Leonov Premiere “I am Lion, I am Yours” Video; Wake out Oct. 26

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

leonov

Norwegian atmospheric doomers Leonov are getting ready to release their sophomore collection, Wake, on Oct. 26 through Fysisk Format. “I am Lion, I am Yours” is the leadoff among the included five tracks, and in its haunting melodic echoes and cacophonous wall of sound, it speaks to a duality that plays out across what follows in loud/quiet tradeoffs and patient builds. There are stretches of marked intensity and reaches where minimalism holds sway behind the vocals of Tåran Reindal, which remind a bit of what Sera Timms brought to Black Math Horseman in terms of effects and ambience. Still, through the crunching “Eucharist” with drummer Jon-Vetle Lunden rolling out a nod marked by the low end of bassist Morten Kjelling and the spacious guitars of Ole Jørgen Reindal and Rune Gilje, and into the 10:50 “Shem,” Leonov demonstrate a fluidity in their transitions that smooths out the noted juxtaposition. They’re not any more jagged in a given turn than they want to be.

Part of that is the aforementioned bass, which ties together a lot of the material along with Reindal‘s vocals, but leonov wakepart is the expectation of drift set up in “I am Lion, I am Yours.” That’s brought to fruition in “Shem,” which in its second half marches toward what at first seems to be an apex and turns out instead to be a deconstruction and looped static, and even more so in 15-minute closer “Wake,” but between the two is “Oceanode,” which follows a more distinctly post-metal direction and opens up after about a minute and a half into more a more churning riff that in the second half of the song comes to a head in the most prevalent wash of the record. The title-track follows a more experimentalist but ultimately linear course, offering a highlight vocal performance and subtlety of keys and percussion that bring tension leading to Wake‘s mountainous finish. The depths and heights, however, are clearly foretold in the opener, as is the wash, and Leonov execute their charge with a graceful balance between heft and space. Their methodical delivery seems to have grown in the four years since they made their self-titled debut, and Wake offers sonic spiritual catharsis in its heavier stretches and an otherworldly presence in its quieter moments.

If you’ve got an aversion to high-contrast or flashing lights, you might want to hold the screen out or step back before you hit play on the video below, because there’s definitely some of that going on and I’m not looking to give anyone a headache (honest.). Otherwise, you’ll find “I am Lion, I am Yours,” directed by Simen Skari, on the player immediately following, with some more release info courtesy of the PR wire afterwards, including the preorder link.

Hope you enjoy:

Leonov, “I am Lion, I am Yours” official video premiere

I am Lion, I am Yours is taken from Leonov’s 2018 effort ‘Wake’ out on Fysisk Format October 26th. Pre-order the album here: https://smarturl.it/IamLion

Ever since its formation in 2010, Leonov has found inspiration for its celestial doom in the existential, the darkness and affliction, as well as the curiosity and hope in things beyond our reach and comprehension.

“Wake” is an album that contends with life’s great journey in the face of these forces, from cradle to grave. From the childlike and fundamental quest for belonging, acceptance and affirmation – to the mature recognition that we are ever coming up short and are not in control of our existence, and as a summary, the titular song “Wake” conveys the melancholy and nostalgia over what has been found and lost. The song encloses a celebration of life and a grief over the things left behind, a pain that everything ends and at the same time a hope that death is not final.

Recorded at Taakeheimen Lydrike, with the exception of “Eucharist” recorded at Malabar Studio with Christoffer Gaarder, the band’s second album was later mixed and co-produced by Morten Øby at Taakeheimen.

Leonov is:
Ole Jørgen Reindal – Guitar
Rune Gilje – Guitar
Morten Kjelling – Bass
Tåran Reindal – Vocals/Synth
Jon-Vetle Lunden – Drums

Leonov on Thee Facebooks

Leonov on Bandcamp

Fysisk Format website

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2018 Night Two in Oslo, Norway, 10.06.18

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat 2018 poster

I knew this was going to be a quick trip, but now that I’m sitting on the other end of Høstsabbat 2018 it feels even quicker than it did on paper. Today was — church pun totally intended — little short of immaculate. It picked up from the energy and personality of yesterday’s show and directed the personalities of each stage in a different way. Upstairs on the altar, it was rock and psych for most of the night, while downstairs in the Crypt, it dug deep into post-metal. Then, for the final two acts, they pulled a total swap. Just when you think you’ve caught the pattern: no dice.

Slept hard after posting that last review and stopped at the organic market on my way back to the Kulturkirken Jakob and picked up a little natural-rubber frog for The Pecan back home, then hit the venue to check in. I should note: Coffee was had. In bulk. I didn’t count cups, but I wouldn’t have been able to keep track anyhow. I know I put down two or three before Taiga Woods were finished opening the day in the basement, and I stopped in for more several times along the way after that. Big quality of life improvement.

I’m not sure how else to say it — today was a special day. I am not young, and I have been to many shows in my time. That’s not bragging; I’ve by no means seen the most shows. But I’ve seen a few. And a day like this doesn’t come along all that often. I know already I’ll be looking back on my time here fondly. I haven’t even left the hotel to go to the airport yet, and frankly I’m already feeling nostalgic.

Thank you for reading. This is how it went:

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Taiga Woods

Taiga Woods (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rockin’ start to the proceedings. Oslo’s own Taiga Woods tapped into a traditional style of desert heavy, showing shades of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age early on, but working their way toward their own identity in style and presence. Most of what they played came from their 2017 self-titled debut, though it’s worth noting that it would seem guitarist/vocalist Erik Skundberg has undergone a total revamp of the band in the 13 months since that LP was released, bringing on board drummer Jonatan Eikum as well as guitarist Jøran Normann, who played upstairs yesterday as a member of Lonely Kamel, and bassist Ole Ulvik Rokseth, who opened the Crypt yesterday as part of SÂVER. Familiar faces or no, that’s not a minor change when it’s three-fourths of the lineup. But as refreshing as it was to see an act get down to the ’90s roots of modern-style heavy rock, they lacked nothing for chemistry between them, and the new song “Step Up” fit well ahead the catchy “Slow Burning” as they made their way toward finishing with “The Great Machine.” I didn’t see CDs for sale, which only says to me they’re ready for someone to step up and put that record out either before or in conjunction with a new one to come.

Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Maybe once — maybe — at a festival like this, I’ll see something that makes me pull the plugs out of my ears. Elephant Tree were that band at Høstsabbat. Kind of hard not to feel like the universe was doing me favors, lining up them, Asteroid and Electric Moon one into the next on the upstairs stage. The London three-piece were freshly arrived off a tour with Mothership and Stoned Jesus, and they sounded like it. I was lucky enough to see them in their hometown this past May (review here), and of course the context was different them play on an actual church altar in a room with a ceiling at least three stories high, but even so, they were locked in like a band who’ve been touring, and while they were joking around and guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland were ragging on drummer Sam Hart for forgetting to get a beer before they took stage — someone brought him one — they were utterly locked in through “Dawn,” “Surma” and “Aphotic Blues” from their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The harmonies between Townley and Holland were dead on, and they only showed progression in that regard with two new songs that carried the tentative titles “Wasted” and “Bella” before they closed out with a slowed-down cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid.” Because of the tempo, I actually thought they might dip into the Type O Negative version, but they ultimately stayed loyal at least in structure to the original. To call them a highlight of the trip would be underselling it viciously. A blast all the way through. They played Psycho Las Vegas last year, but I hope their next album brings them to the US for a full tour. They sounded ready and well up to the task.

Dwaal

Dwaal (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I knew nothing about Dwaal going into their set, and sometimes I like that. Also based in Oslo, they packed their five-piece lineup into the basement stage such that bassist Stian spent a decent portion of the set playing at least half behind a concrete support pillar. Metal. Actually, post-metal, and sludge, and doom, but fittingly atmospheric for an evening that would be headlined by Amenra. Their debut EP, Darben, came out last year comprised of two extended cuts — I’d call it a full-length since it topped 30 minutes, but why argue? — and they’ve reportedly got an album in the works, and while I don’t know if the bulk of what they played was new or older, their aggression and their level of crushing riffing were obviously a far cry from both Elephant Tree and Taiga Woods, but they marked the beginning point of a second thread running throughout the evening, which comprised more ambient and aggro post-whatnottery in contrast to the more rock-minded or psychedelic fare. Either way, the room knew them more than I did and they had heads banging and nodding in front of the “stage” — that’s not to say “the spot on the floor where the rug was” — and on the side as well, which was closed yesterday and opened today presumably to accommodate a broader flux of attendees. It was full for Dwaal, and reasonably so.

Asteroid

Asteroid (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Such boogie. Such warmth. I mean, come on. All other things in the universe being equal — especially money — the chance to see Asteroid alone would’ve justified this trip. I made my way up early to the Chapel stage, to make sure I got a spot up front to see them, and was rewarded with a set that gracefully spanned all three of their albums to-date and found them jamming out psychedelic heavy blues with a naturalism that was present not only in the individual tones and voices of guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson, or the swing and shuffle in Jimmi Kohlscheen‘s drumming, but in the sonic conversation between the the three of them. That might be the most classic aspect of the Örebro trio’s sound, and it’s something that comes across on their records as well — their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here), 2010’s II (review here) and 2016’s return from hiatus, III (review here) — but of course, to see it in the moment as it’s happening, to see them make the easy shift between “Garden” and “Disappear” or to have them turn to the riffy “Speaking to the Sea” from the first album ahead of “Mr. Strange” from the latest one, it was all the more powerful of an impression made. I hear tell there’s new material in the works; songs coming together for the next record and plans to tour ahead of hitting the studio. As Asteroid have been off and on the better part of the last five years, it only bodes well to know they’re thinking ahead for good things to come. They only make the world a better place for existing, and the more they do that, the merrier.

The Moth Gatherer

The Moth Gatherer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back downstairs for more post-metallic volume assault. Sweden’s The Moth Gatherer in some ways picked up where Dwaal left off, but traded in some of the rawness of their Crypt-stage predecessors for an even-more atmospheric take. They had an EP out last year called The Comfortable Low, but their latest full-length was 2015’s The Earth is the Sky (review here), and their more post-rock-based style sat well with the crowd downstairs that was packed to capacity with a line outside waiting to get in as other people made their way out. A very thoughtful, progressive sound nonetheless had its share of claustrophobia, which was all the more fitting given the basement where they played, and watching them, it was evident just how righteously Høstsabbat had managed to capture not just a “club show” experience with its smaller stage, but more like a house show. To low light and periodically bludgeoning intensity, The Moth Gatherer filled that Crypt with sound as much as people, and they were a band I’d probably never have the chance to see anywhere else, so I felt all the more fortunate for the chance to do so here, in that small room where the walls seemed so ready to cave in at a moment’s notice. The thread that started with Dwaal and continued with The Moth Gatherer would pick up again with Amenra at the end, but there was still more rock to be had first.

Electric Moon

Electric Moon (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before the German instrumentalist space/psych jammers got started, they shared a hug on the side of the stage, and then guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt got on mic and wished everyone a pleasant flight. With the core trio of the band made all the more lush owing to guest synth from Burt Rocket (SEID) at the center of the stage, that trip took off quickly and didn’t bother to look back at ground below. Schmidt and bassist/sometimes-vocalist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck were rejoined by original drummer Pablo Carneval about a year ago, and their adventures only seemed to take them farther and farther out as their set went on, washes of guitar and synth floating up to the high ceiling while the bass and drums held together a fluidity of groove that showed the band for the masters of the form — such as it is a “form” with a sound so utterly molten — that they are. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them at Roadburn in years past (review here) and with their members in various projects, as the band’s pedigree runs through acts like Zone Six and WeltraumstaunenKrautzone, etc., but to see Electric Moon on stage is something unto itself. They’re never overly showy in terms of thrashing about or anything, but the experience of their sonic exploration comes through vividly as they play, and that suits the laid back feel of the resultant material itself perfectly. They did not in any way fail to invite the audience along on what indeed turned out to be a pleasurable, radiant-in-the-sense-of-light journey.

Brutus

Brutus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I did not see nearly enough of Brutus. They were killer, and they were killing, and I did not see nearly enough of them doing it. To be fair to myself, I’d probably say the same if I’d managed to watch their full set, but the Norwegian traditionalist heavy rockers headlined in the Crypt, and they had the basement of Kulturkirken Jakob so jammed with bodies that for the first time in the whole weekend, I felt the press of the crowd almost knock me over up front. And even if I do at some point in my life get to see Brutus again, chances are, it won’t be in the kind of situation where I’m in danger of tripping over the stage monitors on the floor because of the push of people behind me, so I relished the opportunity while I could. And Brutus — clearly hometown heroes of boozy riff-purveyance — were a thrill to behold in that headlining spot. They could’ve played upstairs easily, I’m sure, but despite their sonic discrepancy with The Moth Gatherer and Dwall directly before, they made that basement into a party all the way, and while I knew that in just a little while, Amenra were going to close out the festival on a much darker note, the chance to see Brutus play, and to play in a place that small, wasn’t to be overlooked. I didn’t see enough of it, but I’m grateful for what I did catch, because that’s not an opportunity that will come along often, if it ever does again at all.

Amenra

Amenra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Belgian post-metal kingpins have toured the US more than a couple of times at this point, I believe most recently as support for the wallop duo of Neurosis and Converge — their also on the former’s label, Neurot Recordings — but I’m still not sure America really appreciates just how huge Amenra are in Europe. They’re gods here. I knew that from seeing them at Roadburn in 2016, but the intervening years have only seen them all the more don a headliner role. They would seem to have taken the post-metal crown that once belonged to Cult of Luna, and while I’ll admit I could in no way match my fellow fest-goers’ sense of worship when it came time for them to go on, there’s absolutely nothing one can take away either from their intensity or their obvious dedication to how they present themselves. I don’t know if it would be possible to find a more fitting locale for Amenra to play than in a church with cathedral ceilings of height enough for their projections to be shown massively to the assembled congregation, but even if you discount all of that, and ignore the we-play-in-the-dark-until-the-strobes-hit lighting and the fact that frontman Colin H. van Eeckhout doesn’t face the audience until the last song, if then, they’re still a formidable presence live, and there would’ve been nowhere else to put them on the Høstsabbat bill if they weren’t at the top of it. I’m not 100 percent sure I’m ready to call myself a full-on convert to the “church of ra,” as they put it, but I definitely didn’t have any trouble seeing the appeal of their dogma. And I reserve the right to become a total fanboy at some later date.

I left out of Kulturkirken Jakob into the chilly Oslo air without my hoodie on. Just wanted to feel that cold as it was rather than shy away from it. Something about the sensory experience on my bare neck and forearms seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s coming up on three in the morning CET and my flight is at nine-something, so I won’t get to see a lot of the city on this trip. Maybe that was my way of taking as much of it in as I could.

When I got back around the block to the Anker Hotel, I messaged Johannes from Asteroid. We had talked earlier in the day about doing an interview for “The Obelisk Show” on Gimme Radio, and it didn’t happen at the venue, but I thought if they were around the hotel maybe it could work. Was worth a shot, anyhow. Robin was asleep, but I chatted in the hotel bar with Johannes and Jimmi, and that was a blast. I spoke with Elephant Tree earlier in the day as well, and with Ole Helstad and Jens Storaker, who run the fest, so I think I’ll probably just dedicate a whole episode to having been here. I think I have a few weeks before I get there, but I’ll keep you posted.

I haven’t sorted any pics yet from tonight, so need to do that, but I’m not sleepy yet, so hopefully my brain won’t come crashing down before I have to leave for the airport. Help me, last tiny drops of adrenaline.

My eyelids are getting heavy just thinking about it.

I can’t possibly thank you enough for reading if you have.

Thank you.

Thank you so much to Jens and to Ole for having me back here. Thank you to The Patient Mrs. and to Cate Wright for taking on my Pecan duties in my absence. Thank you to my mother and my sister for their undying support. My only hope is they know how grateful I am for it. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for always being so great to run into at fests, to Andrea who I met here, to Kai, who is an institution unto himself, to Pete, Jack and Sam from Elephant Tree, to Robin, Johannes and Jimmi from Asteroid, to Sula Bassana, Martin from Domkraft, Jens Heide, Lex and everyone else I spoke to over the last two days who said hi. It’s hugely appreciated and humbling. People say nice things. It feels good. Thank you.

Alright. On to photos, and then to shower, and then to airport. I doubt I’ll have it in me to post again before I’m back home, and don’t look for much on Monday, but really, one more time, thank you. So much. I don’t even get it, how lucky I am. My soul feels restored for having been here.

Thank you for that.

Pics after the jump.

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2018 Night One in Oslo, Norway, 10.05.18

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat 2018 poster

I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without coffee, but here in Oslo, the morning after the first night of Høstsabbat 2018, I’m pretty sure I’m at that mark. Thursday evening I flew out of Boston, got into Copenhagen yesterday morning, connected to Norway and took the Flytoget train into Oslo Central Station and walked from there to the Anker Hotel where I’m staying, about a block and a half away from the Kulturkirken Jakob, where the fest is being held. All that time, no caffeine. Haven’t really had five minutes to get any. I don’t know if there’s coffee at the show. I was too busy yesterday to ask.

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Høstsabbat at the Vulkan Arena. That was crazy. This is another level. Kulturkirken Jakob is literally a church — it is accurately-enough depicted on the festival poster that I recognized it looking out the window of the hotel room — and a large one at that with high ceilings, big altar, a raised pulpit, wood floors, etc. And downstairs, a basement that’s essentially the opposite: low ceiling, cobwebs, concrete supports for the massive structure overhead. And the fest is both aware of and reveling in the difference. With a stage upstairs and a stage downstairs, they’re playing to both ends of the spectrum between grandiosity and no frills volume-assault basement gigs, and with the mix of bands across a range of styles, it totally works. I spoke to fest organizers Ole C. Helstad and Jens Andreas Storaker yesterday, and they both seemed really pleased with how everything has turned out. As well they should be.

It was eight bands, four on each stage rotating back and forth between them. Downstairs, upstairs, downstairs, upstairs, and so on. No crossovers in the lineup though, so if you wanted to, you could see everything. That was my goal and I’m happy to say it worked out. It went like this:

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SÂVER

Saver (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The all-caps post-noise sludgers SÂVER announced earlier this week that they will issue their debut LP, They Came with Sunlight, early next year on Pelagic Records. It was far away from a release party, then, but their set in the basement — the Crypt Stage, as it’s being called — was kind of a preview of what’s in store. In the tight space downstairs, the Oslo-native trio unfurled the first of the night’s several genuine volume blasts, a crunch and lurch and Neurosis-style tension cut through only by Markus Støle‘s drums and the shouts of bassist Ole C. Helstad and guitarist Ole Ulvik Rokseth. They were loud enough to shake the floor and packed enough low-end punch to vibrate the plugs in your ears, but there was a cohesive sense of atmosphere as well, and that extends to the album as well. They could be and often were brutally heavy, but there was a depth to that heft as well, so that it wasn’t an all out assault without purpose. It was an early start at 5PM on a workday, but the room was still decently packed, and they gave all present a reason to look out for They Came with Sunlight‘s impending release. I know I will, anyhow.

Hällas

Hallas (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Høstsabbat‘s throwing the doors open as regards vibe was evident from the moment Sweden’s Hällas took the stage. Glammed-out to the point of bassist/vocalist Tommy Alexandersson wearing a cape and metallic-shining boots, the five-piece nonetheless brought classic progressive-edged boogie to life in a way that immediately answered any and all questions about the vitality of retroism in heavy rock. Alexandersson, guitarists Alexander Moraitis and Marcus Pettersson and drummer Kasper Eriksson played down on the stage while keyboardist Nicklas Malmqvist took to the raised pulpit and even worked in a little ultra-appropriate church organ to the proceedings. They came supporting their 2018 full-length, Excerpts from a Future Past, and handled the big stage like absolute professionals. Lush as their sound was, it was an immediate contrast to the rawness of SÂVER back downstairs, and as the evening went on, that only more clearly came into focus as being precisely the intent. Heavy isn’t just dark, or catchy, or loud. Hällas opened the upstairs stage with uptempo kick, danceable groove and a classic feel that seems to become all the more crucial as time goes on.

Krokofant

Krokofant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

And if Hällas made the point, Krokofant only confirmed it with their go-anywhere doom jazz. With Jørgen Mathisen on saxophone, clarinet and keys, Tom Hasslan on guitar and Axel Skalstad on drums, the well-named trio were a gleeful excursion into the outer reaches of weird. There were moments where they reminded my East Coast US ears of Stinking Lizaveta for their ability to keep an overarching groove locked in while also running circles around it in intricate scales, but Krokofant were by and large more angular and mathy-sounding, giving the feeling they were crunching numbers as much as riffs, and still being an awful lot of fun. Whether it was Skalstad looking like his drumkit was his favorite playground or Hasslan every now and again stepping to the fore with a spacious lead, they were an outlier who served that necessary function well, giving yet another definition of “heavy” for the fest’s ongoing creative statement on the subject. I knew nothing about them going into the set and still had fun watching them play, and I was by no means the only one.

Lonely Kamel

Lonely Kamel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you can see Lonely Kamel, do it. That’s the message plain and simple of their live set. I had a feeling Lonely Kamel were going to kick ass, and they did. Four years after putting out Shit City via Napalm Records, the Oslo heavy rockers took the altar supporting this year’s Death’s Head-Hawkmoth (review here) on Stickman, and in so doing gave a reminder that sometimes all you need is songwriting and performance. I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t — though Lonely Kamel made it look that way — but it’s true. They’re not a niche band. They’re not really trying to innovate in terms of aesthetics. But they’re excellent at what they do, and they’re tight enough that anything else they did would seem superfluous anyway. They don’t need it. They have songs and they have performance. “Evil Man” from 2011’s Dust Devil (review here) was a highlight, and the hook of “Inebriated” from the new record was recognizable as soon as they hit into it, while “Fascist Bastard” brought an edgier groove to the set. They were locked in, on fire, and whatever other cliche you’d want to put to it, and they too were a lot of fun, but you could also hear their experience in how they played. Their straightforward approach was an excellent grounding point for the rest of the night to come, but also, another distinguishing factor that made them different from everyone else who played. It was that kind of night. Right on.

Domkraft

Domkraft (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Stand and watch and hear Domkraft play for any given three minutes of their set and you might come away with a completely different impression of what they do. Over here, the Swedish trio are digging into post-Monolord nod-of-riff largesse, over there they’re pulling off a Hawkwindian push through the cosmos, and even further on, they’re shouting out aggro noise-laced heavy rock. The key aspect of all of it is that they tie it together. It’s fluid. They make it all theirs. That’s true even more on their impending second record, Flood, which is out Oct. 19 on Blues Funeral Recordings as the follow-up to 2016’s The End of Electricity (review here), which was issued by Magnetic Eye Records, though “Sandwalker” and “Dead Skies Red Eyes” from the new album matched up pretty well down in the Kulturkirken Jakob basement with the punch of “Meltdown of the Orb” and “The Rift” from its predecessor. The three-piece capped off with “The Watchers” and “Landslide,” a reverse ordering of the opening salvo of Flood, and demonstrated all the more their progressive will and encompassing vision of heavy, which they matched with a fervently aggressive lumber and depth of fuzz. They had been one of the bands I was most looking forward to on the night’s bill, and they absolutely delivered.

Spurv

Spurv (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not going to claim to know what night two of the festival will bring or anything, but there’s a good chance that Spurv had the entire weekend’s only trombone. Even Krokofant didn’t have one, jazzy as they were, but as Oslo instrumentalist post-rockers Spurv were playing earlier 2018’s Myra LP in full, trombone and the violin on the other side of the stage were both essential along with the three guitars, bass and drums. There was some kind of metallic underpinning to the material — especially in the drums — but my bottom line in watching their set was there’s very little in this world that can make you want an album you don’t have as much as seeing that album played live. As Spurv ran through their tracks, their energy made so much of post-rock seem silly, as though they were asking, “why would I be gazing at my shoes when I’m making such cool sounds?,” and I found I had no answer for that question. With more than a hint of prog and post-black metal wash, Spurv engulfed the church with a fitting spaciousness and seemed to be ecclesiastic in just the right way for the setting. It was gorgeous. I already regret not buying the record when they finished.

Eagle Twin

Eagle Twin (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Certainly the loudest band in the basement. Upstairs was working on a different scale, but I think if you took volume in per-capita measure, they were probably the loudest band of the night overall. I also didn’t realize just how much blues there is in Eagle Twin‘s sound. Their 2018 album, The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn) review here, is the occasion for their being in Europe for the next couple weeks, and as they hop from fest to fest to fest, they left no shortage of footprint in Oslo. Even before they started, drummer Tyler Smith‘s line-checking his snare drum required earplugs just to take it, and guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley plugged into every amp and cabinet in the downstairs backline, so yes, much volume there as well. And it’s easy to lose in all that volume, in the riffing and throat-singing and crash, but year, there’s an awful lot of blues to what they do. It was a welcome discovery for one such as myself, who is years late on seeing Eagle Twin live, and I feel like finally doing so has genuinely helped me better understand where their albums are coming from. Time for a revisit to The Thundering Heard, I think.

Toner Low

Toner Low (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I have no problem admitting that by the time Toner Low went on, I felt beat to hell. It had been a long day of travel and riffs, and I had one of those ultra-tired headaches that neither water nor riffs was going to cure. Still, how are you not going to watch Toner Low? The most stoned of the stoner bands, hailing from the Netherlands, essentially played in the dark, as is their wont, and what light there was was tinted weedian green to match their hyperdense riffing and overarching plod. I said it on on the social medias, but it bears repeating: All your tone worship, amp worship, riff worship bands: Toner Low destroys them all and they’ve been doing it for a long time now. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them live before, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with what was coming, but to hear that low end bounce off the vaulted ceiling was more than its fair share of incredible, and even exhausted as I was, Toner Low made themselves absolutely indispensable with their chest-rattling lumber and ultra-languid flow. I’ll go ahead and take a new album whenever it’s ready, please. The sooner the better.

Can’t even tell you how much I’ve been falling asleep while putting this together. Because I’ve been too unconscious to know. Sorry for typos, wrong or missing words, etc.

Night two kicks off in a few hours, so I’m going to crash back out and see if I can revive myself at least enough to open both eyes at the same time.

Until then, enjoy the pics after the jump below:

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SÂVER Sign to Pelagic Records; They Came with Sunlight Due Early 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Okay, stay with me. First, drummer Markus Støle and bassist Ole C. Helstad were two-thirds of the trio Tombstones on Soulseller Records. After that band broke up following their last album in 2015, Støle and guitarist/bassist/vocalist Ole Ulvik Rokseth released the debut album from their prior-formed two-piece Hymn on Svart in 2017. Now, Støle, Rokseth and Helstad have come together as the all-caps noisemakers SÂVER, signed to Pelagic Records, and will release their first full-length through the label in early 2019, only after playing it in full this coming weekend in their native Oslo, Norway, at the Høstsabbat festival. It’s a humdinger of a narrative, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right — reasonably certain I’m reasonably certain — and either way, the album, dubbed They Came with Sunlight, is already in the can and punishing in heft and atmosphere alike. I’ll hope to have more on it, especially after I head to Norway and see them play it in a couple days.

The PR wire simplifies the announcement thusly:

saver

We’re happy to announce the signing of SÂVER from Oslo, whose debut album ‘They Came With Sunlight’ will be released in early 2019… we are looking forward to an album of sublime heaviness, shimmering moogs, fiery vocals and a really gnarly bass tone. Fans of Breach, The Old Wind, Cult Of Luna, listen up!

SÂVER is the new project of Ole Christian Helstad, Ole Ulvik Rokseth an Markus Støle of TOMBSTONES and HYMN. “The idea of starting SÂVER was a consequence of ending something“, comments Helstad. “In the beginning it was a good mix of loss, in a way, and the excitement of a blanc canvas. In hindsight, we shared a feeling of longing for an escape, getting away from the known, and immersing ourselves into something completely different… which is scary and exciting at the same time. It mirrors the band both in a literary sense, as well as the general mood during the writing process.“

Oslo fans can get a sneak preview, as the band will be performing the album in its entirety at their own Høstsabbat festival in Oslo this coming weekend. Other bands on the bill include Amenra, Asteroid, Toner Low and others.

SÂVER is:
Markus Støle
Ole Ulvik Rokseth
Ole C Helstad

https://www.facebook.com/saveroslo/
http://www.pelagic-records.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pelagicrecords

SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight teaser

SÂVER, rehearsal room footage

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The Devil and the Almighty Blues Touring Next Month; Playing Desertfest Belgium 2018 & Keep it Low

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Norwegian heavy blues rockers The Devil and the Almighty Blues have been out a couple times already this year supporting their 2017 album, II (review here), stopping fests like Stoned from the Underground and Red Smoke in July with Elephant Tree and hitting the road before that in May for a round of successful club dates with South Africa’s Ruff Majik. They were previously announced for Keep it Low in Munich and Desertfest Belgium in Antwerp, and as those fests run on consecutive weekends it seemed only reasonable to expect they’d connect them with shows between. Well, they have.

In fact, they’ll be out even before they land at Desertfest, starting off with a gig Oct. 11 with Texas fuzz magnates Wo Fat and picking up from there with a couple shows in France. It’s a nine-show run altogether, and presented by Sound of Liberation, but there are still two shows to be announced. They’re both right after the fest appearances, so I’d have to think there are other acts touring around they could probably jump on with. Having had the pleasure of watching The Devil and the Almighty Blues at Roadburn 2017 (review here), I’ll say that their recorded output, while excellent, only begins to tell the story of the presence they bring to the stage. Worth seeing if you can see them.

Sound of Liberation announced the tour thusly:

the devil and the almighty blues tour

Guys, we’re glad to tell you that The Devil And The Almighty Blues will be hitting the roads again in October, playing in some countries they couldn’t visit last May (Belgium, England, France). Do not miss them!

11.10.18 (UK) London | Underworld (with Wo Fat)
12.10.18 (FR) Paris | Olympic Café
13.10.18 (FR) Clermont-Ferrand | Raymond Bar
14.10.18 (BE) Antwerp | Desertfest Belgium
16.10.18 TBC
17.10.18 (DE) Hagen | Kultopia
18.10.18 (DE) Nürnberg | MUZ
19.10.18 (DE) Munich | Keep It Low Festival
20.10.18 TBC

The Deivl and the Almight Blues is:
Arnt Andersen
Petter Svee
Kenneth Simonsen
Torgeir Waldemar Engen
Kim Skaug

https://www.facebook.com/thedevilandthealmightyblues/
https://thedevilandthealmightyblues.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BLUES-FOR-THE-RED-SUN-645295312258485/
https://www.stickman-records.com/

The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II (2018)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Saint Karloff, All Heed the Black God

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

saint karloff all heed the black god

[Click play above to stream Saint Karloff’s All Heed the Black God in full. Album is out on LP/CD July 27 through Twin Earth Records with cassettes through Hellas Records.]

Opening with the call of a crow, shortly working its way into sampled thunder and in the meantime igniting immediately Sabbathian riffage marked out by a subtle brightness in its fuzz, the debut album from Saint Karloff, All Heed the Black God, arrives via Twin Earth Records and Hellas Records like a message telegraphed to the converted. Opener “Ghost Smoker” tops seven minutes and dips into blues rocking twists and turns as guitarist Mads Melvold layers his own harmonies — unless that’s bassist Ole Sletner or drummer Adam Suleiman backing — in a midsection shuffle, and the Oslo three-piece delve into accessible melodies as they cross reaches they won’t see again until the bookending closer, pushes closer to the eight-minute mark with an even purer Sabbath worship, like “Under the Sun”‘s malevolent boogie given a modern edge.

I say this nearly every time I mention Twin Earth Records in any context, but the label has an ear for tone that’s second to none, and as Saint Karloff join the imprints ranks, they fit excellently in that regard. The thrust of “Space Junkie” and the birdsong-laced acoustic interlude “Ganymedes” follow “Ghost Smoker,” each following the Black Sabbath blueprint in their own way, but Saint Karloff manage to make their own impression tonally and the deftness of Sletner and Suleiman in pulling off shifts in tempo and lacing one groove into the next set the three-piece apart from the masses when it comes to capturing that aspect of their forebears. In that regard and in terms of general pacing, they’re simply better at it than most bands.

The task of “Ghost Smoker” is clear at the outset in terms of setting the mood and tone — figuratively and literally — for what will follow, and “Space Junkie” answers back the patient groove with the album’s most fervent shove, leading to the interlude. This one-two-three progression of songs is pivotal to the impression All Heed the Black God makes one whole. For one, it is utterly classic. Put your intro where your intro goes, dig into a righteous groove, follow with a good sprint and then hang a louie into something entirely unexpected. It’s a smart play, and clearly intended to keep the listener on their toes as they make their way through especially for the always-pivotal first listen — going for the, “I don’t know what’s happening here, but I’m into it” impression, which they succeed in capturing — but most importantly, it speaks to a conscientiousness of craft from Saint Karloff, so what while their sound might be easy to pinpoint in terms of its influences early — hang on, we’re getting there — the very fact of that stems from a clarity of purpose on the part of the trio. They meant to make it that way, in other words, and they’re educated enough in the roots of their approach to know what they’re doing.

That’s something that only continues to help them as “Ganymedes” gives way to the three-song punch of centerpiece “Dark Sun,” “Radioactive Tomb” and “When the Earth Cracks Open” ahead of “Spellburn.” This middle salvo is likewise crucial to the overarching feel of the record, particularly as it represents a branching out in terms of influence. “Dark Sun” feeds Uncle Acid‘s “Death’s Door” garage doom through a filter of early Witchcraft — and better, works well doing so — before launching at around four minutes into its total 5:35 into thicker riffing and an all-around meaner roll, Melvold either bemoaning or bragging, “We have no soul/We are soulless,” with just a touch of post-Jus Oborn inflection in his voice. That twist fades out to finish “Dark Sun” as a highlight and the subsequent “Radioactive Tomb” confirms a suspicion heretofore held throughout the tracks regardless of speed or anything else: that Saint Karloff have a great drummer.

saint karloff

I am a firm believer that a truly excellent drummer — like an excellent singer, bassist, guitarist or even keyboardist sometimes — can make the difference in a band, and listening to Suleiman shove along the gallop of “Radioactive Tomb” as naturally as he held back during the verses of “Ghost Smoker,” his class and creativity as a player come through in such a way as to vibrantly enhance the work of the other two players around him. “Radioactive Tomb” laces additional percussion into its first half, but even so, it’s the drums holding it together it all opens up heading into and through the midpoint, a consistent, familiar beat that Suleiman makes his own. And even as he counts on his ride after everything else has dissipated, it’s clear just how central the swing and character of his playing is to the band. On the more blown-out “When the Earth Cracks Open,” as Melvold wahs out a lead and Sletner explores a highlight performance of his own, the drums carry over a straightforward progression that makes each cymbal hit count amid tom runs every bit worthy of the Bill Ward comparison they seem to be shooting for. That, “how on earth is he keeping this together?” vibe.

That’s not to take away from the work Melvold and Sletner do here — as noted, Twin Earth sniffs out excellent tone, and they both bring plenty of it — it’s just that when called on to do so, Suleiman is more than able to hold down the songs in a way that sounds easy and simply isn’t. From that shift in “Dark Sun” through the early movement in “Spellburn” en route to the aforementioned “Under the Sun” chug, he always seems to be where he needs to be, and the whole band benefits from it. Still, it’s the guitar in the foreground as “Spellburn” heads toward its sudden cold ending, and the balance across the ultra-manageable 38 minutes of the release of contributions balances well.

There are many aspects of All Heed the Black God — one assumes such heeding would be done on, say, a special day of observance, likewise absent of light — which will seem familiar to the more experienced heads who take it on, but that’s half the point. The other half is in the potential for growth Saint Karloff demonstrate throughout this thesis in Iommic Studies. Even more than the universal symptom on display throughout much of the riffing, it’s that potential left as the primary impression of the album, and one hopes Saint Karloff will continue to build on the vital chemistry and aesthetic willfulness they conjure here.

Saint Karloff, “Spellburn” official video

Saint Karloff, “Ghost Smoker” official video

Saint Karloff on Thee Facebooks

Saint Karloff on Bandcamp

Saint Karloff on Instagram

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

Twin Earth Records webstore/

Twin Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Hellas Records on Thee Facebooks

Hellas Records on Bandcamp

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Saint Karloff to Release All Heed the Black God on Twin Earth Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know about you, but every time I read ‘signed to Twin Earth Records,’ my mind immediately flashes to thinking this is some tone I probably need to hear. The Midwestern imprint has a knack for finding the kind of distortion you can dive into, and as they step up to issue the debut album from Oslo three-piece Saint Karloff, the standard would definitely seem to apply. I don’t see a set release date for when the label will deliver the band’s debut album, All Heed the Black God, but a first taste thereof is being given now with the video for “Ghost Smoker” that you can see at the bottom of this post, and it certainly bodes well for showing off a doom-rocking, horror-minded sensibility. Makes me look forward to hearing the rest of the record.

The announcement came down the PR wire, as announcements do:

saint karloff

Saint Karloff sign with Twin Earth Records

Saint Karloff Urge You to “All Heed the Black God”, Scribble Deal with Twin Earth Records

Norwegian distortion pedal lovers Saint Karloff are excited to announce their partnership with Twin Earth Records to release their début album, All Heed the Black God, which will be emerging on July 27 2018. The record is stuffed with seven tracks of riff worship much like the already-released “Ghost Smoker”. The band’s aesthetic – much like their name – draws from oldschool horror films, while the music is a modern twist on that 70s and 80s rockin’ vibe set out by Motorpsycho by way of Black Sabbath – with a touch of acoustic amid the heavy crunch.

The band are understandably fired up to get their début album out to the masses. “We have had great fun making it, and we really hope it will bring some good heavy vibes to the people out there!”

All Heed the Black God will be available on CD, vinyl and digital download.

https://www.facebook.com/SaintKarloff/
https://saintkarloff.bandcamp.com/
http://www.instagram.com/saintkarloff
https://twinearthrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://twinearthrecords.storenvy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TwinEarthRecords

Saint Karloff, “Ghost Smoker” official video

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Tempelheks Premiere New Track; Sign to Cursed Tongue Records for Midnight Mirror LP Due in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

tempelheks

With vibes right out of classic doom by the likes of Saint VitusTrouble and Reverend Bizarre, Oslo four-piece Tempelheks have inked a deal with Cursed Tongue Records to issue their third album, Midnight Mirror, this coming August. The 10-track/43-minute LP follows on the heels of 2016’s Serpents, Gods and Men, and shows Tempelheks further refining their style with elements of Norse folk and proto-metal along with their traditionalist doom riffing.

Tempelheks Midnight MirrorIt’s a stylistic blend that will be somewhat familiar to doomers who’ve dug into Northern doom before, but to listen to a track like “Prey” — which just happens to be premiering at the bottom of this post — there’s a decent sense of ’70s style shuffle to the proceedings, and especially coming right after the acoustic-based “Tigress” and before the more NWOBHM-affected guitar of “Harem Ritual,” it emphasizes the dynamic at work in the material overall, and the flow Tempelheks are able to conjure throughout these varied tracks.

You can hear some shades of garage doom in “Holy Serpent” and opener “Gates of Python,” but Tempelheks never seem to play all their cards in a single track, even as they move through the folkish “They Hide” toward closer “Slither Did My Queen,” which rounds out with bluesy lead work to cap Midnight Mirror as an album showing Tempelheks as capable of going where they want, when they want, and walking their own path to get there.

Cursed Tongue sent over the following about the signing:

tempelheks cursed tongue records

TEMPELHEKS SIGNS TO CURSED TONGUE RECORDS FOR WORLD WIDE RELEASE OF THEIR THIRD ALBUM ‘MIDNIGHT MIRROR’ IN AUGUST 2018.

Cursed Tongue Records is exhilarated to announce the signing of norse band Tempelheks for a release of their third album entitled ‘Midnight Mirror’ in August 2018.

From the doom streets of Oslo comes a four-headed snake bearing the name Tempelheks. Tempelheks is a psychedelic and occult doom rock experience. Based on the heavy riff of the 70’s, the band experiments with folky and traditional melodies coupled with eerie and mystical vocals. A groovy but hard beat drives the doomed caravan onward.

Originally conceived as a solo project by Martin Horn Sørlie (HS) in 2013 Tempelheks released their debut EP the gritty lo-fi “Red Forest ” which got picked up by a doom/stoner channel on YouTube. The unexpected attention motivated Tempelheks to write their self-titled debut album in 2014. With the debut album, the foundation of the serpent-worshipping cult’s temple was created.

The debut album was picked up by Norwegian underground label Heksekunst Productions. Both “Red Forest EP” and “Tempelheks” were recorded with limited funds and equipment in an old loft in Rælingen, outside of Oslo. The raw, unpolished sound gave the recordings a lot of character and helped build the occult atmosphere of the sound.

By the summer of 2015, a band was assembled and founding member HS was accompanied by Andreas Prestby (drums, percussion), Espen Sande Larsen (bass, backing vocals) and Sindre Øhman (guitar). Work on a new album started, which resulted in “Serpents, Gods and Men” that was released in August of 2016. This was also the first Tempelheks album to be pressed to vinyl. This time the recording sessions took place in a professional studio in Vestby, Norway. Jørn-Arild Grefsrud’s clean and powerful production took the sound in another direction, but still true to the occult and dark atmosphere of the previous releases.

Since then Tempelheks has played concerts through out Norway with bands like Dunbarrow, Horisont, Gravy Jones and Superlynx. Next step is to play abroad where the band looks to tour Scandinavia and northern Europe during fall 2018. Prior to recording their third album Tempelheks regrouped to now include a lineup constituting of HS, Sindre and new members Magnus Bjørnstad (bass & backing vocal) and Håkon Bergh (Drums & percussion).

On ‘Midnight Mirror’ Tempelheks chose to record in the renowned Cederberg studio in Kristiansand, Norway. Here they were accompanied by producer, friend, ex-label-head and vocalist of Dunbarrow; Espen Andersen. The sessions were done live and fast which gave little room for pickiness, over-thinking or compromise. The result was a characteristic, back-to-the roots kind of sound that lean more towards retro-rock than the more metal-fuelled sound of “Serpents, Gods and Men”.

The new album sees Tempelheks streatching out to incorporate a wider sonical range. Midnight Mirror thus span a variety of influences from the darker side of hard rock bringing to front a musical footprint ensured to appeal to fans of contemporary bands such as Uncle Acid, early Kadavar, HEAT, Demon Head and their fellow countrymen in Devil as well as classic acts as Thin Lizzy, Pentagram, King Crimson and Reverend Bizarre.

CTR-010, TEMPELHEKS – ‘MIDNIGHT MIRROR’, official release date: August 2018

TEMPELHEKS is:
Martin Horn Sørlie – Vocal & Guitar
Sindre Øhman – Guitar
Magnus Bjørnstad – Bass & backing vocal
Håkon Bergh – Drums & percussion

Recorded at Cederberg Studio, Kristiansand with Espen Andersen (Dunbarrow)
Mixed by Tempelheks and Espen Andersen
Mastered for vinyl by Tony Reed at HeavyHead Recording Co. (Mos Generator)
All music written and arranged by Tempelheks
All lyrics by Tempelheks, except for lyrics on “Slither Did My Queen” by Vilde Bjørklund
Artwork and layout by Kenneth Larssen Lønning
Additional layout/design by Michael Andresakis

Track listing:

Side A
1. Gates Of Python
2. Bury Your Children
3. The Witch And Her Man
4. Tigress
5. Prey
6. Harem Ritual

Side B
7. Holy Serpent
8. Phantom Messiah
9. They Hide
10. Slither Did My Queen

http://tempelheks.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/tempelheks/
https://www.instagram.com/tempelheks

http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CursedTongueRecords
https://www.instagram.com/cursedtonguerecords

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