Weed Priest Premiere “Vampyr” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

weed priest

Irish sludge nasties Weed Priest issue their four-song full-length, Consummate Darkness, on Halloween via Cursed Monk Records. There is a moment toward the chug-mad ending of album opener “Witch’s Curse” that, somehow fittingly to the title, conveys a sense of the genuinely unhinged. I don’t know if the idea was that, as his own guitar and that of Sean “The Tormentor” Sullivan and the bass of Ragas Iscariot devolve into crackling amp noise, the vocals of Adam Diavol — points all around on the names, guys; lest we forget Micheál Dúlachán on drums — shift from the lower-register extreme growing to a higher-pitched cackle. Is this the witch in “Witch’s Curse” speaking directly to the listener? I don’t know, but it sounds utterly fucked, and I’m pretty sure that’s the point. Point taken.

Weed Priest issued their thick-rolling self-titled debut long-player (review here) in 2013 and brought with their volume worship a sense of grim-hued ritualizing. Consummate Darkness feels more about rawer scathe. Set up across two vinyl sides on which a shorter track leads into a longer one —weed priest consummate darkness “Witch’s Curse” (8:04) into “Vampyr” (10:33) on side A; “SkyDaddy” (6:36) into “The Mass” (14:29) on side B — the record isn’t without a sense of structure, but as the horror sample leads to the plodding, post-Electric Wizard launch of “Vampyr,” Weed Priest find themselves engaging a grittier form of extremity, less outwardly crushing and more about the overarching filth conjured through the riffs and the rhythmic nod, the theme taking shape really in “Vampyr” and finding catchier foothold in the speedier “SkyDaddy” before “The Mass” brings about a last push into rumbling oblivion, grueling and mirroring the viciousness of “Witch’s Curse” early while finding spaciousness later in its extended solo section.

Brutal? Why yes it fucking is. That would seem to be the point. One can hear a dynamic shift between the more “rock”-based songcraft of “SkyDaddy” and “The Mass,” certainly, but Weed Priest are far less about showing off their range than they are about bludgeoning their audience with it, and that suits them. “The Mass” ends Consummate Darkness on a long-fading drum march and the funereal vibe is noteworthy; a dirge undertaken with a relished sense of dismemberment, flayed skin and any number of other medieval cruelties having been brought to bear through volume and tempo-be-damned sonic terror.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the video premiere for “Vampyr” from Consummate Darkness, which can be preordered now via the links below. Please find it on the player here, followed by more info from the PR wire, and if you think your personal constitution is up to it, enjoy.

Here we go:

Weed Priest, “Vampyr” official video premiere

Weed Priest’s second much anticipated full length album “Consummate Darkness” is coming out on Samhain (31th of October) 2017 as vinyl, cd and digital via Cursed Monk Records.

“Lo and behold! From the depths of the smoke filled dungeons, from the tops of the mountains of madness, the priest is coming back with the new opus. Four hymns depicting the unholy ceremonies of union with darkness, four sermons of crawling doom, four spits into the face of conformity and meekness.”

Adam (guitar, vocals), Ragas (bass) and Adrian (drums) were brought together by the love of classic Black Sabbath sound, seventies psychedelic rock, doom/sludge metal and their interest in occultism in 2009. In 2011 Weed Priest released a well received demo CD. A grandiose debut self-titled full length album came out in 2013 and is now sold out. It was followed by “Worship” EP (2014). In 2014 the drum throne was taken over by Michael. Second guitar player Sean also joined. Two split releases followed: split single with Northern Irish doom brothers Astralnaut (February 2015) and split EP with Italian doomsters Black Capricorn (September 2016).

WEED PRIEST:
Adam Diavol – lead guitar/vox
Ragas Iscariot – bass
San “Balor” Sullivan – guitar
Micheál Dúlachán – drums

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Zhora Post New Track; Ethos, Pathos, Logos out This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

zhora

Irish post-sludgers Zhora — also presented as zhOra, which I’m not doing, because I’m an adult and capitalizing the first letter of a proper noun is a choice I’ve made and even if it’s wrong in this instance, I’m sticking by it — are gearing up for a weekender tour starting this Friday which will take them to Siege of Limerick, where they’ll share the stage with the likes of Orange Goblin as well as Emerald Isle countrymen like Zlatanera, Kurokuma, Elder Druid, Demeter and many others. Seems as fitting an occasion as any to mark the release of their new album, the genre-spanning self-release Ethos, Pathos, Logos, from which the band has just posted the track “Infernal Liturgy” as a name-your-price download, and which is about as all-over-the-place in its sub-three-minute run as you could ask.

Cool by me. They might not be much for capitalization, but if it’s between that and weirding out, even I have to admit the weird-out is the way to go. Particularly when it’s still so heavy.

Info and audio follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

zhora ethos pathos logos

Irish Sludge Metallers ZHORA Release Free Track Download Ahead of Headline Tour

Album Ethos, Pathos, Logos Released 27 October

Irish sludge powerhouse zhOra have released the latest single ‘Infernal Liturgy’ for free download ahead of their headline tour which starts October 20th. The track is taken from forthcoming sophomore album Ethos, Pathos, Logos which is released on 27 October.

Vocalist Colin Bolger comments: “Infernal Liturgy takes place right in the middle of the story. It deals with our main character “Riverchrist” and how he convinces a group of desperate tribespeople to resort to cannibalism and devour each other. We like to think of it as our demented death metal ballad. It’s slimy yet angular and features our drummer Tom spitting a glorious vocal rhythm with some genuine venom. We took director Zoe Kavanagh, her camera crew and a group of our oldest friends to the forest for a few days in September and shot a mad new video which will be debuting soon. We used fake limbs, fire and skulls, lots of mushrooms, not enough cans and 27 litres of fake blood. Things got weird and sticky just just the way we like it and the result is a real horror show.”

Over the span of six years zhOra have quickly become one of the most recognisable names in the burgeoning Irish metal scene. In this time the band has released one EP Feet Nailed to the Ground (2011) and their debut LP Almaz (2013), both releases garnering huge praise within the scene. Now in 2017, the band is set to undertake the next stage in their journey, Ethos, Pathos, Logos.

In the only predictable aspect of the band’s sonic trajectory, Ethos, Pathos, Logos finds the band once again putting themselves under their own microscope and refining their approach. With a lush cover designed by acclaimed Visionary Artist Jake Kobrin, the record is zhOra’s first back-to-back concept album, an hour long journey through past lives and cannibalism.

Pre-orders for Ethos, Pathos, Logos are available now via Big Cartel, Bandcamp, iTunes and all other digital outlets.

Catch zhOra throughout October:
October 27 – Central Arts, Waterford
October 28 – Fozzys, Clonmel
October 29 – Siege of Limerick

https://www.facebook.com/zhOramusic/
https://twitter.com/zhoramusic
http://zhora1.bandcamp.com/
http://zhora1.bigcartel.com/products

Zhora, “Infernal Liturgy”

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Quarterly Review: Wucan, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Thera Roya, Ojos Rojos, Ett Rop På Hjälp, BongCauldron, Nomadic Rituals, Mental Tremors, Gin Lady, Swanmay

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Round five of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review begins now. After dealing with the technical issues this week and changing hosts and having the site down for – well, as I write this, it’s still down, so I don’t really have a finished count yet, though obviously by the time you’re reading it it’ll be back up – yeah, it’s made putting together a batch of 10 reviews a day seem like a breeze. “Oh, you mean you’re only writing 10 reviews today? Well now this is happening.” That kind of thing. Didn’t I say something earlier this week about a piano falling on my head? Prescient.

Plan is to finish the QR on Monday and then get back to what passes for normalcy around here. Still plenty of good stuff to come between now and then though, so let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

wucan reap the storm

Bilingual heavy blues rockers Wucan offer their second full-length, Reap the Storm, through MIG Music, and with it showcase a stunning range of songwriting. The album is set up as a 2LP and runs eight songs/73 minutes from the Dresden, Germany, four-piece of vocalist Francis Tobolsky (also flute, guitar, theremin, sitar and percussion), guitarist/keyboardist Tim George, bassist Patrik Dröge and drummer Philip Knöfel, and from the expansive jamming of 10-minute opener “Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht,” it solidifies into the classic-prog-meets-heavy-boogie of “Ebb and Flute/The Eternal Groove” and nestles into driving semi-psychedelic rock on “Out of Sight out of Mind” to lead the charge on a side B marked out by the organ in “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the interplay of trippy/soulful vocals and flute on “The Rat Catcher” and the quiet, German-language post-Zeppelin acoustic folk of “Falkenlied.” Okay. Already your head’s spinning. Then Wucan dive into “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” and “Cosmic Guilt,” which together comprise the second of the two LPs, the former running 21:05 and the latter 18:04, and basically between them represent another album entirely, tying all of the elements previously listed together into one richly complex, progressive-but-still-warm delivery. Their breadth is met by an overarching organic feel – the flute and Tobolsky’s vocals help greatly in this – and though the results are somewhat unmanageable, Wucan remain impressively cohesive throughout the many twists and turns.

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MIG Music website

 

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

Lucifer-in-the-Sky-with-Diamonds-Silent-Echo

The new single “Silent Echo” is an awaited return from Moscow progressive heavy rockers Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, who showed up with an encouraging debut, The Shining One (review here), in 2014. In the rhythmic push and balance of melody and hook, “Silent Echo” reaffirms the appeal of that album and presses it forward, and the band – now comprised of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Oleg Sakharov, guitarist Sergey Starykh, drummer Ramis Cervantes and backing vocalist Alexey Fedotov – hold fast to the underlying proggy sensibilities that fall so well in line with the crispness of their production and the clarity of intent in their songcraft. If they were German or Swedish, they’d already be signed. After three years, a new album would be welcome, but perhaps “Silent Echo” is a harbinger of things to come, and if indeed the six-minute track is all we’re getting for now, it’s got resonance enough behind it to last at least for a while. Hard to hear it though and not want more from these guys.

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Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

thera-roya-masterful-universe

Tracked a year ago in North Carolina, Thera Roya’s Masterful Universe two-songer follows behind their earlier-2017 debut long-player, Stone and Skin (review here), and continues their headfirst dive into noise-laden riotousness across the seven-minute “Static Transmission” (I’m sorry, but are those monkey sounds around the three-minute mark?) and five-minute “Confused Population,” which starts out with a sample of the bomb-riding end sequence of Dr. Strangelove, because I guess the Brooklyn/NJ trio of drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio and bassist Jonny Cohn are feeling topical. Fair enough. That song pushes into cleaner vocals, almost drone-chants, for a particularly experimental feel, and keeps samples as a running theme (at least until the blackened cave-echo screams at the end), where “Static Transmission” is more scathingly aggressive at its core, but in both tracks, the message of Thera Roya getting weirder and weirder comes through clearly, and that only works to their benefit on this short but consuming offering. Run with it, dudes.

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Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

Ojos-Rojos-Sons-of-Love-and-Death

It’s been seven years since California-based heavy psych rockers Ojos Rojos made their debut with the full-length Disappear (review here), but you’d hardly know it from the vibrancy of their new five-song/26-minute Sons of Love and Death EP, which from its opening title-track – also the longest here (immediate points) – through the rightly spacious “Atmosphere” and smoothly rolling centerpiece “Say Goodbye” affects desert-hued shoegaze engagement that asks little of the listener more than to drift along with its easy path. “A Hole Inside” (pun sense tingling) brings especially satisfying fuzz in the guitar and a swirling couple leads to complement like stars overhead, and closer “So Free” doesn’t at all let the fact that it’s so darn laid back let it stop it from strutting its start-stop groove with such swagger. All told, Sons of Love and Death is a work of drippingly lysergic vibe, reminiscent of Dead Meadow at their most languid, but it comes across neither as staid nor redundant. Be it in the rhythmic push of “Atmosphere” or the final crashes of “So Free,” Ojos Rojos find the means to portray an active ecosystem in something that, from the surface, seems still and peaceful.

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

ett-rop-pa-hjalp-sans-och-balans

Ett Rop På Hjälp, quite simply, deserve a higher profile than they’ve got for their second album, Sans och Balans. The Gothenburg natives are a half-decade removed from their 2012 debut, Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (review here), on Transubstans, and the new collection is a more than worthy follow-up, offering classic-style boogie rollout on cuts like “En Djavuls Falla” and the later solo work on “Blanka Eftermiddagen,” while “Defenestration” (the only English title present, though it’s still sung in Swedish), highlights organ/keys alongside its low end depth and catchy movement, shifting at its midpoint to an instrumental jam that carries it into the bluesy build and harmonies of “Snomannen.” The penultimate “Leker Med Karlek” is particularly heavy ‘70s, but skirts the trap of sounding like Graveyard, Witchcraft or most others of that vintage ilk, and the finish in “Slutat Tro” prefaces its payoff with a subtle heft that comes to the fore late, manifesting a proto-doom working well to contrast the sweetness of the earlier vocal melody. It may be harder for those who don’t speak Swedish to grasp the verses and howling chorus of “Folkhemsdesperado” and the other inclusions here, but Sans och Balans is nothing if not worth that effort and clearly a record that earns more attention than it’s getting.

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Sans och Balans on Spotify

 

BongCauldron, Binge

bongcauldron-binge

Leeds trio BongCauldron have been kicking around the UK’s fertile heavy underground for the last five-plus years since their self-titled EP, issuing a series of shorter releases and splits and gradually readying themselves for a larger attack. That arrives as their eight-song/40-minute debut full-length, Binge, which sludge-bludgeons (yes, it sludgeons) its listener into submission with thickened nod, growls and an attitude that’s best represented perhaps in the title of second cut “Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men.” Yeah, it’s like that. “68” and closer “Yorkshire Born” offer a Motörhead/High on Fire-style gallop, but the larger impression Binge makes comes from the pairing of the title-track and “Bigfoot Reigns” in the middle of the album. These two longest tracks, back to back, pummel their viscous onslaught, and even when the latter swaps out its faster first half for the massive slowdown of its second, its shift is purely from one extreme to the other. Feels like it’s been a while in the making, and maybe it has, but BongCauldron’s first long-player has nastiness a-plenty to make up for any and all lost time.

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Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

nomadic-rituals-marking-the-day

Marking the Day builds from minimalist drone over the first couple minutes of “From Nothing” into a maddeningly heavy, grueling, hour-long slog of noise-soaked and extremist post-sludge. It is the second album from Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Nomadic Rituals, and its cosmically-themed lumber is utterly vicious as it plays out across six tracks, the shortest of which, “Expansion,” is just under eight minutes long. Over the course of this creation-to-destruction journey, guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter, bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth (all three also contribute noise and/or synth) take listeners “From Nothing” and leave them “Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion,” and it’s that 14-minute finale and specifically the tumultuous, pushed-even-further apex thereof, that is intended to capture the grand undoing of everything. One imagines when the end comes it won’t actually sound quite so glorious, but an interpretive representation, Nomadic Rituals give brutal portrayal that seems to fit the onslaught of chaos, and the final amp hum reminds that every ending is likewise a new beginning, even one so mammoth and consuming as this.

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Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

mental-tremors-mental-tremors

A duo who manage to sound like a full band on a studio album is nothing new at this point, between layering and tonal heft and whatever else might be at play in a given act’s aesthetic. Fortunately, Melbourne two-piece Mental Tremors don’t need to rely on novelty. In the fuzz of songs like “Bastard Son” and “Violently” – that’s a riff you should hear – their self-titled debut long-player offers legit chops in craft and performance, yes, sounding full, but still natural as it makes its way through the weirdo-psych nod of the six-minute “Patient Man,” solidifying as it goes, and seeming to turn the classic LP dynamic of straightforward A and more expansive B sides on its head as it rounds out with “Hunters” and “The Fevering,” individualizing catchy, post-Queens of the Stone Age impulses and hairy riff-led raucousness. Initially self-released earlier this year, Mental Tremors was picked up for a vinyl pressing by Cursed Tongue Records, and whether it’s the clarion groove of opener “Like a Broken Town” or the nods and echoes that pervade “The Cascade,” there’s no question it earns that preservation that only physical media can provide.

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Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Gin Lady, Electric Earth

gin-lady-electric-earth

Modern enough in its production, Gin Lady’s fourth album, Electric Earth (on Kozmik Artifactz) is nonetheless in pretty direct conversation with the ‘60s, whether it’s “I’m Your Friend” chatting it up with Paul McCartney circa Rubber Soul or the acoustic/piano stomp of “Mercy” in a back and forth with The Rolling Stones, even going so far as to reference “Satisfaction” in the lyrics. These pop-minded textures are met with some heavier rock vibes, but at its loudest, Electric Earth still sticks to a pretty serene feel, starting off at a dancey clip with “Flower People” and capping with the quick Lennonism of “Running No More,” while in between, the four-piece of vocalist Magnus Kamebro, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Karlsson, bassist/vocalist Anthon Johansson and drummer Fredrik Normark gracefully capture bygone vibes on the wistful “The Things You Used to Do,” the jammy “Brothers of the Canyon” and the crisp, clear “Water and Sunshine,” the hook of which could’ve easily come from a lost single from 1965. It’s a niche not everyone’s playing toward at this point, but still instantly familiar and engagingly, efficiently done.

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Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

swanmay-stoner-circus

Unabashed stoner rock riff-led ideology persists throughout Stoner Circus, the hard-driving debut full-length from Linz, Austria, three-piece Swanmay. Working from a center of dense but not overblown fuzz, the rockers cast forth a clear-in-its-purposes nine tracks highlighted by “Lake on Fire,” which one can only wonder if whether or not was written in homage to the Austrian annual festival of the same name. In any case, that hook is one of several that feel particularly engaging throughout Stoner Circus, and the depth of tone on the instrumental “Dopechild” is enough to make that song memorable despite a lack of lyrics. Far from revolutionary, ultimately, but clearly not trying to be either, Swanmay’s first LP preaches its post-Kyussism on “Dharma” and in the Lowrider-style roll of “Sylvan” earlier on, but there’s an aggressive edge to it as well that comes to the fore on “Padawan” ahead of closer “Shiva,” which rounds out with a satisfying-if-telegraphed slowdown to make the point one more time about putting the groove first. So be it. As a debut, Stoner Circus gives Swanmay something to build on and already shows promise in songwriting and its well-honed execution of genre tenets.

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Wild Rocket, Disassociation Mechanics: Headfirst into the Ion Storm

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

WILD ROCKET DISASSOCIATION MECHANICS

If you’re going to push your listeners out into a churning realm of bright-feeling psychedelic noise wash, it helps to start with a hook. Wild Rocket clearly know this, and so their sophomore album, Disassociation Mechanics (on Art for Blind), begins with “Caught in the Triangle Again,” a song that finds the Dublin four-piece playing lumber and blast directly off each other, finding a line between heavy and space rock. That niche, which on paper seems so obvious it might as well be a punch in the face — and in the case of some of the freakouts on the ensuing five-song offering, it kind of feels like one — is deceptively individualized in the care of Niallo, Moose, Jon and Bres, and while there persists a strong current of Hawkwind blowing through “Caught in the Triangle Again,” the band neglects nothing in their songwriting, returning after eliciting this massive nine-minutes-plus sprawl to the chorus as if to let their listeners know how in control they actually are as artists.

They complement this broad-reaching vibe with a tonality that feels as geared toward altitude as the mix of the record is toward depth, and while only the 15-minute penultimate “The Future Echoes” will match and surpass “Caught in the Triangle Again” for runtime, Wild Rocket nonetheless stretch themselves down to the molecules as they plow through “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger,” the centerpiece “Into the Black Hole” and closer “The Edges of Reality,” the last of which in particular presents a mirror-universe chorus to complement “Caught in the Triangle Again” and give a sense of the journey’s destination being perhaps not so distant after all from its starting point, at least the way the limited human mind perceives the spaces between one thing and the other. Still, you might lose time as the 43-minute LP unfolds, and that’s cool. Check under your seat for a flotation device. Also headphones. You’ll want both.

I’ll readily admit that my opinion of Wild Rocket and the work they do in fuzz-echo-tripping their way through “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger” and the rest of the tracks here is affected by having recently seen the band perform at the inaugural and Obelisk co-sponsored Emerald Haze fest in their hometown (review here). I’m not sure why that would be an issue, especially with the energy the foursome put into their thrust being so in kind with their live show, but it feels like it’s worth mentioning all the same in a full-disclosure kind of way, and also because I feel like seeing the band on stage before and after having experienced Disassociation Mechanics was helpful in giving a fuller sense of the heavy psychedelic blend they for which they are shooting in these tracks.

Having seen them bring it to life, it’s a blend I’d argue they achieve on the CD (LP release impending), much aided by an almost constant fullness of sound brought on through the use of synth and keys that adds wash to “Caught in the Triangle Again” and “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger” while giving the opening of “Into the Black Hole” a sense of more straightforward keyboard drama before the shouted echoes of the first verse bring the centerpiece to one of the album’s most singularly intense moments. For a release like this to work at all, it is essential that it be fluid in its transitions within and between its tracks and dynamic in how it presents its style, and Disassociation Mechanics is both of these things, to be sure. Taken as a whole in linear form — CD or digital — it brims with immersion and offers standout moments whether it’s the aforementioned repeated choruses of “Caught in the Triangle Again” and “The Edges of Reality” or the bounce and delivery of the title line in “Into the Black Hole,” or even just the sprawl of “The Future Echoes,” which invariably feels like and is a significant landing/launch point for Wild Rocket as they careen through the cosmos, remaining structurally intact all the while.

wild rocket

It is that factor, ultimately, that makes Disassociation Mechanics work so well. Yes, Wild Rocket beef up space rock impulses and present their material with nuance, vitality and flow. None of that is to be understated in how crucial it is. None of it. But it’s the underlying structural integrity of the work that gives it the legs on which to stand and lets it convey its resonant and exploratory sensibility without getting lost in its own wash of noise. Even “The Future Echoes” holds itself together as effects and backwards swirl top a temporary slowdown two minutes in before the push resumes — a thrill as much of pace as tone, and not by any means the last on offer. Indeed, they shift through that time warp again and hold the gruel even longer the second time around, a space-doom march emerging that holds firm and lumbers “The Future Echoes” just about to its midpoint before impulse power is restored.

At that point, the outward course is set and Wild Rocket engage with due fervency an instrumental kosmiche shove that will consume the rest of “The Future Echoes,” drums varying in snare punctuation even as they’re responsible for holding together the fluidity emanating from the righteous bass and guitar tones, no less elemental than the keys to the overall spirit of the piece. There’s a somewhat expected devolution that starts at about 14 minutes in as “The Future Echoes” blows itself out, and by its final minute, the instruments have crashed and only slow-fading static noise remains. This makes the side B companion “The Edges of Reality” something of an epilogue, but again, its purpose seems to lie as much in hearkening back to the opener as following-up “The Future Echoes,” and it does that well, taking off patiently with faded-in drums over an intro of synth with an emphasis on space rock rhythm. The repeated line, “Pushing at the edges of reality,” gives an initial foothold in an early verse, and will be repeated twice more as the finale moves further and further into phase-shifted, pulsating drift, including during the last fadeout, where it provides a telling moment of humanity at the core of what might otherwise come across as cold and void of life.

Ultimately, Disassociation Mechanics is anything but, and in answering the tonal and aesthetic promise of their 2014 debut, Geomagnetic HallucinationsWild Rocket further establish themselves through a cohesive and forceful execution of a brand of space rock that, wielded less capably, would simply unwind into a sonic mess. This speaks to a progressive edge in their craft that may or may not continue to take hold as they move forward from these tracks toward their inevitable next release, but whatever direction they take over the longer term — and they’re by no means limited to choosing one path over another; clearly capable as they are of adopting multiple stylistic facets as suits their purpose in a given song — their second album brings them to a dimension of color and warmth, and it is an utter joy for the listener to join them there.

Wild Rocket, Disassociation Mechanics (2017)

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Weed Priest to Release Consummate Darkness Oct. 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

weed priest

Cursed Monk Records has posted preorders now for Consummate Darkness, the second album from Galway, Ireland, riff worshipers Weed Priest. I’ll grant that after my recent experience traveling to Dublin for the Obelisk-sponsored inaugural edition of the Emerald Haze festival, I’ve got Irish heavy on the brain, but even if that wasn’t the case, I remember full well the “holy shit that’s fucking insane” impression Weed Priest made with their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and their follow-up 2015 split with Astralnaut (review here) was only too gleeful to follow suit.

The four-piece also put out a split last year with Black Capricorn that you can hear at the bottom of this post, and I’ll hope to have more to come on Consummate Darkness ahead of its Halloween release date through Cursed Monk. Until then, here’s the announcement and background on the band, courtesy of the label via the PR wire:

weed-priest-consummate-darkness

Cursed Monk Records are proud to announce that Weed Priest’s sophomore album Consummate Darkness will be be released on Vinyl. CD and digital, via Cursed Monk Records, on October 31st 2017.

“Lo and behold! From the depths of the smoke filled dungeons, from the tops of the mountains of madness, the priest is coming back with the new opus. Four hymns depicting the unholy ceremonies of union with darkness, four sermons of crawling doom, four spits into the face of conformity and meekness.”

Adam (guitar, vocals), Ragas (bass) and Adrian (drums) were brought together by the love of classic Black Sabbath sound, seventies psychedelic rock, doom/sludge metal and their interest in occultism in 2009. In 2011 Weed Priest released a well received demo CD. A grandiose debut self-titled full length album came out in 2013 and is now sold out. It was followed by “Worship” EP (2014). In 2014 the drum throne was taken over by Michael. Second guitar player Sean also joined. Two split releases followed: split single with Northern Irish doom brothers Astralnaut (February 2015) and split EP with Italian doomsters Black Capricorn (September 2016).

Weed Priest’s second much anticipated full length album “Consummate Darkness” is coming out on Samhain (31th of October) 2017 as vinyl, cd and digital via Cursed Monk Records.

Weed Priest can offer a truly heavy doom metal experience. They have built their reputation as a solid live act and have shared stage with the likes of Church Of Misery, Wounded Kings, Meth Drinker, Hooded Priest, Argus, Gorilla Monsoon, Hour of 13, Black Capricorn, Slomatics, Conan, and many more.

Consummate Darkness is available to preorder now via the Cursed Monk Bandcamp, where you will also be able to stream Weed Priest’s brand new track, “Vampyr”

WEED PRIEST:
Adamus de Sabbator – vocals, guitars
K.H. Rhaagulus – bass
Sean ‘The Tormentor’ Sullivan – guitars
Mígorr – drums

https://www.facebook.com/theWeedPriest
https://weedpriest.bandcamp.com/
http://weedpriest.bigcartel.com/
https://cursedmonk.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/cursedmonk/

Weed Priest, “Summertime”

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Emerald Haze Trip Pt. 3: Watch it Grow

Posted in Features on September 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

emerald haze 2017 flyers

09.04.17 – 11:24 AM Eastern – Monday morning – Madison, CT

As the plane taxied to the gate last night at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, I could see my car waiting for me in long-term parking lot E. Still there. I wanted to get up and tell the pilot, “It’s cool — you can let me off here and I’ll walk. Let me just grab my bag.” No dice, of course. Minimal rigmarole getting out of the smaller airport after the seven-hour flight though, and soon enough I was barreling down I-495, headed home to see The Patient Mrs. Never actually hit 100mph, but I looked down as I was listening to Blind Guardian and was well over 90 a couple times.

One thing I haven’t yet stressed about this trip: The utter fucking professionalism on display from Emerald Haze itself. Supported by the Dublin City Council, fest-organizers Sid Daly and Matt Casciani, Fiona Killeen and all at Voodoo Lounge were on it. I’ve been to (and put on) amateur-ish shows, and while a lot of emphasis was put on this being the first Emerald Haze and I was all the more honored to be among the presenters because of that, it was pro-shop across the board. It stuck to the schedule, the bands went home happy, it brought people in, represented its local scene well and set up a reach that I hope will only continue to expand in the years forward.

About that as well — I have no delusions about my place in this thing. Emerald Haze 2017 opened its arms to me, welcomed me in and brought me on board out of the kindness of its heart. I can safely say I added just about nothing to the proceedings that wouldn’t have been there without me, except maybe a bunch of words posted here for whatever that’s worth. There’s no reason to think that if/when they do this again next year they’d want me involved on any level — it’s certainly not something I earned — but man, I hope this fest keeps going. To see it play out over Friday and Saturday, there was so much obvious potential there, and the mission behind it, the belief in Irish heavy that justified itself more and more with each passing set, was beyond honorable.

It’s a lot of work to put an event on like this — and more to do it on the level Emerald Haze did it, so that it’s more than just a slapped-together coterie of bands who play heavy riffs — but it’s easy to see Emerald Haze going a long way toward helping further establish Irish heavy as an international presence, and given the quality of bands and the outreach, it would be well deserved. Whether I’m there or not to see it, I hope to, as Church of the Cosmic Skull says, “watch it grow,” for years to come.

jj koczan photo by sid dalyThanks from the bottom of my doomed heart first to my family, who in the aftermath of my grandmother’s death, still insisted I make the trip abroad. The support from my mother and my sister on every level means more to me than I can say.

Thanks to The Patient Mrs. for being the most unreal partner I could ever ask for in life. In less than a month, we’ll celebrate 20 years together — our relationship is a ’90s original; can legit be called “classic rock” at this point — and at some point in the next six weeks, we’ll welcome our son, The Pecan, into the world. I’ve never been more excited to share a past and a future in my life than I am right now with such a wonderful person. Thanks for that, baby. Let’s have lunch and go hit the laundromat and spend the rest of the day watching Star Trek. Romance!

Thanks to Sid, Matt, Olga, Fiona, everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for the condolences, the great conversation as always, and for generally being awesome. Great as always to share a space in front of the stage with Falk, as well as with Kirsten Seubert, whom it was a pleasure to meet. Thanks to Jamie Cansdale, Jake Wallace, Moose from Wild Rocket, the dudes from Ten Ton Slug and everyone else I met and shook hands with over the course of the two days. I am a painfully awkward individual. I know this. I have a hard time meeting people. I feel a lot of the time like I come off like a prick when I don’t mean to. So please take my word for it when I say it was a joy to be so welcomed into the Dublin scene as a visitor for a couple days and to sample not just the high grade sounds on offer, but to be fortunate enough to meet the excellent people behind it all as well.

All weekend I felt so stupidly lucky to be there. Really. And proud. Front to back across a 24-band bill; just crazy to see. And for that, I owe my thanks not just to Emerald Haze itself for having me over, but to you for reading. Thank you for your support of this site, this ongoing project, because without it I know damn well things like this would never happen. For reading. For commenting. For sharing. For correcting my spelling. All of it. Thank you.

Complete coverage of the fest can be found by clicking here.

Titles for the travel posts came from songs by Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket (go listen to that album!) and Electric Octopus.

Thanks again.

With utmost sincerity and in riffs,
JJ Koczan

 

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Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night Two, Sept. 2, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.15 – Saturday night/Sunday morning – Sid’s house

Yesterday was not short. Today was notter-shorter. The bummer news as of last night was that Mother Mooch would have to pull out because of a schedule conflict between the after-party and the venue. I had been looking forward to seeing fest-organizer Sid Daly‘s band as a part of Emerald Haze 2017, but he had to cut someone, and decided it was better to cut himself than anyone else, and that’s the noble thing to do so it’s hard to fault him. I was still hopeful this morning they’d be able to pull it out and make it happen.

There was, however, plenty going on even with 14 bands instead of the original 15. A packed day, to be sure. Like yesterday, it was a lot of back and forth between The Obelisk Stage downstairs and the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect after the first night, so when things got rolling in the afternoon, I felt at least a little bit prepared for what was coming. Vaguely. A smidgen. Okay, not really, but still. I did my best.

It went like this:

Gourd

gourd-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

They were the first duo of the weekend and inarguably one of the nastiest acts who played at any point of Emerald Haze, though by the end of today, Gourd would have some pretty stiff competition in that regard. Still, ultra-crawling, ultra-lurching, fuckall-laden extremity was the order of the opening salvo on the downstairs stage at the Voodoo Lounge, and Hick and Ray, who released a self-titled EP last year that seems to be their only offering to-date, brought drone to blackened-to-a-crisp extremity in that already-dead, post-Khanate fashion that’s just as much at home in arthouse as in a dank, mold-stenched basement with a shitty P.A. and a couple disaffected hangers about for a crowd. As it was, they did pretty well filling the bigger space at Emerald Haze with volume — this too would be a running theme for the evening — and they served as an immediate signal that today’s mission was going to be much, much different from yesterdays. And so it was.

Korvid

korvid (photo jj koczan)

I didn’t even see a window to look out of, but if I had, I probably would’ve been surprised it was still daylight. Just as my brain was beginning to process the onslaught that was Gourd, I clomped upstairs to check out Belfast five-piece Korvid, who would set in motion the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage with their own brand of extreme sludge, two guitars riffing out with cupped-mic-and-crazy-eyes standalone vocals cutting through, screaming, growing, the whole nine. The humor was good though. I mean, how many times in your life are you going to hear a lead singer say, “This one’s called ‘Zombie Sludge Groove’?” Six? Maybe seven? For most people, probably not more than three. In any case, for all the pummel they brought, vocalist Jonny Gault, guitarists Thomas Carmichael and Alex Keys, bassist Theo Gordon-Boyd and drummer David Malone didn’t forget to have a good time doing it, and while that put them in immediate contrast with Gourd, still misanthroping away downstairs, their own brand of sludge was light neither on tone nor aggression. Plus a zombie apocalypse happened. That’s always bleak in its own way.

Ten Ton Slug

ten-ton-slug-photo-jj-koczan

If Emerald Haze had a quota for burl, Ten Ton Slug filled it. In about the first three minutes of their set. The Galway five-piece have a new EP to follow-up last year’s Brutal Gluttonous Beast (review here) from which they aired “Slug Grinder,” but that was right in the mix with the rest of their attack, which centered around densely-packed chugs and metallic growls and screams. It felt early for something so dudely — didn’t I just finish my coffee? — but Ten Ton Slug had their own agenda, and as the downstairs room started to fill up, they beat the living crap right out of it for a half-hour solid. No-letup sludge metal that handed out punishment the way one thinks of construction equipment as vigorous in its purposes. As they played, I wrote the words “very heavy” in my notebook and wondered how many more times throughout the day I’d wind up using that exact phrase. To say the least, several. They closed with “Siege” and yet more testosterone oozed from the stage in voluminous form. That new EP was reportedly recorded at Dead Dog Studio in Drogheda, and one can’t help but look forward to how Ten Ton Slug‘s tones might come out of that process. My advanced, thinking man’s critically-minded guess? “Very heavy.”

Vulpynes

vulpynes-photo-jj-koczan

Riot grrl comparisons are bound to ensue when you’re a ’90s-influenced two-piece like Dublin’s own Vulpynes, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Maeve Molly and drummer Kaz, but to my ears they were rawer in their presentation than the likes of Babes in Toyland and more punk than L7 seemed interested in being most of the time. There was still a definite air of post-grunge, however, so I suppose in the world of ready-made genre classifications, riot grrl works just as well as anything else. It’s more concise than “raw and semi-aggro heavy garage punk rock,” at least, even if that’s more what Vulpynes seemed to be up to to me. The rawness is worth emphasizing though, especially since that seemed to be half the point and since it suited them so well. They were nowhere near as mosh-ready as Ten Ton Slug back downstairs, of course, but neither did they want to be, and though the afternoon/evening was just getting going, Vulpynes were already a refreshing change of pace from the viciousness that had thus far been served. Nice to be reminded that not everything needs to crush to be effective — though of course that’s plenty of fun too.

Iron Void

iron-void-photo-jj-koczan

Doom! File Iron Void under “hell yes I’ll have more of that please” in being the Emerald Haze night two’s first representation of oldschool doom righteousness. Fair perhaps to think of the UK trio, who toured this Spring alongside Indianapolis-based The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch, as a preface to Lord Vicar still to come, but that only made them more welcome in my book, and while they played, I went out to the merch area to buy a copy of their 2015 outing, Doomsday and its 2012 predecessor, Spell of Ruin. No regrets there, but as I was on my way back into the venue proper, I got stopped by Rando-Dude-Who-Works-at-the-Venue who told me my backpack — aka my camera bag, which I’d had on my person all along — wasn’t allowed in and would need to be checked. As it also held my laptop and I’d carried it with me the entire night before without word one from anybody, my position was hell no I’m not checking this bag, and no shit, dude wound up manhandling me and kicking me out of the venue. Out of fucking nowhere. Felt pretty fucking special to get kicked out of a show I was supposedly helping to present, let me tell you. The bummer was that while I was dealing with his completely needless bullshit, I was missing Iron Void back inside. I didn’t check it, but left it with Sid‘s girlfriend Olga who was working the door and was kind enough to come to my rescue outside, and yeah, I eventually got back in well in time to see Iron Void finish their set with “The Devil’s Daughter” from Doomsday, but I’ll readily admit that one threw me for a loop and it was a while before I was able to really get my head back into the show the way it should’ve been all along. Moral of the story? Fuck you, Rando Dude. Either do your job all the way and round up every backpack in the place, including mine the first night, or don’t bother. And either way, fuck you twice as hard when there’s killer doom to be had.

Crowhammer

crowhammer-photo-jj-koczan

Maybe had I not been so thoroughly distracted by that just-discussed unfortunate bit of whatnot I’d have had an easier time getting a handle on Crowhammer‘s sound, but somehow I doubt it. It was my first exposure to the Dublin trio — who also boasted the weekend’s first singing drummer, though not the last of the day — and they played the sort of part-psych weirdo rock that’s probably best described as “progressive” and left at that, though that’s hardly a summary of the willfully bizarre krautrocking chicanery that was actually on display during their set. Again, I was all out of sorts and didn’t get to see nearly as much as I would’ve liked to otherwise, but while they seem to just have a single out that was released in 2013, there was no doubt Crowhammer were in a niche of their own among the rest of the Emerald Haze lineup, and that would come to kind of be the message of the day from the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage: strange things will ensue. And for sure they did for what I caught of these guys.

Witchsorrow

witchsorrow-photo-jj-koczan

I recalled digging Witchsorrow‘s 2015 outing, No Light, Only Fire (review here) when I heard it, as well as their prior sophomore full-length, 2012’s God Curse Us (review here), so to see them in the flesh back downstairs in the larger room was something of a treat. They had more NWOBHM-style gallop than I remembered, but that might’ve just been a proximity comparison to Iron Void, who rolled pretty steadily for the duration, though drummer Dave Wilbraham (also of Twelve Boar) had plenty of double-kick behind the riffs of guitarist/vocalist Nick “Necroskull” Ruskell and the basslines of Emily Witch to act as a means of propulsion. That lent Witchsorrow a deceptively uptempo feel for how thick they were tonally, but though I was still kind of looking around the room and playing my own private game of ‘Count the Backpacks’ — there were many to be found — it was still easy to appreciate the underlying motion cutting through all that heft. They’ll be out in the UK and Europe with The Moth later this Fall and they seem like they’re about due for a new release. Maybe in 2018? If so, it would be one to watch out for.

The Magnapinna

the-magnapinna-photo-jj-koczan

Say, is your name a dick joke? Nothing wrong with that, said Obelisk Guy. Things got off-kilter quick with Cork fivesome The Magnapinna, who were all dressed up with ties and whatnot and unleashed a barrage of hard-alt-rocking strangeness somewhere betwixt Mr. Bungle and a multi-singer early incarnation of System of a Down — aggressive at their core, but still definitely with an experimentalist edge. They had some pretty significant depth of arrangement the vocal department between their frontman and the guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but the pervasive everything-weirder-than-everything-else ethic that seemed to infiltrate every move they made remained the dominant flavor of their set on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like Crowhammer before them, they served notice that not only is the Irish scene rich when it comes to sludge and heavy rock, but that there are groups legitimately pushing stylistic boundaries as well. The Magnapinna — dick joke or not — were a vastly different kind of freakout from everyone else who played this weekend at Emerald Haze, and since standing out was apparently the top priority, I can only call their efforts at not fitting in a success. Nicely and strangely done.

Death the Leveller

death-the-leveller-photo-jj-koczan

A break downstairs essentially funneled everyone who wasn’t going to eat dinner up to the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage to see Death the Leveller. Fair enough. The Dublin four-piece are new — as in I think this might’ve been their fifth show — but it was clear they had roots somewhere, and one finds them in Cursed Earth and Mael Mórdha. One of those bands almost too much on lockdown to actually be newcomers. There was no question they knew what they were doing, no question about their sound — goth-tinged doom; healthy sense of drama to the show, and very much a show, but not at all half-hearted or insincere for that — and they owned the room in a way that completely undercut the fact that they only have one EP out and are still waiting for the vinyl to be pressed. No substitute for experience, in other words, and Death the Leveller, while fresh, had a professional presentation and a professional presence that brought the upstairs room to a different level and once again represented another, darker but still nuanced side of what Dublin and the greater Irish underground has to offer those who’d investigate. I wondered looking around the room for how many of the attendees this set was their first exposure to Death the Leveller, and I suspect the answer is at least a few apart from myself, but watching the band take charge of that space, it was hard to argue they didn’t absolutely deserve to be the focal point that the scheduling made them. Tons of promise there. Gotta chase down that EP at some point in the near future.

Dread Sovereign

dread sovereign photo jj koczan

Speaking of presence: there’s only one Nemtheanga. Also known as Alan Averill, the vocalist of premier Irish post-black metallers Primordial and arguably one of the country’s key underground figureheads can hold down a stage like few frontmen I’ve ever seen, and while he also handles bass in Dread Sovereign — his tone might be the most “dread” element of all in the band; the downstairs floor at Voodoo Lounge shook with each note he hit — he still was very much at the helm alongside shred-prone guitarist Daniel “Bones” Holohan, drummer Johnny “Con Ri” King and a synthesist/noisemaker who may or may not have been Nemtheanga‘s cousin, Gareth Averill filling out the wash. I picked up a copy of their 2017 sophomore long-player, For Doom the Bell Tolls (review here), without further incident, and considered that a win, and while the vibe of their time onstage definitely leaned toward the oldschool — they nestled into a partial cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” for a minute there and it felt earned — they were lung-collapsingly weighted in tone, and flattened the room like an early headliner or, at the very least for me, a highlight of the weekend. It wasn’t my first time seeing them — though it was my first time seeing them with synth, which worked well — so I wouldn’t call what they were doing a surprise, but it was a tooth-rattling, grim-of-spirit, trod-all-over-your-soul joy in any case.

Gorilla Pulp

gorilla-pulp-photo-jj-koczan

Things got kind of complicated when it came time for Gorilla Pulp to play upstairs. The Italian four-piece were originally slated to close out the downstairs stage after Sólstafir, but when Mother Mooch dropped off the bill, it was basically to give their time slot to Gorilla Pulp so they could still have a showcase. Fine, but no question the speedy, upbeat, almost-metallized heavy rock with psychedelic flashes — also a theremin! — that Gorilla Pulp brought forth was a departure from what Mother Mooch would’ve been doing, and the simple fact of the geographic shift was also noteworthy in that they were the only band not from Ireland or Northern Ireland to play all day on that stage, including Nomadic Rituals, who followed and closed it out. I guess sometimes when you put together an event like this, adjustments have to be made, and to Gorilla Pulp‘s benefit, the context in which they appeared, following Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Crowhammer, Vulpynes and Korvid, had already touched on so many different styles that by the time they got around to also being all over the place, the door was wide open for them. Their next show? A wedding later this month. Because of course it is. They may not have been Irish natives, but they only wound up adding to the variety of the day’s presentation on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and even as downstairs continued to thunder with Dread Sovereign‘s lumbering, Gorilla Pulp did well in offsetting that darkness with a bit of a stylistic challenge that was only more fun to try to keep up with once they got that theremin warmed up. Good times.

Lord Vicar

lord-vicar-photo-jj-koczan

And then sometimes you just have to bow your head and realize you’re in the company of masters. Watching Kimi Kärki play doom riffs while Christian “Chritus” Linderson fronted Lord Vicar, yeah, that was definitely the way it went. The former Reverend Bizarre guitarist and the former Saint Vitus/Count Raven vocalist — both of whom have been involved in a slew of projects over the years and decades from Orne and solo work for Kärki to Goatess and Terra Firma for Linderson — were hands-down a focal point for attention from the crowd, which packed in as tightly as I’d seen all weekend to watch them in the downstairs space, but as is universal for quality doom, the contributions of the rhythm section were not to be overlooked. With relative newcomer bassist Rich Jones and founding drummer Gareth Millsted providing the groove behind them, Kärki and Linderson flourished, leading the way through cuts from last year’s Gates of Flesh (review here) like a jammy take on “Birth of Wine” complete with last-measure boogie shuffle, or “The Green Man” and “Leper, Leper,” leaving a particularly resonant extended finale for “The Funeral Pyre” from their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain, which I can only say was flat out awesome from the second it started to the second it brought the house down at the end. Line of the weekend also has to go to Linderson who said from the stage atsome point between songs, “We have a new album out. It’s called British Steel.” Cheers sir. Seeing Lord Vicar — the kind of thing that someone in my position never really thinks is going to happen — only underscored how stupid lucky I am to be in Dublin at all for this weekend, and the proceedings only got more righteous as they warmed up and dug further in. Like I said, the company of masters.

Nomadic Rituals

nomadic-rituals-photo-JJ-Koczan

I had checked out Nomadic Rituals‘ 2017 release, Marking the Day — I also bought a copy of 2013’s Holy Giants — and knew they were something I wanted to behold for myself. The final band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, the Belfast trio might’ve also been the heaviest, as they conjured a tectonic wash of low end and noise driven by synth and geared toward maximum abrasion. Guitarist Peter Hunter and bassist Craig Carson both contributed screams and growls to the proceedings while Mark Smyth plodded away behind them, and with as much as this second and final day of the inaugural Emerald Haze had already had to offer in terms of sludgy extremity, Nomadic Rituals — their moniker not at all to be confused with the name of the Yawning Man record from 2010, which was Nomadic Pursuits — still managed to distinguish themselves through the ferocity of their volume and the unmitigated slow-motion violence of their assault. Rightfully so, they seemed to be an apex point for the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage– pushing that space, that soundsystem and the eardrums of those standing in attendance to an absolute limit — no place left to go or to run away from their all-consuming post-sludge. Even when I stumbled back downstairs to catch the end of Lord Vicar and get a spot up front for Sólstafir, I could still hear Nomadic Rituals living up to the savagery implied. They were nothing if not thorough in that endeavor.

Sólstafir

Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Timing, of course, is everything, but even before Icelandic overlords of melancholy Sólstafir took the stage downstairs — took The Obelisk Stage, god damn it — to the cap on Emerald Haze 2017, it occurred to me that I watched at least some portion of every single band that played this weekend. Two stages, two days; a total of 24 acts between the 10 yesterday and the 14 today. And you know what? If Mother Mooch had played, I’d have watched them too. Gladly. Accordingly, seeing Sólstafir do the title-track from 2014’s golly-that’s-still-brilliant Ótta (review here) and cuts from this year’s worthy follow-up Berdreyminn (review here) was like a victory lap, and as much as the crowd was pressing in, and as much as my back hurt, and as much as I miss my wife and as much as I haven’t had a meal in the last two days that wasn’t comprised either of protein powder, a protein bar or a three-ounce package of vacuum-sealed salmon I brought with me, Sólstafir were magnetic onstage as I knew they’d be. I’d only ever caught them before at Roadburn, so to watch them play at a venue of the size of even the downstairs space at the Voodoo Lounge felt really special, and it was. It was. It was one last reminder that, whatever else was a part of this experience, I’m so unbelievably fortunate to have been in Dublin this weekend, and if it comes to it, I’ll absolutely play the role of the tourism council: FUCK YES. COME TO IRELAND. There’s rock and roll here from within and without, and while Sólstafir fall into the latter category, they received a hero’s welcome just the same. There were afterparties to be had when they were done, and for the take-themselves-way-too-seriously/no-fun blogger types, writing to do, so I hightailed it sooner or later and made my way back up the road, but not before taking a final lap through Emerald Haze, trying to imprint it all on my memory, where I can only hope it will stay for a duration much longer than this trip will actually be by the time I fly out of the country tomorrow afternoon.

Holy shit, did I really just say “tomorrow afternoon?”

Turns out, yes.

I’ll have a post up to close out this series probably Monday, but before I turn you over to the photo gallery, I just want to extend a quick preliminary thanks to Sid Daly, Olga, Fiona and everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge (with one noteworthy exception), as well as all the bands who took part in this weekend. It was truly an honor to be involved in this event in the minuscule, didn’t-actually-contribute-anything way I was, and whether or not they decide to bring my ass back again, I hope they keep it going into perpetuity.

More to come. Pics follow here. Thanks for reading and as we get on toward three in the fucking morning, good night.

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Druid

elder-druid-photo-jj-koczan

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

Blaak Heat

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

Zlatanera

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

Abrahma

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

Mount Soma

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

The Cosmic Dead

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

King Witch

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

Church of the Cosmic Skull

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

Electric Octopus

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

Wild Rocket

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

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

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

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