Monolord, No Comfort: Truth Found in Time

Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolord no comfort

Guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems, collectively known as Gothenburg’s Monolord, have had an impact on this decade of heavy in a way that few bands who actually belong to it have done. Their rise in influence and stature would seem fast were it not for all the work they’ve put in over the last five-plus years, touring, writing, recording and releasing. A streak of three massively successful outings on RidingEasy Records in 2014’s Empress Rising, 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2017’s Rust (review here), as well as an increasing tour profile in Europe and the US, led to Relapse Records getting behind the fourth, and the six-track/48-minute No Comfort is the result, recorded by Kim Gravander with mixing by Willems and containing the band’s most atmospheric and complex material to-date. That continues a pattern of growth that Empress Rising set in motion as well as a next-stage-arrival communicated through the greater stylistic reach of Rust, and sure enough, No Comfort takes Monolord‘s sound to places it’s never been, from the Floydian stretch of quiet in the penultimate “Alone Together Forever Divided” to the mournful dirge of “Larvae.”

Those hoping to dig into the riffy primitivism of their earlier work will find a measure of solace — that’s not to say comfort — in opener “The Bastard Son” and the shorter “The Last Leaf,” which follows, but even in those, Monolord dig into hypnotic repetition and aren’t afraid to pull the rug out from under their roll in order to make a statement in terms of mood or feeling. Nor should they be, frankly. Such moves are well in their wheelhouse by now, which only emphasizes the compressed timeline of their growth as a unit. It’s been a half-decade since their first record. Some bands don’t even manage to put out a follow-up in that time. Monolord have made a career, established themselves as one of the most pivotal heavy acts in the world, and in No Comfort, landed at a new echelon of substance and style. Not too shabby.

And there is little mistaking No Comfort as anything other than one of 2019’s best releases. Topped with striking cover art by Alexander Fjelnseth, the offering carries an emotional affect even in the solo in the second half of “The Last Leaf,” an overarching spirit of melancholy residing in its layers in a way that one wouldn’t necessarily anticipate, even after Rust. Make no mistake, Monolord‘s core approach is still based around riffs and the pummeling therewith, but their methods have shifted, are shifting, and even the title No Comfort feels like the declaration of an ideal they’re chasing as they push themselves toward more resonant songcraft. It’s obviously not the way the vinyl would work — that would be three songs on a side, each with two longer songs (the second longer than the first) sandwiched around a shorter one — but if one takes No Comfort in thirds, its progression becomes all the more evident.

monolord

They have always and continue to excel at creating a sense of march. Willems as a drummer is a master of it, and the riffs brought to bear by Jäger and made even thicker and more vital by Häkki‘s bass are plenty of dirge fodder to be sure. But even as they plod their way through the side A finale “Larvae” after “The Bastard Son” and “The Last Leaf,” there’s a turn evident toward a doomed melancholy. “Larvae” and the subsequent melodic highlight “Skywards” — it’s (probably past) time to start considering Jäger as a vocalist rather than a guitar player who sings, even with the steady use of effects on his voice — take the initial shove of the opening duo and prove even more immersive, drawing the listener deeper into No Comfort‘s ambience without giving up the heavy vibe to do so. This ends up as one of the record’s great strengths: Monolord‘s ability to grow without compromising who they are and have been thus far into their tenure.

Those effects on Jäger‘s vocals play a part in that, as they continue to sound overwhelmed by his riffing, creating a sense of largesse, but it’s clear in every element that makes No Comfort just how in command Monolord are of their craft, and their material here both signals and succeeds in its intent, as “Alone Together Forever Divided” and “No Comfort” add to the sense of longing so prevalent in “Skywards.” “Alone Together Forever Divided” is the shortest track on the outing at just over five minutes, but it’s the structural change that gives it its effect on what surrounds. The bulk of it is quiet, atmospheric guitar set to a mellow roll, quiet and led more by the vocals than a riff, though there’s a definite groove behind, held together by Willems and Häkki, that moves toward a burst of sonic weight in the second half, a nod taking hold for a time before receding again to let the quiet guitar finish out in contemplative fashion. It’s a marked and purposeful change in approach, essentially turning Monolord‘s methodology on its head, but given how they’ve led into it across the songs prior, including “Skywards,” it also makes sense, and works double as a lead-in for the the 11-minute title-track that rounds out.

With trades in volume as they move through the verses and chorus, the mood on “No Comfort” itself remains primary, and summarizes well the balance of heft and inward-looking sprawl that the songs before have brought together. In linear format — CD/DL — the outward movement of “No Comfort” is even more resounding, but however you take it, No Comfort is the triumph Monolord need at a crucial moment for the band. They have not given up on the root appeal of bashing out wave after wave of dense riff barrage, but they’ve also stayed true to an impulse toward sonic evolution that points the way forward for years to come. Four albums in and just getting started? Maybe. Whatever happens and however No Comfort is received, it is an album that clearly states and meets its own goals. It sets its terms and then brings the listener along its path. It affects the mind of its audience. It is not to be overlooked.

Monolord, “The Last Leaf” official video

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Instagram

Monolord on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 21

Posted in Radio on August 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Last time around, I actually managed to post the playlist for The Obelisk Show before Gimme Radio aired it, and I thought that worked pretty well, letting people know what was going to be on and all that. As it stands, I haven’t even had the chance to record the voice breaks yet for this one, but it’ll get done before airtime. Again, lots of new stuff this episode and a lot of it drawn from recent coverage around here, as well as some stuff that will be upcoming, whether it’s V‘s new single or the 20-minute Comacozer track that ends out.

That song and the We Lost the Sea track before it make up the final 35 minutes of the show. I wanted a couple longer tracks this time out, so between those, VMonolordOblivion Reptilian and Hound the Wolves, I feel like we got there. There’s a couple rockers up front with Bison MachineBlackwater Holylight and Lightning Born, but from then on pretty much all bets are off. I never know how that kind of thing will be received by the Gimme listenership, but screw it, I haven’t been fired yet, so I’ll take that for what it tells me. Not much, I suppose.

Dug these songs though. The Lightning BornSleeping Giant and The Black Wizards cuts were standouts from their respective albums, and the new Goatess single was just premiered elsewhere, but I’ll be covering the album too, so wanted to give that a chance to shine here. And a little bit of Crowbar seemed appropriate as I’ve already seen them once this month and plan to do so again before the month is out. Some bands you just can’t get enough.

Thanks for checking it out if you get the chance.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 08.16.19

Bison Machine The Tower Seas of Titan*
Blackwater Holylight Motorcycle Veils of Winter*
Lightning Born Salvation Lightning Born*
BREAK
The Black Wizards Kaleidoscope Eyes Reflections*
Sleeping Giant Serpent Sleeping Giant*
Oblivion Reptilian Alien Shit Fried on Rock*
Hound the Wolves Godhead Split with Glasghote*
BREAK
Crowbar All I Had I Gave Crowbar (1993)
Monolord The Bastard Son No Comfort*
V Phantasmagoria Led into Exile*
Goatess Dunerider Blood and Wine*
BREAK
We Lost the Sea Towers Triumph & Disaster*
Comacozer Kykeneon Journey Mydriasis*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 30. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Monolord to Release No Comfort Sept. 20; New Song Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolord

Pretty much called it that Monolord‘s new album would be out to coincide with their upcoming Fall touring. Even the Gothenburg trio don’t hit it that hard on back-to-back runs without a new album to support. The timing just makes sense. Plus, getting the record out in September lines them up for all kinds of best-of-the-year accolades, which it seems like this is a prime moment for them to snag, what with debuting on Relapse and having three killer LPs’ worth of momentum behind them. They’re going to be touring this one for a while, I’d imagine — all of 2020 at least — so this is just the start of a new cycle, but while you listen to the reimagined C.O.C. “Albatross” riff at the beginning of “The Bastard Son” below, I think you can only agree theirs is a cause well worth supporting. Relapse certainly seems to think so, and they’ve certainly made a few killer picks along the way.

Art, tracklisting, preorders, tour dates and, finally, the song itself follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

monolord no comfort

MONOLORD: Announce Relapse Records Debut No Comfort Coming September 20

Swedish trio MONOLORD announce their Relapse Records’ debut, No Comfort, coming September 20th.

“This one has been the most challenging yet,” said MONOLORD in a collective statement. “As always striving for evolvement, but within the Monolord realm and with that inviting another person into that process. We hope you like it.”

No Comfort pre-orders are on-sale now, with several limited-edition vinyl variants available, including a Relapse.com exclusive in partnership with Orange Amps. The 100-piece release features the actual material used to wrap Orange Amps and is pressed on neon orange vinyl. The set includes an exclusive two-sided Orange Amps inspired t-shirt and guitar pick set. To view this set as well as the CD/2xLP/CS and digital pre-orders that are available, visit https://ffm.to/monolordnocomfort.

No Comfort Tracklist:
The Bastard Son
The Last Leaf
Larvae
Skywards
Alone Together Forever Divided
No Comfort

MONOLORD Tour Dates:

Aug 08-10 Moledo, PT Sonic Blast
Sep 06-08 Sao Paulo, BR Setembro Negro Festival

— All Headline EU Dates Sep 28 – Oct 26 w/ Firebreather —

Sep 28 London, UK @ The Garage (w/ Ufomammut)
Sep 29 Sheffield, UK @ HRH Doom V Stoner
Sep 30 Bournemouth, UK @ The Anvil
Oct 01 Utrecht, NL @ De Helling
Oct 02 Brussels, BE @ Magasin 4
Oct 03 Pratteln, CH @ Up In Smoke Festival
Oct 04 Reims, FR @ La Cartonnerie
Oct 05 Paris, FR @ Saturday Mud Fever Festival
Oct 07 Dortmund, DE @ Junkyard
Oct 08 Nuremberg, DE @ B-Zau
Oct 09 Cologne, DE @ Helios 37
Oct 10 Mainz, DE @ Schon Schon
Oct 11 Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Oct 16 Oslo, NO @ John Dee
Oct 17 Gothenburg, SE @ Sticky Fingers
Oct 18 Malmo, SE @ Babel
Oct 23 Linkoping, SE @ The Crypt
Oct 24 Stockholm, SE @ Close Up Baten
Oct 25 Tampere, FI @ Olympia
Oct 26 Helsinki, FI @ Nosturi

— All Headline US Dates Nov 04 – 27 w/ Blackwater Holylight —

Nov 05 San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
Nov 06 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Nov 07 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister
Nov 09 Austin, TX @ Levitation x Relapse Showcase
Nov 10 Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom Room
Nov 11 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
Nov 12 Atlanta, GA @ The 529
Nov 13 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight
Nov 14 Richmond, VA @ Camel
Nov 15 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
Nov 16 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Nov 17 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
Nov 20 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
Nov 21 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle
Nov 22 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Nov 23 Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Nov 25 Denver, CO @ Marquis
Nov 27 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom

MONOLORD Is:
Esben Willems – Drums
Thomas Jäger – Guitar Vocals
Mika Häkki – Bass

monolord.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/MonolordSweden
monolord.com
http://relapse.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Monolord, “The Bastard Son”

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Monolord Touring Europe and the US This Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolord

Okay, so let’s assume that any minute now, Monolord are going to announce their next album will be out sometime this Fall. I mean, even if you tour as hard as Monolord generally, do you really book back-to-back European and US tours without the record out to support? Nah, pretty much you can figure that if it’s not out before, it’ll be out sometime while they’re on the road. Recall as well it’s their debut for Relapse. It’s a significant moment for the band, and obviously they want to make the most of it. Well they should, given the work they’ve put in to this point.

And yeah, that’s great and all, but I’m gonna go ahead and get even more stoked on the fact that BlackWater HolyLight are doing the US shows with them. Their once-labelmates on RidingEasy haven’t been east yet from their home in Oregon so far as I know, so I’m absolutely putting that Brooklyn show in my calendar. Sounds like a good time.

Dates from the PR wire:

monolord poster

MONOLORD: Announce Fall Europe & US Headline Tour Dates

Swedish hard rock trio MONOLORD announce headlining European and US tour dates throughout the Fall. First, MONOLORD will tour Europe from September 28 through October 26 with Firebreather. The following week, the band heads to the states from November 5 through 27 with Blackwater Holylight. All confirmed tour dates are available below.

Stay tuned for more MONOLORD news in the near future.

MONOLORD Tour Dates:

Aug 08-10 Moledo, PT Sonic Blast
Sep 06-08 Sao Paulo, BR Setembro Negro Festival

— All Headline EU Dates Sep 28 – Oct 26 w/ Firebreather —

Sep 28 London, UK @ The Garage (w/ Ufomammut)
Sep 29 Sheffield, UK @ HRH Doom V Stoner
Sep 30 Bournemouth, UK @ The Anvil
Oct 01 Utrecht, NL @ De Helling
Oct 02 Brussels, BE @ Magasin 4
Oct 03 Pratteln, CH @ Up In Smoke Festival
Oct 04 Reims, FR @ La Cartonnerie
Oct 05 Paris, FR @ Saturday Mud Fever Festival
Oct 07 Dortmund, DE @ Junkyard
Oct 08 Nuremberg, DE @ B-Zau
Oct 09 Cologne, DE @ Helios 37
Oct 10 Mainz, DE @ Schon Schon
Oct 11 Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Oct 16 Oslo, NO @ John Dee
Oct 17 Gothenburg, SE @ Sticky Fingers
Oct 18 Malmo, SE @ Babel
Oct 23 Linkoping, SE @ The Crypt
Oct 24 Stockholm, SE @ Close Up Baten
Oct 25 Tampere, FI @ Olympia
Oct 26 Helsinki, FI @ Nosturi

— All Headline US Dates Nov 04 – 27 w/ Blackwater Holylight —

Nov 05 San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
Nov 06 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Nov 07 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister
Nov 09 Austin, TX @ Levitation x Relapse Showcase
Nov 10 Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom Room
Nov 11 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
Nov 12 Atlanta, GA @ The 529
Nov 13 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight
Nov 14 Richmond, VA @ Camel
Nov 15 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
Nov 16 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Nov 17 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
Nov 20 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
Nov 21 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle
Nov 22 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Nov 23 Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Nov 25 Denver, CO @ Marquis
Nov 27 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom

MONOLORD Is:
Esben Willems – Drums
Thomas Jäger – Guitar Vocals
Mika Häkki – Bass

monolord.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/MonolordSweden
monolord.com
http://relapse.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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Freak Valley Festival Announces 2020 Dates; Live Videos Posted

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

freak valley logo

The next installment of Freak Valley Festival will be held June 11-13, 2020, and I’m telling you right now, I want to be there. It’s held in Siegen, Germany, and as I’ve been writing lineup announcements for the fest over the last two years or so, I’ve been embarrassed to be invited and unable to make it. This year, Freak Valley was held not only the same weekend as Maryland Doom Fest in the US — where I was — but also as Hellfest in France, and probably six or seven other festivals throughout Europe I can’t think of off the top of my head. Was Copenhell this past weekend too? Yup.

Jesus.

This year, Freak Valley announced — I didn’t write it — they were teaming up with the iconic German concert-video institution Rockpalast to live stream the event as it happened, and the results were staggering. I sat in the early part of the day with my jaw hanging open and watched Monolord absolutely devastate the huge crowd assembled before them, the level of production and the job capturing it — audio and video — absolutely gorgeous. King Buffalo put on an incredible show. Electric Moon! So much awesome, so little time.

The only bummer was Slomatics having to cancel, but they’ve reportedly already been invited for 2020, so at least that’s something to look forward to, but the videos of the sets that came together and were streamed are awesome and still available for your perusal. Some aren’t up on YouTube yet, so I’m including the streams direct as they appeared on Thee Facebooks when they were live. I started out with five of them and then saw the Spaceslug one and had to add them as the sixth. Of course there’s also YOB, New Zealand’s Arc of Ascent and the aforementioned Monolord, Electric Moon and King Buffalo. I figure six-plus hours of live material should probably be enough to keep you occupied for a while. It’s certainly been doing right by me.

Enjoy:

YOB

Monolord

Arc of Ascent

King Buffalo

Spaceslug

Electric Moon

Freak Valley Festival website

Freak Valley Festival on Thee Facebooks

Freak Valley Festival on Instagram

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Announces Berlin and Dresden Editions

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

heavy psych sounds logo

Remember like a very, very short time ago — maybe last week? — when I was talking about how Heavy Psych Sounds was taking over the world, one band, tour and festival at a time? Well here we are with the announcements for four nights in Germany this December that one assumes — but never knows for sure — will round out a busy 2019 for the Italian label/booking agency/one-stop-shop. Monolord, The Sonic DawnWedgeGorilla and 1782 are thus far announced with apparently more to come. No big surprise they’re not done, as it seems increasingly like they’re never done. Did you see the pictures from the West Coast Heavy Psych Sounds package tour? It looked pretty amazing.

I guess that’s what happens when you put everything you have into what you do and what you do kicks ass.

From the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest berlin dresden

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS announces BERLIN + DRESDEN FEST; featuring MONOLORD, THE SONIC DAWN & more!

Headquartered in Rome, Italy, Heavy Psych Sounds specializes in presenting the best artists in the global heavy psych, doom, fuzz blues and space rock realms, and their Festival- series will be no exception, spotlighting the ever-growing label’s dedication to its craft. While the first HPS Fests were held in Italy, the label has since extended its live reach into the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria and even the USA: The underground cult label is not only THE address for all heavy rock record collectors, but has also become an important live and festival institution; with a brisk participation from heavy music fans all over the world.

Now, Heavy Psych Sounds is set to bring the ROCK to Germany: Dresden and Berlin with the just-announced special shows taking place this December! Each stop of the traveling festival tour will feature diverse line-ups including both genre leaders and fast-rising acts, all ready to prove their place among the world’s best. In cooperation with Greyzone Concerts and ElbSludgeBooking, Heavy Psych Sounds has just revealed the first bands featuring heavy doom weights MONOLORD, psychedelic rockers THE SONIC DAWN and more:

[ artwork by Branca Studio ]

Taking place December 6th and 7th 2019 in Berlin and Dresden, the tickets are now on sale at:

BERLIN
Event: www.facebook.com/events/328145071206018/

DRESDEN
Event: www.facebook.com/events/658161097944810/

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.greyzone-concerts.de
www.facebook.com/Elbsludgebooking

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night Three, 04.28.19

Posted in Reviews on April 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The final day of a festival is always bittersweet, in any context. This being the first Desertfest NYC, it was a time to step back and take stock of the event, the crowd, the proceedings, what worked well, what could be tweaked in the future, and in what ways generally it could grow — because if the Desertfests in Berlin, London and Antwerp are any indication of intent, growth is the idea.

So what about it? The venue worked. The Well is a cool spot, and you almost feel like you’re getting away with something out on that back patio. The tent for the main stage worked. The food worked. The free iced coffee cans from Stumptown Roasters certainly worked for me, if we’re defining “worked” as “kept me upright.” The sound worked. The lights worked for the most part. And the location worked. I got street parking both days, no problem. Mark it a win based on that alone.

The second stage room was intentionally smaller and got to be a squeeze, and with the way the door was, you were either in or out — there was no peaking through to see the band onstage. Not that that’s the ideal way of seeing live music, but it’s better than nothing. It was easy enough to get there early, but I heard people noting it just the same. And it was cold. Yesterday more so than the day before. The sun teased a couple times but wasn’t out for more than about 20 minutes at any point, and then it was night, so it got colder. Rain held off, which was a relief, but there was definitely a flux of people going inside for a bit to get warm before going back out to be in front of the main stage. April in New York. That’s a possibility.

But on the whole, given the crowd size and response, the fact that it ran so well from front to back, and the general spirit of those playing and attending comingling and having a good time, I wouldn’t call it anything but a success. Desertfest is a brand, and they were feeling out a new, tough market in New York, but they pulled it off. I was given a t-shirt and I’ll wear it proudly. I hope they do another.

But holy crap was I tired.

Really, just a mess. Doing a festival is one thing. Doing it not completely removed from the rest of one’s life is quite something else, and I could feel myself showing signs of wear and tear especially early in the day before what little adrenaline my deeply flawed body could produce got to work and got me through. That coffee didn’t hurt either. You’ve made a customer for life, Stumptown. I mean that. I don’t usually even drink iced coffee.

Felt like an earlier start than it was at 3:15PM:

Unearthly Trance

Unearthly Trance (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As sadly will happen, Fatso Jetson canceled their trip east to open the third and final day of Desertfest NYC 2019, and I guess it was something of a scramble, but the fest kind of wound up with the opposite. If Fatso Jetson are desert rock, Unearthly Trance are dystopian-expanse-of-concrete-under-a-dark-grey-sky metal. Local heroes from Brooklyn, their 2017 comebacker full-length, Stalking the Ghost (review here), was followed last year by a split with Relapse labelmates Primitive Man (review here), and the few years they spent apart clearly did not dull their impact or atmospheric breadth. Playing in the tent with the sun outside, they were still unremitting in their darkness, and their slow, churning sonic gruel was served up cold to the early crowd, which was perhaps still bleary-eyed from the night before but primed to get bleary-eyed all over again, in no small part to keep warm. That’s a thing, right? Whatever. Unearthly Trance were loud as fuck and bleaker than they were loud. They’ve always been more of an export than a NY-scene band, at least since about 15 years ago, but they gave Brooklyn a showing of some of its best homegrown, and so could’ve hardly been more fitting for that spot.

Sun Voyager

Sun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan)

That’s a good band. They’ve got their kinks and quirks to work out — don’t we all — but the second they realize how much power they actually command from the stage, it’s all over. They’ve got newly-announced tour dates in June that begin in Denver at Electric Funeral Festival and will see them bum around the Midwest for a while, and that’s only going to help. More of that. But already their presence is significant. I haven’t seen them since they released Seismic Vibes (review here), which was a debut I was anticipating to an almost embarrassing degree, so they were an absolute must for my weekend, and hearing them do “Open Road” and “God is Dead,” two of the most potent hooks from among the many boogie-driven brainmelters on the record was more than welcome. They would close with the Budgie cover they just issued digitally, “Crash Course in Brain Surgery,” but their energy was infectious and as I stood there and watched I imagined what it might’ve been like to see Nebula 20-plus years ago when they were just really starting to hit it. It couldn’t have been much different. Sun Voyager are awash in potential now and starting to put the work in to pay that off. I will continue to hope they get there.

Ruby the Hatchet

Ruby the Hatchet (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Forerunners of Philadelphia’s burgeoning heavy psychedelic movement, Ruby the Hatchet brought presence and the chops to back it up in kind to their set outside on the main stage. The Tee Pee rollers were fresh off Grim Reefer Fest in Baltimore on April 20 and were on the West Coast earlier this year supporting 2017’s Planetary Space Child LP (review here), and I’ve seen them live a few times at this point, so to find them locked in wasn’t really a surprise as such. The difference was just what they were able to do in being so locked in. It was a classic heavy rock show. Frontwoman Jillian Taylor led the way through the show, with Johnny “Scarps” Scarperia setting the foundation in riffs somewhere between psychedelic rock and proto-doom, Lake Muir‘s bass and Owen Stewart’s drums pushing the groove forward and the keys — it was quite a setup — of Sean Hur adding texture beyond what one finds in the standard boogie rock of the heavy ’10s. Their next album will say a lot for what the ultimate story of Ruby the Hatchet will be, but their live show left nothing to question about who they are as a band, and the Uriah Heep cover for a finale was a particularly nice choice. Hail heavy prog.

ASG

ASG (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve never been a huge fan of North Carolinian four-piece ASG. Not for lack of respect for the work they do, the time they’ve put in touring, the quality of their records, and so on. Sometimes it just doesn’t click, and I’ll readily acknowledge that’s me and not the band, who obviously weren’t hurting for proponents as they packed out the tent outside at The Well, the chilly air getting chillier and the vibe getting its collective buzz on. I grabbed a can of coffee — honestly, if it had been a bucket, I’d have grabbed that — and watched them for a while and tried to figure out the mental block was stopping me from getting on board. Their 2018 album, Survive Sunrise, was a pick in the Year-End Poll, and I’ve been writing about the band on and off since I saw them in 2011, but everybody else had me beat by far in terms of being into it. My loss, I’ve no doubt. It usually is with that kind of thing. Gave me a chance to go inside and get warm.

Duel

Duel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Does Duel‘s reputation precede them yet? Maybe, given the fact that the room with the Desertfest NYC second stage was filling up 80 minutes before the Austin, Texas, four-piece were slated to go on. Part of that was wanting to keep warm, but the band were setting up their gear and looked surprised to see the expectant faces staring back at them. Fair enough. Duel have a pair of killer studio records under their collective belt for Heavy Psych Sounds in 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and they’re about to unleash the third, Valley of Shadows (review here), on a speedy turnaround May 17 and do the bulk of their label’s impending West Coast package tour earlier next month as preparation for heading to Europe for a month on the road there. So yeah, Duel seemed to be in a good place as they came back on stage at their appointed time and destroyed that tiny room in a way that would’ve translated well to the stage outside, playing like a band taking their delivery to the next level and doing their best work to-date on all fronts. They were riotous and a pleasure to watch. It once again got slammed in the small second stage space as they rose to the occasion, and while everyone there may or may not have known what they were in for, they will next time. Duel are very quickly making themselves essential. A do-not-miss reputation won’t, and maybe doesn’t already, hurt.

Monolord

Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure if Monolord‘s new album — which will also mark their jump from RidingEasy Records to Relapse — is done, or if they’re just already touring for it, but the Swedish trio might as well have been flashing a sign from the stage that said, “NOW IS THE HEADLINING PORTION OF THE EVENING.” Indeed, they and Elder who would follow made up the headliner spots and in the case of Monolord, their primeval riffing, ultra-grooving largesse, chemistry boomed like it was in a meth lab and still-just-dudes-who-like-to-play-loud stage presence was already a highlight of the weekend by the time the first song of their set was done. They’re on the road in the US only briefly this time, having done the Psycho Smokeout on the West Coast as well as this, but they’ll be back for sure after a summer spent in Europe. And I don’t know when they’re record’s coming out, but you’d be a fool not to hold a place on your best-of-the-year list for it whenever it actually happens, because if Monolord have proven anything to this point in their career, it’s consistent. Other bands play, Monolord kill. Make the t-shirt with the spoof logo and sell a million of them. You’re welcome.

Green Milk from the Planet Orange

Green Milk from the Planet Orange (Photo by JJ Koczan)

All three members of Tokyo’s Green Milk from the Planet Orange played seated. Or at least for the most part seated, since I don’t think any of them stayed sitting the entire time, up to and including the drummer, but the arrangement gave their set on the second stage a jazzy feel, with their mega-freaked-out astro-prog heavy grind enhancing that mood. A neon green bass was visible even on what all day was the dark side of the stage, and they likewise were a beacon of weirdness in an undulating sea of riffery. A band on their own wavelength aren’t always easy to listen to — and I’d imagine Green Milk from the Planet Orange‘s new record, which they had for sale outside in the merch area, is plenty frenetic — but the trio made the math add up in their sound and were fun even as they dared the crowd to keep up with them. Most couldn’t, frankly, but that’s the nature of the kind of progressivism a band like that taps into. It’s never been and it never will be for everyone. It was awesome to witness, however, and for the technical prowess and the weirdo vibes coming off the stage, they were a highlight unto themselves. You need that sore thumb band sometimes.

Elder

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elder are arguably the most forward-thinking band in the current American heavy rock underground. By starting out young, they’ve become the spearhead of a generation of acts, and the work they’ve done throughout this decade is unmatched in its scope and the sheer will toward exploring new ideas. Plus it’s heavy. And plus, it rocks. I mean, there are a lot of krautrock bands out there. They’re in Europe. And the US has its fair share of heavy in various stripes, whether it’s desert rock or psych or doom metal or whatever the hell else we’re on this week, but what Elder tie together with their sound is a signature blend of influences that no one else can match, and their style of songwriting is inimitable. The way their parts interact with each other like Nick DiSalvo, Michael Risberg, Jack Donovan and Matt Couto have a musical conversation on stage. The way they’re able to build tension subtly and find just the right moment to swap out trajectories and head someplace else. It’s brilliant in the very real sense of luminosity. They are important, yes, because their influence will continue to spread, but they’re also incredible just to stand back and watch play. Every bit the headliner at this stage in their career, and I suspect they will remain that way for as long as they choose to do so. This is a special band doing special work on their own terms. Long may they reign.

Mick’s Jaguar

Mick's Jaguar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not going to pretend I had it in me to stand there for the entire Mick’s Jaguar set. I didn’t have it in me to stand there for the entire Elder set — I had to go sit inside for a couple minutes at one point or another — but I’d seen every band on all three days of Desertfest NY, so you’re damn right I stuck around and waited for them to go on. I love how New York’s version of party rock is still just a little mean. It’s the punk lineage, or at least the spirit of that culture, because even when a band like Mick’s Jaguar come out on the second stage and start tearing into songs from 2018’s Fame and Fortune (review here), there’s still a little edge of “fuck you” to the good time they’re having. Like they’re saying, “fuck you we’re fun.” And they were a blast. It was late and dark in the room, but a lot of people had gone home after Elder, so Mick’s Jaguar were kind of the pre-after-party for the after-party happening after the show. I knew vaguely what to expect going into the set, but as tired as I was and as much as I still had that hour drive home ahead of me, I knew staying for one more song was the right way to go, and hey, no regrets.

The actual after-party was being held at The Anchored Inn around the corner. I said goodbyes at the venue and farted my way over there for a couple minutes to see how the cool kids live. They live boozy. I tried not to put my backpack in anyone’s face, failed, and then once again took my leave. Maybe I hadn’t been ready after all for Desertfest NY to end. Maybe I was delaying that drive home.

Either way, the toll would be paid this morning. Got to bed before 1AM, but the alarm went off at 5:50AM to get up, pack the car and drive back to Massachusetts so The Patient Mrs. could go to work. It had been traffic all weekend, so I should’ve expected no different. Left at 7:30AM, got in at 1:30PM. Stops for diaper-change, gas, etc., but yeah. Still six hours for a trip that’s ideally not much over four.

That had me pretty much comatose for the afternoon, but I started this review during the baby’s nap and I’m finishing it now after he’s gone to bed. I’m falling asleep while I type and I still need to sort pictures, so I’ll leave it here, but before I go, heartfelt congratulations to Matte Vandeven and Reece Tee on a job well done, and thanks to them, Sarika, Jake and everyone else involved in the festival crew for having me along for it. I felt welcomed in a way that warmed my heart and set the tone for the entire experience. It was much, much appreciated. Here’s to the next one.

More pics after the jump:

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Freak Valley 2019: God is an Astronaut, Monolord, King Buffalo, Stonefield, Duel and Pretty Lightning Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

freak valley 2019 banner

Once again, Freak Valley 2019 adds a righteous swath of bands to its lineup for this June, and once again, I had the pleasure of writing the announcement. It’s shaping up to be a huge bill, and from YOB and C.O.C. marking 25 years of Deliverance to Slomatics heralding their next release and It’s Not Night: It’s Space making an awaited European debut, it’s a wide swath of heavy from Europe and the US and to be frank, it looks pretty unbelievable. Imagine seeing Spaceslug and King Buffalo on the same lineup. Woof. Or Arc of Ascent and Electric Moon? The heart breaks at the thought.

I’d go on about the bands added this time — what with the Monolord and the God is an Astronaut and the Stonefield and whatnot — but again, I wrote the announcement below, so I’ve kind of already done that. To do so again feels a little redundant.

Freak Valley posted word thusly:

freak valley 2019 poster

FREAK VALLEY 2019 – GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT | MONOLORD | KING BUFFALO | STONEFIELD | DUEL | PRETTY LIGHTNING

Freaks, Assemble!

Gather ‘round the fires burning the dystopian fuel of your bygone expectations bear witness to another massive Freak Valley Festival 2019 lineup announcement! It. Is. Substantial. And we are accordingly substantially thrilled to bring to it to you.

First, it is with regret we inform you that Harsh Toke won’t be joining us this year. These things happen. However, the party must go on, so join us as we welcome God Is An Astronaut, Monolord, King Buffalo, Stonefield, DUEL, and Pretty Lightning to FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL 2019!

You know who these bands are, but just for fun, let’s go through, shall we?

GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT

More than 15 years on from getting their start, Irish instrumentalists God is an Astronaut seamlessly blend heavy post-rock and psychedelic soundscapes to an evocative degree that is all their own. In 2018, the band released ‘Epitaph,’ which was somewhat ironically titled given the vital spirit of its creativity but nonetheless carried a melancholic feel, wistful even in its most colorful moments. This is a band we love and we know that they’re going to be something truly special for Freak Valley 2019. We can’t tell you enough: Don’t miss them.

MONOLORD

Sweden’s reigning kingpins of tectonic riffery come to FVF on the heels of ‘Rust,’ their third and most expansive offering to-date. It’s hard to believe it was only six years ago they made their debut, but in the time since, they’ve toured relentlessly across Europe and the US and have left nothing but destruction in their wake. As their influence begins to spread, Monolord only continue to look forward, and while they prepare to move on to next work, they’ll bring their inimitable groove to once more affirm the righteousness of their riff worship.

KING BUFFALO

Working with producer Ben McLeod from All Them Witches, last year King Buffalo released their second album, ‘Longing to Be the Mountain,’ and indeed, they became it. They may hail from the cold reaches of upstate New York, but King Buffalo’s sound is warm and inviting and made all the more distinct by a level of craft that is their own. Their songs are spacious and tripped out with chemistry-driven jams, but they never seem to get lost either. At least not more than they want to. We’re happy their path will lead them to Freak Valley this year.

STONEFIELD

The Findlay Family Band comes to Netphen! Melbourne’s Stonefield is comprised of sisters Amy, Sarah, Holly and Hannah Findlay, and their take on classic psychedelia is peppered with right-on fuzz, a penchant for memorable melody, and just a bit of synthy weirdness that made their 2018 album, ‘Far From Earth,’ as dance-ready as it was nod-out. Get blissed as Stonefield come to Freak Valley for the first time and change all our heads in the process. Can’t wait. Also, no one really calls them the “Findlay Family Band,” so don’t do that.

DUEL

Duel have been doing their bit to “Keep Austin Weird” — as the bumper stickers say — for the better part of the last half-decade, putting out their debut ‘Fears of the Dead’ in 2016 and following it up with ‘Witchbanger’ the last year. They’ve put their noses to the tablesaw of touring ever since and we gladly open our doors, arms and hearts to welcome their acid-laced boogie intensity to Freak Valley. And their records are killer, no doubt about it, but live they absolutely bring it to another level. You’ll be buying a t-shirt, make no mistake.

PRETTY LIGHTNING

Far be it from us to tell you how to live your life or anything, but if you haven’t go hit up Bandcamp at some point today and take a listen to Pretty Lightning’s ‘The Rhythm of Ooze.’ The Saarbrücken duo released the LP in 2017 and used it to envision a psych-honed Delta blues vibe as much of the earth as it was stretched out on some cosmic ether. Soul music for those bound for the center of the galaxy. And once you take the time to listen, we won’t need to tell you to see them at Freak Valley. You’ll just know it’s where you have to be.

Line-up 2019:
Wolfmother, Corrosion Of Conformity, Brant Bjork, Yob, God Is An Astronaut, The Obsessed Official, Monolord, The Vintage Caravan, Electric Moon, King Buffalo, Minami Deutsch, Pristine, Stonefield, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Spaceslug, Arc of Ascent, DUEL, The Fierce & The Dead, Pretty Lightning, Dead Lord

Freak Valley Festival 2019 // No Fillers – Just Killers

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Stonefield, Far From Earth (2018)

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