Paradise Lost, Medusa: Deathly Passages

Posted in Reviews on August 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

paradise lost medusa

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of England’s Paradise Lost, who in that time have crafted a storied, varied and massively influential career in doom. Whether as part of the original ‘Peaceville three’ alongside UK countrymen My Dying Bride and Anathema in the ’90s as they helped shape the decade’s course with records like 1991’s Gothic, which followed their 1990 debut, Lost Paradise, or 1992’s Shades of God, 1993’s Icon and 1995’s Draconian Times or the veering away from what had been the innovative downtrodden aggression of death-doom and gothic-doom in their sound — if not the dramatic sensibility — that came later in 1997’s One Second, 1999’s Host, 2001’s Believe in Nothing and 2002’s Symbol of Life, their evolution has divided fans and critics as only a band truly committed to following their own path can. With the release of their self-titled in 2005, Paradise Lost began to reemphasize the lead guitar of Gregor Mackintosh in their sound, and gradually since, the five-piece have pushed back into heavier and darker territory.

It’s been a decade-long process, with 2007’s In Requiem, 2009’s Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (review here), 2012’s Tragic Idol and 2015’s The Plague Within (review here), and with 2017’s Medusa — also their first offering through Nuclear Blast after releasing the prior four LPs and other numerous collections through Century Media — that progression toward darkened heft would seem to have hit a new zenith. From the Branca Studio artwork through the ultra-thick chug from Mackintosh and rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy, the thudding drums of newcomer Waltteri Väyrynen (ex-Moonsorrow, among others), the heft of Stephen Edmonson‘s bass and the shifts between cleaner singing and harsh growls from vocalist Nick HolmesMedusa is Paradise Lost unabashed in their approach to doom — a sound they’ve made their own over time and one that tracks like the deeply metallic “From the Gallows” and the slogging “No Passage for the Dead” show they’re willing to reshape to their purposes on any given track.

Vital in their delivery and given added impact through the biting production of Jaime Gómez Arellano at Orgone Studios in London (see also: CathedralWith the DeadSólstafir and many others), Paradise Lost can come across as absolutely vicious throughout Medusa‘s eight tracks and 42 minutes, so that by the time they get around to the last push and rasps of closer “Until the Grave,” the organ introduction of 8:31 opener and longest inclusion (immediate points) “Fearless Sky” is a distant, mournful memory. Yet their work here is informed by an accessibility of structure as well. “Fearless Sky” is clearly intended to send a message to their audience with its overbearing crash, grueling tempo, drawn-out leads and Holmes‘ initial growls, but it also shifts into a melodic hook in its midsection — the crafters of Gothic playing very much to the gothic metal they helped craft — and once established, that dynamic becomes essential to the atmosphere and, in the end, the success of Medusa.

paradise lost

With Paradise Lost circa 2017, it’s not just about drawing solely on their early albums, or their middle period, or even the last decade’s clear-headed pummel — it’s about taking all of that and creating something with it that continues to move their progression forward. Second track “Gods of Ancient” follows the willful body-drag of “Fearless Sky” with an extremity of darkness worth of the band’s legacy that picks up its pace in the second half around a particularly punishing riff, setting up a thrust further into darkness on the shorter “From the Gallows,” which offsets a chugging verse with transitional lead lines and a more open-feeling chorus. This opening salvo consumes most of side A along with whatever else happens to step in front of it, and as “The Longest Winter” offers a breather in its atmospheric, birdsong-laden introduction, it also marks a turn toward cleaner-singing from Holmes that was foreshadowed in “Fearless Sky” but that, brought more forward and only offset by a couple guttural complementary lines, emphasize just how deeply bleak Paradise Lost get over the first three tracks. I’m not sure I’d call it a moment of hope in terms of ambience — it’s still plenty dark, plenty gray — but it’s nonetheless a departure from the rest of side A before it.

So does that mean the final four cuts on Medusa find Paradise Lost further expanding the context of the album overall? Somewhat, but they also reaffirm the emotional and tonal mire of the first half. The title-track, at 6:20, mirrors “Fearless Sky” in being the longest piece on its side (secondary points), and it begins with a quiet piano line that will reemerge throughout the entirety of the song as a focal point, a theme around which the weighted guitars and bass churn, vocals going from clean to rough in a flipped-script manner that was initiated by “The Longest Winter” before reverting to the deathly on the very-much-guitar-led “No Passage for the Dead” and “Blood and Chaos” — the latter arguably the most metallic of Medusa‘s tracks in quickness of pace and the straightforward swapping of growled verses and a harmonized chorus, Mackintosh‘s leads still a hallmark of Paradise Lost‘s sound as ever in the efficient, tightly-executed 3:51 that seems to answer “From the Gallows” in ferocity of purpose while surpassing it in catchiness level.

One might expect, given the traditional shape of the tracklist and the way Medusa unfolds across its span, that “Until the Grave” would task itself with summarizing the entirety of what comes before it, but it instead draws on the bitter mournfulness of “No Passage for the Dead” and “Blood and Chaos” and pushes them outward with keyboard flourish and steady rhythmic roll. It is a grim and thoroughly doomed finale, but I suppose in that it does actually do a fair bit of summary for what Medusa has on offer — a lack of pretense in its intention and a sharp-edged lucidity underlying the murk created throughout. A mission statement unto itself, “Until the Grave” ends simply, perhaps even in understated fashion, and leaves the listener wanting more, which for a band about to hit their 30th year and releasing their 15th full-length is no minor accomplishment in itself. Nonetheless, that Paradise Lost have never settled in terms of aesthetic, songwriting or performance has become a key facet of their longevity, and monstrous as it is, it’s only right that Medusa should stand as another richly satisfying next-step in their seemingly perpetual growth.

Paradise Lost, “Blood and Chaos” official video

Paradise Lost website

Paradise Lost on Thee Facebooks

Paradise Lost at Nuclear Blast website

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Paradise Lost: New Album Medusa Due this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Those who’ve followed UK death-doom groundbreakers Paradise Lost for the better part of the last decade have been rewarded thoroughly by the band’s return toward darker and more extreme sounds. Their 2015 outing, The Plague Within (review here), was perhaps the bleakest step in this somewhat reformed direction to-date, and it would seem that the forthcoming Medusa — which will be the band’s 15th album and label debut on Nuclear Blast after working with Century Media since 2007 — intends to continue that thread. Nothing to complain about there. When Paradise Lost go dark, they go really, really dark.

Good news that they’re in the studio now — including artsy shots of them at work — follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

PARADISE LOST reveal new album title and details

At this moment, iconic UK metallers, PARADISE LOST, are putting the final touches to their upcoming album, recorded at Orgone Studios in the misty countryside of Woburn, England. Together with producer Jaime Gomez Arellano, they have forged the follow-up to their highly acclaimed release The Plague Within (2015), which brought them a step closer to their death metal roots. This time, PARADISE LOST will haunt their fans with a heavy, doom-ridden monster, as lead guitarist and songwriter Greg Mackintosh reveals:

“The new album will be slower, sludgier and more doom filled than ever before. Eight riff laden monster tracks of sheer Northern misery.”

This 15th studio album will see the light of day at the end of summer via Nuclear Blast and is entitled Medusa. As some might know, Medusa is considered a hideous Gorgon in Greek mythology – a winged female monster with living venomous snakes in place of hair and everyone who dares taking a look at her will immediately turn to stone! So watch out for new details about the album being revealed soon – if you dare.

PARADISE LOST are:
Nick Holmes | vocals
Greg Mackintosh | lead guitars
Aaron Aedy | rhythm guitars
Steve Edmondson | bass
Waltteri Väyrynen | drums

www.paradiselost.co.uk
www.facebook.com/paradiselostofficial
www.nuclearblast.de/paradiselost
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
https://twitter.com/nuclearblastusa
https://www.instagram.com/nuclearblastusa/
http://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

Paradise Lost, The Plague Within (2015)

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GIVEAWAY: Win Opeth and Paradise Lost Vinyl from Music for Nations

Posted in Features on July 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Get yourself some free vinyl now by entering to win Music for Nations reissues of Opeth‘s Lamentations and Paradise Lost‘s Shades of God. Both releases came out through the reborn imprint on July 22 and are available now to purchase, but if you leave a comment on this post, you can get them both for free. No personal information will be kept, and you sign up for nothing by entering.

I’m going to guess if you’re reading this you’re already familiar with both bands, but here’s more info on these releases from the PR wire:

opeth lamentations

Opeth, Lamentations

Lamentations features a live performance of Opeth’s Damnation album in full, interspersed with songs from the band’s masterpieces Blackwater Park and Deliverance. Conceived and recorded alongside Deliverence, Damnation marked a radical shift in style and tone. The band took the opportunity to move away from their earlier death metal sound and towards a style reminiscent of 1970s progressive rock, taking inspiration from their Blackwater Park collaborator and producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree).

Lamentations was recorded live at the prestigious Shepherd’s Bush Empire venue, shortly after both albums were released.

paradise lost shades of god

Paradise Lost, Shades of God

The album, a follow up to 1990’s Gothic album, is seen as the moment where Paradise Lost moved towards a more doom-centric sound, while still encompassing a wide range of other musical genres, showing off the band’s creativity and inventiveness in forging their own distinct take on doom metal, a style that would be continued on 1993’s Icon.

The album also saw the band’s initial transition away from using traditional death metal growls by blending them in with clean vocals, and quieter passages at times throughout the record.

Special thanks to Music for Nations and Atom Splitter PR for letting me host the giveaway. Winners will be chosen one week from today.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

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Opeth and Paradise Lost Sign to Nuclear Blast Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

It’s only been two years since the last Opeth record came out — seems like much longer — but they’ve got a new one coming. It’s called Sorceress. I’m not even going to speculate what it might sound like, but as I was getting ready to post the news that Paradise Lost signed to Nuclear Blast, word came down that Opeth had as well, so it seemed only fair to combine them. Monte Conner killing it once again, as he will.

After four full-length albums, numerous compilations, reissues, live albums and so on, UK doom mainstays Paradise Lost have left Century Media to sign with Nuclear Blast. Entirely possible that whatever the terms of Paradise Lost‘s contract with Century Media were, those terms have been fulfilled — like I said, there have been a lot of releases since 2007’s In Requiem, their debut on the label — but though Century Media and Nuclear Blast at one time shared a building (their US offices), it’s a considerable jump anyway and is a name of considerable import to add to the Nuclear Blast roster, which continues to flourish.

Paradise Lost‘s most recent full-length is 2015’s The Plague Within (review here). They seem to drop hints below of a new release coming in 2017.

From the PR wire:

opeth

paradise-lost

OPETH sign to Nuclear Blast Entertainment; “Sorceress” to be released in late 2016

PARADISE LOST sign to Nuclear Blast

Nuclear Blast Entertainment is very pleased to announce the signing of Swedish progressive legends, OPETH. Always an unstoppable force for uniqueness amid a sea of generic swill, OPETH has been setting the rulebook ablaze, and ploughing a uniquely progressive and exploratory furrow for over 25 years now. Neither conforming nor exhibiting any desire to be restricted to a single genre, OPETH, quite simply, has a time honored tradition of blowing our minds with both class and forward thinking. All these years later, nothing and everything has changed once again with their forthcoming album Sorceress.

“We’re happy to confirm that we have indeed signed a deal with Nuclear Blast Entertainment and will be putting out our 12th studio album Sorceress via our own imprint, Moderbolaget Records,” states Mikael Åkerfeldt. “The decision was made in Markus Staiger’s (Nuclear Blast kingpin) ridiculously potent Porsche going at 150 mph somewhere in the south of Germany. We’re happy to be part of the NB team and look forward to a fruitful relationship.”

Nuclear Blast owner, Markus Staiger, continues:
“I am honored that OPETH has joined the Nuclear Blast family. Mikael Åkerfeldt and his fellow bandmates have demonstrated time and time again that OPETH are a band that never releases an album that sounds the same. You never know what their new music will sound like! Nuclear Blast has been following the musical journey of OPETH from the beginning with Orchid to landmark albums like Still Life, Deliverance, Damnation and Blackwater Park, right up to 2014’s Pale Communion. The band has become one of the most challenging artists in rock music today. It is not often that we get to work with musicians of their caliber and I am thrilled to have such a unique genre-leader on the label. The future for OPETH and Nuclear Blast looks very bright.”

Monte Conner, Nuclear Blast Entertainment president adds:
“OPETH are a band that has continually evolved and moved forward at every stage. Always innovating and always continuing to challenge themselves as players and writers. They are simply fearless. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next! It’s an amazing feeling to be reunited with one of my favorite bands and I look forward to my colleagues here at Nuclear Blast being able to have their own OPETH experience and role in the band’s continuing journey. I want to thank Mikael Åkerfeldt and OPETH for putting their faith and trust in everyone here at Nuclear Blast.”

OPETH are currently in the studio with Tom Dalgety putting the finishing touches on Sorceress. A release for the album is tentatively scheduled for the fall via Moderbolaget Records / Nuclear Blast Entertainment.

Iconic UK metallers, PARADISE LOST, have signed a worldwide deal with German-based metal powerhouse Nuclear Blast! Formed in Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1988 and still boasting 4 of its 5 original members, the band are widely-credited with co-founding the gothic metal genre with their sophomore album, Gothic (1991). Through the years, PARADISE LOST have changed their style effectively and reinvented themselves again and again. They elbowed their way from their original doom/death metal on their debut, Lost Paradise (1990) to the classic Icon (1993) and more experimental One Second (1997). Finally they went back to the roots with their current release, The Plague Within (2015) and some of the best reviews of their career.

Vocalist Nick Holmes commented:
“PARADISE LOST’s career has run alongside Nuclear Blast Records since the label began in the late 80’s. And as huge fans of original death metal, we still have the majority of the label’s first releases from those very early days. It’s pretty incredible to see how the label has become a real force in metal music over the years, both in Europe and America and now, nearly 30 years later, in a new chapter for the band, it’s exciting for PARADISE LOST to be a part of Nuclear Blast in 2017!”

Nuclear Blast owner Markus Staiger adds:
“As a fan from day one I’ve been following PARADISE LOST ever since their death metal era but also enjoyed watching them grow into something even bigger and so unique. They defined and later on re-defined the gothic genre and always delivered the most dark and memorable songs. It’s with great pleasure to finally welcome the band to the ever-growing Nuclear Blast family! Needless to say that we’re very much looking forward to this cooperation!”

PARADISE LOST live:
18.06. B Dessel – Graspop Metal Meeting
19.06. F Clisson – Hellfest *SOLD OUT*
03.07. D Roitzschjora – With Full Force
09.07. SRB Novi Sad – Exit Festival
17.07. FIN Joensuu – Ilosaarirock
11.08. D Schlotheim – Party.San Open Air
13.08. UK Walton On Trent – Bloodstock Open Air
20.08. D Hamburg – Elb-Riot
27.08. TR Istanbul – %100 Metal Fest Headbangers’ Weekend
15.10. BR Sao Paulo – Epic Metal Fest Brazil

PARADISE LOST are:
Nick Holmes | vocals
Greg Mackintosh | lead guitars
Aaron Aedy | rhythm guitars
Steve Edmondson | bass
Waltteri Väyrynen | drums

www.paradiselost.co.uk
www.facebook.com/paradiselostofficial
www.nuclearblast.de/paradiselost
www.opeth.com
www.facebook.com/opeth
www.twitter.com/officialopeth
www.instagram.com/officialopeth
www.youtube.com/opethofficial

Paradise Lost, “Beneath Broken Earth” official video

Opeth, Live at Motocultor 2015

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ROADBURN 2016 DAY ONE: Cosmic Truth

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2016 day one (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.15.16 – 00:16 — Hotel room, Tilburg

Already it seems like Roadburn is in full swing. There’s no sense of the outside world, only Roadburn, which always has and always will. Familiar faces abound, and new ones too. A lot of them. That build-out on the 013 allowed for more tickets sold, so inarguably Roadburn 2016 is the most crowded this event has ever been. That’s saying something. Mostly, it’s saying, “get there early if you want to get up front.”

the poisoned glass 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)I did just that what seems like a million hours ago for The Poisoned Glass starting the day — the first day; my god, it’s still the first day — at Het Patronaat, aka the church. The band is new, but the players involved were clearly known to the early crowd, vocalist/noisemaker Edgy59 and bassist G. Stuart Dahlquist both veterans of widely influential doom extremists Burning Witch. By astounding coincidence, their debut album, 10 Swords, came out this week via Ritual Productions, and they played the vast majority of it and then some, the volume of Dahlquist‘s bass loud enough to vibrate earplugs and dissuade any accusations of minimalism one might try to make.

With Edgy59 switching between harsh screaming rasps and cleaner vocals, it was entertaining to look around the room and see so many smiling faces among those in attendance. Yes, the music is unspeakably dark. Yes, it sounds like your soul in a trash compactor. Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Their post-Khanate dystopian oppression found its audience for sure, and it was gripping to watch the seething intensity in Edgy59‘s performance particularly, his movements restless in comparison to the slow motion tempos of the material. They were as heavy in mood as in Dahlquist‘s tone, and inescapable in their rumbling churn. Perfect for the church.

As they were wrapping up, Inverloch were taking the stage in the redone Green Room. I tried to catch some of Mantra Machine, but already the Cul de Sac was full and it would remain so for the duration. I thought about running over to Extase, which is around the other side of the alley behind the Patronaat, to get a sample of Grafir, but wound up marauding through the merch section — like a fucking champ — and back at the church to catch Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand, who, as it turns out, were exactly what I was looking for.

der blutharsch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Later on, I’d go back to the merch area to pick up a full copy of their new record, The Wolvennest Sessions, which came out in December, and grabbing 2012’s The Story About the Digging of the Hole and the Hearing of the Sounds from Hell on a whim, basically because that’s how good Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand Were, the Austrian experimentalists celebrating their 20th anniversary with a short tour in the winding-down stage. Their blend of classic krautrock and forward-thinking psychedelia was a joy to take in, and since their stuff is so far out, I didn’t really know what was coming. Anything would’ve been a surprise. With founder Albin Julius on synth and vocals, they spread their sound out over their hour-long set and seemed right at home in the flow.

There seems to be some threat that this is their last tour. Obviously, I don’t know if that’s true or not, and since they’re pretty prolific, I wouldn’t take that to mean they’re done overall — though one never knows — but even if it’s a year or a few years before they get out again, I felt fortunate to watch them play. It’s the kind of thing I’d never get to see anywhere but at Roadburn, something I didn’t even know how badly I wanted to watch, and though I checked out a little early to go catch The Skull on the Main Stage back at the 013Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand left one of the day’s most memorable impressions. Considering the course of the day, that’s saying something.

Yeah, I watched The Skull last night at the Hardrock Hideout (review here). It’s a fact. I thought this was their set of Trouble songs, and there were a few sprinkled in for good measure, of course — “R.I.P.,” “At the End of My Daze,” “Come Touch the Sky” and so on — the skull rb 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)but was awfully Skull-y for being the Trouble set, which as it turns out is late tomorrow night. Go figure. No harm done, of course. Let “A New Generation” and “The Longing” be the worst things that ever happen at Roadburn. They riffed on “I Want You/She’s so Heavy” and tossed “Till the Sun Turns Black” into the set, which was certainly welcome, and after the swinging “Send Judas Down,” which included a nod to “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” it was once again the title-track from For Those Which are Asleep (review here) rounding out.

To see them on such a huge stage less than 24 hours after seeing them in a club that holds about 200 people was something of a trip, but The Skull were no less in command of the cavernous space than they were the tiny Cul de Sac, where New Keepers of the Water Towers were going on shortly. I ran over quickly to see if there was any room in the building. There was enough for me to buy a copy of their new album, Infernal Machine (review here), but by the time you walked to the bar in the much-longer-than-it-is-wide venue, there was basically no passage through the throng of humanity. Buying the record seemed like the least I could do for having made the attempt to see them and failed, and once I got it, I headed back to the Main Stage to watch The Skull finish and to wait for Hexvessel, who were one of my most anticipated bands for the entire fest, to take the Main Stage.

I said as much in today’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (issue here) but nature-worshiping Finnish outfit Hexvessel‘s new record, When We are Death (review here), stands among the best albums of 2016 so far. Before they went on, I ran over to the merch area — more hexvessel 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)of a waddle, really — and picked up the artbook edition of the album as well as a patch with a fish head on it. They also had owls and bears and several other wildlife options, but you don’t see a lot of fish in underground heavy, so I was all about it. No idea what I’ll do with the thing, not being the battle-vest type, but whatever. For three euro? Sold. Their set more than justified both purchases, focused heavily on the new album and a huge shift in dynamic from when they were here in 2012, having departed from their folkish roots on the strength of infectious, progressive and deeply nuanced songs like “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” a set highlight, and “Cosmic Truth,” which frontman Mat McNerney prefaced by saying it was about, “true love and spaceships.” Needless to say, right up my alley.

Quietly percussive, “Hunter’s Prayer” finished off what seemed to be Hexvessel‘s regular set, after “Cosmic Truth,” “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” “Transparent Eyeball,” “Teeth of the Mountain,” “Mirror Boy,” and “Sacred Marriage” and the earlier “Woods to Conjure” from 2012’s No Holier Temple, but the band did an encore of sorts with “Earth over Us” and “When I’m Dead” back to back, both maddeningly catchy, the former delivered with surprising heft from the stage, before closing with “Invocation Summoning” from their 2011 debut, DawnbearerMcNerney encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along, which of course it did.

Timing worked out that as Hexvessel were finishing, Bang were starting in the Green Room, so I hobbled over there and waited for the Franks and Jake to follow-up their Hardrock Hideout set with another runthrough of their heavy ’70s lost classics. They did not disappoint, and their warm, laid back take on heavy rock continues to thrill. I’ve seen the band I don’t even know how many times at this point — let’s say circa 15 — but their vibe is always right on, and I don’t think I’ve heard bassist Frank Ferrara‘s tone sound as full and inviting as it has last night and tonight. He and guitarist Frankie Gilcken founded the band in 1969 and their self-titled debut was released two years later, and Ferrara remarked from the stage that their first European appearance — this one — was 46 years in the making. Time flies.

bang 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Much to their credit, they lived up to the occasion, and though he’s far from being an original member of the band, Jake Leger‘s drums have become essential to Bang‘s live presence. Maybe they’ll do another record, maybe they won’t, but with Leger swinging away behind, Gilcken and Ferrara are that much more able to nail that spirit every time out. “Lions, Christians” was a highlight, and of course “Our Home,” both from the self-titled, but in the live setting, the much newer “The Maze” is no less vintage-sounding. I think Leger is a big part of that. A third in the power trio, at very least. As they always do, Bang looked to be genuinely enjoying making their European debut, and a crowd that already knew their songs made it seem all the more overdue.

Back on the Main Stage, Converge were finishing up their set playing 2001’s Jane Doe in full: The album that launched 100,000 metalcore bands who were nowhere near as interesting as Converge ever were. Hard to hold that against it, I suppose. I caught the tail end of the set, which was as furious as it would have to be, and the four-piece of vocalist Jacob Bannon, guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller brought out former bassist Stephen Brodsky (also Cave In) to join them on guitar and melodic vocals for the closing title-track from Jane Doe, its sweep well on the other side of epic. Not really my thing stylistically, but people were jammed into the Main Stage space for them, and I watched as dudes had to be helped out of the front for what I guess was a rare Roadburn pit — unless someone just stepped on that guy’s foot, which would be sadder somehow — so it was clear the room was making the connection to the off-genre elements Jane Doe brought to hardcore, or more likely, they made that connection 15 years ago. Either way.

My second failure at Cul de Sac came after Converge were done when I ran over to try to see the reunited Gomer Pyle. No luck. Same as with New Keepers: I bought a CD and that was about as close as I could get. Fair enough. By this time, I was reconciling myself to the fact that I’d probably not get in to see either Zone Six at Cul de Sac or CHRCH at Extase, both of which were bigtime mental bummers. Still, as consolation, Paradise Lost playing their defining 1991 opus, Gothic, in its entirety ain’t bad. That album turns 25 this year, has been reissued multiple times over, and its paradise lost 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)influence continues to spread, now feeding a new generation a blueprint of how to do death/doom so very, very right.

It would’ve been an event to see Paradise Lost play anything, but “Gothic,” “Shattered,” “Dead Emotion” — this is the stuff of which doom extremity is made. I stayed a while to pay my respects and then did decide after all to not be a defeatist jerk and see if I could get in for Zone Six after all. I could. The key was to be early as hell. That’s an old Roadburn trick. The German space jammers, who feature in their ranks Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt and Komet Lulu, both of Electric Moon, played as a trio with Rainer Neeff on guitar, which meant that synth specialist Modulfix was missing, but the jams were happening either way. I dug the gosh darn heck out of last year’s Love Monster (review here), and they were another act where the safer assumption probably would’ve been that I’d never get to watch them do a set save at Roadburn. I am very, very fortunate to be here.

Zone Six played in the dark. I mean it. Cul de Sac isn’t exactly bright to start with, and Lulu asked before they went on to have the lights turned down so it was like shooting a show in Boston in there. With Sula filling in on synth, their swirl was certainly colorful enough that it would’ve justified a bit of brightness, but I’ll take what I can get and the pictures can work themselves out. I got to see Zone Six. That’s a win. And since I had a hot streak going, I thought maybe I’d give Extase a shot for CHRCH to round out the night on a bludgeoning note of tonal mass, their Unanswered Hymns (review here) debut album on Battleground Records continuing to resonate as one of 2015’s best. As fate would have it, my luck held.

My two gotta-sees for today were Hexvessel and CHRCH. I wish I could say I stayed for the latter’s full set, but between the fact that it zone six 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)was getting on midnight and I had writing to do and the full-crowd press up against the stage in Extase bringing on a need for breathable air that smelled like something other than beer sweat, I indeed did not. Was enough to see them play “Unanswered Hymns” though to justify my anticipation. The Sacramento five-piece are touring to support the aforementioned first LP, and they’re doing numerous fests in the US as well as putting in this abroad road time, so it probably won’t be the last time in my life I run into them, but I was extraordinarily glad I did. Partially veiled frontwoman Eva played up a ritualistic sensibility with incense at the front of the stage, but really, so much of what they did was about absolutely crushing everything in their path — which is a kind of ritual, granted — that their primary impression was one of sheer impact. Switching between screams and cleaner croons, Eva shared vocal duties with guitarist Chris, whose growls underscored the death/doom aspects of CHRCH‘s sound, making them all the more crushing.

Listening to Unanswered Hymns, it was clear CHRCH (who were called Church at the time) were onto something that could be really special. After watching them bring that material to life, I feel no less vehement in my appreciation for just how on-the-right-path they absolutely are. Their second offering will be a big tell. I can’t wait to hear what it has to say.

When it was time to go, I fought my way through the wall of humans at Extase and eventually out into the street wherechrch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) some non-Roadburn-type tourists were taking their picture in front of the big cathedral. Dudes were plastered. I took their picture with one of their phones and told them to have a good night. Theirs might’ve just been beginning, and I suppose in a way mine was too, but with Day One of Roadburn 2016 down, I felt like something really substantial had been accomplished even as I looked at the schedule for tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday and knew that there remains so much more to come.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Roadburn 2016 Trip Pt. 4: Eternal Waltz

Posted in Features on April 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

weirdo canyon sign

04.14.16 – 11:51AM – 013, office

Some issue with the printer in the office here at the 013. Doubt it’s anything major, but it’s just holding up the proof of the day’s issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. I’m not worried. It will work out. It’s hard to be worried with such a professional crew working here. wcd issue 1Shaman Lee is on it as well, so while I have a couple changes to make in the copy, and the deadline is/was noon to start printing, we’ll get there.

In the interim, I got to catch a minute of Paradise Lost’s soundcheck. The new Main Stage space is huge — holds 3,000 people — and I expect it will be full. When I showed up to the loading dock (also suitably cavernous) this morning, I got a tour of the redone 013. There’s a photo pit in the new Jupiler Stage (former Green Room), which makes me feel like the universe is doing me personal favors, and space downstairs for the panels and this and that. I don’t know of anything in the US that compares to it. It’s a big country, I’m sure there’s something in a similar class somewhere, anywhere, but nothing I’ve ever seen. That was true before it was redone as well, and now it’s brand new.

And of course the sound is incredible. The space is both familiar and not, and I expect it’ll take some getting used to going from room to room, then down the way to Extase or Cul de Sac — I’m already nervous about missing CHRCH later tonight owing to the crowd; they’re among the most anticipated bands for the fest from people here and playing the smallest space — but it’s Roadburn. Everything will be fine. It’s so good to be here again. I saw Walter and Becky and Miranda paradise lost soundcheck (Photo by JJ Koczan)and Gijs and a bunch of other familiar faces from the 013 crew, and it’s been nothing but warm feelings since I walked in. I even met the general manager of the 013, who is responsible for bringing me over again to do the WCD. I felt like I should’ve brought him a gift basket. Here sir, please take these fruits and cheeses as a minimal token of my appreciation. Would be hilarious to try to get that through customs, standing like a dope on the non-EU passports line.

Just a couple hours now until the start. We’ll get the margins for the ‘zine sorted and then get to folding, and maybe I’ll have some more coffee before the day begins in earnest, or that tea that I put in the office fridge to cool off, and then take a deep breath before the big plunge. Definitely felt like it after last night, but Roadburn 2016 starts now.

Check out the first issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch here

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Roadburn 2016 First Announcements: Neurosis Headline, Lee Dorrian Curates, Paradise Lost to play Gothic

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2016 dates

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and by that I mean it’s time for the first Roadburn announcements. The Tilburg, Netherlands-based fest is no stranger to throwing down a gauntlet in its forward thinking approach, and Roadburn 2016 looks to continue the thread. Here are the bullet points:

  • Neurosis headline with a rare career-spanning set in celebration of their 30th anniversary.
  • Lee Dorrian curates.
  • Paradise Lost will play their classic Gothic album in full.

I can tell you honestly, the last time I saw Neurosis at Roadburn was 2009 and it was one of the purest earplugs-out communions with volume I’ve ever experienced. If I’m fortunate enough to get back there next April, I’ll consider myself even luckier, as they’ll be including songs from throughout their entire 30-year career. The thought of that meaning something off Souls at Zero is enough to send a shiver up my spine.

Lee Dorrian curating should hopefully mean a good amount of Rise Above acts on the bill. Could it be a return appearance from Uncle Acid, who played in 2013 as one of their very first shows? I don’t know. I won’t hold my breath for a Cathedral set, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think Dorrian‘s new project With the Dead with Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening (both ex-Electric Wizard) might make an appearance, and that’s fun speculation as it is, let alone whatever additions the next few months actually bring.

And Paradise Lost playing Gothic are a fitting answer to Fields of the Nephilim, who played twice at the fest this year. I’m a fan of that record though, and even their more recent stuff, so their arrival sits pretty well too.

Roadburn 2016 is starting off big, but if I’ve learned anything about the fest in the seven times I’ve been lucky enough to attend, it’s that this really is just the beginning. Initial announcements follow. More to come:

ROADBURN FESTIVAL confirms NEUROSIS and PARADISE LOST as headliners, plus LEE DORRIAN as festival curator

ROADBURN FESTIVAL is proud to announce that NEUROSIS will celebrate their thirtieth anniversary as headliners at the 2016 edition of the festival.

Pioneering Yorkshire doom legends, PARADISE LOST, will headline Roadburn Festival on Thursday 14 April 2016, playing their highly influential second album, Gothic, in its entirety.

ROADBURN FESTIVAL is incredibly proud to announce that our 2016 curator will be musician, label owner and sonic pioneer, LEE DORRIAN.

NEUROSIS

“To be invited to celebrate our 30th anniversary in Europe at Roadburn is an absolute honor. Roadburn is a treasured and unique event that embodies the spirit of open minded community and original, emotional heavy music. We are humbled to be a part of it again” – NEUROSIS, August 2015.”

The iconic, California-based band have planned just two events to mark this career milestone – one of which will be in San Francisco (March 4 & 5 at the Regency Ballroom), the other at Roadburn. NEUROSIS will in fact perform twice at Roadburn 2016 – as headliners on both Saturday 16 April, and on Sunday 17 April. The two sets will span the band’s entire career, showcasing NEUROSIS’ comprehensive evolution from their primitive beginnings to the seminal, epic outfit they are today. Each set will be completely different, and each album will be explored, allowing the band and the audience alike to revisit various parts of the band’s history.

NEUROSIS are very much a part of the tapestry that makes up Roadburn’s legacy; the announcement of their first headline slot at Roadburn 2007, marked a stylistic shift for the festival. Over the years, we have also played host to many NEUROSIS-linked side and solo projects, as well as bands that nestle under the Neurot Recordings label umbrella, and had the band truly kick off a new Roadburn tradition when they curated the festival in 2009.

Click here for the full NEUROSIS announcement details

PARADISE LOST

Pioneering Yorkshire doom legends PARADISE LOST will headline Roadburn Festival 2016 on Thursday 14 April 2016 playing their highly influential second album, Gothic, in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The band will play their masterpiece from start to finish, alongside tracks from their latest album, The Plague Within.

Leaders of the doom metal scene for over twenty five years, PARADISE LOST have kept their dank and dark take on the genre incredibly fresh with their latest album. Released on Century Media, The Plague Within marks a majestic return to PARADISE LOST’s innovative origins, recalling the melancholic heaviness of the band’s seminal second album, Gothic.

Renowned Romanian artist, Costin Chioreanu will be providing bespoke animated visuals to accompany PARADISE LOST’s Roadburn set.

PARADISE LOST’s Nick Holmes commented:

“As a young band we spent a good deal of time in the early 90’s driving around The Netherlands in a small transit van, living off chips with mayonnaise, drinking Chocomel and playing stuff from this album. ‘Gothic’ totally reminds me of those days, so if we were ever going to play the album in its entirety in 2016, it has to be in The Netherlands, and where better than the Roadburn Festival!!”

PARADISE LOST will be playing The Netherlands this year as part of their European tour in support of The Plague Within. They will play Tivoli, Utrecht on October 7.

Click here for the full Paradise Lost announcement details

LEE DORRIAN

Having headlined the first Roadburn Festival in 1999 with Cathedral, and celebrated Rise Above Records’ 20th anniversary at Roadburn in 2008, not to mention the bands that he has guided our way over the years, Lee’s history is very much entwined with that of Roadburn Festival.

“I feel very honoured to be handed this prestigious task to curate Roadburn 2016. Having been involved with Walter on a personal level for many years now, I always felt like part of the family, as opposed to being someone on the outside. So, with that in mind, I was both shocked and excited when he asked me to take on this fantastic opportunity.

I promise to make this an event that no-one will forget, and I’m already frothing at the potential of possibilities available!! It’s a dream and one that I never expected. This is what I love, so I will not disappoint. Come and join us in this ritualistic nirvana of praise and offerings to the unholy Blind Dead. Templars Arise!”

For the first time, Roadburn’s curator will take charge over two days – meaning the curator can develop a very specific and definitive vibe each day. Lee will curate the Main Stage on Friday 15 April 2016, before moving across to the iconic Het Patronaat venue on Saturday 16 April.

Click here for the full Lee Dorrian announcement details

Roadburn Festival takes place between 14 – 17 April 2016 at the 013 venue, in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Ticket announcements will follow in due course.

http://www.roadburn.com/
https://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival
https://twitter.com/roadburnfest

Neurosis, “Times of Grace” live at Roadburn 2009

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Paradise Lost, T.G. Olson, Abrams, We are Oceans and Skunk

Posted in Radio on June 5th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

Yeah, it’s only been a week since the last round of radio adds went up, and yeah, it usually takes me way longer than that to get a batch together — more for my own inability to organize than the lack of stuff coming in — but this time I managed it and in the interim there were 16 releases that happened along that it seemed only fair to toss into the fray. And so here we are. The bunch is suitably eclectic, as I think the highlight selections below showcase, but if you want to go down the list for yourself, hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page and have at it. Of the 37 list-based posts you’ll likely read on the internet today, this… should be one of them, I guess? Sorry, I’ve always sucked at promotions. I hope you find something you dig either here or there.

The Obelisk Radio adds for June 5, 2015:

Paradise Lost, The Plague Within

paradise lost the plague within

Their 14th album overall, The Plague Within is iconic UK doomers Paradise Lost‘s fourth for Century Media and third since the stylistic renaissance that seemed to begin in 2009 with Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (review here) got rolling. 2012’s Tragic Idol was a respectable follow-up working in a similar vein, and The Plague Within is likewise, veering into thrashier tempo for “Flesh from Bone” but generally reveling in an emotionally wrought vision of melancholia bridging the gap between the pioneering death-doom of their early days and the goth theatrics that followed. The turn they made six years ago was not an accident, and they have very clearly been working from a pattern since — many interesting things can happen to a band 14 albums in, but few will be accidents — but that doesn’t necessarily make a record like The Plague Within ineffective. Rather, cuts like “Terminal” and the plodding “Beneath Broken Earth” foster a bleak and encompassing sense of mood, and with strings, guest vocals and piano added to the arrangement, “An Eternity of Lies” still manages to keep its sense of focus held firm, the band’s well-honed experience serving them well. They have a loyal legion of fans who’ll follow them wherever they head, but even if The Plague Within is Paradise Lost playing to their latter-day strengths, I’m not inclined to argue against that. There’s a reason they are who they are. Paradise Lost on Thee Facebooks, Century Media.

T.G. Olson, The Wandering Protagonist

t.g. olson the wandering protagonist

A collection of at-least-semi-improvised recordings by Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson, operating under his solo moniker of T.G., The Wandering Protagonist is the follow-up to 2014’s The Rough Embrace (review here), and is perhaps less plotted out but with no diminishing of its folkish spirit. Olson plays electric, acoustic and slide guitar, organ, flute, harmonica (the latter is a focal point early in closer “Down in the Valley Below”), percussion drones and piano, and enters into easy instrumental conversation with himself, though there are some vocals as well on opener “Great Rock Falls.” For Across Tundras fans, the highlight might be nine-minute “Small Triumph,” with its heavier progression, but focusing on that without paying attention to the swelling drone, harmonica and acoustic guitar interplay of “For the Torn” before it is missing the point. The Wandering Protagonist is true to its title in that Olson does wind up in a variety of places — sonically, that is; the songs were recorded at his Ramble Hill Farm, outside Nashville in Tennessee — and a song like “Slow Susanna,” at 1:12, carries through like the experiment it is (a take on “Oh Susanna”), but these tracks also brim with open creativity and bring a rare sense of adventure to Americana so often boxed in by tradition. Few are better suited to push the limits of the form. Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Abrams, Lust. Love. Loss.

abrams lust love loss

Denver trio Abrams make their full-length debut with the triply-punctuated Lust. Love. Loss., a self-released 10-track collection with an obvious focus on flow, complexity of songwriting, crisp execution, tight performances and an overarching sense of heft that is more than ably wielded. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Zach Amster, bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen and drummer Mike Amster (also Blaak Heat Shujaa), the three-piece seem to take their cues from the post-Baroness school of progressive heavy rock, bringing the occasional flourish of post-rock as in the airy tones of “Sunshine” or post-hardcore in “Mr. Pink Always Wins” but keeping the “post-” pretty consistent amid a nonetheless thrusting rhythmic charge. Amster and Iversen combine forces readily on vocals, to charming effect on “Sweaty and Self Conscious,” and a later turn like the slower, sludgier push of “Useless” arrives at just the right moment before the title-track and closer “The Light” mount the album’s final argument in its own favor, the latter offsetting odd-timed chugging with intermittent builds and payoffs leading toward a last movement not overdone, but classy in a manner befitting the cuts before it. The fuzz of “Sea Salt Lines” hints toward Truckfighters and the semi-bombast of “Far from Home” calls to mind Sandrider, but Abrams appear most interested in developing their own sound from these elements rather than aping the sounds of others, and I hear nothing in their debut to tell me they can’t get there. Abrams on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

We are Oceans, Woodsmoke

We Are Oceans - Woodsmoke - cover

Following up on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), Massachusetts instrumenalists We are Oceans return with their second four-track full-length, Woodsmoke, which starts our directly referencing Earth in “Stonewall,” the opener and longest track here at 13:44 (immediate points), but soon enough move toward a more individualized and fleshed-out heavy post-rock, airy guitar not replacing verses nor trying to, but adding texture and a dreamy vibe to progressions that feel steady and patient in like measure, no change either rushed or needless, but fitting with what the song needs, whether it’s the immersive shifts of “Stonewall” or the down-to-silence break in the second half of “Dead Winds,” which builds back up to one of Woodsmoke‘s most satisfying payoffs. While “Stonewall,” “Dead Winds” and 12:12 closer “Solstice” are all north of the 10-minute mark, third cut “Pressed Flowers” (4:10) assures that the four-piece have more to them than one kind of development, a serene, peaceful line playing out not quite at a drone’s repetitiveness, but with a subtle evolution of the central theme, from which “Solstice” picks up started by the guitar but ultimately propelled in its early going by the drums, a fluid jazz taking hold as We are Oceans move to the inevitable crescendo that caps Woodsmoke in its last moments. Their debut was an encouraging start, but it’s in these songs that We are Oceans really showcase the aesthetic potential at the heart of their project. May they continue to grow. We are Oceans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Skunk, Heavy Rock from Elder Times

skunk heavy rock from elder times

I guess the “elder times” that Oakland, California, five-piece Skunk — vocalist John McKelvy, guitarists Dmitri Mavra and Erik Pearson, bassist Matt Knoth and drummer Jordan Ruyle — are talking about on their 2015 Heavy Rock from Elder Times debut demo is some combination of the ’90s and the ’70s, since as opener “Forest Nymph” telegraphs, they seem intent on answering the question of what might happen if Fu Manchu and AC/DC ever joined forces. It’s a noble mission, to be sure, and their fuzz and classic swagger is sold well over the course of the demo’s six tracks, which are as unabashedly stoner in their riffs as they are in titles like “Black Hash,” “Devil Weed” and “Wizard Bong.” Heavy Rock from Elder Times being their first collection of songs, I don’t feel like I’m giving away state secrets by saying there’s room for them to grow, but cuts are catchy in their turns and hooks, and the command that McKelvy shows alone in riding these riffs bodes well for where they might go next — their approach is cohesive even in its self-recorded, initial form. That’s never a bad place to start from, and if they have growing to do, at least they’ve given those who might check them out something worth their time in this welcome opening salvo. Skunk on Thee Facebooks, on Twitter, on Bandcamp

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Tried to get a decent amount of variety, at least within the sphere of heavy, and hopefully managed to do that, with some doom, rolling country experimentalist, neo-prog, post-rock and all out riffing. Again, on the chance nothing here tickled your fancy — because rest assured, the aim here is to tickle fancies — I think that might be the creepiest thing I’ve ever typed — be sure to hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page, to see not only the other 11 records that were added to the server today, but, you know, everything else from the last two-plus years. There’s bound to be something in there you dig.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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