Streaming: Lo-Pan Interview with Jesse Bartz

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lo-pan jesse bartz (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Lo-Pan just wrapped a month on the road alongside Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar and Quaker City Night Hawks. All told, between shows on that run (review here and review here) and an appearance back in June at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here), I’ve seen the Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers three times in the last two-plus months. That’s how Lo-Pan do when they have a new album out. It’s how they’ve done for at least the last decade and probably longer if you actually put the math to it. They go.

The occasion this summer is Subtle (review here), their awaited fourth LP, released in May through Aqualamb. It follows a 2017 EP, In Tensions (review here), and several years of lineup change tumult in terms of the guitarist position now occupied by Chris Thompson, who at both the beginning and the end of the most-recent tour only seemed to fit excellently alongside bassist Scott Thompson (no relation), vocalist Jeff Martin, and drummer Jesse Bartz, who’ve pushed their earlier fuzz rock in more aggressive and pointed directions over their last few offerings, with Subtle being their sharpest execution yet. No doubt Thompson on guitar had a hand in that as well.

I’ve interviewed Bartz on a number of occasions over the last 10-plus years, but I don’t think ever in-person before. Their tour van was lined up next to the bus and equipment truck presumably shared by Crowbar and C.O.C. and Quaker City Night Hawks‘ own van around back of Starland Ballroom, and I sat in the van with the door open while he stood, seeming relieved to do so after a seven-hour ride from the prior night’s stop. It was the penultimate night of the tour — they’d wrap in Rhode Island the next night — and I wanted to get his take not just on how it all went down, but touring in general, the grind of it, the personalities at work in Lo-Pan and how one balances life on the road with life off it. I’m fortunate that, tired though he was, Bartz was kind enough to indulge me.

After playing The Blackout Cookout X in Youngstown, OH, this weekend, Lo-Pan will head to Europe at the end of this month to join Steak and Elephant Tree for a tour presented by this site and Sound of Liberation. You’ll find the dates included under the player below, on which you can hear the chat from out back of Starland.

Please enjoy:

Interview with Jesse Bartz of Lo-Pan

 

Lo-Pan, Steak & Elephant Tree tour dates:
30.09.19 London | The Garage (UK)** w/ Fireball Ministry
01.10.19 Bristol | The Old England (UK)** w/ Sigiriya
02.10.19 Swansea | The Bunkhouse (UK)**
04.10.19 Paris | Gibus (FR)
05.10.19 Pratteln | Up In Smoke Festival (CH)
06.10.19 Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
08.10.19 Linz | Stadtwerkstatt (AT)
09.10.19 Freiburg | Slow Club (DE)
10.10.19 Leipzig | Werk2 (DE)
11.10.19 Berlin | Setalight Festival (DE)
12.10.19 Munich | Keep it Low Festival (DE)
14.10.19 Wiesbaden | Schlachthof (DE)
15.10.19 Cologne | Helios 37 (DE)
16.10.19 Hamburg | Hafenklang (DE)
17.10.19 Bremen | Zollkantine (DE)
18.10.19 Leuwaarden | Into the Void Festival (NL)**
19.10.19 TBA | TBA
** Lo-Pan only

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Live Review: Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Quaker City Night Hawks & Lo-Pan in NJ, 08.25.19

Posted in Reviews on August 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Corrosion of Conformity (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It seems unlikely to me, but apparently the last time I was at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, was 2011? Not much has changed. They still have the big screen that comes down between bands to promote upcoming shows — a lot of pop-punk, some bigger metal, and DJ Pauly D will be there in December, just in case you forgot you were in NJ — and they still have the bars liberally strewn about the back and sides of the venue. I feel like I’ve spent significant time in that room in the past, but apparently not in the last eight years. It’s like I lived in a different state for most of that time or something. Huh.

Even the Old Bridge Militia — a name that sounds way more threatening than the reality of being dudes-who’ve-been-going-to-shows-since-probably-before-you-were-born-and-made-shirts-to-prove-it — came out for this one, and fair enough. It was the second to last night of Corrosion of Conformity‘s ‘A Quest to Believe: A Call to the Void’ Tour, an earlier leg of which already saw them on the road with Crowbar. Support this time for the two riffly titans was from Texas four-piece Quaker City Night Hawks and Columbus, Ohio’s own Lo-Pan, who’ve also been doing off-day shows with Crowbar such as that further north in Teaneck, NJ, on July 25 (review here), where they and Crowbar kicked off the tour early with a gig on their own at Debonair Music Hall.

The tour, which C.O.C. and Quaker City Night Hawks joined on July 26 in Poughkeepsie, NY, would wrap up the following evening in Providence, Rhode Island. Starland tapped local progressive rockers Elephant Talk to open, who were young — as in, actually young and no, it’s not just that 30-year-olds are starting to look like kids to me — and tight in kind, with a technical flourish to their play that was well met by the melodies of vocalist Ava Panza. I can’t really say they were my thing, but they held down that stage without question and their bassist’s periodic slaps added a bit of funk to the nuanced proceedings. They also threw in a drum solo, which, for a 20- or 25-minute set felt particularly bold. Kid earned it though, and also nailed it.

I interviewed Lo-Pan drummer Jesse Bartz before the show started (will post probably early next week or later this week; check back, it was a good talk), talking about the tour and a bit of how the different personalities in the band interact in life as well as on stage. I’ll say this, especially for having seen them just a month ago, I can’t remember the last time I caught a band who had their 1,000-yard stare working so hard on stage. Bartz was set up toward the front of the stage in a line with bassist Scott Thompson, vocalist Jeff Martin and guitarist Chris Thompson, and their set too would be short — six songs, all from earlier-2019’s Subtle (review here) — but they were so locked in that the time-to-hit-it feel was automatic.

No warm up, no getting their feet under them, nothing. Not playing, then playing; in that order. They looked and sounded like a band who’d been on the road for four weeks, in that they were doing their set, hell or high water, and that even if the power had gone out, I don’t think that would’ve stopped them. They were their own generators, and their output was as pro-shop as I’ve ever heard them sound in the last decade-plus. The material on Subtle was well suited to such a sharpened execution and it was enough to wonder which came first, the songs being so on point or the on point-ness of the band resulting in the songs.

A couple minutes maybe to breathe, but not much more than that before Quaker City Night Hawks took the Starland stage, playing classic-style Southern blues boogie, not afraid to throw in a little twang or a slow jam here and there amid all the soulful guitar and periodic three-part harmonies. I’d purposefully gone into their set not knowing much of their stuff, but they released the acronymically-titled QCNH in back in March and sounded fluid easing into the sleek groove of “Fox in the Henhouse” from that record, which closed their set and featured a jump-on appearance on stage from C.O.C.‘s Pepper Keenan. It being C.O.C. and Crowbar‘s crowd primarily, some of the more country aspects went over a few heads in the crowd, but I suspect Quaker City Night Hawks made a lot of new friends on this tour, bands and fans alike.

Central Jersey’s special brand of shitkickers was out in full force by the time Crowbar went on, and the mosh that ensued kept up for Corrosion of Conformity as well. Of the New Orleans sludge legends, I’ll note that this was the third time I’ve seen them this year, and if they were coming around again, I’d think long and hard about going. Inimitable frontman Kirk Windstein ignited a couple chants of the band’s name and between familiar inclusions like “Walk with Knowledge Wisely,” “All I Had (I Gave),” “Cemetery Angels” and “Planets Collide,” as well as “To Build a Mountain” — always a highlight — and “To Carry the Load,” the latter taken from 1998’s Odd Fellow’s Rest, which Windstein noted from stage that they rediscovered an affection for as a result of playing the album in full for its 20th anniversary last year.

Crowbar‘s legacy goes without saying, but with Tommy Buckley on drums, Matt Buckley on guitar and Shane Wesley on bass, it was a vital impression the whole band made, not just Windstein. You just can’t, can’t, can’t fuck with seeing Crowbar live. It’s like a natural event. Creature in its habitat and whatnot. Further, when Kirk Windstein, who’s been at the heart of the band for 30 years, tells the crowd he loves them, I believe it. I don’t think he’s selling a line, or just filling dead air. This wasn’t the most thoroughly attended show I’ve ever seen Crowbar play, and neither was Teaneck, but they still absolutely crushed as only they could. Working band, giving the people what they want. The story would be simple as that if it wasn’t so rarely done at their level.

And as was the case earlier this year when I caught them in Boston, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better complement to close the night than Corrosion of Conformity playing after Crowbar. Though the long-running North Carolinian outfit are still ostensibly supporting 2018’s No Cross No Crown (review here), it’s worth noting that the set didn’t actually feature any songs from that record. Instead, it was heavy on Deliverance (discussed here) and Wiseblood (discussed here), with dips into America’s Volume Dealer for “13 Angels,” “Diablo Blvd.” and “Who’s Got the Fire” later on. Naturally, “Vote with a Bullet” from 1991’s Blind was aired — a song that, like the Old Bridge Militia, was made in a much, much different time than that in which we currently live — and “Stonebreaker” from 2005’s In the Arms of God got the crowd riled up early for a payoff that seemed to come with “The Door” from Wiseblood further into the set. “Albatross,” Born Again for the Last Time,” “Seven Days,” “King of the Rotten,” “Shake Like You,” “Wiseblood,” “My Grain” — these were the bulk of their time, and I’d like to think that’s because the band knows their regional audience has been with them for those decades. Maybe that’s just the idea for this leg of the tour.

I dug No Cross No Crown a lot, but I would, being a fan. It’s interesting to think they might already be moving past that album in favor of more familiar fare, considering that the more touring they do, the more they move beyond “reunion band” and into “working band” in their four-piece incarnation with Pepper Keenan alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist/vocalist Woodroe Weatherman and drummer/vocalist John Green holding the spot for Reed Mullin. Still, I’d have to think some of the newer material, even if just a single, would make it into the set over the longer term, but the ‘A Quest to Believe: A Call to the Void’ Tour has newly announced a third leg, so maybe more of the No Cross No Crown stuff will pop back up for that. Could happen.

Somewhere right toward the end of Crowbar, I hit the wall h-a-r-d, and though I caught a second wind with about 10 minutes left, the ride home was far from my most graceful. I’d been up since 4AM, it was coming on midnight. No regrets though. Between seeing Crowbar and Lo-Pan on the front and back ends of the tour, getting to hear Quaker City Night Hawks for the first time and the ever-reliable righteousness of C.O.C., it was my little welcome-back-to-Jersey present to myself. Sure enough, it felt like home.

More pics after the jump if you’re interested. Either way, thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Crowbar, Lo-Pan and Dutchguts in New Jersey, 07.25.19

Posted in Reviews on July 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Crowbar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Teaneck, huh? On a Thursday? Yeah, alright. I’ll waddle down and check that out. One night ahead of starting their tour with Corrosion of Conformity, New Orleans sludgemasters Crowbar and Ohio fuzzy soul-lifters Lo-Pan made a stop at Debonair Music Hall — the former Mexicali Blues — in the suburb of Teaneck, New Jersey, with local modern sludgers Dutchguts opening. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to me to say heavy shows don’t happen every day in North Jersey. And if you’re not up on geography, that’s because right on the other side of that bridge and/or tunnel is New York City, which is where shows do happen every day and are generally guaranteed to draw more people. Seeing a band like Crowbar — or even Lo-Pan, for whom this was their second Jersey show — without having to cross the Hudson River at rush hour? The very least I could do would be to show up. So I did that.

Incidentally and maybe less surprising given their 30-plus-year history, it wasn’t Crowbar‘s first North Jersey show. They played a place called Obsessions in Randolph circa ’93 that’s long since gone, which I remember not becauseDutchguts (Photo by JJ Koczan) I was there — I was 12 — but from graffiti on the wall in the tiny room that was their “backstage” area. Whether or not they returned to the area between the two gigs, I couldn’t say.

They’d headline the early night, with Lo-Pan playing the middle of the three slots and Dutchguts kicking off the proceedings at 7:45PM sharp. The Debonair Music Hall at that point could not be accused of being overly populated, but there were several in the crowd who very clearly knew the four-piece, likely from the DIY scene they’ve built up around the Meatlocker basement venue in Montclair — though as I recall, someone in the band was local enough to me to know the bar Hoover’s on Rt. 53 when the subject came up years ago. Their take on sludge is more brash and less metal than Crowbar‘s, and it had clearly been a while since I last saw them. Like the better part of a decade, since I seemed to remember them as kids. Their roots were the same — big Eyehategod influence, some Converge, some other dark hardcore punk, plenty of tonal heft, and so on — but their delivery was 10 years wiser, more experienced and vicious.

Dutchguts will open for Eyehategod in Jersey City in September and that feels about right in terms of fit. Though their most recent outing is a 2017 split with Chained to the Dead (discussed here), they’ve done a fair amount of touring, including last month, and have something of a reputation that precedes them. I thought they were cool. After 10 years though, it might be time to put out an album if you’re ever going to. I’ll admit a 7″-only attitude is pretty punk, but still. A compilation, maybe?

How I found out about this show in the first place was hearing it from the guys in Lo-Pan last month before their set at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here), and frankly, even with Crowbar on top of the bill, I was thinking of it as “the Lo-Pan show” in my head. This site is presenting their upcoming Fall European tour with Steak and Elephant Tree (dates here), and I knew from their Maryland set that they’d be playing mostly if not entirely material from their new album, Subtle (review here), which came out through Aqualamb in May. That indeed Lo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan)was the case, and though there was no “Ten Days” this time, having “Everything Burns,” “Law & the Swarm” and “Khan!” in the setlist gave Subtle its due, along with the near-mandatory “Ascension Day,” “Savage Heart” and “Sage.” I’ll be curious to hear how the set changes when they come back through Jersey (further south) with Crowbar and C.O.C. in just about one month.

About that: this was pretty much a warm-up show for them, as well as for Crowbar. The tour with C.O.C. headlining starts in Poughkeepsie at The Chance, and I guess they had occasion to make the show happen — picking up a bus in the Meadowlands, perhaps? — and it was a way to give them a leg-up on getting into the groove of the next month to come. Hey, I’ll take it however it comes, but the first night of a tour is always a specious time to see a band. They’re getting their feet under them. They’re tired from a long day of travel. They’re looking ahead to the weeks to come. They’ve not yet developed every tour’s inevitable thousand-yard-stare, locked-in, almost-traumatized sense of I-live-23-hours-to-play-for-one that they will have, say, after five or so nights of gigs in a row. Lo-Pan held it down, and so did Crowbar, but mostly that means that when they circle back, they’ll be that much more on fire.

Nonetheless, one appreciates seeing bands like this the way one appreciates the breaking of a humid Jersey heatwave. Pro-shop, get-on-stage-and-go professionalism is a marker of who a band are as players and a unit and Crowbar are unmistakable even besides that. Guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein thanked the crowd, including specifically a kid up front who couldn’t have been more than 10 if he was that — thereby, one assumes, making a fan for life — and they tore into their set with all the lumbering ferocity one could expect. This was my second time seeing them after catching the earlier legCrowbar (Photo by JJ Koczan) of their tour with C.O.C. in Boston (review here), and whether it was that sold-out date or this Thursday night in Teaneck, Crowbar played their show regardless. It was great to see and of course they killed it, opening with “All I Had I Gave” and rolling “Lasting Dose” into “To Build a Mountain” early on.

It was mostly the same set from February, which is fair enough, but with “Conquering” included ahead of “Planets Collide” and “Like Broken Glass,” so I’ll go ahead and mark that a win if you don’t mind. A “pit” broke out of kids having fun during “To Build a Mountain” — that riff’ll do it — and the vibe on the whole was intimate, friendly and l-o-u-d. I wouldn’t have asked for anything more than that, if I’d felt entitled to ask in the first place.

The tour-proper will be a sight to see, with Quaker City Night Hawks and Corrosion of Conformity alongside Crowbar and Lo-Pan. This show, in addition to being my first-not-last time at Debonair Music Hall unless a piano falls on my head between now and the next one, gave me something to look forward to for August, served to remind of the strength of the local NJ underground, and took less than 35 minutes to drive home from when it was over, which was still on the relatively early end. I kind of felt like they were doing me a favor all the way around.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 19 (Maryland Doom Fest Special)

Posted in Radio on July 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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Yeah, I know, Maryland Doom Fest 2019 was like a month ago. Quit livin’ in the past and all that. Well, this show was supposed to air July 5, so whatever. It got pushed back because apparently July 4 is some kind of holiday now — what.ever. — and it was kicked down the line to two weeks later with re-runs on in the interim. Did anyone notice? Did anyone care? I did. But I’m glad to have had the chance to pay homage to MDDF one way or the other, since it was such a killer time and boasted a lineup of so many good bands.

Of course I had to lead off with Beelzefuzz and Foghound, two staples of the Frederick diet, and the show unfolds from there with new stuff from Zed and Lo-Pan and Kings Destroy amid the likes of Devil to Pay and Earthride and Backwoods Payback and Greenbeard. I made sure to put Solace and Freedom Hawk and Horehound and Toke and Witchkiss in here because their sets were particularly righteous — not to mention Year of the Cobra! — and in addition to representing the headliners in Conan, Mothership and Earthride, I had to include WarHorse since their reunion set was something so particularly special and such a huge part of the festival.

For those who didn’t hear the show, Gimme Radio runs the ‘Gimme Brigade’ which you can sign up for. I think it’s $5 a month or something like that, but you get access to their full archive and help them with hosting costs, etc., so fair enough. If you got to hear this one, thanks. If not, the basic point of the thing was that Maryland Doom Fest 2019 kicked ass, which I sincerely hope also came across in the reviews.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 07.19.19

Beelzefuzz All the Feeling Returns Beelzefuzz (2013)
Foghound Known Wolves Awaken to Destroy (2018)
Zed Chingus Volume*
Lo-Pan Savage Heart Subtle*
BREAK
Devil to Pay Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife Fate is Your Muse (2013)
Kings Destroy Yonkers Ceiling Collapse Fantasma Nera*
Earthride Vampire Circus Vampire Circus (2005)
Witchkiss Seer The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes (2018)
Year of the Cobra Cold Burn Your Dead (2017)
BREAK
Solace Khan (World of Fire) The Black Black (2007)
Backwoods Payback Whatever Future Slum (2018)
Toke Blackened Orange (2017)
Greenbeard WCCQ Onward, Pillager (2018)
Conan Battle in the Swamp Monnos (2012)
Apostle of Solitude Ruination Be Thy Name From Gold to Ash (2018)
The Age of Truth Come Back a God Threshold (2017)
BREAK
Horehound Dier’s Dirge Holocene (2018)
Freedom Hawk Danger Beast Remains (2018)
Mothership Midnight Express High Strangeness (2017)
Warhorse Lysergic Communion As Heaven Turns to Ash (2001)

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 2. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Desertfest Belgium 2019: Zeal & Ardor to Headline; Dopelord and Lo-Pan Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest belgium 2019 banner

Desertfest Belgium 2019 isn’t quite done with its 2019 lineup yet, but as you can see below, that poster is getting awfully packed, so we must be getting close. With the announcement of Zeal and Ardor signing on to play, they’ve now unveiled the last of their headliners, and thereby signaled a reach that not only includes the very kingpins of stoner metal in Sleep, but also a broader range no less able to wrangle indie-cred via Ty Segall and full-spectrum forward-thinking metal from Zeal and Ardor. Backed by no shortage of righteousness in the realms of doom, psych and heavy — Lo-Pan and Dopelord also included here — it’s already a “well duh it’s gonna sell out” kind of lineup. One has to wonder what other tricks the Antwerp-based event might have left up its sleeve.

Guess we’ll find out:

desertfest belgium 2019 latest poster

Zeal & Ardor headlines Desertfest Belgium!

Were you all waiting for that final headliner to push you over the brink? Because that is what you are getting! Zeal & Ardor must count as one of the most exciting and original rock bands to emerge in the past few years, blending gospel with ear-deafening metal to devastating effect. What started out as a one-man project has now grown into a monstrous live band, and it will be the perfect crown on your first day of Desertfest Antwerp 2019.

Hailing from Poland, Dopelord is a mighty strong proponent of traditional doom with all boxes ticked. Some dark and heavy grooves to get your blaze on – every festival needs ’em, right!

Finally, we present you with two bands that come packed with some fresh sounds. Lo-Pan just released ‘Subtle’ which is already hailed as one of the most exciting stoner releases of this year. A band that knows how to push the envelope with each step they take. The same can be said of Elephant Tree, who are working on new material as we speak. We’re pretty sure you’re all anxious to hear what they come up with next!

That’s NOT all folks, we still have some stuff coming before summer’s in full swing! But seriously – what more do you need? Hit that button below!

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING TICKETS: the Reduced Combi Tickets are now sold out, and we’ve switched to Regular Combitickets. They can be yours for €115, all costs included! Day tickets remain at the fixed price.

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/2260579413999993/

Zeal and Ardor, Live in London

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2019 Night One, 06.21.19

Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2019 night one

I shudder to think of the poor bastard who, when this weekend is over, will have to mop up all the melted eardrums from the floor of the Cafe 611. With the expansion this year to four days — because again, the pre-fest yesterday was essentially a full night of the festival; 2020 pre-party on Wednesday? — Maryland Doom Fest enters a whole new echelon of being physically overwhelming. By the time Mothership went on last night, I was feeling it. Hard. Mostly in my back. And granted, they ran late and had some technical trouble getting set up, but I have the feeling that even had they been on time, I still would’ve been dragging my keester like the anchor it is.

But if that’s the case, it’s only true because the day was so goddamn good. Apart from not being allowed into Guido’s to see Benthic Realm because I didn’t have ID — my driver’s license got lost, I have no idea where or when or how, just looked in my wallet a couple weeks back and it was gone and the new one hasn’t arrived yet — and I guess the male pattern baldness, gray hair, wrinkles under my eyes and stiff, loping movements weren’t enough to confirm my age. “Sorry sir, you’re right. I’m actually three 16-year-olds in disguise as one old dude.” I respect the diligence, and the dude was just doing his job, so after a “seriously?” that was 100 percent genuinely asking if he was being serious, I wasn’t gonna make a stink, but that was a surprise.

It was a bummer though. Krista from the band I think had on an Obelisk t-shirt yesterday, and Dan‘s a really good guy all the time and being as I won’t be in Massachusetts anymore, let alone Worcester where they’re from, it would’ve been cool to see them. Nobody’s evening is made or broken by my showing up, but I wish I had caught their set. That’s all. It’s been a while since I got carded. Doubly so because I don’t drink.

That was the only snafu though, and otherwise, it was a have-my-cake-while-eating-my-cake-and-your-cake-golly-cake-is-good kind of evening as MDDF19 launched in earnest. It was a 6PM start, but the bill was stacked, so let me not waste time with tales of my own foibles.

Maryland Doom Fest 2019 night one:

False Gods

False Gods (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Oh they were mad. An angry start to the day to be sure. I give New York-based ultra-aggro five-piece crushers False Gods credit for coming up with the most excellent tagline, “If it’s too slow, you’re too young,” which is great, but for the most part, they actually moved at a pretty solid clip, taking aspects of post-hardcore and post-metallic intensity and putting them through a ringer of sludge riffs and tones, growls and screams cutting through. They’ve got a new two-song EP out called The Serpent and the Ladder, featuring, yes, “The Serpent” and “The Ladder,” and as frontman Mike Stack paced back and forth at the front of the Cafe 611 stage, his screams sometimes backed by growls from drummer Paulie Stack (let’s assume they’re related), the bass of Johnny Geirak offered density to underpin the more atmospheric elements of Greg March and Nick Luisi‘s guitars. A mid-set spaceout was welcome, but otherwise the chestbeating felt sincere and the impact of their sound was like a shock to the system. There would be no easing into the day, clearly. Welcome back to Maryland Doom Fest 2019. Now be pummeled.

The Druids

The Druids (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There’s another Druids, who are from Iowa and signed to The Company and who put an album out this year and made a bit of a splash with it. That’s not this The Druids, who are from here in Maryland and not signed to The Company but did put a record out in February called Totem (review here) that’s fully diggable in its blend of space and heavy rocks, a blend put to semi-psychedelic use in a we’re-actually-stoned stoner mindset. I had been looking forward to seeing them — not the least because Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, last night with Weed is Weed, etc.) plays drums — and felt justified in that. Isom‘s pedigree notwithstanding, they’re young. And they sounded like it, guitarist/vocalists Eli Watson and Danny Alger and bassist Jeremy Dinges bringing a fresh energy to the material that, while not stylistically revolutionary, still benefited it greatly. Dave Davidson, who has worked the sound for every Maryland Doom Fest that I’ve been to, kept reminding them between songs how much time they had left, as though if he didn’t, they might get high and wander into a jam, never to return. Not great for keeping to a schedule, but I wouldn’t mind hearing that, either.

Kingsnake

Kingsnake (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Pro-shop, and I’m not honestly sure how much else needs to be said. Philadelphia’s Kingsnake kicked off a Pennsylvania threepeat on the Cafe 611 stage, and they did so with hard-edged, Southern-tinged heavy that seemed to roll out the funk of Clutch into a more forward drive. Hooks? They got hooks. Riffs? They got those too. And they deliver. I’ll always remember them for their roots in Sugar Daddie, but that was like 14 years ago now, so it’s safe to say in that time Kingsnake have come into their own, and what they bring is down-home heavy vibes, for the distinguished working gentleperson who, whether they’re sipping IPA or living the High Life, knows exactly what they want out of the experience. They marked the beginning of schedule collision between Cafe 611 and Guido’s Speakeasy, the second venue about 150 feet right on the next block (easy walk, nice to get a bit of non-doomfart air), but I caught both the beginning and the end of their set, and they killed it to a high standard. Their got-it-togetherness was well on display, and reportedly they’ve had new songs in the works for a while to follow 2016’s Resonance, so hopefully something comes out soon.

Spiral Grave

Spiral Grave (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been tracking the emergence of Spiral Grave since the band announced their existence in the earliest moments of this year, and my first opportunity to see them live wasn’t one I was about to pass up. I walked right into Guido’s no problem this time — also part of what made it such a surprise later — as Spiral Grave were still setting up, but by the time they went on, that room would be completely packed. Not that that’s saying much — the space is intimate, to put it mildly — but still. They opened with their first single, “Nothing” (premiered here) and proceeded to give the assembled a preview of things to come as they move toward their in-progress debut album. The amalgam of Iron Man and Lord — quintessential Maryland doom meets oft-experimentalist Virginian noise chaos — works. Guitarist Willy Rivera (the Lord contingent) has beefed up his riffing style to suit the grooves of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, and the underlying metallic sharpness in his work suits the vocals of Dee Calhoun well. They’ve been in my “look forward to more” category for a while. Only more the case after seeing them play. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were back here next year after the album release. Nor would I complain.

Backwoods Payback

Backwoods Payback (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Sometimes life is pretty sweet, like when Backwoods Payback plays. The West Chester, PA/Richmond, VA trio were here last year heralding the arrival of their Summer 2018 LP, Future Slum (review here), and it was only more of a pleasure to see them this time around because, you know, the more the merrier. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson have a reputation that precedes them here, and I don’t know if it was people who saw them at the last Maryland Doom Fest or who heard the record or what, but they packed the room out and had people singing along. Or maybe that was just me. Either way, they made highlights out of Future Slum cuts like “Pirate Smile” and “Whatever,” “Generals” and “Lines,” which closed out with its tense build, as well as what I’d swear was some even-newer stuff but was too ass-kicked afterwards to ask. If you’ve never seen them, their style is as much grown-up punk as it is ’90s-weird-kid, but it’s delivered with heft and heart that are second to no one, and they’re the kind of band who win people over. They didn’t have to do that at Cafe 611 — the room was on their side to start with — but the converted were plenty happy to hear them preach. There are very few bands I so much enjoy watching play.

The Age of Truth

The Age of Truth (Photo by JJ Koczan)

No easy feat to be sandwiched on a bill between Backwoods Payback and Year of the Cobra with Lo-Pan still to follow, but Philly’s The Age of Truth wrapped up the Keystone triad with an unequivocal mastery of West Coast-style heavy rock meeting Northeastern noise crunch and aggression. Also repeat offenders from last year (review here), they remain entrenched in their righteous 2017 debut, Threshold (review here), starting with the immediate lock-in nodder “Come Back a God” — which still reminds me of Dozer, in the best way — as frontman Kevin McNamara pointed up to the sky, or at least the ceiling, and guitarist Mike DiDonato, bassist Bill Miller and drummer Scott Fressetto behind him were in go-mode from the start. For a band who haven’t spent months on the road — they’ve done plenty of shows, but not really full-on toured, and I don’t know if they want to or not — they rose to the occasion in such a way as to make me wonder how that might tie into their next record, if the tightness of their live presentation will be mirrored in their songwriting or captured output. Whatever they might have planned in that regard, they sounded ready to move forward, and in what, again, was a difficult spot, they shone, indulging a bit of drank in the process.

Year of the Cobra

Year of the Cobra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Looking at their setlist after they played, I felt way better about how few of Year of the Cobra‘s songs I recognized while they were on stage. The Seattle two-piece will release their second album later this year as their debut through Prophecy Productions — I’m not saying I’m holding a spot on my best-of-the-year list for it, but basically I am — and though they’ve toured hard to support 2016’s …In the Shadows Below (review here) and the subsequent 2017 EP, Burn Your Dead (review here), including just recently with Lord Dying, I’m embarrassed to say I’d never seen them before. That fact has been gnawing at me, so I was relieved when they went on, and all the more so when they absolutely leveled Cafe 611. They played “Cold” from the EP and “White Wizard” from the first record as well as the title-track of their first short release, 2015’s The Black Sun (review here), but everything else seemed to be new, titles like “Ash and Dust,” “The Divine” and “Into the Fray” scribbled out to represent a barrage of low-end tone, wash of crash and increasingly nuanced vocal melodicism from Amy Tung Barrysmith. With Jon Barrysmith on drums, they were a nation-of-two duo whose time on the road was obvious in their we-do-this-all-the-time vibe, and my only regret of the evening was not buying a shirt. That’s something I’ll rectify next time, and yes, there will be a next time.

Lo-Pan

Lo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Come on, Lo-Pan. You know that scene in that one episode of The Simpsons from the ’90s where Homer joins not-Lollapalooza and Sonic Youth are there and they steal Peter Frampton’s watermelon? That’s like Lo-Pan stealing all the awesome and keeping it for themselves. As they absolutely tore exclusively into cuts from their new record, Subtle (review here), it was as though they were standing next to an empty cooler going, “Come on, Mr. Frampton! You’re not gonna eat all that watermelon!” It was my first time seeing them since they added guitarist Chris Thompson, which was a couple years ago now — look, I can’t make excuses; sometimes it’s hard being a human being, let alone leaving the house — and with their lightbars on the sides of his and bassist Scott Thompson‘s cabs, singer Jeff Martin in back giving a clinic in vocal dynamics and drummer Jesse Bartz bashing away up front, they did what Lo-Pan do: they destroyed. I don’t think I’ve seen them at any point in the last decade and not come out of it unable to name a more powerful American heavy rock band. I’ll catch them again in a couple months as they tour with C.O.C. and Crowbar — they’re doing a one-off in Teaneck, NJ; fuck yes — and I’m already looking forward to that. This is a band to treasure.

Pale Divine

Pale Divine (Photo by JJ Koczan)

So here’s the thing: Pale Divine just put out a record. Not this week, but last November they released their self-titled LP (review here), and as it was their first outing in six years, it’s totally unreasonable to think they might do another one anytime soon. Pale Divine doesn’t owe anyone anything. You know how the pre-fest was all the Stoner Hands of Doom bands? Well, okay. Pale Divine played that fest seven times, including the first one 20 years ago. But on the other hand… since the album came out, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener, bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis and drummer Darin McCloskey added Dana Ortt — who’ll also play his last show with Beelzefuzz this weekend — on guitar and vocals, and they’re just at another level for having done so. You could hear the harmonies between Diener and Ortt on vocals throughout their set, and the interplay on guitar was no less glorious. So yeah, Pale Divine, you don’t have to put out another record right this moment. Don’t feel obligated. But if you wanted to make that happen sometime in the less-than-six-years-from-now near future, I think it would really be for the best all the way around. The wax is barely dry on Pale Divine, so it’s not even fair to ask, but I’m asking anyway. Or at least a live record as a stopgap. I’d take a 7″. A demo tape. Something. Anything.

Mothership

Mothership (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You know why I like Mothership? They play both kinds of music: rock and roll. How are you gonna be dead on your feet when Mothership are playing? The Dallas power trio manifest the best of Texas’ heavy legacy and offer it up in kinetic fashion. Already this year they’ve toured with Death Angel, done a spot on the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest out on the West Coast, and been on the road with C.O.C. (review here), and that’s after doing Europe last Fall on a by-now-legendary stint with Elephant Tree and Stoned Jesus, so yeah, Mothership are basically on fire and after a late start owing to some non-intentional feedback and other technical whathaveyou, they played like it. They’ve basically been go-go-go since before the arrival of their 2017 third full-length, High Strangeness (review here), and their “Midnight Express” shows no signs of slowing. They’ve made themselves ambassadors for ’70s heavy without ever really dipping into retroism, and more than just ape what classic bands did before them, they take those lessons and push them forward onto new ground. I honestly don’t know when they would’ve had time to write a new LP or anything like that, but they seem to have a keen sense of how to keep their momentum going — spoiler: it’s by busting their collective ass — so I have to think they’ll get there sooner or later, if they can manage to stop long enough to hit record. Hard to imagine the tour offers stopping, frankly. I’ll admit I didn’t stay for the whole set, but even with the hiccup at the outset, there was no question they owned that room.

I guess it was like 2AM when I got back to the AirBNB? Something like that. I crashed quickly, even before pictures were done being transferred from my memory card, and slept until eight this morning. Saw nine bands on Thursday, 10 bands on Friday. Today’s Saturday and there are 11 at the Cafe 611 alone — more if I can manage to con my way back into the good graces of Guido’s — and that’s the busiest day of the thing. I am beat but upright, and very much in need of a shower. At least I got a toothbrush yesterday. Today’s need is Advil.

Good times, y’all. Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 17

Posted in Radio on June 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

So because I suck at naming themed episodes, this episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio was ‘Some of the Best of 2019 So Far.’ Yeah, I know, way to commit. Whatever. You get the point. We’re six months deep into the year if you can wrap your head around it, and it’s a good time to check in and see where we’re at.

One thing that stood out to me in making the playlist is that it’s been an exceedingly good half-year for doom. New records from Saint Vitus, Candlemass and Lord Vicar would be enough of their own, then you toss in stuff like Obsidian Sea and Demon Head, among others and it’s kind of incredible. Kings Destroy’s “Dead Before” is high on the list of the best songs I’ve heard this year, so I wanted to include that for sure, and there was room to space out a bit with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree. I also really dug the Sigils record, and kind of felt like I didn’t write enough about it, so that’s in there too.

The bottom line, of course, is there was more than I could fit in one episode, and there are enough tracks that feel conspicuous in their absence for me to not put together a second episode working on the same theme. So I think I’ll probably do that next time. Can I get away with playing The Claypool Lennon Delirium on Gimme Radio? I don’t know, but it might be fun to try.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 06.07.19

Uffe Lorenzen Angakkoq Triprapport 0:04:08
Kings Destroy Dead Before Fantasma Nera 0:04:25
Green Lung May Queen Woodland Rites 0:06:41
BREAK
Spidergawd All and Everything Spidergawd V 0:06:12
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard Katyusha Yn Ol I Annwn 0:13:23
Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree Grandmother Grandmother 0:10:58
Sigils Samhain You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves 0:09:39
Thunderbird Divine Bummer Bridge Magnasonic 0:05:34
BREAK
Candlemass Under the Ocean The Door to Doom 0:06:15
Saint Vitus 12 Years in the Tomb Saint Vitus 0:05:23
Demon Head Strange Eggs Hellfire Ocean Void 0:07:01
Obsidian Sea A Shore Without a Sea Strangers 0:08:49
Lord Vicar Levitation The Black Powder 0:04:57
BREAK
Lo-Pan A Thousand Miles Subtle 0:04:06
Valley of the Sun Dim Vision Old Gods 0:03:55
Yatra Snakes in the Temple Death Ritual 0:06:41

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is June 21. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Presents: Lo-Pan, Steak & Elephant Tree UK/European Tour Dates

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on May 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

There are still a couple dates TBA, but it feels like a win nonetheless announcing the two weeks-plus that Lo-Pan will spend on the road in the UK and parts of Europe this Fall. It’s October, which coincides with their previously-announced festival appearance at Up in Smoke and will also see them at Keep it Low 2019 and the Setalight and Into the Void festivals. There’s another fest on that Oct. 19 date that’s still unannounced, and while I don’t know what’s planned for it — I’ll emphasize that while there’s an Obelisk logo on the poster, I have zero inside information — I wouldn’t be surprised to find the run stopping through there either.

Either way, Lo-Pan of course head abroad in support of their 2019 album, Subtle (review here), which is yet another powerhouse offering from the four-piece despite lineup changes since their last offering, and Elephant Tree, who’ll open the run, are set to release their second album hopefully in time to coincide with the tour (that’d be just dandy as far as I’m concerned, though if they wanted to send it to me earlier, I’d take that too, hint hint). I’m not sure if Steak have a record in the works — their last one came out in 2017, so it’s certainly possible — but as I’ve noted a couple times already since, they killed at Desertfest New York recently.

Here are the thus-far confirmed dates for the tour. Gonna be a good one, and I’m insanely proud to have this site involved in presenting it:

lo-pan steak elephant tree tour

30.09.19 TBA
01.10.19 Bristol | The Old England (UK)**

02.10.19 Swansea | The Bunkhouse (UK)**
04.10.19 Paris | Gibus (FR)
05.10.19 Pratteln | Up In Smoke Festival (CH)
06.10.19 Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
08.10.19 Linz | Stadtwerkstatt (AT)
09.10.19 Freiburg | Slow Club (DE)
10.10.19 Leipzig | Werk2 (DE)
11.10.19 Berlin | Setalight Festival (DE)
12.10.19 Munich | Keep it Low Festival (DE)
14.10.19 Wiesbaden | Schlachthof (DE)
15.10.19 Cologne | Helios 37 (DE)
16.10.19 Hamburg | Hafenklang (DE)
17.10.19 Bremen | Zollkantine (DE)
18.10.19 Leuwaarden | Into the Void Festival (NL)**
19.10.19 TBA | TBA
** Lo-Pan only

LO-PAN is:
Jeff Martin – vocals
Skot Thompson – bass
Jesse Bartz – drums
Chris Thompson – guitar

http://www.lopandemic.com
http://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
http://www.aqualamb.org
http://www.aqualamb.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/aqualambrecords
https://www.facebook.com/Soundofliberation/

Lo-Pan, “Ten Days” official video

Steak, No God to Save (2017)

Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (2016)

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