowered from hard toil. From performing their first live show, self-recording and releasing two EPs (2009’s Dirt City and Strange Giant in 2013), putting on an inaugural tour in 2011 and releasing their debut full-length album, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil in 2016, the band has quite simply, done it all themselves.

Having played hundreds of shows over the past decade, performing alongside acts such as Torche, Weedeater, Goatwhore, Obituary, Corrosion of Conformity, The Obsessed, Karma to Burn and Bell Witch, in 2017 the band reissued their debut album through Hellmistress Records, which quickly reignited that song writing/recording flame, resulting in the gift of new music.

This year, as well as hitting the road for a monster Summer/Fall Tour of the US, the band join forces with Ripple Music, the California-based record label and world leader in Heavy Rock, Stoner, Doom and Heavy Psych to bring you the hard rocking yield of that fruitful and inspired year. The official worldwide release of their brand-new album, The Thief. As the band explains:

“We are thrilled to finally be putting out new music after almost three years and several member changes, and we can’t wait for people to hear, ‘Hand of Gold, Man of Stone’. It was the first song we finished for this new album, and we think it really sets the tone for what’s to come this summer when the full album is released. It’s loud, it’s aggressive, it’s a little weird… It’s also the shortest song. Brevity has never been our strong suit, but there is a much larger story waiting to be told, and this song is just one chapter. We’re even more excited to be teaming up with Ripple Music for the new record. We love so many bands on their roster, it’s such a well curated label. We’re honored to be joining the Ripple Family, and honestly, that’s what it feels like, a family.”

TRACK LISTING:
1. The Thief
2. A Joyless King
3. Drowning Bird
4. The Fisherman’s Vow
5. Seas Between
6. Hand of Gold Man of Stone
7. The Oak
8. Fathoms
9. Thiefsong

LIVE DATES (MORE DATES TBC):
2/8 – Richmond, VA – Wonderland
3/8 – Beckley, WV – Melody’s
23/8 – Athens, OH – Casa
24/8 – Youngstown, OH – Westside Bowl
25/8 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
27/8 – Canton, OH – Buzzbin
5/9 – Huntington, WV – V Club
6/9 – Johnson City, TN – Hideaway
7/9 – Charlotte, NC – Skylark
8/9 – Jacksonville, FL – Jack Rabbits
9/9 – Miami, FL – Las Rosas
11/9 – Savannah, GA – El Rocko
12/9 – Athens, GA – Caledonia Lounge
27/9 – Toronto, ON – Bovine Sex Club
5/10 – Pittsburgh, PA – Gooski’s
6/10 – Buffalo, NY – Electric Avenue
7/10 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Desperate Annie’s
11/10 – Brooklyn, NY – The Well
12/10 – Wilmington, DE – Oddity Bar
13/10 – Baltimore, MD – The Depot
29/11 –Marietta, OH – Adelphia

HORSEBURNER:
Adam Nohe – Drums, Vocals, Percussion
Jack Thomas – Guitar, Vocals, Keys
Seth Bostick – Bass
Zach Kaufman – Guitar

https://www.horseburner.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Horseburner/
https://horseburner.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/horseburner/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Horseburner, “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone”

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Horseburner Premiere “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone”; Announce The Thief on Ripple Music

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on March 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

horseburner

It’s a time of change for West Virginian riffers Horseburner. A decade into their run and after releasing their incredibly well received debut, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (review here), on their own in 2016 and through Hellmistress Records in 2017, the band are getting ready to bid farewell to guitarist Zach Kaufman following some final dates together as part of their Spring tour, most of which will feature StonecuttersNick Burks in that role alongside guitarist/vocalist Jack Thomas, bassist Seth Bostick and drummer/vocalist Adam Nohe.

At the same time, Horseburner have signed to Ripple Music and are newly unveiling the single “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone” taken from their upcoming second album, The Thief, which will be their first outing for the label. In a sharply-edged five minutes, the song burns horses and barns alike with heroic guitar lines and vocal harmonies drawn from modern progressive metallurgy, but manages as well to hold tight to an underlying groove and build in energy while touching on vibes as much NWOBHM as they are noise rock, the two-guitar dynamic and two-vocal dynamic working in concert to make the track unpredictable despite the solid rhythmic foundation on which it rests — or, when one considers the tempo, doesn’t at all rest.

Already confirmed for Grim Reefer Fest in Baltimore and New England Stoner & Doom Fest in Jewett City, Connecticut — with 40,000 other bands, apparently — Horseburner bring precise execution and weighted tones to bear with motion and largesse in like measure. Through clear production and intent, they would seem to be poised to bring their stamp to the pastiche of modern heavy, and if the purpose of an advance single is to pique interest, “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone” is mission accomplished.

Kudos to the band and to Ripple on the signing. The PR wire brings a full update and you’ll find the premiere of “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone” at the bottom of this post.

Enjoy:

horseburner-hand-of-gold-man-of-stone

HORSEBURNER: West Virginian Heavy Stoner Metalists To Release New Album ‘THE THIEF’ with Ripple Music; Share New Song “Hand Of Gold, Man Of Stone” & Announce U.S. Spring Tour

Together since 2008, borne from the wild Appalachian green of West Virginia, HORSEBURNER has never cowered from hard toil. From their first live show performed, a first EP ‘Dirt City’ self-released in 2009, an initial tour in 2011, to a second EP 7” ‘Strange Giant’ in 2013, and right up to a debut full-length ‘Dead Seeds, Barren Soil’ in 2016, it’s all been DIY and self-released.

They’ve played hundreds of shows over the past decade, alongside such acts as Torche, Weedeater, Skeletonwitch, Goatwhore, Obituary, Corrosion of Conformity, The Obsessed, Karma to Burn, Prong, Byzantine, Cough, ASG, Rosetta, and Bell Witch. In 2017, the band altered their DIY stride with a reissue of their full-length through Hellmistress Records and reignited their flame with writing and recording new music during 2018.

Horseburner continues to step up the pace in 2019, with a recent signing with RIPPLE MUSIC to release their sophomore full-length, ‘THE THIEF’, later this year, as well as the announcement of a U.S. Spring Tour. To introduce the upcoming album, a new song is being released today – “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone” off the upcoming album ‘The Thief.’

The band’s reaction to the new venture:
“We are thrilled to finally be putting out new music after almost three years and several member changes, and we can’t wait for people to hear “Hand of Gold, Man of Stone.” It was the first song we finished for this new album, and we think it really sets the tone for what’s to come this summer when the full album is released. It’s loud, it’s aggressive, it’s a little weird… It’s also the shortest song. Brevity has never been our strong suit, but there is a much larger story waiting to be told, and this song is just one chapter. We’re even more excited to be teaming up with Ripple Music for the new record. We love so many bands on their roster, it’s such a well curated label. We’re honored to be joining the Ripple Family, and honestly, that’s what it feels like, a family. “

Some excitement from Todd Severin of Ripple Music:
“It’s not that often that a band comes by and just blows my mind, but Horseburner is one of them. They’re taking the raw soul of stoner and taking it in fresh, exciting new directions. The sky is the limit for where these guys will soar.”

The band also shares some words about the upcoming tour:
“We’re definitely ready to be back on the road, as well. We haven’t been out there as much as we like to this past year, and we’re ready to throw off the rust and see some new faces. We’re hitting a few places for the first time ever, and returning to some old favorites, so this will be a good time.

On top of all that, we’ve got one of our best pals, Nick Burks from Louisville’s Stonecutters, filling in on guitar for the April tour and some of the May dates, it’s going to be killer. Then with Zach’s exit from the band, and him doing a handful of farewell shows before he leaves for good… having Zach’s last show with us in Columbus, Ohio in May – ten years from our first ever show, which was also in Columbus – bittersweet is definitely one way to put it.”

horseburner-tour-spring-2019U.S. Spring Tour Dates:
March 22 – Huntington, WV @ V Club (w/ Cavern, Embracer, Signals)
March 23 – Johnson City, TN @ The Hideaway (w/ Indighost, Haal)
*April 12 – Detroit, MI @ The Fireside (w/ Gear Jammer, Black Heiron)
*April 13 – Toronto, ONT @ The Bovine Sex Club (w/ Ol’ Time Moonshine, Jahgernaut, Quiet Earth)
*April 14 – Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place (w/ Malarchuk, Yanari, Tines)
*April 15 – Saratoga Springs, NY @ Desperate Annie’s for Super Dark Monday (w/ Ghastly Sound, The Tenants)
*April 16 – Winooski, VT @ The Monkey House (w/ Ghastly Sound, Wolfhand, Sachem)
*April 17 – Bangor, ME @ Downunder Club (w/ Ghastly Sound, + more)
*April 18 – Boston, MA @ OBrien’s (w/ VOS, Greylock)
*April 19 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Well (w/ Godmaker, + more)
*April 20 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar for Grim Reefer Fest (w/ Ruby the Hatchet, Heavy Temple, Haze Mage, Mountainwolf, Book of Wyrms, YATRA, Tombtoker)
May 3 – Pottsville, PA @ Goodfellas (w/ 44 Mag, Brain Candle, The Hands Resist, Faith in Exile) *Playing as a trio*
*May 4 – Jewett City, CT @ Altone’s for New England Stoner Doom Fest (w/ Stonecutters, Brimstone Coven, + 40,000 bands)
*May 5 – Washington, D.C. @ Atlas Brew Works (w/ Stonecutters, Dirt Eater)
May 17 – Parkersburg, WV @ The Dils Center (w/ Lo-Pan, Louts, + more)
May 18 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups (Zach’s last show!)

*Nick Burks from Stonecutters on Guitar

Horseburner:
Adam Nohe – Drums/Vocals
Jack Thomas – Guitar/Vocals
Seth Bostick – Bass
Zach Kaufman – Guitar

https://www.horseburner.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Horseburner/
https://horseburner.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/horseburner/
https://twitter.com/horseburner
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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New England Stoner and Doom Fest II: More Lineup Announcements; Pre-Party Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

new england stoner doom festival 2019 art

It’s time to talk about the real potential of the New England Stoner and Doom Fest. No, I don’t mean the lineup. That’s awesome. You know it and I know it. I’m talking about the acronym. That’s always huge for a festival. How is it abbreviated? Think MDDF or SHoD or any of the DFs spread around the universe. These things matter.

I’ve seen NESDF tossed around for New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and that’s cool, but it’s missing the opportunity. You could have a festival abbreviated NES! Who the hell wouldn’t buy that t-shirt? I hereby cast my vote in the imaginary referendum on festival abbreviations for New England Stoner and Doom Fest to henceforth and forthwith and withhence be known as NES fest. Second the motion?

There’s reportedly one more band to be added and reportedly several in the running for that slot, so this might not be the final update before May 3-5 gets here and NES fest kicks off (see me using the acronym already?), and the lineup for a pre-party at 33 Golden St. in New London has been announced as well, which will be headlined by Fox 45, so, you know, more of a good thing and all that.

The full lineup as has been revealed follows. Note the Wretch reunion. NES fest!

New England Stoner & Doom Fest II

The New England Stoner and Doom Festival will make its return in 2019 on May 3,4, and 5 at Altones in Jewett City, CT.

Earthride
Brimstone Coven
Wretch
Kings Destroy
+1 TBA
Foghound
Pale Divine
Vessel of Light
Spiral Grave
Solace
Black Road
Curse the Son
Shadow Witch
Hell Camino
Clamfight
Eternal Black
Thunderbird Divine
Stonecutters
When the Deadbolt Breaks
Mourn the Light
Entierro
Bone Church
Buzzard Canyon
The Age of Truth
Void King
Horseburner
Scuzzy Yeti
Witchkiss
Cortez
Benthic Realm
Faith in Jane
Conclave
Set Fire
3 Parts Dead
Insano Vision
Old Earth Analog
Pinto Graham
The Stone Eye
Sentinel Hell

Pre-party @ 33 Golden St.:
Fox 45
VRSA
Dark Ritual
Owl Maker
Feed the Beast

www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/1613285008788252/
https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest/
https://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com/

Wretch, Bastards Born (2017)

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Grim Reefer Fest 2019 Announces Full Lineup with Ruby the Hatchet, Heavy Temple, Horseburner and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Don’t look now, but here’s another fucking awesome festival to boggle your mind and melt your ears. Grim Reefer Fest 2019 will be held at The Ottobar in Baltimore and feature the likes of Philly heavy psych forerunners Ruby the Hatchet as well as return performances from Heavy Temple and fest-organizers Haze Mage as the event solidifies under the Grim Reefer banner after taking shape earlier this year as Stoned to Death. By any other name, it’s a kickass lineup for the all-dayer-style happening, with HorseburnerMountainwolfBook of WyrmsYatra and Tombtoker filling out the Chesapeake Watershed-minded bill, highlighting  a range of styles from the region and some up and coming as well as more established acts. If you didn’t already have plans for that Saturday, well, you do now.

For a quick side-note: I’ve got a post in the works with an update from Heavy Temple for later this week. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Thursday, depending on how it all comes together. Keep an eye out either way. It’s good news.

Here’s the Grim Reefer announcement, culled from the social medias:

grim reefer fest 2019

Grim Reefer Fest 420 / 2019

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 the Ottobar shall be engulfed by a heavy cloud of groove, gloom, and DOOM. Emerging from the fog a smokey specter materializes, the Grim Reefer. His bloodshot gaze beckoning you forth to test your mettle against a tidal wave of earth-shattering, skull shaking, sonic fuzz that flattens the land. Come forth oh warriors of metal, see if you can traverse the Grim Reefers miasma of crushing metal mayhem and celebrate the holy day of smoke.

Featuring

Ruby the Hatchet (PA) Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Psych-doom
Heavy Temple (PA) – Groovy, moody, fuzzy doom
Haze Mage (MD) – Sword and sorcery stoner metal
Horseburner (WVA) – Pure, pounding stoner rock n’ roll
Mountainwolf (MD) – Hard Rock Psychedelia
Book of Wyrms (VA) – Appalachian stoner rock
YATRA (MD) – Heavy, mountainous riffage
Tombtoker (MD) – Risen, undead doom/metal

$20 ADV – Ticket link: http://www.theottobar.com/event/1794968

https://www.facebook.com/events/726623521049970/
http://www.theottobar.com/event/1794968
https://www.facebook.com/hazemage/

Heavy Temple, Live at Muddy Roots Music Festival 2018

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Night One, 06.22.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2018 night one poster

Over the last four years since its inception, Maryland Doom Fest has become a defining force for its many-storied local scene and for the Eastern Seaboard at large. Its reach nowadays goes well beyond those imaginary borders, of course, but its lineup has always remained cognizant of its core inspiration and purpose — you’re always going to find some Maryland doom at Maryland Doom Fest. 2018’s roster of acts, which is the broadest in terms of style and geopgraphy to date, is no exception. With headliners The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 reaffirms its commitment to the oldschool groove and its newer-school interpretations, even as acts like HorseburnerUnorthodoxCavern, DuelEarthrideCaustic Casanova, and many others with them, speak to the same meld of styles and origins.

I could go on all day about that, but as ever with festivals, there’s little time for musing amid the 15-minute set-changeovers and sheer onslaught of stuff to catch. Held as ever at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 boasts a lineup of 32 bands — nine tonight, 12 tomorrow and 11 on Sunday. My goal? To see all of them. Front to back. Staring down the barrel at the outset it seems nigh-insurmountable, but the truth is it’s going to be a total blast and I know it.

Travel south to Maryland from Massachusetts, with an about-to-be-eight-month-old, is a days-long process, and I’m reminded that two years ago when I made the trip, I was bogged down by a car breakdown and about to start a new job the following Tuesday. It was insane. I’m sure 2018 will be much more relaxed. Ha.

Enough preamble. Let’s boogie:

Horseburner

Horseburner (Photo JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure the world knows it’s anxiously awaiting the third full-length from West Virginian progressive heavy rockers Horseburner, but it probably is. First band of the weekend and they had heads banging both onstage and off. They were exciting to watch, and their 2016 album, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (review here) — which was reissued last year by Hellmistress Records; the vinyl was in the merch area to the side of the venue — remains a favorite in its manifestation of what might’ve happened had Mastodon become a heavy rock band while keeping their initial heft instead of going ultra-prog as they did. There were some technical difficulties in the drums, but no real delay, and the trio dynamic — could’ve sworn they used to be a four-piece — played well during the set, with no shortage of crunch in their tone but an overarching groove that they never seemed to relinquish. The record’s good, but they’re better live, with the melodies cutting through the push and a bit of hop-into-the-crowd interaction in the finale.

Geezer

Geezer (Photo JJ Koczan)

Back in January, New York psych-blues jammers Geezer announced they were working on a new album. Accordingly, the triumvirate of guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota shared three new songs for the Maryland Doom Fest 2018 crowd. I hounded Harrington after they finished for the titles: “Spiral Fires,” “Dig” and “Black Owl.” The latter provided some highlight low end work from Touseull, and it was “Dig” with a particularly fuzzed out guitar solo and a bit of cowbell from Markota that I’m dying to hear a studio version of. Supporting their latest release, Psychoriffadelia (review here), they also celebrated 2016 self-titled (review here) at the end of their set with the memorably catchy “Dust” and the spacious “Sun Gods.” Having made their debut in 2013, they’ve moved into veteran status and stage presence relatively quickly, and I took particular interest in a lack of slide guitar from Harrington, wondering if perhaps he put it down in order to focus on more intricate styles of playing in the newer songs. Seems like maybe an interview question to file away for later. In any case, they pulled a packed early crowd and were well known to them, playing out the story of a band whose potential is being realized at that very moment for all to see.

Bailjack

Bailjack (Photo JJ Koczan)

Double-guitar four-piece Bailjack had the distinction of being the first Maryland-based act at the festival. Based out of Boonsboro, they had four songs on the setlist, none of which seems to have stemmed from their 2016 debut, Show Me Your Heart. I’d been fortunate enough to see them once before down this way (review here), but they struck me all around as a tighter and more cohesive band. Guitarists Jason Barker and Blake Owens shared lead vocal duties effectively, changing up the soulful and classic heavy rock moods between them with support from Ron “Uncle Fezzy” McGinnis (also Pale DivineAdmiral Browning, Thonian Horde, etc.), which left drummer Alex Llewellyn as the only one without a mic. He kept plenty busy with the locked-in groove of “Predominantly Green,” though, which like just about everything else they played was deceptively complex in its execution, working around a straightforward groove with personality and depth. They were a fitting complement to Geezer‘s ultra-roll, and at one point while they played I looked around and couldn’t believe we were only three bands into the night. The vibe was so set and so thick in the room that it felt like everyone had been there for a day already. Awesome.

Lightning Born

Lightning Born (Photo JJ Koczan)

North Carolina’s Lightning Born played Maryland Doom Fest last year as well, but as they went public earlier this month about signing to Ripple Music for the release of their debut album this Fall, it seems only appropriate that they should make a return appearance. Their bassist, who just so happens to be Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity, just happened to be in France playing another festival — some little shindig called Hellfest or something like that; ha — so filling in was guitarist Erik Sugg‘s Demon Eye bandmate, Paul Walz. I don’t know if it was Walz‘s first time holding down bass duties in Lightning Born or what, but he obviously knew the songs well, and despite some hi-hat difficulties at the outset for drummer Doza Hawes (ex-Hour of 13), once they got going, they were locked in and clearheaded in their intent between heavy rock, doom and classic-style songcraft led by the powerful presence of frontwoman Brenna Leath (also of The Hell No). My first time seeing them and they did nothing but impress, and even putting the pedigree aside for a moment, it’s easy to see why Ripple — who already had a showing in Geezer and would have another before the night was out — would pick them up. Not only do they make the most of their members’ experience in terms of knowing what they want to do, but they obviously have the chemistry between them to make it happen. Would be interested to see them with Dean, and I won’t say he wasn’t missed — nothing against Walz‘s work, it just happens to be that that’s Mike fucking Dean we’re talking about and anytime you get to catch him play is a win — but Lightning Born might as well have named themselves Lightning in a Bottle, as that seems to be what they’ve got.

Disenchanter

Disenchanter (Photo JJ Koczan)

This was by no means Disenchanter‘s first trip to the East Coast — they’ll also be (relatively) back this way later this year for Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh — but it was the first time I’ve been lucky enough to see the band play. Having toured from their home in from Portland, Oregon, over the last week, the trio sounded like it. Pro shop. Guitarist/vocalist Sabine Stangenberg expressed the band’s gratitude for being included in the lineup and sent out “Green Queen” to any pot smokers in attendance. There may have been one or two. She and bassist Joey DeMartini and drummer Huwy Kilgora Williams set forth a set that pushed even further into the doomed elements that Lightning Born featured in some of their riffs, but had a distinguishing factor that marked them out as a West Coast act nonetheless. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was; tempo? Melody? Rhythm? I actually kind of lost myself while they were playing trying to get an answer. They fit right in with the lineup in tone and influence, to be sure, but there was still some individualized edge to their approach that was a standout factor. Eventually I whittled my hypotheses down to the upbeat nature of their grooves and was willing to leave it at that and, oh, I don’t know, just enjoy the rest of their set, but whatever it was, it made them a highlight of the evening at Cafe 611. Glad I finally was able to watch them.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo JJ Koczan)

Statistically speaking, three out of the four top acts for the evening could be called locals, and Thousand Vision Mist, who also played Maryland Doom Fest 2016 (review here), and a fest-associated gig during last year’s edition, came supporting late-2017’s Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow (review here), their debut album. Between that record and having seen them before, they were pretty familiar to me as well as to the assembled in front of the stage, but guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon, bassist/vocalist Tony Cormulada and drummer Chris Sebastian still had a few surprises up their collective sleeve in terms of the twists and turns of their material. By the time they started, it was clear just what a special night this was. The flow of bands was right on, each group pulling something different together from the one before while still making sense in the overall context of the night, and with Kenyon‘s roots in Life BeyondThousand Vision Mist maintained a Maryland doom feel despite not really playing doom so much as doom strung through a filter of progressive metal. Precise, driven and complex, they nonetheless had a central groove to tie it all together, and even when Kenyon broke a string, prompting an interlude from emcee Dave Benzotti, they were able to pick back up and end out as though nothing happened. The place was jammed in any figurative sense you want to think of it, and Thousand Vision Mist signaled a turn toward the headlining portion of the night. Right band, right slot.

Unorthodox

Unorthodox (Photo JJ Koczan)

A decade has passed since Unorthodox issued their last album, Awaken, via The Church Within Records, but if you want to be fair, that album came a full 14 years after 1994’s sophomore outing, Balance of Power, which was of course preceded by their 1992 debut, Asylum, but their set was still enough of an event that both Bobby Liebling of Pentagram and Dave Sherman of Earthride — pivotal figures in this scene if ever there were any — stood at the side of the stage to watch them. From their beginnings as Asylum, whose 1985 demo, The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe, saw reissue via Shadow Kingdom in 2008 (review here), guitarist/vocalist Dale Flood has remained the sole founding presence, and as he’s now based in Nashville, Tennessee, he’s settled in with bassist/vocalist Blake Dellinger and drummer Alan Pfeifer, both also of the band Flummox, injecting a youthful vigor into the rhythm section that seemed to bring Unorthodox‘s classic downtrodden MD doom to life. They even had a new song, called “Horus,” that found Dellinger taking lead vocal duties, and Flood couldn’t help but smile as the set played out, the crowd eating up every single second of the rare live set. New album? Hell if I know. To my knowledge, Unorthodox played the first Maryland Doom Fest in 2015 and as I recall were going to play 2016 as well but didn’t end up making it, so I’m not sure I’d count this set as indicative of a full return to activity, whatever that would mean anyway, but if they wanted to build something from it, that vitality was right there in the band waiting to be harvested. They killed. End of story.

ZED

ZED (Photo JJ Koczan)

For my up-at-5AM-usually-asleep-by-nine ass, it was getting late, and I don’t mind saying so. Ibuprofen for a sore back; protein bar for stamina; water on the face for refreshing; water down the gullet for sheer survival — these are the essential tools of the sober weekend festival. One could simply pound six or 12 beers and none of it would matter, I suppose, and from the look of the dudes falling asleep in the side room of Cafe 611, some had clearly gone that route, but the truth was that ZED were all the shove I need to get through to the end of the evening. Everything else was overkill in comparison to their noise-tinged heavy rock, one riff after the next crunched out at max volume through the guitars of frontman Peter Sattari and Greg Lopez, the bass of Mark Aceves adding even further heft to be shoved forward at an impressive pace considering the mass of it by drummer Sean Boyles, who when the Bay Area outfit were done turned around and held up his hat to deliver the message “fuck everything” as plainly as possible. New song “Strippers” signaled a follow-up in progress to their 2016 third album, Trouble in Eden (review here), and one assumes that will arrive like its predecessor via Ripple Music, given how hard ZED were repping the label, from Lopez‘s beanie to Sattari‘s Freedom Hawk hat and Ripplefest shirt to Aceves‘ High Priestess tee. Gotta fly that flag, and they did it proud with a raucous delivery that lost nothing of its professionalism for its blanket electricity. Seemed like the crowd up front was pretty familiar with their stuff — at one point I also looked over and saw fest co-organizer JB Matson singing along stage-side — but I’d be willing to be they turned a few heads as well and made some new fans. It was that kind of set. If “fucking a rock” was a genre, that’s what ZED would be.

The Obsessed

The Obsessed (Photo JJ Koczan)

I don’t think there’s anywhere you could put The Obsessed on a Maryland Doom Fest bill except at the top. That’s where they were in 2016 and it’s where they deserved to be again. Would Maryland doom exist without them? Maybe, but certainly not in the form it has today. It’s been an eventful couple of years for guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and the outfit in which he cut his teeth beginning back in the late ’70s when they started under the moniker Warhorse, but with their first album in 23 years behind them in 2017’s Sacred (review here) on Relapse, the trio of Weinrich, bassist Reid Raley (see also: Rwake) and drummer Brian Costantino were as classic as one could ask and a reminder of just how much of a blueprint for the style The Obsessed have always been. Copious touring in support of Sacred has made them maddeningly tight, and with a blend of new material and old in the set, they spoke to where they are today as well as where they came from — perfectly on theme for the night and the weekend as a whole. As the last of the nine bands playing, they shut the place down and it’s hard to imagine there’s any more one could’ve asked for when they were done. The Obsessed, like basically Pentagram and no one else of the region (Black Sabbath being, of course, universal), are essential and foundational when it comes to Maryland doom. Maryland Doom Fest 2018 welcomed them accordingly, and honestly, I think if they played every year here for the next five headlining one of the nights, they wouldn’t meet with any complaints. From “Sacred” itself to “Neatz Brigade” and “Sodden Jackal,” they proved how hard the heart of this scene and this aesthetic continues to beat. Oh yeah, and they were unbelievably loud. Like, might-as-well-take-your-earplugs-out loud. So, you know, bonus.

After flailing toward a 24-hour gas station and a 90-minute ride back to the town of Sparks, where I’m staying, I crashed out around 2:30 and was up a tragically short time later. Still, first day was excellent and there’s nothing I could ask of a leadoff night that wasn’t delivered. Maryland Doom Fest 2018 day two kicks off in a couple hours and, hell’s bells, I need a shower, so I’m gonna get on that, but there are more pics after the jump if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading.

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Maryland Doom Fest 2018 Announces Full Lineup with The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Earthride and Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Invariably there will be some change between now and next June, and there’s the tradition of the pre-show to consider the night before, but right out of the gate, Maryland Doom Fest 2018 impresses with its scope of heavy rock and doom, cross-country reach and loyalty to its core mission. With The Obsessed, Windhand and Weedeater set to headline, the fourth edition of the fest curated by JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank will welcome return appearances from the likes of Castle, Earthride, Thousand Vision Mist and Foghound, while reaching out to bring first-timers from afar like Texas’ Doomstress and Duel and Switchblade Jesus, Kansas rockers The Midnight Ghost Train, Connecticut’s Curse the Son, New York’s Geezer, and — I believe traveling the farthest — Disenchanter, from Portland, Oregon.

It’s a killer assemblage, and I think the three headliners do a lot in summarizing the whole idea behind the fest in the first place: The Obsessed are among the founders of what we think of as “Maryland doom.” Windhand are the forerunners of the modern scene. And Weedeater bring a riotous sludge party like no one else on the planet. What more could you possibly ask of three bands in terms of expressing what Maryland Doom Fest 2018 is all about?

I’ll have updates as I see them, but in the meantime, mark your calendars for June 22, 23, and 24 at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD, and I’ll do the same, because this looks absolutely awesome.

Dig it:

maryland doom fest 2018 poster

Maryand Doom Fest 2018

A 3 day weekend of Doom in its purest form.

June 22, 23, and 24

Cafe 611 Restaurant
611 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701

Full lineup:
The Obsessed, Windhand, Weedeater, Castle, Unorthodox, Duel, The Watchers, Zed, Switchblade Jesus, The Midnight Ghost Train, Lightning Born, Earthride, Geezer, Disenchanter, Bedowyn, Cavern, Doomstress, Caustic Casanova, Hawkeyes, Curse the Son, Las Cruces, Horseburner, Shadow Witch, Foghound, Witchhelm, Book of Wyrms, Thousand Vision Mist, Molasses Barge, Backwoods Payback, Bailjack, Electropathic, Gateway to Hell

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2018-tickets-39468562533
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

The Obsessed, Live at Maryland Doom Fest 2016

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