Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Saturday, 08.18.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho las Vegas 2018

08.19.18 – 5:45AM – Sunday morning – Hotel room

I woke up an hour before both my alarms — my early alarm to write and my later alarm to shower in that glorious Hard Rock Hotel shower and start the day. Bothersome but not the end of the world. One doesn’t come to a festival expecting a lot of rest. Make do with what you get.

Today also started an hour later, so I actually had a little time to kill. psycho las vegas 2018I sat down in the center bar for a while and drank a coffee, just kind of soaked in the place and the reality of the casino’s weirdness. They were playing rock videos on the tvs in the bar and the Little League world series next to each other. The Yankees game was on elsewhere but I didn’t get to see a score.

I’ve met a lot of really nice people who’ve said a lot of really nice things about this site. A lot. And it’s been good to put faces to names I’ve seen on posts and comments and stuff like that. I’ll admit Vegas isn’t really my kind of town, but I feel incredibly fortunate to be here this weekend and I’m utterly stupefied every single time someone comes up to say hi. Thank you.

Day kicked off in Vinyl, which packed out early. Here’s how it went down:

Venomous Maximus

Venomous Maximus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some mystery to start off the day with Houston’s Venomous Maximus, who played as the trio of guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt, sans frontman guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins, who’s a significant presence to the band. I’m not looking to spread rumors, and I was hoping to run into the guys after they played so I could ask what happened, but what I heard was that Higgins went Vegas AWOL, which is apparently a thing that happens here. That left Larson on vocals, and he did an admirable job filling in on songs like the title-track of last year’s No Warning (review here) and “October 14th” from 2015’s Firewalker (review here). With the lone guitar and Larson stepping into a frontman role, it was a markedly rawer presentation than one would expect from Venomous Maximus, since Higgins‘ theatricality has always been such a big part of what they do live, but if anything, it proved that the heart of the band has always been their songwriting, which remains memorable and largely undervalued. Given the circumstance, it’s commendable they played at all, but by the end of the set Vinyl was slammed with people and surprisingly loud for one in the afternoon.

Batushka

Batushka (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elaborate. It was not a minor production. Polish black metallers Batushka opened The Joint about a half-hour past their listed start time, and the line outside to get in told the tale of a band people were itching to see. Robed and chanting, surrounded by candles, incense, vestments and other sundry appropriated Christian this-and-thats, they tore open a cosmic blackened assault that was powerful. Elsewhere at the Hard Rock, and completely unrelated to the festival, there was a bikini contest happening, and I kept thinking what an amazing and odd planet it is that Batushka and the bikini contest would be going on at the same time in basically the same place. Surreal. The production, lights, sound, everything, was spectacular in the truest sense, and as I was basically unfamiliar with them going into the set, the delay made more sense once they actually got going, spread out on the stage as they were, with multiple vocalists and the whole ceremonial vibe. It was fascinating to see them use so much religious imagery and iconography, giving the whole set the feeling of being a mass, and then of course ripping it in half. Or maybe burning it to the ground? Either way.

Forming the Void

Forming the Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Forming the Void are a better band than they know. They’re starting to figure it out. You can hear that happening on their third record, Rift (review here), and accordingly, it’s a really exciting moment to have the chance to catch the Louisiana four-piece live. They started out somewhat reserved on stage, but by the end, guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Thomas Colley were more fully engaged with the material, and when they closed out with “On We Sail” into “Saber” from their 2016 debut, Skyward (review here), one could hear the progressive sonic growth they’ve undertaken. They’re doing everything right. They have the songs, they have the aesthetic, they have a budding presence on stage. They just need time to keep doing what they’re doing. I hope they tour more. Vinyl was, again, full for them, and they already had the room on their side. They’re in the process of becoming something really special as a group, and one only hopes they keep moving forward the way they have thus far into their tenure. They were a must-see for me this weekend, and I heard from a lot of other people who said much the same. There was no mistaking why once they got underway. Felt lucky to watch their set.

With the Dead

With the Dead (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Speaking of doom royalty, one Lee Dorrian strutted out onto the Joint stage with all the assurance of a high roller at one of the tables out in the casino. I’ve been fortunate enough to see With the Dead once before, but this set was going to be something inherently different from the grime-laden ubergroup, since Dorrian and his chapeaued fellow former Cathedral bandmate, bassist Leo Smee, were playing as a trio with Unearthly Trance‘s Darren Verni sitting in on drums. The band canceled their appearance at Bloodstock in the UK just over a week ago owing to some unforeseen situation with guitarist Tim Bagshaw (also of Ramesses), and sure enough, Bagshaw didn’t make this trip either. Still, the whole point of With the Dead is to sound as filthy and maddeningly doomed as possible, and channeling Smee‘s bass through guitar amps in addition to his own was a good way to get there. They opened with “Living with the Dead” from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and made a highlights of “Isolation” and “Cocaine Phantoms” from last year’s Love from With the Dead (review here), the low-end wash and downer gloom pervading through low lights and massive volume, and though they were without a guitarist, the issue found a welcome answer as Scott Carlson (Repulsion, Septic Tank, ex-Cathedral, etc.) came out for a cover of Cathedral‘s “Ebony Tears” from their landmark 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, thereby finishing their set with about as deep a plunge as you can get. Probably not their ideal circumstance, but righteous just the same.

Monolord

Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The ascent over the last five years of Swedish trio Monolord has been among the most meteoric in underground heavy. Amplifier worship, tone worship, riff worship and worship of the very idea of sonic largesse itself have been their aesthetic calling cards over the course of their three-to-date RidingEasy Records full-lengths, but the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems have fleshed out their sound to incorporate a thundering spaciousness steadily encroaching on psychedelia. Their latest record, 2017’s Rust (review here), is the most progressive in that respect, but they still bring a crushing groove that they’ve quickly made their own. They’ve also toured — a lot. But I’m lame as shit, so it’d been a long time since I last caught a gig and it was nothing short of a pleasure to watch them unleash their massive lumber on the assembled and waiting crowd. Obviously used to playing on bigger stages, they seemed to climb inside of each riff and inhabit the material, channeling it physically as well as through the P.A., and the nod that resulted filled the room from front to back, upstairs and down. They’re a band living up to their potential in every way, and I’m already looking forward to what album number four brings.

Voivod

Voivod (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Here’s a general rule for life, and stop me if I’ve told you this before — oh wait it’s the internet you can’t stop me well tough shit — but: Go see Voivod. If you’re in a place where they are or can put yourself in a place where they’ll be, do that. Go see Voivod. You will never regret it, either in that moment or later on. And while I’m doling out advice, here’s another one: If you meet someone, and they’re a real Voivod fan, chances are that person knows their shit. The Canadian weirdo-sci-fi-thrash legends appeal to a very specific subset of headbanger, and I’ve never known a Voivod fan who was a prick. And I’ve been luck enough to know a few. They have a new record on the way — always — and with founding drummer Michel “Away” Langevin pounding away behind and long-tenured frontman Denis “Snake” Bélanger getting the dusk-time pool stage crowd into the show, the vibe was only positive the whole way through. Flanked by guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain, who’s been in the band now for a decade — time flies — and bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche, they hit into new single “Obsolete Beings” from the upcoming The Wake and it fit right in with classics like “Overreaction” and the eponymous “Voivod” from their decades-spanning catalog. What a blast. My phone registered the outside temperature at 106 degrees Fahrenheit, but Voivod seemed right at home in the swelter and were an unadulterated good time. Go see Voivod.

Godflesh

Godflesh (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Man, Margaret Thatcher must have been the absolute fucking worst to produce the kind of disaffection Godflesh continue to proffer. Their dystopian churn is, of course, almost painfully relevant today despite its origins over 30 years ago, and with guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist G.C. Green on a stark, largely empty Joint stage, they unfurled the oppressive electrified grit that’s made them so influential for so long. They’ve been active again for a while now, with two albums out in last year’s Post Self (review here) and 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here), so have gone well beyond “reunion band” status, but a Godflesh show still doesn’t feel like something that happens every day, and it’s always something special to watch their blend of inhuman(e) audio — the beats, the electronics, etc. — and the sheer emotion with which Broadrick executes his guitar and vocals. With Green on the other side a steady presence, Broadrick thrashed and headbanged and tried to tear himself apart with his playing, and each of his shouting bellows brought fists in the air from the crowd out in front. Very much the opposite vibe of Voivod out at the pool despite both groups’ ’80s origins, but likewise a wonder and a pleasure to behold. I wouldn’t mind a new Jesu record either, but as far as I’m concerned, Godflesh can just go on perpetually and that’ll be fine, thanks. The world needs them now more than ever.

Howling Giant

Howling Giant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I knew I wanted to see Nashville’s Howling Giant. I didn’t know quite how much I wanted to see them until they started. Having toured their way to Vegas in a hearse — because of course — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler and bassist Mike Kerr took the stage in Vinyl with an immediately outgoing personality. Actually, they showed that before they even went on, hopping down front after they set up to talk to the crowd on the other side of the barricade, but it was for sure in the performance as well. Their 2017 EP, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here), and its 2016 predecessor, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here), featured heavily in the set, and all around they put on a show that was definitely about having fun, being loud, rocking out and all that happy whatnot, but also deceptively intricate and progressive. Their studio material has carried that over to some degree, but it’s clear they’re moving forward with their sound, and one hopes they continue to do so as they move toward their inevitable, awaited full-length debut. They and Forming the Void were my two totally-gotta-see bands for the day, and they would seem to share a bright future in developing their own take on heavy rock. For Howling Giant, not even a busted snare stand could stop them, as Polzine and Kerr treated the crowd to an improv psych jam while Wheeler got a new one and they were back up and running in no time, pro-style. Nicely done.

Spirit Adrift

Spirit Adrift (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There seemed to be some trouble with the monitors before they went on, but once Phoenix four-piece Spirit Adrift got going, the project spearheaded by guitarist/vocalist Nate Garrett (ex-Take Over and Destroy) brought out a vibe that spoke even more to classic metal than the doom with which the band is so often lumped. Their late-2017 sophomore LP, Curse of Conception, brought progressive tendencies to bear following their 2016 debut, Chained to Oblivion (review here), and while the band was founded by Garrett as a solo-act, there’s no shortage of chemistry that’s come up between Garrett and his cohorts, guitarist Jeff Owens from Goya, bassist Chase Mason (also Gatecreeper) and drummer Marcus Bryant, and with the recording of that second album and a load of touring leading up to this show and their stop Aug. 21 at Brick by Brick in San Diego, they they were on fire the whole way through. Taking the stage to Buck Owens‘ “Big in Vegas,” they took the prime slot at the pool — CKY would play, but a few hours later — and never looked back, their performance duly energized to suit the occasion. If this was what their tour was leading up to, then it seemed to be worth it.

Got up stupid early this morning and seem to be undergoing a science experiment whereby I trade out sleep for coffee. Hour per 24 oz. cup? Hell if I know. What, you’re supposed keep track of your findings?

Today is the final day of Psycho Las Vegas 2018, which is an utterly bizarre beardo circus to behold, and it’s also Gene Roddenberry‘s birthday, which is as much an occasion to celebrate as I can possibly think. All the more reason to bash one’s head once more on the skull-cracking granite that is Psycho Las Vegas, and leave it to tomorrow to reassemble the pieces.

If you’re here, have fun. If you’re anywhere, thanks for reading.

More pics after the jump:

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Howling Giant Touring in August; Playing Psycho Las Vegas and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Let’s face it, August pretty much belongs to Psycho Las Vegas. There’s other stuff going on, as there always is, but the festival is something of an epicenter around which the rest of the month revolves, and an awful lot of tour routings, album releases, etc., are geared toward supporting what’s happening there. For good reason. What’s happening is arguably the biggest heavy underground fest in the States, and accordingly it’s all the more fitting that bands like Howling Giant should get out and tour as a part of making the trip. The Nashville progressive heavy rockers also toured up the East Coast earlier this year supporting their 2017 EP, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here), and they’re streaming now their contribution to Magnetic Eye Records‘ impending two-part Pink Floyd tribute compilation.

The PR wire invites you to dig it:

howling giant (Photo by Josh Dagenais)

Psych-Metal Road Dogs HOWLING GIANT to Tour Southwest En Route to August Psycho Las Vegas Appearance

Nashville trio preps for a quick string of blistering dates before and after their set at the massive Vegas festival next month, also leads off the upcoming Best of Pink Floyd release from Magnetic Eye Records.

Interplanetary riff-rockin’ powerhouse HOWLING GIANT hits the road again this August for a run of shows leading them to and from a coveted slot at that annual maelstrom of stoner/doom/psych bliss, Psycho Las Vegas.

Their “Arcane Ritual” tour includes the following stops:
Aug 15: Wichita Falls, TX – Iron Horse Pub
Aug 16: El Paso, TX – RCBG
Aug 17-19: Psycho Las Vegas
Aug 20: Scottsdale, AZ – Rogue Bar
Aug 21: Albuquerque, NM – Launch Pad
Aug 22: Las Cruces, NM – The Warehouse
Aug 23: San Antonio – The Mix
Aug 24: Lafayette, LA – Freetown Boom Boom Room
Aug 25: New Orleans, LA – Santos
Aug 26: Birmingham, AL – The Nick 42nd Street Tavern
Howling Giant are also confirmed as the album-opener to the much-awaited Best of Pink Floyd LP, Magnetic Eye Records’ companion album to its massively-anticipated The Wall [Redux] release. Both albums land this November and can be pre-ordered here.

Formed by self-proclaimed nerds, Howling Giant is a perfect marriage between pulpy sci-fi themes and blistering riff-psych. Fans of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, early Baroness, Summoner and The Sword will immediately latch onto Howling Giant’s spaced-out, cosmically-informed songcraft and lyrics that span sea voyages to space flight to androids with a bloodlust for camels.

howlinggiant.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/howlinggiant
www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

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Howling Giant Announce East Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

howling giant

As they prepare to take the stage this August at Psycho Las Vegas, Nashville progressive heavy rockers Howling Giant have announced a round of tour dates for May supporting their 2017 release, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here). What was, of course, a sequel to 2016’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here) and also followed 2015 self-titled helped the trio further their case for a more expansive sound. Still reveling in the occasional forward groove and off-kilter moment, the songs showed a growing sense of sonic persona that, contrary to what one might expect, did not make the sequel seem weak in comparison to the original.

Will there be a third installment of Black Hole Space Wizard, and if so, when? How the hell should I know. Why don’t you go to one of these gigs and ask the band yourself? Sheesh.

Tour details from the PR wire:

howling giant tour poster

HOWLING GIANT Hit the Road

Nashville riff-psych trio take their DIY sci-fi heaviness on northeast US tour in May, debut new Pink Floyd homage in advance of release alongside Melvins, Pallbearer, ASG, Mark Lanegan.

This May, Howling Giant heads back on tour in support of their latest self-released record, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2 (August 2017), with stops throughout the northeast and a coveted slot at Psycho Las Vegas to close out the summer.

To launch this run of dates with due fanfare, Howling Giant will preview their futuristic update of early Pink Floyd obscurity Matilda Mother, which Magnetic Eye Records will include as part of its colossal The Wall [Redux] / Best of Pink Floyd release extravaganza that has been building in scope and anticipation since early 2017 and features a range of new scenesters and established heavyweights.

Formed by three self-proclaimed nerds, Howling Giant is a perfect marriage between pulpy sci-fi themes and blistering riff-prog. Fans of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, early Baroness and Summoner will immediately latch on to Howling Giant’s spaced-out, cosmically-informed songcraft, with lyrics spanning sea voyages to space flight, not to mention androids with a bloodlust for camels (because, again, why not?).

Howling Giant on tour in May:

5.10 – Chicago IL @ Reggies
5.11 – Cincinnati OH @ Cameleon Pizza
5.12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Howler’s
5.13 – Buffalo NY @ Mohawk Place
5.14 – Off
5.15 – TBA
5.16 – Easthampton MA @The Ohm
5.17 – TBA
5.18 – Philadelphia PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
5.19 – York PA @ The Depot
5.20 – Frederick MD @ Guido’s
5.21 – Off
5.22 – Baltimore @ The Depot
5.23 – Washington DC @ Atlas Brew Works
5.24 – Raleigh NC @ Slim’s
5.25 – Wilmington VA @Reggies 42nd Street Tavern
5.26 – Asheville NC @ Sly Grog
August 17-19 – Psycho Last Vegas

howlinggiant.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/howlinggiant
www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018 Reveals Lineup; Dimmu Borgir, Hellacopters, Godflesh, Witchcraft and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 logo

It’s only taken a few years for Psycho Las Vegas to establish itself as the premier underground festival in the US. All well and good. With 2018’s lineup, though, it’s time to start thinking of Psycho among the best in the world.

Sounds like too much? Consider Godflesh and Dimmu Borgir sharing a stage, both for exclusive West Coast appearances. Think of Sweden’s Witchcraft playing one of the two shows they’ll do in the US at Psycho, and ditto that for Japanese riff-madmen Church of Misery. Think of US exclusives from Lee Dorrian’s With the Dead, or Lucifer, whose Johanna Sadonis will also DJ the Center Bar. The commitment to up and coming underground acts local, domestic and foreign like Temple of Void, King Buffalo, Dreadnought, The Munsens and DVNE. Picture yourself watching Wolves in the Throne Room headline a pre-fest pool party with Elder, Young and in the Way, Dengue Fever, Fireball Ministry and Toke.

2018 is the year Psycho Las Vegas outclasses even itself and pushes further than it ever has in terms of stylistic reach (Integrity walks by and waves… at Boris) and the sheer power of its construction. If you’re looking for the future, you’ll find it in scumbag paradise.

Here’s the lineup:

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 poster

Psycho Las Vegas 2018

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas
4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89169

Tickets: https://www.vivapsycho.com/pages/tickets

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018 lineup:
DIMMU BORGIR (west of chicago exclusive)
HELLACOPTERS (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
SUNN 0)))
GODFLESH (west of chicago exclusive)
WITCHCRAFT (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
ENSLAVED
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
HIGH ON FIRE
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
RED FANG
ZAKK SABBATH
CHURCH OF MISERY (usa exclusive 2018 with exception to one other show in San Diego)
TINARIWEN
GOBLIN
CKY
VENOM INC
EYEHATEGOD
VOIVOD
BORIS
COVEN
INTEGRITY
PALLBEARER
WITH THE DEAD (USA exclusive 2018)
MONOLORD
LUCIFER (USA exclusive 2018)
ACID WITCH
SURVIVE
DOPETHRONE
BIG BUSINESS
UNEARTHLY TRANCE
MUTOID MAN
TODAY IS THE DAY
HELMS ALEE
SPIRIT ADRIFT
BATUSHKA
PRIMITIVE MAN
DVNE
ALL PIGS MUST DIE
EIGHT BELLS
WORMWITCH
INDIAN
NECROT
HOMEWRECKER
BRAIN TENTACLES
CLOAK
BLACK MARE
MAGIC SWORD
UADA
TEMPLE OF VOID
DREADNOUGHT
WOLVHAMMER
ASEETHE
DISASTROID
FORMING THE VOID
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
GHASTLY SOUND
HOWLING GIANT
KING BUFFALO
NIGHT HORSE
THE MUNSENS
GLAARE

Paradise Pool Pre Party
August 16th

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
ELDER
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
DENGUE FEVER
FIREBALL MINISTRY
TOKE

Center Bar DJ’s
Andrew W.K.
Nicke Andersson (Entombed/Hellacopters)
Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer)

https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas/
https://www.facebook.com/events/125340824913552/
http://vivapsycho.com

High on Fire, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2016

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Review & Track Premiere: Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

howling-giant-black-hole-space-wizard-part-2

[Click play above to stream ‘Circle of Druids’ from Howling Giant’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2. EP is out Aug. 25 and available to preorder on Bandcamp.]

At very least, we can be sure that by the time Nashville progressive metal/heavy rockers Howling Giant finish telling the story that thus far spans their second and third EPs, they will have long since outgrown the goofball title they’ve given the series. In truth, the complexity and scope of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 might be a little undercut by the stoner-is-as-stoner-does banner it seems to fly, if only because someone who didn’t hear either the trio’s 2015 self-titled or last year’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here) could potentially too easily write it off based on superficialities and miss out on what’s actually a marked depth and individual purpose of craft.

Released almost precisely a year after its predecessor, its six tracks/31 minutes bring the self-releasing trio of guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, bassist/vocalist Roger Marks and drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler to new levels of execution in their material, rife with wonderfully realized vocal harmonies, epic-feeling crescendos, and a still-weighted tonality that they seem to be able to move and shift according to whatever whim drives a given piece, whether it’s the introductory “Henry Tate” with its spoken-word vocals and the first of many guest key/synth contributions throughout from Drew Harakal beneath the first of many swirling, character-laden solos from Polzine, or the galloping apex that leads into a wide-breadth wash at the end of “Visions,” layers of effects swirl — and again, keyboard/synth from Harakal — coming to the forefront of the longest inclusion here at 7:39. Flirting with long-player flow in its front-to-back delivery and the fact that it’s 10 minutes longer than the installment prior, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 establishes Howling Giant‘s underlying commitment to developing their approach and benefits from a quickly and righteously burgeoning stylistic reach.

Because it’s a chapter in a (presumably ongoing) series, one looks for consistencies with what’s come before as well as the growth so plain to hear in the material. And it’s there in the overall sonic take and in some of the intensity of the prog-metal cascade in “The Pioneer” or the penultimate highlight “Circle of Druids,” as well as in the sung harmonies, but there isn’t an element present that doesn’t seem to have moved willfully forward from where the band was a year ago. While they may be working in the same narrative, based around the end of civilization and the adventures of the last remaining human (dubbed “The Pioneer”) among future-mystical presences — last time the Space Wizard, this time the Earth Wizard, as manifest in the closer of the same name — even down to its basic structure as mirrored sides A and B each with an introductory piece, shorter middle cut and longer finale, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 simply has more to offer than what was already an impressive display in songwriting.

howling giant

Arrangement flourish brings a complementary baritone sax guest appearance from Kim Wheeler on the interlude/side B intro “The Forest Speaks” that picks up alongside acoustic pluck and leads gently into “Circle of Druids,” and as much momentum as Polzine, Marks, Wheeler and Harakal — the latter of whom apparently recorded in Texas but might need to relocate and actually join this band given what the organ and synth add to the tracks here — build throughout “Henry Tate,” the low-end fuzz roll of the early verses and ending of “The Pioneer” and the precise, all-class linearity of “Visions,” they remain likewise committed to broadening the palette of their aesthetic and if one thinks of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 as an EP and thus a showcase of where Howling Giant are in the inevitable march toward a first full-length, one would be remiss to think of them as anything but ready for that crucial next step.

Whether or not that’s actually where Howling Giant are directly headed — that is, if they’ll do an LP next or follow this Part 2 with a Part 3 EP — I don’t know, but on a creative level, they bring a vibrant persona to these tracks enough to give the impression that their evolution will continue in either context. Beginning with a quick spoken intro, “Circle of Druids” launches from out of “The Forest Speaks” and unfolds to an especially satisfying blend of chugging riffery and a wide-open payoff hook, underscored by Wheeler‘s double-kick and given/needing few frills around its basic structure. Like some of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1, it reminds a bit of Devin Townsend‘s heavier progressive metallurgy, but ultimately proves more distinct, and “Earth Wizard” effectively follows in dropping the tempo to hit a balance like a more straightforward vision of what Ancestors brought to their 2012 triumph, In Dreams and Time.

This initial patience gradually shifts into a fuller charge in “Earth Wizard”‘s back half, which feels somewhat inevitable, but the finale is both earned and once more plays to the notion of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 as a kind of proto-full-length in its overarching fluidity. As the last vestiges of guitar and synth fade out to bring the EP to its end, the sense is still one of being a shorter release, but if that means Howling Giant are leaving their audience wanting more of the arc coming to life in their tracks, then that only bodes well for a next outing, whatever form it might take. Likewise, one has to acknowledge that while the title might just as likely turn a given listener off as on when it comes to taking up Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2, its goofballery also stands as a signal of an abiding lack of pretense that extends to the songwriting as well. That is, while their arrangements are thought out, their performances clear-headed and impeccably mixed, the corresponding quotient of self-indulgence is remarkably low for something so progressive. If the tradeoff for that is a silly name, it’s a small price to pay — sometimes it’s fun to have fun — and for those who do decide to dig into Howling Giant‘s third EP, the rewards are no less expansive than the band’s sound itself.

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

Howling Giant on Thee Facebooks

Howling Giant on Twitter

Howling Giant on Bandcamp

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Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1: Turned to Fire

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

howling giant black hole space wizard part 1

[Stream Howling Giant’s Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 EP in full by clicking play above. EP is out this Friday, Aug. 12.]

The cumbersomely but somehow appropriately titled EP, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1, from progressive heavy rockers/metallers Howling Giant is not their first short release, but it nonetheless represents a beginning, as its number would indicate. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the self-releasing outfit are working with a strong narrative thread running through the four included tracks — “Mothership,” “Exodus: Earth,” “Dirtmouth” and “Clouds of Smoke” — and they’ve constructed a plotline that plays to the different mood in each song. All told, the EP runs a little under 22 minutes, so it’s a relatively quick in and out, but guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, bassist/vocalist Roger Marks, drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler and organist/synthesist Drew Harakal (who does not play with the band live) cover a surprising amount of ground during that time, giving listeners a glimpse a range that by no means seems to be done growing.

Each cut brings a personality and identity of its own that the storyline then plays to, describing the glorious ascent and ultimate destruction of mankind and maybe everything else that leaves a single survivor on Earth as the music careens between the Dead Roots Stirring-era Elder-style melodicism and winding riffage of opener “Mothership” to the organ-laced final build and crash of “Clouds of Smoke.” Along the way the changes are stark but in a way that makes sense given the narrative context and the progressive scope of the release, and rather than simply jump around between aesthetics, Howling Giant do an effective job of tying together the varied vibes in song structure and lyrics.

In short, they take what would otherwise be a collection of four somewhat disparate tracks — the shifts are stark, but not outlandish — and turn it into a journey for the listener. 22 minutes is about as long as half-hour tv episodes are these days sans commercials, so maybe it’s fair to think of Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 like a teleplay with four acts that would presumably make the band’s prior 2015 four-tracker a pilot testing the waters for this season-one-episode-one release. And whether or not Howling Giant continue the series or their interests and whims take them elsewhere, their journey is cohesive, flourish of organ adding depth to the riff in “Mothership” initially and then stepping back to make room for the massive grooving crash that ends the track and leads into the start of “Exodus: Earth,” which turns to slower, more nodding, fuzzier fare that seems intended to hypnotize as much as engage as did “Mothership” before it.

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They prove quickly that they can do the one just as well as the other. That kind of becomes a running theme as well for Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 in that the band doesn’t ever set foot onto territory where they aren’t immediately at home. Could come from confidence of execution, could be a product of the recording situation — the EP is self-produced — but as “Exodus: Earth” shifts into proggier roll with voiceover narration, there is no change in the level of poise they show or the command they wield over the performance. That remains true through “Dirtmouth” and especially “Clouds of Smoke” as well.

More intense from the very start, “Dirtmouth” is also the shortest of the tracks at 4:28 and aside from highlighting Marks‘ formidable bass-tone, it digs into a straightforward, thrashier gallop in the vein of a fuzzier High on Fire or even early C.O.C., classic mosh riff and all. Of course, they do this while also keeping the tone and progressive edge they brought to “Mothership” and “Exodus: Earth,” but it’s another clear change in focus, and another crisp execution that could’ve just as easily fallen flat. After “Dirtmouth” returns to its intro to finish out, “Clouds of Smoke” starts in quietly with spacious guitar that calls to mind some of Devin Townsend‘s more restorative moments, and unfolds patiently into a smooth rhythm topped by harmonized vocals and a linear build that will pushes into a solo section that provides the apex for the EP as a whole before ending with a last ringout of fading organ.

Of the elements shown throughout, perhaps it’s the patience of the closer that’s the most telling about the band overall, since it speaks to the consciousness at work behind their output, but that shouldn’t necessarily undercut the spectrum they cover across these four songs, which is significant, sets up a flow between them and still gives an EP-style sampling of what Howling Giant can accomplish stylistically going forward and working off the exposition of this first episode.

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Howling Giant Post “Dirtmouth” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

howling giant (Photo by Kim Auch)

By way of a spoiler, I’m going to be streaming Howling Giant‘s upcoming Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 EP a week from today, so I probably won’t say that much about it here, but the video for “Dirtmouth” — one of the four tracks included on the release, which is out Aug. 12 — shows the crucial factor in what they do: they don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s the misstep bands with progressive tendencies make all too often, and who knows, this is only the Nashville trio’s second EP so they may yet get there, but as the hipster urbane bar patrons become beardo vest-jockeys headbanging away to the track as the band plays in a brewery or some other kind of industrial setting, yeah, there’s no apparent danger of being overly pretentious.

Sometimes fun is a good thing. Howling Giant very clearly had some in the making of this clip, so with the promise of more to come, I’ll just say what I always say.

Enjoy:

Howling Giant, “Dirtmouth” official video

“Dirtmouth” is taken from forthcoming EP Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1, which will be released August 12.

The forthcoming release is the first installment of the fascinating Black Hole Space Wizard EP concept series. As guitarist Tom Polzine explains, “Musically we aim to write songs that are melodic, catchy, and head bang-able. As a concept series, we strive to conjure up space-themed imagery of heroes and villains at war, introducing the story and setting the scene of things to come within the Black Hole Space Wizard Universe. We’re not trying to spell out the entire story so much as we are creating scenes to provoke your imagination.”

Conceptually, the EP paints four distinct scenes: 1. The pinnacle of mankind; 2. An exodus from Earth; 3. The Black Hole Space Wizard destroying everything; and; 4. A lone survivor trapped on a ravaged Mother Earth. In Roger Mark’s (bass/vocals) own words, “The first track is a little more progressive, packed with riffs both dark and triumphant. The second track is all about build and groove. The third track is thrash, metal, and destructive. The final track is spacey with doom elements.”

Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 was produced by HOWLING GIANT, mixed by Kim Auch, and mastered by Chris Fasco.

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Howling Giant Release Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1 Aug. 12

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

howling giant (Photo by Kim Auch)

There’s plenty of groove underlying the winding progressiveness of the leadoff track to Howling Giant‘s awesomely-titled Black Hole Space Wizard Part 1, which you can hear below, and for that reason it seems fair to include an Elder comparison along with one for Mastodon, whose methods one can hear particularly early on. On the whole, Howling Giant seem less manic than that band was — one does not begin a series of releases called Black Hole Space Wizard without being a very specific kind of laid back — but listening to “Mothership,” there’s nothing lazy about it, including the songwriting, which is catchy and bodes well for what the other three tracks on the release might hold.

Details on the story of the series and more follow, as well as the song, courtesy of the PR wire:

howling giant black hole space wizard part 1

Fuzz Rockers HOWLING GIANT Releasing ‘Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1’ / New Single Streaming

Nashville, TN Fuzz Rockers HOWLING GIANT will release Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 on August 12.

The forthcoming release is the first installment of the fascinating Black Hole Space Wizard EP concept series. As guitarist Tom Polzine explains, “Musically we aim to write songs that are melodic, catchy, and head bang-able. As a concept series, we strive to conjure up space-themed imagery of heroes and villains at war, introducing the story and setting the scene of things to come within the Black Hole Space Wizard Universe. We’re not trying to spell out the entire story so much as we are creating scenes to provoke your imagination.”

Conceptually, the EP paints four distinct scenes: 1. The pinnacle of mankind; 2. An exodus from Earth; 3. The Black Hole Space Wizard destroying everything; and; 4. A lone survivor trapped on a ravaged Mother Earth. In Roger Mark’s (bass/vocals) own words, “The first track is a little more progressive, packed with riffs both dark and triumphant. The second track is all about build and groove. The third track is thrash, metal, and destructive. The final track is spacey with doom elements.”

Overall, it you are one of the many that wishes MASTODON had continued in the cosmic, crushing progressive manner of Crack The Skye and Blood Mountain, HOWLING GIANT is your dream band!

Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 was produced by HOWLING GIANT, mixed by Kim Auch, and mastered by Chris Fasco.

Track Listing:
1. Mothership
2. Exodus: Earth
3. Dirtmouth
4. Clouds of Smoke

Album Line Up:
Tom Polzine – Guitar, Vocals
Roger Marks – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums, Vocals
Drew Harakal – Organ, Synths

Live Line Up:
Tom Polzine – Guitar, Vocals
Roger Marks – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums, Vocals

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Howling Giant, “Mothership”

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