The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 17

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

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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.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 16

Posted in Radio on May 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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This was the first episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio to air in the new timeslot of Friday at 1PM Eastern, and I’ll just be honest, I think it was the best one I’ve done yet. The music was right on, the rhythm of one song into the next. There’s a way to make a thing like this that carries a flow — remember mixtapes? Same deal. This one had that. It tripped out when it needed to with Kandodo3 and instead of going psych-blast at the end, it went heavy with Nomadic Rituals and Thronehammer. I loved opening with 16 Horsepower as something unexpected and apart from both the riffy and the Gimme norm, and from pairing Lord Vicar and Destroyer of Light — someone book that tour! — to Sacri Monti and Wild Rocket, everything just came together right.

Tapping Monster Magnet for a classic track (classic track! yay!) didn’t hurt either, but even aside from that, it was a cool show. I’m not sure of the timing on re-airings — they’re every Sunday now at 7PM Eastern; the old timeslot for new episodes — but Gimme also has that Brigade thing you can join and listen to their full archive of everything. I’m not trying to spend your money; just want to give you options and not be like, “Hey this awesome thing happened and you missed it!” On that thought, maybe I should start posting these playlists before the show airs. Hmm… Things to consider.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.24.19

16 Horsepower Hutterite Mile Folklore (2002)
Abrahma Last Epistle In Time for the Last Rays of Light*
Giant Dwarf Repeat After Defeat Giant Dwarf*
BREAK
Monster Magnet Ozium Spine of God (1992)
Vorrh Myths Nomads of the Infinite Wild (2018)
Kandodo3 Everything – Green’s – Gone K3*
Lord Vicar The Temple in the Bedrock The Black Powder*
Destroyer of Light Eternal Death Mors Aeterna*
Faerie Ring Lost Wind The Clearing*
Ruff Majik Speed Hippie Tarn*
BREAK
Sacri Monti Waiting Room for the Magic Hour Waiting Room for the Magic Hour*
Wild Rocket Caught in Triangle Again Disassociation Mechanics (2017)
Slomatics Mind Fortresses on Theia Canyons*
BREAK
Nomadic Rituals Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion Marking the Day (2017)
Thronehammer Behind the Wall of Frost Usurper of the Oaken Throne*

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

Gimme Radio website

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Lord Vicar, The Black Powder: In the Bedrock

Posted in Reviews on May 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Lord Vicar The Black Powder

Lord Vicar play the doom of conviction. It’s not just a question of writing a song around a riff and putting some vocals on, but of channeling a mindset or a spiritual place through the music. It’s doom as a worldview. The Black Powder (on The Church Within) is their fourth long-player, and their first to pass the one-hour mark since their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain, as its 69 minutes make it the longest record they’ve ever done. Likewise, its 17-minute opener, “Sulfur, Charcoal and Saltpeter” — which is as close as they come to a title-track in naming the ingredients for gunpowder — is the longest single song they’ve ever produced, and with it they explore an album’s worth of textures and emotionality, guitarist Kimi Kärki switching between quiet, wistful acoustic guitar at the outset to a full-brunt tonality before opening to an airy verse underscored and filled out by Rich Jones‘ bass and held together by drummer Gareth Millsted, whose volume swaps prove no less dynamic. Atop what might be the band’s to-date masterpiece — they’ve certainly worked in longer-form material before, but never quite on the same scale — enter the vocals of Christian “Lord Chritus” Linderson, which, with a voice like regrettable history itself, bolster the emotional scathe of the music.

It would be simple for The Black Powder to play out as a retread of the band’s pedigree, and no doubt there’s plenty to draw from there, with Kärki having helped inspire a generation of traditionalist European doom in Finland’s Reverend Bizarre and Orne before diving into varying kinds of experimentalism with outfits like E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr and Uhrijuhla and crafting moody folk as a solo singer-songwriter and Linderson‘s legacy in Count Raven, stint fronting Saint Vitus on 1992’s C.O.D., more rock-based outfit Terra Firma, and time in Goatess as well as the newer unit Python in Sweden. Lord Vicar could simply be an empty showpiece of doom playing to past strengths if they wanted. That’s not what’s happening on The Black Powder.

In the level of songwriting throughout — not just on the opener, but on the hooky “Descent,” which immediately follows, and down the line through the drastic tempo changes of centerpiece “The Temple in the Bedrock,” the Sabbathian rocker “Black Lines,” the acoustic “Nightmare” and closer “A Second Chance: Including The Wagoner, My Soul is Never Free, and Strict Master,” which resolves itself in setting the progressive melancholy of its last chorus directly against one of the record’s most fervent thrusts — the band show a commitment not just to the tenets of what makes doom doom, but to bringing a sense of identity through that and thereby push forward toward individualist expression. Their doom. It should be of little surprise to anyone with experience in listening to the band that it works. Returning to the studio with Joona Lukala, who engineered and mixed 2016’s Gates of Flesh (review here) and has mastered all of Lord Vicar‘s full-lengths and split releases, of course brings a measure of consistency to the sound, but that allows the freshness in these compositions to stand out amid the familiar elements.

lord vicar

The concrete wall of distortion in “World Encircled” feels particularly stage-born and stage-made, while the sub-three-minute “Impact” (premiered here) is as all-go a rocker as the band has ever produced, taking the swing of the early going in “The Temple in the Bedrock” or the bridge in the prior “Levitation” and making it the central notion brought to bear in a fashion that “A Second Chance” soon enough answers back in the last payoff for the album as a whole, speeding its way to a cold finish that’s only missing the applause afterward to further the live impression. At the same time, the work Linderson is doing on vocals is a highlight unto itself, with double-track layering, flourishes of harmony, and on “Nightmare,” a laid-bare feel that’s still coated in echo and soon answered back by choral keys and drums, but still rich in its intimacy and ’70s prog/folk soulfulness, gorgeous and sad in like measure. One could say the same of much of The Black Powder, but the shift in intent on “Nightmare” makes it all the more palpable.

The band, with  has stated that the loose central concept of the album is an examination of humanity manifold failings and the numbing of self that is often the response to the simple end of getting through the day surrounded by so much horror; The Black Powder as an image of snorting gunpowder like cocaine, i.e. “Black Lines.” So be it. The notion of doom standing in judgment of society at large is nothing new, going back to Black Sabbath‘s “Hand of Doom” as a primary example, but in a way, the theme also serves as analog to the effect of the record and its songs as a whole. With Millsted and Kärki as primary songwriters, Lord Vicar reinvigorate the traditional tenets of the style in such a way as to not only stand with them, but to make them new again. Their topic could hardly be more fitting for the age in which they appear — a thousand everything-owning Neros fiddling with their genitals as the world burns — but there is more to The Black Powder than cold verdict-reaching and negativity.

Somehow, it is a personal work as well. In Linderson‘s vocals and the instrumental chemistry between Jones, Kärki and Millsted as well, there’s something vibrant shining through amidst the grimness of the matter at hand. That might be the part of humanity worth saving — humanity seems to think so — but we’re not there yet, and Lord Vicar aren’t about to posture and offer some kind of hope from out of all the terror one sees when paying even the most modest amount of attention to the world. It’s not about placating. It’s not just about condemning. It’s laying it all out and asking what the hell might come next, and The Black Powder does the same thing for Lord Vicar sonically. It’s no coincidence that it is their longest album, or that it has their longest single-song, or their greatest breadth of songwriting and performance. It is a moment to which their work has been leading, and as with every step that brought them here, it feels purposeful in the extreme. A no-brainer to call it one of 2019’s best doom records, and frankly, that’s probably underselling it.

Lord Vicar, The Black Powder (2019)

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The Church Within Records website

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Lord Vicar Premiere “Impact” Video from The Black Powder

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lord vicar

As Lord Vicar prepare the ground for the release of their fourth full-length, The Black Powder, through The Church Within Records on May 3, the Scandinavian doomers unveil their first-ever official video. “Impact” is the shortest track on The Black Powder at a tidy 2:59 — by contrast, the album opens with “Sulfur, Charcoal and Saltpeter,” which runs 17:16 — and the clip accompanying compiles footage from the studio as the band were making the record. You can see guitarist Kimi Kärki, bassist Rich Jones and drummer Gareth Millsted playing through the instrumental tracks together and vocalist Christian “Lord Chritus” Linderson adding his voice afterward, but of course it’s all edited together to give a flow, which is fair enough since flow is a major factor throughout The Black Powder as a whole.

Its nine songs run a willfully consuming 69 minutes, and if that sounds like a slog, welcome to doom. Now more than a decade removed from their debutLord Vicar The Black Powder album, Fear No PainLord Vicar have long since mastered their approach — a pedigree that includes Reverend BizarreCount Raven and Saint Vitus doesn’t hurt either — and they fill their time not with simple riff-and-nod drudgery, but with material that can’t help but be vibrant despite its so, so thoroughly doomed vibe. In that regard, as well as its lyrics, “Impact” is aptly named. It’s probably the speediest whole track on the offering, though you could get a yardstick out to measure it against “Levitation” or parts of “The Temple in the Bedrock” if you really wanted to, but more than that, it puts the emphasis on exactly what video depicts: the band, in the room, hitting it. Lord Vicar are obviously schooled in classic doom — Kärki and Chritus kind of helped shape it, especially in Europe — but don’t at all take that to mean they’re not also building something new from out of the past. In following up 2016’s Gates of Flesh (review here), the four-piece showcase a vitality that thrives in darkness and an organic doom that needs no posturing to make its aesthetic statement.

I’ll have a full review of The Black Powder on May 2 (if the current calendar holds), but in addition to the video premiere for “Impact,” Kärki was kind enough to send some comment on making the album along with the lyrics to the track. Again, there some stuff on the record that is much, much slower, so “Impact” doesn’t necessarily represent everything Lord Vicar do across that almost-70-minute stretch, but it sure is fucking righteous.

Please enjoy:

Lord Vicar, “Impact” official video premiere

Kimi Kärki on “Impact”:

I was born in Good Friday back in 1976, and have always appreciated the fact, so it’s a nice date for the video premiere.

It was a wonderful Finnish winter adventure to record our fourth album The Black Powder. Pretty much everything was done in February and March 2019, including mixing and mastering, again with Joona Lukala at Noise for Fiction. Everything is still fresh for us as well, and we can’t wait to get to play these monsters live in May! We have had a new bass player, Rich Jones, aboard for quite long now, but this is the first time he was in studio with us. We were able to hammer drums, bass and the first rhythm guitar live, and that adds a nice organic feel for the album. Gareth (Millsted, drums) was more involved in songwriting, and this time we arranged the songs quite carefully in Switzerland before hitting the studio. Chritus (vocals) lost his voice before his second studio day, but this medicine that is meant for snake bites healed him nicely!

We never did a proper video for Lord Vicar before, and decided to do it totally DIY for ’Impact’, the seventh track of the album. Studio live footage was an obvious choice for this kind of a hard rocking tune, but I also wanted to give a visual nod for the theme of mortality and how sometimes authors are forgotten and only receive proper fame post mortem. Nightmares feature heavily on this album, so this is a tribute to some artists who captured the darkness, shadows, and sheer horror in writing.

Have a Good Friday, up the hammers, down the nails!

Lyrics:
Can you feel the Earth approaching,
Red horizon turn?
Time has frozen between two worlds,
Frozen, empty mind

One thing you have surely lost,
The one thing you still yearn
Frozen people always want to
Leave this world behind

See the roof come falling down
Red horizon turning round
Broken people are earthbound
All of them will hit the ground

You were always first to go,
First to test your mind
People thought that you’d be strong
But you were first to burn

See the roof come falling down
Red horizon turning round
Broken people are earthbound
All of them will hit the ground

All of them will hit the ground
All of them supposed to heal
All of them without a sound
All of them are true and real

All of them, they will be found
All of them, they will be read
All of them below the ground
All of them will conquer death

Lord Vicar and Thronehammer live in May!
03.Mai Würzburg (D) @Immerhin
04 Mai Weikersheim (D) @Club W71
05 Mai Karlsruhe (D) @P8
06 Mai Hamburg (D) @Marx
07 Mai Szczecin (PL) @Jambar
08 Mai Berlin (D) @Slaughterhouse Moabit
09 Mai Halle (D) @Hühnermanhattan
10 Mai Oberhausen (D) @Helvete
11 Mai Tilburg (NL) @Little Devil Doom Days Festival

Lord Vicar is:
Chritus on vocals
Kimi on guitars
Milly on drums
Rich on bass

Lord Vicar on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records website

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Lord Vicar to Release The Black Powder May 3; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lord vicar

Doom upon the land as Lord Vicar make ready to return with their fourth long-player. Titled The Black Powder and recorded in Turku, Finland, the offering will be made through The Church Within Records on May 3 and a tour has been announced to coincide that will take the four-piece through Germany and into Poland on their way to the Doom Days Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Having had the pleasure to witness Lord Vicar live before, I’ll say it’s a thing of doomed righteousness to which few acts could hope to compare, but the chance to see them heralding a new release seems all the more deathly and awesome. You probably don’t need me to tell you to go to a show if one’s near you, but consider it said anyhow.

And me, I’ll be trying my damnedest to chase down The Black Powder in hopes of reviewing, because writing about this kind of thing I consider doing myself a favor and a bit of #selfcare never hurt.

From The Church Within on thee social medias:

lord vicar tour dates

Mark the date: 3rd of may! LORD VICAR: THE BLACK POWDER

The Black Powder is the fourth album from Lord Vicar. It was, like the previous album Gates of Flesh, recorded by audio wizard Joona Lukala at Noise for Fiction studio in Turku, Finland. All studio work took place in February and March of 2019. The studio has the benefit of a huge live room which gave the band the opportunity to capture a sound that breathes with the ambience of the space, but maintains the sonic weight for which they are rightly known.

This album is a return to longer form, and even more progressive song structures, but the punchier material is also provided with merciless precision, as well as soothing acoustic moments. The songwriting duties are shared by Kimi and Gareth, also Chritus providing lyrical output.

The album contains a loose lyrical concept relating to mankind’s endless lack of reason and weakness of stability, resulting to violence, war, manipulation of children, and numbing our minds in order to shut out the horror that is the reality we live in. We blow the black lines to feel good. This takes place generation after generation, in an endless cycle of standing and falling. Musically and lyrically the album covers a wide spectrum of textures from the all out punky attack of ’The Temple in the Bedrock’, fragile beauty of ‘Nightmare’, to the oppressive menace of the more intense moments of ‘Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre’. This album is a grower, meant to be listened repeatedly, full of subtle details that reveal themselves with each subsequent listen.

’But children of that place remain with us
They illustrate the burden of our lies
And make us feel the hell of all those memories
Buried in the grave of the fireflies’

Tracklisting:
I Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre (Kärki)
II Descent (Millsted)
III World Encircled (Millsted)
IV Levitation (Kärki)
V The Temple in the Bedrock (Millsted, lyrics Kärki)
VI Black Lines (Millsted, lyrics Kärki, Linderson, Millsted)
VII Impact (Kärki)
VIII Nightmare (Kärki)
IX A Second Chance: Including The Wagoner, My Soul Is Never Free, and Strict Master (Millsted)

Lord Vicar and Thronehammer live in May!
03.Mai Würzburg (D) @Immerhin
04 Mai Weikersheim (D) @Club W71
05 Mai Karlsruhe (D) @P8
06 Mai Hamburg (D) @Marx
07 Mai Szczecin (PL) @Jambar
08 Mai Berlin (D) @Slaughterhouse Moabit
09 Mai Halle (D) @Hühnermanhattan
10 Mai Oberhausen (D) @Helvete
11 Mai Tilburg (NL) @Little Devil Doom Days Festival

Lord Vicar is:
Chritus on vocals
Kimi on guitars
Milly on drums
Rich on bass

https://www.facebook.com/lordvicar/
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchWithinRecords/
http://www.doom-dealer.de/

Lord Vicar, “Down the Nails” live in Moscow, July 7, 2018

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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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The Obelisk Presents: Emerald Haze 2017 Announces Full Schedule

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Can I be brutally honest for just a second here? Just a second — won’t take long. I’m not worthy.

I’m sorry. I’m just not. I look at the lineup that’s come together for the first Emerald Haze on Sept. 1 and 2 in Dublin, I see this site’s name on a stage that will be shared by the likes of The Cosmic Dead, Abrahma, Lord Vicar, Sólstafir, Iron Void, Blaak Heat, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Elder Druid, Gourd, WitchSorrow, Gorilla Pulp and Ten Ton Slug, and I have to just shake my head. I’ve done nothing to deserve to be so honored as to be associated with these people. Nothing. I didn’t earn this. I’m not worthy. Seeing a logo for The Obelisk on the posters below, I feel like I’m getting away with some kind of scam.

Again, I’m sorry, but that’s how I really feel about it. This show is so god damn sick. They need me as a part of it the way they need a hole in the head. If you had told me eight-plus years ago when I started this site (1:) that I’d still be doing it in eight-plus years and (2:) that I’d be co-presenting shows in places like Dublin, Ireland, I’d have immediately and rightly told you to screw off. There’s unbelievable and then there’s absurd, and from where I sit, this falls definitively into the realm of the latter.

My flight’s booked. If you’re going, I’ll see you there. Please let me know if you’d like me to tell you all of this in-person, because I am 100 percent ready and willing to do that at any point. What I can’t do is even begin to properly express how grateful I am to be involved in this.

Okay. That’s my piece.

Full schedule for Emerald Haze 2017 follows here:

Emerald Haze 2017 – Full Schedule

Friday, Sept. 1
Doors – 6.00

The Obelisk Stage
7.00–7.30 Elder Druid
7.45–8.15 Blaak Heat
8.30–9.00 Abrahma
9.15–10.00 The Cosmic Dead
10.30–11.20 Church of the Cosmic Skull

MFB Stage
8.00–8.30 Zlatanera
8.45–9.15 Mount Soma
9.30–10.10 King Witch
10.25-11.05 Electric Octopus
11.20–12.20 Wild Rocket

After Party DJs Til Late – On The Rox

Saturday, Sept. 2
Doors – 2.30

The Obelisk Stage
3.30 – 4.00 Gourd?
4.15 – 4.45 Ten Ton Slug?
5.00 – 5.45 Iron Void?
6.00 – 6.45 Witchsorrow?
Break
7.20–8.00 Dread Sovereign
8.15–9.15 Lord Vicar
9.45–10.45 Sólstafir
11.00-11.40 Gorilla Pulp

After Party DJs Til Late – Voodoo Lounge

MFB Stage
3.45–4.15 Korvid
4.30–5.00 Vulpynes
5.15–5.45 Crowhammer
6.00–6.30 The Magnapinna
6.45–7.15 Death The Leveller
Break
8.00–8.30 Mother Mooch
8.45–9.40 Nomadic Rituals

Subject to change

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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Emerald Haze 2017: Individual Day Lineups Announced; Sólstafir & Church of the Cosmic Skull to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It says something about the adventurous nature of the inaugural Emerald Haze festival — set for Sept. 1-2 in Dublin, Ireland and co-presented by The Obelisk — that it will be headlined by Sólstafir and Church of the Cosmic Skull. The former, a genreless Icelandic outfit, specialize in a highly individualized brand of melodic melancholia. The latter are an almost brand new UK outfit whose debut, Is Satan Real? (review here), came out last year and was rife with proggy flourish in keys and vocal arrangements. Both are legit choices, but neither is quite what you’d expect for a festival centered around heavy psych and rock, and as someone fortunate enough to be involved in the fest in the tiny, infinitesimally small fashion I am and who will also be fortunate enough to be there to cover it, I appreciate that unexpected nature of the goings on.

And as I’m pretty sure I’ve said in every single post about Emerald Haze 2017, I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the fest:

EMERALD HAZE ANNOUNCE DAILY LINE-UPS

EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival has announced the daily line-ups for the inaugural edition which takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Friday will see main stage headliners Church of the Cosmic Skull joined by The Cosmic Dead, Wild Rocket, Abrahma, Blaak Heat, Electric Octopus, Elder Druid, King Witch, Mount Soma and Zlatanera while Saturday sees Sólstafir, Belzebong, Lord Vicar, Dread Sovereign, Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Gorilla Pulp, WitchSorrow, Electric Taurus, Ten Ton Slug, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid across two stages in Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox.

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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