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Hymn, Perish: Rising to Fall

Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hymn perish

I wouldn’t exactly call Hymn‘s debut album, Perish, hopeful. Released through respected purveyor Svart Records, the Oslo two-piece’s six-songer traffics way more in density, like some kind of module for chest compression accomplished through low end tones, and its forcefully-doomed atmosphere centers around a darkness that goes beyond moody in its presentation to be consuming in a metallic context. To that end, a stretch of blackened blastbeating like that in the penultimate “Spectre” is just one side of the extremity shown throughout, and even in its quiet spaces — the drone intro “Ritual” or post-midsection break in “Rise,” which follows — Perish holds firm to the notion that something is lurking around the next corner or at the start of the next measure.

As a first record, it unquestionably benefits from guitarist/bassist/vocalist Ole Rokseth and drummer Markus Støle‘s prior experience respectively in Buckaduzz and Tombstones, but, departing sound-wise somewhat from both outfits, Hymn approach an impulse toward the vicious from a different angle and push it further. Still, a more than nascent chemistry between Rokseth and Støle is palpable, bolstering the ideas from which Perish‘s 46-minute onslaught is constructed. Further cohesion is shown in conceptual ideas like positioning each of the tracks as a single-word title — “Ritual,” “Rise,” “Serpent,” “Hollow,” “Spectre” and finally, “Perish” — in a manner that both feels minimal and allows the listener to read some narrative progression between them.

While we’re deciding what to call and what not to call Perish, I wouldn’t go with “subtle” either, but that does not at all mean it has nothing to offer but pummel and bleakness. To coincide with the perceptible underlying complexity of its titles, the aesthetic Rokseth and Støle conjure throughout likewise balances between the raw and the full. With a recording, mix and master by Kim Lillestøl at Amper Tone Studio in Oslo, Perish can effectively scathe, as it does in the shouting madness in the second half of “Hollow,” and bask in massive lurch, as “Rise” does in its initial stages following the intro’s ambient tone-setting. The splitting up of “Ritual” and “Rise” at the start of the album is also telling. No doubt the two could’ve easily been presented as one track — “Rise” is already over 12 minutes long, another 1:46 would hardly make or break it — so the decision to push forward with a standalone intro has to be considered a conscious one, and the affect it has is to throw the listener’s expectation off.

hymn

So where Perish would otherwise simply be bookended by extended cuts — the finale title-track tops 10 minutes — the structure here becomes something else, something deeper. It is, in fact, a subtle aspect of presentation, but it makes a big difference in how Hymn seem to execute the rest of the record that follows “Ritual,” spanning genres fluidly in “Rise” before digging into what might be considered the meat of the tracklisting in “Serpent,” “Hollow” and “Spectre.” This trio succession — with roughly similar runtimes of 7:32, 7:50 and 6:28, respectively — digs into a core approach for Hymn in which tempos shift easily and Støle and Rokseth feel just as much at home in rolling forth a Neurosis-style swirl/churn on “Serpent” as a post-Conan roll on “Hollow” as a surprising turn into YOBian half-time-drum guitar gallop at the tail end of “Spectre.” Much to their credit, Hymn set their own context into which these elements are factored, and broaden their own sphere rather than simply derive parts of songs from familiar pieces.

That too can be related back to Rokseth and Støle working in other outfits, as well as the four years they’ve operated as Hymn, which is to say if they were brand new to a creative partnership, the balance of Perish might not provide such multifaceted nuance alongside its outward aggression. Nonetheless, that is what it proves out to be, and with “Rise” at the start of the proceedings (roughly), and the guitar-led push of “Perish” at the end, the point is only further driven into the audience’s collective skull. Again, forcefully. As the closer, the title-track feels especially tense in its early thrust and build, but before it’s three minutes into its total 10, the guitar and bass have dropped out and Rokseth is setting a foundation of bass on which the last delve into cacophony will be laid.

This stretch of ambience gives way to roll as they near the halfway point and, over its last several minutes, let “Perish” tear itself apart amid nodding push, feedback and noise — layered shouts and screams only emphasizing the feeling of molten chaos — but even as they seem to relinquish control of the assault, there’s a certain feeling of mastery as Hymn figuratively stand back, cross their arms and look at the devastation their material has wrought. That’s certainly as fitting an end for Perish as any I could think of, and unto their last fadeout, Støle and Rokseth demonstrate clear purpose behind the methods they employ. Perish embarks on a direction distinct in its brutality, and its varied approach bodes well for further trodding along Hymn‘s own path. Maybe it is subtle and hopeful after all, but whatever one ultimately calls it, Perish remains willfully defined by its sonic impact, and that’s plenty.

Hymn on Thee Facebooks

Hymn on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

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The Devil and the Almighty Blues Set March 17 Release for II

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the devil and the almighty blues

A second full-length from Norwegian heavy rockers The Devil and the Almighty Blues is an intriguing prospect. The Oslo five-piece impressed with their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and the aptly-titled follow-up, II, is set to arrive March 17 via Blues for the Red Sun Records (with distribution through Stickman). As the debut was one of 2015’s best and band have spent the last year-plus taking part in fests like Freak Valley and playing shows and getting themselves recently confirmed for Roadburn 2017, it seems fair to expect some marked forward movement in their sound. I guess the underlying point here is I hope to get the chance to find out.

Info follows, as well as the band’s upcoming live dates, as scoured from the social medias:

the devil and the almighty blues ii

Finally! Blues For The Red Sun are proud to announce release of the second The Devil And The Almighty Blues album!

The album will hit the streets Friday 17th March 2017. From early January there will be possible to pre-order the limited edition (on white vinyl). More info will follow.

When the 60’s turned into the 70’s there was a musical crossroads. The American blues had had it’s run with teens on both sides of the Atlantic long enough so that the blues-offspring named rock’n’roll had to expand or die. It did not die, it expanded in all kinds of directions! And right there in the crossroads between blues-based rock and all the world’s other sub-genres of rock, something happened to the blues. The format got experimented with, expanded and almost made unrecognizable. But at the same time the roots to the original ’real’ blues was never lost. The result was a highly electric musical revolution, where e.g. the newly born genre hard rock walked hand in hand with traditional delta blues.

It is out from this musical mud The Devil and the Almighty Blues have found their inspiration. Their music is slow, heavy, melodic and raw, all without losing the almighty blues out of sight.

The Devil and the Almighty Blues live shows:

APR 6 The Devil and the Almighty Blues / supp. There Will Be Blood
Parkteatret
Oslo, Norway

APR 7 The Devil And The Almighty Blues + There Will Be Blood
Studentsamfunnet driv
Tromsø, Norway

APR 20 Roadburn Festival 2017
Apr 20 – Apr 23
Tilburg, the Netherlands

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, The Devil and the Almighty Blues (2015)

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Hymn to Release Perish Feb. 17 on Svart

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hymn

One can hear shades of earlier Conan in ‘Spectre,’ the new streaming track from Norwegian duo Hymn as taken off their impending debut LP, Perish, but the surrounding atmosphere is almost unquestionably blackened. Viciously so. But add to that the fact that right around the 5:20 mark — you can see the break in the waveform on the Soundcloud player below — they shift into YOB-style triplet gallop, and the fact that the band features Markus from Tombstones alongside Ole Rokseth (ex-Buckaduzz), and a release on Svart, and you’d have to be off your nut to think I’m not into the combination of elements. Not that I’ve heard the record yet or anything, but it’s one you probably shouldn’t listen to in public unless you’re not worried about getting in trouble for punching somebody. Some ambience to it, but plenty of brutality as well.

The PR wire brings art, details and audio, just the way we like ’em:

hymn perish

HYMN set release date for SVART debut, reveal first track

Today, Svart Records sets February 17th, 2017 as the international release date for HHYN’s highly anticipated debut album, Perish. Hailing from the Oslo underground, HYMN have paved their way forward with their multiple full stacks, hard-hitting drumming, and an uncompromising approach to volume and tonality. Starting out early in 2013, the two-piece have kept a heavy foot on the throttle, pushing their raw and brutal doom over the Norwegian rock/metal scene as much as possible. By sharing the stage with bands like Windhand, Eagle twin, Uzala, Enslaved, and Belzebong, touring Europe, and by playing some of the biggest festivals in Norway (Høstsabbat, The Øya Festival), HYMN have grown to become one of Norway’s loudest and most hard-hitting live bands to date. Begun earlier this year, the band hit the studio to record their debut full-length, Perish, and the two-man juggernaut are now eager to hit the road with their cold, aggressive doom, made with merely four hands.

A statement from the band reads: “A long, loud, thorough, emotional, and really fun process is finally documented into approximately 50 minutes of music, titled Perish. The last year has surely been a defining one for us, and we are really proud of the result. The album is definitely a more brutal, more refined, and a much colder experience than our self-titled EP from 2013, and we do feel that this album really represents where we want to be musically right now. It’s recorded, mixed, and mastered by Kim Lillestøl at Amper Tone studio in Oslo, and we pretty much recorded the whole thing in 48 intense hours. We are really looking forward to take the album on the road, and are are super-stoked that Svart Records wants to release it.” The first track to be revealed is “Spectre,” which can be heard at Svart’s Soundcloud HERE. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for HYMN’s Perish
1. Ritual
2. Rise
3. Serpent
4. Hollow
5. Spectre
6. Perish

HYMN is:
Ole Rokseth – Guitar/bass & vocals
Markus Støle – Drums

www.facebook.com/HYMN-214614995268230
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.youtube.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

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The Order of Israfel, Year of the Goat and Tombstones Announce Early 2017 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Lest a day should go by without a reminder of how frickin’ awesome Europe’s heavy underground is, Napalm Records sends word of an early 2017 co-headlining tour from Swedish acts Year of the Goat and The Order of Israfel to be supported by Oslo’s Tombstones. The run kicks off late in January and will go into the middle of the next month, and will be preceded by a new Year of the Goat single out Dec. 9, as The Order of Israfel continue to support their 2016 sophomore outing, Red Robes (review here), that found them refining their take on classic doom.

Particularly stoked for Tombstones opening this stint, as it seems like a prime opportunity for them to turn some heads with their brash, deeply-weighted groove, which should rest well alongside The Order of Israfel‘s traditionalism and the cultistry of Year of the Goat. Good mix all around, if you happen to be in that part of the world.

From the PR wire:

year-of-the-goat-the-order-of-israfel-tombstones-tour

YEAR OF THE GOAT & THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL Co-Headlining Tour in 2017!

Now this is how a new year should start!

Two fantastic bands from the Napalm Records roster – THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL & YEAR OF THE GOAT – have teamed up with Tombstones as support to hit the road all across Germany, Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Austria and Switzerland!

THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL are already extremely looking forward to this tour:

“We are extremely happy to announce our next tour that will take place in January-February 2017. It is a Co-headlining tour with our friends and label mates Year Of The Goat! Support on this tour will be Tombstones!”

The band’s first steps might have been heavily influenced by genre icons such as Cathedral, Pentagram and Witchcraft, but the four piece has firmly established its very own brand of slow-motion magnificence in 2016 with their latest masterpiece Red Robes.

YEAR OF THE GOAT deliver finest and darkest occult doom rock! This is captivating, unique and majestic! Their latest effort The Unspeakable was released in 2015, so it’s time to hit the road again! By the way, the band will release a 7″ single “Song Of Winter” on December 9th.

YEAR OF THE GOAT states:
“We are truly looking forward to be out on the European road again, this time with a package that we’re sure will provide many magical moments. Besides returning to countries and cities we love, we get to visit a few countries and places for the first time as well. We will put together a show of our favourite songs from our current catalogue and bring the uplifting gospel of Lucifer as well as a Lovecraftian gloom. Welcome to the sermon!”

The result of both bands together is a wondrous, mystical piece of art featuring unforgettable vocals and ten-ton riffing that will haunt you for aeons and especially on their upcoming co-headlining tour!

Find all dates listed below & don’t miss this power package including co-headlining THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL and YEAR OF THE GOAT with support of Tombstones live on tour!

28.01.17 DE – Berlin / Badehaus
29.01.17 DE – Osnabrück / Bastard Club
30.01.17 DE – Hamburg / Hafenklang
31.01.17 DE – Wiesbaden / Schlachthof
01.02.17 NL – Arnhem / Willemeen
02.02.17 UK – London / Underworld
04.02.17 TBA
06.02.17 CH – Olten / Coq D’Or
07.02.17 IT – Milano / Lo Fi
08.02.17 DE – Munich / Backstage
09.02.17 AT – Vienna / Viper Room
10.02.17 DE – Leipzig / UT Connewitz
11.02.17 DE – Siegen / Vortex

www.facebook.com/TheOrderOfIsrafel
www.theorderofisrafel.com
www.facebook.com/yearofthegoat
https://www.facebook.com/tombstonesoslo/

The Order of Israfel, “Swords to the Sky” lyric video

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2016 Night Two in Oslo, Norway, 09.17.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat-2016-poster

I slept. I slept and slept and slept. Then I wrote. Then I slept more. Then I wrote more, and by the time I was done with all that writing and sleeping, it was almost the start of Høstsabbat‘s second night. An earlier launch and more bands, but still a lineup of unmistakable quality, I didn’t want to miss any of it.

I’d hardly call myself an expert on the place, but Oslo seems like a really cool town if you like bands. On the 10-minute walk from the hotel to the Arena Vulkan I passed no fewer than three places that looked like they might host a rock show on any given night. Maybe that doesn’t sound like that many, depending on where you live, but it’s an embrace of culture that doesn’t exist in the place I’m from. Again, no expert, but that’s the initial impression.

Before I jump into the wrap of the day, I want to extend a personal thanks to Ole Helstad, Jens Storaker and all involved with the festival for having me over. The chance to see Oslo at all and to see these bands in this place is something very special and they clearly believe in what they’re doing. Rightly so. The vibe throughout the weekend was fantastic and I went almost the whole show without having beer thrown on me, so mark it a win for sure. Skål.

Here’s how night two went down at Høstsabbat 2016:

Reptile Master

reptile-master-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Post-sludge played through three guitars (plus bass) geared toward general tonal push, Reptile Master were an aggressive start to the day. I remembered the band from the release of their 2015 debut, In the Light of a Sinking Sun (track stream here), on Blues for the Red Sun Records, but live, the Tromsø five-piece made much more of an impression, bassist Rolf Ole Rydeng Jenssen and guitarist Nicolay Tufte Østvold set up facing each other with their mic stands crossed so as to accentuate the dual screams that permeated their set. They also had a split with Black Moon Circle out earlier this year, but their sound is much more crushing in its atmosphere, holding a tension even in its quiet moments without coming across as a post-metallic Neurosis clone. In that, the general pissed off nature of the material served them well as a distinguishing factor that changed the context even of those quiet moments, and the nod factor only became more prevalent as they went on. They’ve clearly started to make a mark in Norway, if the early crowd was anything to judge by.

Wild Rocket

wild-rocket-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

It was my first exposure to Dublin’s Wild Rocket, whose debut album, Geomagnetic Hallucinations, came out in 2014. Much as the night before at Høstsabbat had shifted vibe almost on a per-band basis, they were a significant jump in style from what Reptile Master had on offer, trading off between driving heavy rock and more spaced impulses, like that moment when the song “Motorhead” became the band Motörhead. About 25 minutes into their set opening the Vulkan stage upstairs, they announced it was time for their last song, warning, “It’s kind of a long one.” Fair enough. More people came up as their time went on — it was early yet — and they very clearly turned a few heads, including mine, with that final space jam, seeming to push further out in a way that recalled to my mind some of Death Alley‘s post-Hawkwind cosmic triumphs, though in the case of Wild Rocket, the interstellar was even more of a factor with the inclusion of keys. Their set still wound up short at roughly 35 minutes, but it was a welcome sampling of what they’re about, and their energy was infectious.

Mammoth Storm

mammoth-storm-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Arguably the most impressive headbanging I saw all weekend came from Mammoth Storm bassist/vocalist Daniel Arvidsson, and there was some stiff competition. The Swedish four-piece rolled out huge, clunky riffs on the Pokalen stage in a spirit that found them aptly named. They weren’t far off from what Reptile Master were doing tonally, but ultimately less angry, less atmospheric, and more about the heft itself than the cathartic expression derived therefrom. Still, they were way into it. Formerly a trio, they were on tour earlier this summer with High Fighter and Earthship, and the Høstsabbat crowd seemed to be the beneficiary of that experience. Their first album, Fornjot, was issued late last year by Napalm Records, and while they seemed to be figuring out some elements of presentation, no question they had their direction sorted, all skull-pummel and unrelenting push. Heavy band playing heavy music, is the bottom line. It was an easy set to enjoy and another jump to a different style from the band before them; that once again would become something of a running theme throughout the night.

Kollwitz

kollwitz-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

To wit, Kollwitz. Quite simply a band I’d probably never get the chance to see anywhere else, the Bodø six-piece proffered vicious post-metal with a hardcore edge, the intensity of Converge met with the strict chug and strobe lighting of Amenra. They had the most crowded stage of the festival, but still plenty of room upstairs at the Arena Vulkan to thrash around, and they took advantage of it, their motion tied to the undulating lumber of their songs. They were another band I’d never heard before, which was by design — that is, I knew they were playing and could’ve checked them out, but sometimes it’s fun to go into these things blind — but they hit the decade mark in 2016 and came across with the command of an experienced act. Rarer for acts of their ilk, their material had a kind of direct thrust, and even when they did drone out an ambient section, quieting down all that push, percussion, screams, keys, and so on, it was plain enough that it was a temporary situation before the assault began anew. In accordance with the tenets of the style, they were cerebral and bludgeoning in kind. There’s nothing else I would’ve asked of them.

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus

jeremy-irons-and-the-ratgang-malibus-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Shit they were good. Come over from Stockholm, Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus were among the bands I was most looking forward to seeing this weekend, and they were quick to justify that anticipation. Most of what they played came from 2014’s Spirit Knife (review here), and that was zero reason to complain as they nestled into the classic groove and modern energy of “Wind Seized” after the opening cut “Andra,” which may or may not have been new. They’d get more tripped out as they went on, vocalist/guitarist Karl Apelmo — whose voice sounds even better live — leading the charge with guitarist Micke Pettersson, bassist Viktor Källgren and drummer Henke Persson all on the same page, fluid and vibrant. They tapped into four decades’ worth of Swedish heavy rock without losing sight of their own personality, and their play between the boogie of ages and a modern soulfulness was exceedingly well met, especially with the psychedelic range that emerged later on with “Fog by the Steep” and “Point Growth” closing out. How they’re not playing every single festival this fall, or, you know, all the time, I have no idea. Excellent band, and clearly still growing as well. Put them on the road with Radio Moscow immediately.

Siena Root

siena-root-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Sweden’s Siena Root have been making the festival rounds across Europe over the last several months while working on a follow-up to their 2014 album, Pioneers. Next month, they’ll play Smoke the Fuzz in Athens, and they’re veterans of the likes of Freak Valley, Dome of Rock and so on. I said on the social medias that seeing Siena Root took some of the sting out of knowing I’d never get to watch peak-era Deep Purple play live, and while that’s perhaps simplifying their appeal, I think the comparison holds up, with the classic ’70s vibe Siena Root bring to life in their songs, costumes and delivery, the focus on interplay between the organ of Erik “Errka” Petersson (the only full organ setup on either stage at Høstsabbat) and the guitar of Matte Gustavsson, and the powerhouse vocals of Samuel Björö, the robe-clad guru bass from Sam Riffer and the swing-ready drumming of Love Forsberg. They were unabashed fun, all-in, and a pro execution that wasn’t at all staid. So genuine were they in their performance that it made me think it might be time to start considering Siena Root in the same league as Spiritual Beggars when it comes to crafting their songs and representing a natural lineage to the birth of heavy.

Slomatics

slomatics-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

They were the one. Slomatics. The headliners for the Pokalen stage were the band I was most dying to see all weekend, and the disappointment factor was zero. The Belfast trio of guitarists David Majury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/noisemaker Marty Harvey rolled out some of Høstsabbat‘s most satisfying riffs, and with a set spanning back to 2012’s A Hocht for “Tramontane,” “Return to Kraken” and closer “Beyond Acid Canyon,” and included “Electric Breath” and “Supernothing” from this year’s stellar Future Echo Returns (review here) as well as a host of cuts from 2014’s Estron (review here), they crashed, bashed and rumbled so loudly and so righteously that when it came to it, I just couldn’t remove myself from the front of the stage. Not only that, I did something I hadn’t done the entire time at the Arena Vulkan, which was to remove my earplugs part-way and let the full brunt of the volume hit my eardrums directly. That, I soon enough realized, was a mistake, but even so, the fact that the impulse was there should say something. Slomatics don’t get out of Ireland much, so to have them in Oslo was something special, and their performance showed it. A joy of ultra-heavy revelry. It was reportedly their first time playing “Supernothing” live, and I felt ridiculously lucky to be there to witness it. They’re the reason my neck is sore today. Don’t even care.

Truckfighters

truckfighters-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Very much the headliners for the fest as a whole. Immediately. No warmup. All go. The Swedish fuzzdudes left nothing to mystery as to why they were atop the bill. No place else to put them, frankly. They played in front of a banner so huge that it didn’t fit the Vulkan stage and all you could see from the crowd was the word “TRUCK,” but that was enough to get the point across. I’d had the good fortune earlier in the evening to sit and interview bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm about the band’s new album, V (review pending), and some of the growth the group has undertaken over their last couple records, the push past straightforward desert-style groove into more progressive territory, and something I wondered about was how they would continue to strike that balance onstage when it comes to songs like “Calm Before the Storm” from the latest record. The answer is basically they just do. Cedermalm still headbangs, guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren is as kinetic as ever, jumping in circles, running from one side to the other of the stage, generally playing the madman role and doing it well. They had a new drummer — Marcus was the name I got, if he has a last name or a Truckfighters-style nickname, I don’t know it — who will reportedly be one of two joining them on their Euro tour this fall, and from what I hear they’ll be back in the US in spring, but the gist of watching a Truckfighters set is the excitement of how much they put into playing their songs, and whether they’re fast or slow, upbeat or melancholy, that continues to be the case. I stuck around to the finish because not only were they killing it, but the setlist didn’t have “Desert Cruiser” written on it — though they did include “Mexico,” which was a nice touch — and I was curious to see if they could actually get away with not playing that song, ending instead with “The Chairman” from 2014’s Universe (review here). They wound up using it for an encore, closing out the evening and the Høstsabbat as a whole with a sing-along of the chorus that continued even after they left the stage. I’m not sure a more suitable ending would’ve been possible.

It was right after they finished that some dick behind me decided to launch the rest of his beer into the crowd. Jerk move, but a great set, and I wasn’t exactly fresh and clean as it was by that point. I’d been watching the end of the show with the Slomatics guys, and said a few goodnights before making my way out. Always sad to walk out of an even like this for the last time, knowing that it’s over, but this was a special time and a special event, and those things have a tendency to be fleeting. All the more reason to treasure the memories of them.

Thanks again to everyone involved for having me over. I am humbled by the experience and deeply, deeply grateful for the opportunity. I wouldn’t presume to think I would be, but if I was invited again, I’d be here in a flash.

Flight takes off bound for JFK Airport via Copenhagen in about two hours. I very much appreciate you reading and know full well that if you didn’t, I wouldn’t get to do awesome stuff like fly to a festival in Oslo for a weekend, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

More pics after the jump.

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2016 Night One in Oslo, Norway, 09.16.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat-2016-poster

As much as that kind of thing can be, the flight over had been a joy. By that I mean I slept. Driving past awesome trees and Euro-looking buildings en route, I got into Oslo and to the hotel in time to crash for a couple more hours before the first night of Høstsabbat kicked off at the Arena Vulkan. My first time here, my first time there, but the impression was immediately positive.

Høstsabbat is held across two stages in the Arena Vulkan, which is the Norwegian word for “volcano.” The Vulkan itself is upstairs. A sizable spot. High-ceiling, well lit (when Bong weren’t playing), great sound, bar off to the side. Downstairs is the Pokalen; a smaller performance space but with bar seating, tvs playing the fest schedule on a loop and a mellow vibe. Also great sound. The whole venue is tucked away on a side-street with an international market across the way filled with fish, meat, cheeses, bread, beer, coffee, tea, restaurants, and there are tables outside for smokers or those who might just want to catch a breath. All is immaculately clean — until beer is spilled on it, of course — and welcoming.

The first of the two nights comprised a seemingly manageable six acts, each with an hour set allotted, alternating between the stages downstairs and upstairs, playing one at a time. I won’t lie: by the time Conan were going on to headline, I was falling asleep sitting on the barricade in the photo pit, but for seeing them and Bong, as well as bands I’ve never caught before in Day of the Jackalope, MaidaVale, Cult of Occult and Wobbler, the evening was a joy for its variety and for the level of performance each band brought to the stage, whichever stage they happened to be on.

I’m thankful to be here. Here’s how it went down:

Day of the Jackalope

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Earlier this year, Oslo natives Day of the Jackalope released their self-titled debut EP on 12″ vinyl. To open Høstsabbat on the Pokalen stage, they would play all five songs from it — “Waste,” “PTSD,” “Profiteer,” “Take it Back” and “New Lies” — as well as a cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s “Manic Depression” and several others that I’ll assume were new. Their sound was a heavy boogie blues rock, and depending on the moment one could hear a strong influence from self-titled-era Clutch with some of Orange Goblin‘s gruffness thrown in, particularly in the vocals of Anders Hellestveit, joined in the band by guitarist Jens Andreas Storaker (also one of the organizers of the fest), bassist Lars Brodal and drummer Bård Sigurdson. They made a highlight of “The Salvager,” broke out a shaker for “PTSD” — had to wonder if there was a comment there — and some cowbell for “Agitate (Vaskebrett)” and pulled in a solid early crowd to start the day off with a raucous and weighted groove.

Wobbler

wobbler-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

My first encounter with Wobbler came just last month when they were announced as the final addition to the lineup for the fest. However, upon checking them out, they were immediately one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing. The Hønefoss five-piece dug immediately into lush classic-style prog, marked out by the keyboards and synth work of Lars Fredrik Frøislie. The risk with a style like theirs presented in a live setting is it can feel staid if the band doesn’t keep a focus on delivery — all of a sudden, you’re just watching dudes noodle — but Wobbler avoided the issue entirely and had a vibrant performance, with vocalist/guitarist Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo providing a frontman presence backed by the lead work of guitarist Geir Marius Bergom Halleland and given a dynamic foundation from bassist Kristian Karl Hultgren and drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen. Their material — still largely unknown to me, though they made a compelling argument for purchasing both their albums downstairs in the merch section; if I had any krone, I would have — was fluid and at times gorgeous, but didn’t necessarily give up thrust for indulgence, thereby striking a rare balance between progressive and heavy rock.

Cult of Occult

cult-of-occult-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, French foursome Cult of Occult made ready to unleash a vision of sludge so extreme it bordered on the grotesque. Primal. Brutal. All that fun stuff. They’d have the biggest crowd of the night for the Pokalen stage, and they treated it to nothing less than a bludgeoning, like Bongripper taken to a place of vicious misanthropy. Yup, and they were heavy too. Deadlight Entertainment put out their third album, Five Degrees of Insanity, in 2015, and from it, “Alcoholic” was recognizable for its resounding “fuck you all” chorus during which the crowd did indeed get flipped off from the stage. They played pretty much in the dark, at least at the beginning, and that felt about right for the hate-laced filth on offer in their sound, the sole communication with the audience coming in raised beer cups and near the end when drummer Rudy was the only one left on stage — they deteriorated their set-finale, departing the stage one at a time, vocals, guitar, then bass, to leave the drums as last to go — and he waved the cheering crowd on, fists pumping in the air in slow motion to his crashes. There’s an element of spectacle there, even if they’d never admit it, but in their tones, screams, lumber and push, they were righteous and unrepentant in their delivery. Not really where my head is at, but hard not to respect what they were doing and the grueling intensity with which they were doing it.

Bong

bong-1-photo-by-jj-koczan

I know I’ve seen UK dronelords Bong before at Roadburn 2010, but that was six years and probably that many lineups ago for the band, whose prolific ritualizing continues to yield immersive fruit and whose live incarnation as a trio on the Vulkan stage at Høstsabbat had to be one of the most tonally claustrophobic performances I’ve ever witnessed. And that’s not a small room to make it feel like the walls are closing in. After trying to take pictures of them in the dark, I went and poured myself a cup of much-appreciated free water at the bar and watched as the ripples created by their sheer volume and low-end frequencies danced in a circle of geometric patterning that looked like the alien communication it truly was. With guitarist Mike Vest starting out the show by taking a violin bow to his guitar, bassist David Terry dramatically quoting Lovecraft or something like it and adding throat-singing chants and Conan drummer Rich Lewis filling in on drums, Bong were a litmus test for how much assault earplugs could actually take. Downstairs, between bands at the Pokalen, they played Parliament, which was an enjoyable irony, but after catching my breath and making sure my head wasn’t going to explode, I was back up to watch Bong again, their slogging sound just too much the soundtrack for my jetlag to be missed any more than medically necessary.

MaidaVale

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As time has gone on and the heavy rock underground has kind of moved past the hey-let’s-pretend-it’s-1972 ethic of vintage worship — at least for the most part — the impetus has been toward blending the classic and the modern, so that clarity of sound and tone don’t need to be sacrificed to tap into an essential swing. Swedish four-piece MaidaVale arrive at this moment and make themselves right at home. Their debut album, Tales of the Wicked West, came out last month on The Sign Records, and from it they plucked the tracks “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” “Dirty War” and “Standby Swing,” among others. The swing, by the way, was not at all on standby. It was front and center and thrust forward by the bass and drums as vocalist Matilda Roth met it head-on, dancing and soulfully pushing her voice to its limits as the lineup of Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström and Johanna Hansson behind her left no question as to how a group who just released their first album might come to headline the night on the Pokalen stage. The songs were fluid, the bounce in the drums refreshing, and the tones warm and classic-feeling, again, without tapping directly into retroism. As they belted out “Dirty War” late in the set, they sounded very much like a group at the beginning of a growth process, but their stage presence was formidable all the same and the sense one got was that their progression will only make it more so as time goes on. Need to check out that album, is the bottom line.

Conan

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Five bands and five distinct looks at different kinds of heavy at Høstsabbat, and then suddenly it was time for Conan to come on and — as they will — destroy everything in their path. By the time they went on at midnight, I was hours past dead on my feet, but to see “Thunderhoof” into “Battle in the Swamp?” Oh yes, easily worth it. You can sleep anytime. Conan don’t just happen every day — or at least not in the same city. That was actually the most striking impression. It’s been a little more than a year since I last saw them, they’ve gotten even tighter with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding and the aforementioned Rich Lewis on drums. The stage dynamic between the three has been (war)hammered out and they were absolutely on fire, Lewis adding some of his own flourish to the gallop of “Gravity Chasm.” As a unit, all pro. I was also struck by what seemed to be an emergent YOB influence from Davis in his vocals. As Fielding has come to handle lower-register growling parts, Davis‘ exploration of cleaner singing has a tinge of Mike Scheidt to it that’s somewhat unexpected, but fits well repurposed into the shouting context of “Hawk as Weapon.” They were locked in in such a way as to make me think that their next album will be something really special. I won’t say a bad word about early 2016’s Revengeance (review here), but Conan made it plain to see they’re more than ready to move forward to their next vista of smoldering landscapes during this earned-through-devastation headlining set, and I’ll look forward to when they get there. Until then, “Total Conquest” never sounded more apt a title.

Night Two kicks off in a couple hours, so I gotta get ready. Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Høstsabbat 2016 Completes Lineup: Wobbler Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

With the addition of countrymen proggers Wobbler, the lineup for Høstsabbat 2016 next month in Oslo is complete. I’m very proud to say that I’ve been invited to attend the fest this year — in a write-about-it capacity, obviously — and the flight’s not booked yet, but I’m going to do everything in my power to get there, including get my camera repaired once again. It will be my first time in Norway and I’m already nervous and excited about it.

The lineup though is so completely insane — imagine seeing Siena Root and Conan and Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus on the same bill, MaidaVale about whom I keep hearing awesome things or goddamn Slomatics, whose new album is so good — that it would be harder not to be excited at the prospect of being there to witness it. Wobbler, again, the final addition to the roster, come from Oslo and play a lush, synth-infused prog that traces its roots back to 1999. They’ve got three records out, the latest of which is 2011’s Rites at Dawn, from which you can hear the track “In Orbit” below.

I’ve also included the full lineup for Høstsabbat 2016 — Bong, Mammoth Storm, Reptile Master and all — for your perusal. It looks like it’s going to be an awesome couple of days and if you’re going, I will hope to see you there.

Dig it:

wobbler hostsabbat 2016-700

With the announcement of Norwegian prog-legends Wobbler, the best active prog-band in the universe, Høstsabbat 2016 has completed its line-up.

We look forward to welcoming you at Vulkan Arena in September. More information coming soon.

Høstsabbat 2016
September 16 – September 17
Vulkan Arena
Vulkan 26, 0175 Oslo, Norway

Bong (UK)
Conan (UK)
Siena Root (SE)
Truckfighters (SE)
Slomatics (UK)
Cult Of Occult (FR)
Kollwitz (NO)
Mammoth Storm (SE)
Wobbler (NO)
Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus (SE)
Reptile Master (NO)
Wild Rocket (IRL)
Maida Vale (SE)
Day Of The Jackalope (NO)

http://www.ticketmaster.no/event/festivalpass-hstsabbat-2016-billetter/489339
https://www.facebook.com/events/685619441581239/
https://www.facebook.com/hostsabbat/

Wobbler, “In Orbit”

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Høstsabbat 2016: Bong, Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus, Cult of Occult and Day of the Jackalope Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Høstsabbat 2016 is set for Sept. 16 and 17 at Vulkan Arena in Oslo, Norway. Already confirmed at the top of the current bill are Conan and Truckfighters, and newly announced as joining are UK drone improvisationalists Bong, Swedish heavy psych rockers Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, French blackened metallers Cult of Occult and native Norwegian heavy rockers Day of the Jackalope. That’s a pretty wide spectrum for a single round of fest additions to cover, but as Høstsabbat has grown over the past couple years, it’s only broadened its stylistic reach, though it seems fair to use “heavy” as a kind of universally applicable umbrella for what’s on offer.

To wit, the full lineup and new band announcements below:

Høstsabbat 2016

September 16 – September 17
Vulkan Arena
Vulkan 26, 0175 Oslo, Norway

Conan
Truckfighters
BONG
Siena Root
Cult of Occult
Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus
Kollwitz
Mammoth Storm
Slomatics
Reptile Master
WILD ROCKET
MaidaVale
Day of the Jackalope

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally set to announce four new acts for this years edition of Høstsabbat.

BONG

First out, and for the first time in Norway, the British masters of droning doom; BONG. They’re back after a brief hiatus and returning in their original state as a power trio.

Solemn in its delivery and frightening in its implications, as masters of mesmeric drone, freeing listeners from the increasingly unfamiliar material world and mercifully trapping them in the weightlessness of Bong’s sonic void.

Expect the same Amon Duul, Ash Ra Temple Improvisational basslines, glacial tempo and crushing guitar fuzz drone tones.

Cult of Occult

Concealed from the view of the moribund mass of humanity, hidden in the darkness of the gates of Hell, waiting to spread the evil sound of the extermination of life is the most powerful and misanthropic force; Cult of Occult.

Fed by hatred, loudness and alcohol, the four headed monster of Apocalypse will destroy everything on its way with its unwavering wall of sound. Like the scream of Satan himself, the rising trio Cult of Occult, will make another first time appearance in the North.

Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus

From our beloved neighbor in the East, another Ratgang has emerged from its extremely vibrant scene. Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus rides the astral wave of psychedelic-progressive-desert rock, firmly rooted in the 70’s.

This band is the musical, northwest passage between classic rock and the unholy spirit of Pink Floyd.

They have been around, brimming in the underground for quite some time. Releasing albums on Transubstans and Small Stone Records, playing festivals such as Freak Valley and Desertfest, we’re surely in for a treat at Høstsabbat.

Day of the Jackalope

The last year, Day of the Jackalope has become a name on everyone’s lips, who’s following the underground scene in Norway. Filled with energy and groove, fusing old school 70’s bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with modern stoner rock, Day of the Jackalope are ready to get it on. Having existed for years with changing lineups in various rehearsal spaces, the band is now finally complete, the debut EP is out to rave reviews, and Day of the Jackalope is hitting the stage. Taking inspiration from bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Clutch, Church of Misery and the ever imminent collapse of human civilization, Day of the Jackalope invites you into their universe. It is a fuzzy and warm place of dark and confusing lyrical landscapes, screaming guitars and thumping rhythms.

Catch them live at Høstsabbat!

See you in September!

http://www.ticketmaster.no/event/festivalpass-hstsabbat-2016-billetter/489339
https://www.facebook.com/events/685619441581239/
https://www.facebook.com/hostsabbat/

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Live in Brazil 2015

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