Review & Track Premiere: Slomatics, Futurians: Live at Roadburn

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

slomatics-futurians-live-at-roadburn

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Tramontane’ from Slomatics’ Futurians: Live at Roadburn. Album is out next month on Burning World/Roadburn Records with preorders starting today.]

Look. Sometimes in life you just have to do yourself a favor, and I have no problem admitting that’s my motivation behind reviewing the Futurians: Live at Roadburn release by Belfast, Northern Ireland, trio Slomatics. No problem whatsoever. I was fortunate enough to bear witness to earlier this year to the set captured at Roadburn 2017 in the Green Room of the 013 in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and as Roadburn Records/Burning World Records gears up to release it to the wider public, I feel no shame in being as stoked on it as I am. Does that make me impartial to the experience or the release itself? Fuck no. Do I every now and again enjoy approaching an album with unmitigated joy and hoping to convey some small sense of that revelry in what still might ostensibly pass as a “review?” Yeah. Every now and again. This is one of those cases.

So if you want a harsh critique of Slomatics‘ set minute-by-minute, or if you want some bland judgment about the level of their play overall throughout the eight-song/42-minute pummelfest of a set, feel free to look elsewhere. For me, much like seeing the three-piece of guitarists David Majury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey taking that stage in the first place, listening to Futurians: Live at Roadburn is a complete pleasure, front to back from the “Good evening Roadburn!” that Harvey tosses in four minutes into “Electric Breath” to the guest vocal appearance from Conan frontman Jon Davis on the finale “March of the 1,000 Volt Ghost.”

Those two cuts also represent the divide between the latest Slomatics studio LP, last year’s stellar Future Echo Returns (review here), and their 2005 debut, Flooding the Weir, and though the last several years especially have brought them to prominence in greater underground consciousness thanks in part to a 2011 split with Conan (review here) and the aforementioned Davis‘ work promoting them through his Black Bow Records imprint, citing (correctly) their influence on his work, etc., the set as a whole basks in the fullness of Slomatics‘ discography, with material from 2014’s Estron (review here) like “And Yet it Moves,” “Return to Kraken” and “Tramontane” from 2012’s preceding A Hocht, “Ulysses My Father” from the late-2014 split with Holly Hunt, and “Running Battle,” also taken from the debut.

It’s a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it, but Slomatics, who’ve been proffering tonal demolition since 2004, are well up to the task. Still, given that Future Echo ReturnsEstron and A Hocht comprise a thematic and narrative trilogy — the storyline of which is still unclear, though we know that with “Supernothing” and “Into the Eternal” capping the latest record, the main character seems to at least be resigned to death if not actually dead — it’s something of a surprise they’d dip back to Flooding the Weir or the split at all, though one can hardly argue with the flow they set up across the eight tracks of Futurians: Live at Roadburn. It is a total cliché to say of heavy two-guitar bands without bass that they’re missing nothing for low end — and frankly, kind of a shitty thing to say about bassists in general, who add to the dynamic of a group even when the tonal space can be otherwise filled via effects or various methods of amplification, running guitars through bass heads, and so on — but with just Majury and Couzens as the string section, Slomatics‘ material is united regardless of its source by the unbridled weight of their distortion.

slomatics at roadburn photo jj koczan

I said in watching them at the time that they were the heaviest band I’d heard so far over the weekend. They would turn out to be the heaviest band — period — that I’d see at Roadburn this year, and that comes through in the massive roll of “Electric Breath” and the gallop of “Return to Kraken” alike, and as it did on Estron, “And Yet it Moves” lives up to its title — perhaps even more with the energy of the live delivery behind it. Indeed, one of the greatest assets that emerges from the band across Futurians: Live at Roadburn is that energy, and while my hearing it in the recording of “Tramontane” and “Supernothing” and “Ulysses My Father” may be due in part to having stood in front of the stage as it was happening, the vitality of their execution and how simply glad Slomatics were to be there comes through just the same and I believe is palpable whether a given listener saw them or not. Textual evidence? Go back to Harvey engaging the crowd in “Electric Breath,” or as they close out the set with “March of the 1,000 Volt Ghost.” The trio seem no less thrilled to be onstage than the cheering crowd is to have them.

And in kind with the bludgeoning, crushing tonality they bring to bear in the material — recorded in the Roadburnian tradition by Astrosoniq drummer Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team — it’s that spirit of joy that most pervades the release. There have been plenty of Live at Roadburn albums over the years, which is a credit in no small part to van de Vondervoort, and while some simply offer a glimpse of a professionally captured stop on a tour, or a curated setlist, whatever it might have been for a given band in a given year, with Slomatics, it was the show itself and the obvious extra effort put into the set that made it something special.

In other words, playing Roadburn clearly meant something to HarveyCouzens and Majury, and accordingly, it meant more to the audience to see it as well. I can’t speak for everyone who was there and I wouldn’t try to, but I know that for me, Slomatics hit on a particular vibe and sense of communion that in my experience only the very best of fully-bought-in Roadburn performances are able to hone. Thus it seems only more fitting that it should be preserved not only so that those who were there can have it for nostalgic purposes and the band can keep the momentum of their growth going post-Future Echo Returns, but in order to document a singular level of expression as a template for others to hopefully follow in years and fests to come.

Slomatics on Thee Facebooks

Slomatics on Bandcamp

Slomatics website

Burning World Records on Thee Facebooks

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Burning World Records on Bandcamp

Roadburn Festival website

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Slomatics to Release Futurians: Live at Roadburn in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

slomatics (photo jj koczan)

How good were Slomatics at Roadburn 2017? Oh, they were mighty good indeed. All the more reason to put a note in your phone or mark your calendar or do whatever it is to do to remind yourself about shit — maybe just preorder it when that goes live on Sept. 12? — that the Northern Irish riff-crushing trio will issue their set from this year’s fest in Tilburg this October via Burning World/Roadburn Records under the title of Futurians: Live at Roadburn. I’m telling you, I was there. It was awesome enough that when they were done I jumped on stage and took the photo above. I never do that kind of extroverted shit. Usually my ass is hiding in the back, pronto.

Point is Slomatics killed it on this one, as they will, and whether you were there to catch it or not, keep your eye out for Futurians: Live at Roadburn because the proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding. The riffy, riffy pudding.

The PR wire fills in on the particulars:

slomatics futurians live at roadburn

ROADBURN RECORDS TO RELEASE SLOMATICS FUTURIANS: LIVE AT ROADBURN

Slomatics will release Futurians: Live At Roadburn on vinyl and digital this october on Roadburn Records.

The band commented on their performance on the legendary festival beforehand:

“To say we’re excited about playing Roadburn would be an understatement,” says guitarist David Majury. “It’s funny how something like a music festival can take on almost mythical proportions, but if any festival has done so it’s definitely Roadburn! We’ve had an association with the festival through our records being on Burning World Records, so it feels good to be finally hauling our fuzz pedals over to Tilburg.”

With Majury and Chris Couzens on guitar and drummer / vocalist Marty Harvey also handling synth, Slomatics defy logic with their sheer amount of low-end output. As the follow-up to 2014’s Estron and 2012’s A Hocht, Future Echo Returns (2016) was the third in a trilogy of albums, rounding out an extended story that the band purposefully leaves open for interpretation.

“I’m delighted we’ll be joining the 2017 edition of Roadburn,” echoes Couzens. “We’ve seen some incredible performances in Tilburg over the years and been blown away how the locals embrace the hordes of music fans that descend on them. It’ll be fantastic to join that special atmosphere as a performer in April!”

* 300 copies on clear vinyl worldwide
* pre-sale starts september 12th 2017 on BurningWorldrecords.com

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Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” live at Roadburn 2017

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

enslaved-roadburn-live

In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

Hour of 13 on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

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Fuzzmatazz Records on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

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The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Audion, La Historia de Abraham

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Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

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Audion on Bandcamp

 

Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

Bone Man on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

riff fist king iii

Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

Riff Fist on Thee Facebooks

Riff Fist on Bandcamp

 

Helén, Helén

helen helen

Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

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Helén at Svart Records webstore

 

Savanah, The Healer

savanah the healer

I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

Savanah on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Puta Volcano on Bandcamp

 

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Enslaved to Release Roadburn Live 2LP for Record Store Day

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I was at Roadburn 2015 to watch Enslaved play the set captured on the forthcoming Roadburn Live 2LP, set to release on April 22 through By Norse and Roadburn Records. They were fucking incredible. Really. It had been I think weeks since I saw them in the US and they still managed to blow me away. Dudes never fail. Roadburn Live draws on the proggy side of what they do, and yes, that’s awesome. Every year at Roadburn, I tell myself I get to buy one piece of vinyl to go with the usual swath of CDs. I think I know what it’s going to be this year.

They’ve got “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” streaming now and you can check it out at the bottom of the post if you think my reasoning is suspect. It isn’t.

The PR wire fills in the details where my spinning head can’t:

enslaved roadburn live

ENSLAVED To Release Roadburn Live 2XLP For Record Store Day, April 22nd; “Death In The Eyes Of Dawn” Premiered

Roadburn Live is ENSLAVED’s first official live album, a split release between Roadburn Records and By Norse Music. The album was recorded during one of band’s headlining shows at the renowned Roadburn Festival 2015, an edition curated by ENSLAVED’s guitar player Ivar Bjørnson.

Walter Hoeijmakers, Roadburn’s Artistic Director comments on the release: “It’s no secret that there’s a strong friendship between Roadburn and ENSLAVED. One of the most hard-hitting and progressive bands to come out of Norway, ENSLAVED has played a significant part in the festival’s history – both musically and antically. Not only has ENSLAVED been our artist in residence, bringing side-projects such as The Armageddon Concerto (the ENSLAVED/Shining collaboration), Dream Of An Opium Eater, and Trinacria to Roadburn, Ivar Bjørnson has also been our 2015 co-curator, along with Wardruna’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, resulting in Skuggsjá’s first ever performance outside of Norway. ENSLAVED’s 2015 performances were the pinnacle of this enduring and artistic friendship, and showcased the massive influence the band has had on both Roadburn and the (underground) metal scene for the past two decades. To have these shows captured on vinyl is a dream come true for me, and I truly hope it’s the same for anyone who was in attendance, or those who want to indulge themselves in the Northern magic of ENSLAVED.”

Roadburn Live will be available as limited and exclusive Record Store Day color editions and as Roadburn/ENSLAVED-Webshop Gold edition including the original A3 Roadburn poster and color stickers!

To celebrate the release, what better way than to hold a playback session with the members of Enslaved at the Roadburn Festival 2017. Becky Laverty of Roadburn Festival comments: “ENSLAVED and Roadburn share a history that is entwined and their 2015 performance on the main stage was such a fantastic milestone for both parties, that it makes perfect sense for the show to be released as a live album. As the album will be released during Roadburn 2017, it seemed fitting to invite attendees and the band alike to join us for a playback session at the festival as part of our popular side program.”

More information about the playback session to be revealed soon.

Roadburn Live also features a brilliant layout created by highly respected artist and Roadburn’s regular graphic designer Costin Chioreanu. The album was mixed by Iver Sandøy at Solslottet Studio and mastered by Jens Bogren (Kreator, Opeth, Sepultura) in Fascination Studios. It is also the last official release with Herbrand Larsen on keys and vocals.

After celebrating their twenty-five year anniversary in 2016 showcasing a majority of older material, Roadburn Live displays songs mainly from the “newer” and more progressive era of ENSLAVED’s career, with songs from “In Times,” “Riitiir,” “Isa,” “Below The Lights,” and “Monumension.” Featuring guest appearances of Einar Selvik (Wardruna), Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (Sólstafir), Per Wiberg (Opeth, Candlemass), and Menno Gootjes (Focus) on “Immigrant Song,” the first cover song by ENSLAVED to appear on any record ever.

Grutle Kjellson comments on the album: “I’m generally not a huge fan of live albums. I like to be present at a show, to grasp the energy of the band, and to witness the sometimes magical symbiosis that occurs between the band and the audience. I am, however, a huge fan of the Roadburn Festival! I consider this to be my all-time favorite, both as a musician and as a guest. Therefore, if everENSLAVED were to release a live album, it had to be from a Roadburn show! I hope you will enjoy listening to this piece of wax as much as we did recording it!”

Release date and format: April 22nd: Record Store Day limited color editions and Roadburn/ENSLAVED-Webshop gold edition. Standard vinyl, CD, and digital. More information soon!

Roadburn Live Track Listing:
1. Building With Fire
2. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn
3. In Times
4. Daylight
5. Convoys To Nothingness
6. As Fire Swept Clean The Earth
7. Isa
8. Immigrant Song*
* Roadburn Live exclusive song originally by Led Zeppelin

Roadburn Live Lineup:
Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, keys
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass
Arve Isdal – guitars
Cato Bekkevold – drums
Herbrand Larsen – keyboard, keys

http://enslaved.no
http://www.bynorse.com
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http://www.roadburn.com
http://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival

Enslaved, “Death in the Eyes of Dawn”

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Quarterly Review: Horsehunter, Church, Corpse Light, Sunder, T-Tops, The Space Merchants, Etiolated, Blown Out, Les Discrets, Beast Modulus

Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk summer quarterly review

Day one down and feeling good so far. Day two continues the thread of mixing more known quantities with bands either self-releasing or putting out demos, etc., and I like that. More than last time around — last quarter, if you want to use the business-y sounding language for it — I tried to really get a balance across this batch of reviews, posted yesterday and coming up over the next couple days. We’ll see how it works out when it’s over. It remains a ton of stuff, and I hope you dig it. Day two starts right now.

Quarterly review #11-20:

Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh

horsehunter caged in flesh

Pushing their way to the fore of Melbourne’s heavy surge, double-guitar four-piece Horsehunter proffer oppressive tonal crush on the four tracks of their 2LP Magnetic Eye Records debut, Caged in Flesh. The story goes that, unsatisfied the initial recordings weren’t heavy enough, the band – guitarists Michael Harutyanyan (also vocals) and Dan McDonald, bassist/vocalist Himi Stringer and drummer Nick Cron – went back into the studio and redid the entire thing. Mission accomplished. By the time 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Stoned to Death” is done, lungs are suitably deflated, spines are cracked, skulls cleaved, and so on. They’re hardly the only ones in the world to conjure formidable tonal heft, but it’s the deft changes in vocals – clean here, shouts there, more abrasive at the start of the title-track – and the sense of atmosphere in the three-minute penultimate interlude that really distinguish Horsehunter, as well as how smoothly that atmosphere integrates with the pummel in the second half of closer “Witchery,” attention to detail and awareness of the need for more than just sonic weight boding well for future progression.

Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Church, Unanswered Hymns

church unanswered hymns

A staggeringly heavy debut full-length from Sacramento, CA, five-piece Church, Unanswered Hymns was initially released digitally by the band and quickly picked up for a cassette issue by Transylvanian Tapes and forthcoming LP through Battleground Records. One gets the sense listening to the three extended tracks – 19-minute opener “Dawning” being the longest of the bunch (immediate points) – that those won’t be the last versions to come. Psychedelic doom blends seamlessly with vicious sludge extremity, creating a morass engulfing in its tones, spacious in its breadth and unrepentantly heavy, making it one of 2015’s best debut releases, hands down, and a glorious revelry in bleak tectonics that challenges the listener to match its level of melancholy without giving into an impulse for post-Pallbearer emotive theatrics. As thrilling as they are plodding, expect the echoes of “Dawning,” “Stargazer” and “Offering” to resonate for some time to come, and should Church show any predilection for touring in the next couple years, they have the potential to make a genuine impact on American doom. Yes, I mean it.

Church on Thee Facebooks

Transylvanian Tapes

Battleground Records

Corpse Light, Without Form

corpse light without form

Recorded in a day and released by Grimoire Records, the four-track Without Form is slated as the debut from Baltimore atmospheric doomers Corpse Light, but the band have had tracks come out in drips and drabs since getting their start as Ophidian in mid-2012, even if this is their first proper release. Either way, “The Fool” sets up an immediate and grim ambience, the churning lurch from guitarists Keiran Holmes and Don Selner and bassist Aurora Raiten set to roll by Lawrence Grimes (The Osedax) and given earthy aggression by the vocals of Jim Webb. “Lying in State” fleshes out these morose aggro vibes, but it’s with the drop-everything-and-kill peak of the subsequent “R Complex” that Corpse Light hit their angriest mark. If Without Form was just about that, it would be the highlight, but the album’s 29 minutes have more to offer than pissed off tonally-weighted post-hardcore, as closer “Kenophobia”’s clever turns and deceptive forward momentum demonstrate, though a touch of that kind of thing never hurts either.

Corpse Light on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Sunder, Demo

sunder demo

Heavy psych four-piece Sunder will make their debut this summer through Tee Pee and Crusher Records with a 7” for “Cursed Wolf,” so consider this notice of the tracks on their not-for-public-consumption demo a heads up on things to come. Their “Deadly Flower” was streamed here this past April, and the band’s previous incarnation, The Socks, released their self-titled debut (review here) on Small Stone in 2014, but with songs like the key-laced stomper “Bleeding Trees,” the ‘70s rusher “Against the Grain,” and the Uncle Acid-style swinging “Daughter of the Snows,” the Lyon, France, outfit continue to refine a style drawing together different vibes of the psychedelic era. “Deadly Flower” was also distinguished by its key work, and as for “Cursed Wolf” itself, the melody reminds of proto-psych Beatles singles (thinking “Rain” specifically), but the groove still holds firm to a sense of weight that’s thoroughly modern, and by that I mean it sounds like 1972. Keep an eye out.

Sunder on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records

T-Tops, T-Tops

t-tops t-tops

Granted not everyone is going to make this immediate association, but when I first saw the moniker T-Tops, I couldn’t help think of like C-grade generic stonerisms, songs about beer and pretending to be from the South and all that. If you experienced something similar in seeing the name, rest easy. The Pittsburgh trio of guitarist/vocalist Pat Waters (ex-The Fitt, Wormrigg), bassist Jason Orr (Wormrigg) and drummer Jason Jouver (ex-Don Caballero) are down with far more sinister punk and noise on their self-titled, self-released debut full-length, riding, shooting straight and speaking truth on cuts like “Wipe Down” and the catchy “Pretty on a Girl” after the tense sampling of “A Certain Cordial Exhilaration” turns over the power-push to “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’.” “Ralphie” is probably an inside-joke if not a Christmas Story reference, but point is these guys are way less about-to-sing-about-muscle-cars than the name implies and their tight, crisp rhythmic turns come accompanied by vicious tonal force and an utter lack of bullshit, which is a scenario far preferable to that which one might otherwise expect.

T-Tops on Thee Facebooks

T-Tops on Bandcamp

The Space Merchants, The Space Merchants

the space merchants the space merchants

Issued by Aqulamb in the imprint’s standard 100-page art book/download format, the self-titled debut from fellow Brooklynites The Space Merchants seeks to draw a line between psychedelic rock and country. And not pretend country like people with a Johnny Cash fetish because he covered that Nine Inch Nails song one time – actual, bright, pastoral, classic country. Call the results psychtwang and applaud the effort, which works oddly well in a thoroughly vintage context to come across on “Mainline the Sun” like something from a lost ‘60s variety show. Parts of “One Cut Like the Moon” and the later fuzz of “One Thousand Years of Boredom” give away their modernity, but The Space Merchants’ push toward a stylistic niche suits them well, and the intertwined vocal arrangements from guitarist Michael Guggino, bassist Aileen Brophy and keyboardist Ani MonteleoneCarter Logan drums to round out the four-piece – add to the rich, welcoming feel that remains prevalent even as the eight-minute “Where’s the Rest of Life” slips into wah-soaked noise to finish out.

The Space Merchants on Thee Facebooks

Aqualamb on Bandcamp

Etiolated, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies

etoliated grey limbs grey skies

The undercurrent of black metal coursing beneath the surface of Etiolated’s debut full-length, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies, eventually comes to the surface in 10-minute opener “Internal Abyss” and 16-minute eponymous closer, which bookends, but in part it’s the tension of waiting for those rampaging surges that keeps one hooked to the Armus Productions release. Guttural death growls echo up from dense tonal reaches, and tempo shifts, whether in those longer tracks or three-minute lumbering slice “Futility” are fluid, the North Carolina five-piece executing a slow-grinding chug in centerpiece “Exsanguinate,” which seems like a murk without end until the 1:47 “For Your Hell” kicks into a speedier, more blackened rush, guest vocalist Ryan McCarthy joining guitarist/vocalists James Storelli and Walls, bassist Cody Rogers and drummer Elliot Thompson in furthering the already prevalent sense of extremism before “Etiolated,” after a surprisingly peaceful if brooding midsection, plods the album to a close. To say “not for the faint of heart” would be putting it lightly, but if I had a vest and if Etiolated had patches, the two parties would definitely meet up at some point in the near future.

Etiolated on Thee Facebooks

Armus Productions on Bandcamp

Blown Out, Planetary Engineering

blown out planetary engineering

It has not taken long for the discography of UK psych jammers Blown Out to become a populated murky cosmos of its own. Planetary Engineering is released on Oaken Palace Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist Mike Vest (also Bong, etc.), bassist John-Michael Hedley (also Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) and drummer Matt Baty (also the head of Box Records) exploring two mesmeric and sprawling instrumentals – one per side – that bend and flourish and hypnotize in organically-concocted swirl. Side A’s “Transcending Deep Infinity” tops 20 minutes and shifts from its spacey build to a low key groove at about 7:30 in, pulsing forward once more amid head-turning repetition, deep echoes and longform nod, culminating in a two-minute fadeout that brings forward “Thousand Years in the Sunshine,” an immediate bass groove and interstellar swirl no less trance-inducing than its predecessor. Cyclical drum fills morph over time behind the guitar and bass, and Planetary Engineering seems to push continually further out until, of course, it disintegrates, presumably as it crosses the galactic barrier.

Blown Out on Thee Facebooks

Oaken Palace Records on Bandcamp

Les Discrets, Live at Roadburn

les discrets live at roadburn

I was fortunate enough to have been in attendance at Het Patronaat in Tilburg when French post-black metallers Les Discrets took the stage at Roadburn 2013. As such, it’s with some trepidation I approach their Live at Roadburn recording on Prophecy Productions – the impression they made live wasn’t something I’d want potentially spoiled or brought to earth by a document proving it was just another set. With Neige of Alcest on bass with guitarist/vocalist Fursy Teyssier, Les Discrets proved to be something really special to those who, like me, were there to catch them, and the eight-track Live at Roadburn – fortunately – captures both the majestic lushness they brought with them and the underlying weight that seemed to add impact to the material. What might sound like post-production mixing on “L’Echappée” or the wash of “Chanson D’Automne” isn’t – it really was that beautiful and that perfectly balanced coming from the stage. A vastly underrated act and a document that reminds of how stellar they were without sullying the memory in the slightest.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions

Beast Modulus, Beast Modulus

beast-modulus-beast-modulus

Brooklynite foursome Beast Modulus seem to care less about meshing with ideas of genre than sticking them in a meatgrinder and seeing what comes out. To wit the riotous chugging of “Cowboy Caligula,” and the blackened thrust of “WaSaBi!” on their self-released, self-titled outing, which leads to dueling growls and screams on the tonally weighted post-hardcore “Fabulous,” and the appropriately mathy turns of the thrashing “Tyranny of Numbers.” Inventive in their stylizations and in where the six songs included on the release actually go – hint: they go to “heavy” – the lineup of vocalist Kurt Applegate, guitarist Owen Burley, bassist Jesse Adelson and drummer Jody Smith have some post-Dillinger Escape Plan vibe in the calculated chaos of “Kalashnikov,” but closer “Killing Champion” is too impatient to even be held by that, the prevailing manic angularity of Beast Modulus ultimately crafting its own identity from the physical assault the music seems intent on perpetrating upon the listener.

Beast Modulus on Thee Facebooks

Beast Modulus on Bandcamp

 

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket, Fever Dog, Thine, Dwellers and Electric Lucifer

Posted in Radio on June 17th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

These are a little later than I’d prefer, but if I ran everything on time around here as much as I wanted to, it would probably take me 24 hours a day. Sometimes you have to go to the post office, or to The Patient Mrs.‘ workplace to scam free printer paper. I’m just saying things come up that can alter the course of your planned afternoon. One can either be flexible or go insane.

So, better (perpetually) late than never, and I hope you’ll agree with me that this stuff was worth waiting for.

Adds for June 17, 2014:

Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket, In a Dutch Haze

Behold the megajam: The jam that launched a thousand jams, and insert further hyperbole here, because this one earns it. At Roadburn 2012, the illustrious lineup of J. Mascis (Witch, Dinosaur Jr.) and his Heavy Blanket bandmate Graham Clise (also Witch and Lecherous Gaze) joined forces with Earthless‘ rhythm section, bassist Mike Egington and drummer Mario Rubalcalba for a one-time-only, off-the-cuff instrumental jam that has since become the stuff of legend. Yes, a legend two years later. Now dubbed “Paradise in a Purple Sky,” that hour-long one-track excursion into pure heavy psychedelic bliss is available as Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket‘s In a Dutch Haze, and the vibe is less that of a live album than a historical document. Call it lightning in a bottle, call it any other cliche you might want, but chances are In a Dutch Haze is going to be the best live release you hear this year, and if the echoing intertwining guitar solos and unhindered thudding groove — immaculately captured by Marcel van de Vondervoort — aren’t enough to stir your soul and drive you to creation, then I’ve got nothing for you. This is heavy psych at its most vibrant and righteous. Burning World Records, Outer Battery Records.

Thine, The Dead City Blueprint


The Dead City Blueprint (out on Peaceville Records) is actually the third full-length from UK-based Thine, but it’s also their first since 2002, so the feel winds up somewhat like a debut anyway. What happened in the interim? Well, drummer Dan Mullins from the two-guitar five-piece has doubled in My Dying Bride since 2006, so that could at least partially explain the delay. Whatever else may have caused the stoppage, Thine make up for the years with 10 deep explorations of dark, melancholic rock. “Out of Your Mind and into a Void” is almost singularly indebted to Damnation-era Opeth, and opener “Brave Young Assassin” finds Thine somewhere between a less keyboarded Katatonia and a more active version of Anathema at their moodiest, but “The Precipice” provides an early peak to The Dead City Blueprint with a surprise reinterpretation of NWOBHM guitar intricacy and wonderfully arranged vocals from Alan Gaunt, whose performance takes the piece to someplace entirely the band’s own. Winding, airy lead lines in “The Rift” will be a dogwhistle to those in the know, but the piano-inclusive apex of “Scars from Limbo” and ambient finale “Adrift through the Arcane Isles of Recovery” speak to an individuality in development, and if Thine get a follow-up out sometime before 2026, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them grown further into their style. Thine on Thee Facebooks, Peaceville Records.

Dwellers, Live at Bar Deluxe 29-04-2014


As the title hints, Live at Bar Deluxe 29-04-2014 is a new live release from Salt Lake City heavy rockers Dwellers, recorded in their hometown at the end of April. That puts it prior to the street date for their second album, Pagan Fruit (review here), but two cuts from that — “Rare Eagle” and “Totem Crawler” — make appearances anyway alongside highlights drawn from the first Dwellers offering, 2012’s Good Morning Harakiri (review here). Both those records were on Small Stone, but this 34-minute set is a self-release free download, essentially a band-endorsed bootleg to be spread around. The audio quality is definitely in the “audience recording” vein, but clear enough to let the spaciousness of “Old Honey” sink in as it flows out of “Ode to Inversion Layer,” and as this is as close as I’ve yet come to seeing Dwellers — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis — live, I’m more than inclined to take it. Hearing Toscano nail the chorus to “Totem Crawler” as well as he does here only emphasizes how much I need to catch a gig sooner rather than later. Maybe it’s a fan piece, but screw it, I’m a fan. Dwellers on Thee Facebooks, Dwellers on Bandcamp.

Fever Dog, “Iroquois”


Just a quick look from these jammy Palm Desert youngsters at what their forthcoming sophomore full-length, Second Wind, will hold, but “Iroquois” bodes well, and in its two-minute span one can hear space rock ideals beginning to make themselves felt amidst a still tonally weighted push, the band’s confidence emerging as their sound continues to expand. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/thereminist Danny Graham, bassist/noisemaker Nathan Wood and drummer Joshua Adams (also synth), Fever Dog show they have a clear dedication to being more than a heavy rock band, and as brief as “Iroquois” is, the immediateness with which it enacts a vibe puts Second Wind on my list of most anticipated albums for the second half of this year. Lot of potential for the desert’s next generation. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.

Electric Lucifer, Coming to the Mountain


Not to be confused with Cincinnati’s Electric Citizen, Cleveland-based triple-guitar stoner rollers Electric Lucifer get down to some post-Electric Wizard idolatry on their Dec. 2013 Coming to the Mountain three-track EP. The nod is central and effective, and with three guitars at work, riffing is obviously half the point, though the leads mesh naturally with well-held grooves on “Electric Lucifer,” which leads off, and the subsequent “Phantoms from the Outer Rim” and “Red Wizard,” the last of which finds Electric Lucifer at their most blown-out, proffering stoner rock for stoner rockers with a clear passion for the tenets of the genre. There isn’t much fancy about it, but with a reemerging interest in straightforward Sabbath worship and a subsequent full-length released shortly after from Electric Lucifer, easy to think the five-piece would hit a nerve for heads already converted and looking to nod out. Electric Lucifer on Thee Facebooks, Electric Lucifer on Bandcamp.

Also added this week were releases by John Garcia and Swedish stoner punkers Lightsabres. For the full list of updates and more, check out The Obelisk Radio updates page.

Thanks as always for reading and listening.

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Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket 2012 Roadburn Jam to See Vinyl Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 29th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Over the last couple years, Roadburn has given birth to some legendary jams. Their late-night set in 2012 might not have been the first time J. Mascis (Witch, Dinosaur Jr.) kicked it off with the guys from Earthless, but in the couple years since it’s become a landmark for the fest and a model of one-off collaborations they’ve continued to refine. That set, under the title In a Dutch Haze, will be released on vinyl shortly, and it’s available to preorder from Outer Battery Records and Roadburn/Burning World Records now.

The lineup was Graham Clise and Mascis, both of Heavy Blanket, and Mario Rubalcalba and Mike Eginton of Earthless. Thus, Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket.

The PR wire has it like this:

EARTHLESS Meets HEAVY BLANKET “In A Dutch Haze” to be Released July 8

Titanic Team-Up Featuring Psych Rock’s Heaviest Hitters Takes Physical Form!

Monstrous Mash-Up From Members of Dinosaur Jr., Lecherous Gaze, OFF!, Rocket From the Crypt, Sweet Apple, Witch and More Delivers Whiz-Bang Wallop the Likes of Which the World Has Never Heard Before!!!

This July, a colossal collaborative concert, previously privy only to those who were fortunate enough to have helped fill a Netherlandic concert hall multiple moons ago, will be unleashed in awesome audio form as EARTHLESS Meets HEAVY BLANKET In A Dutch Haze. The out-of-this-world recording will see a July 8 release date via Outer Battery Records / Roadburn Records.

Back-story: an impromptu heavy psych JAM between J Mascis (DINOSAUR JR, SWEET APPLE, WITCH and one of both Rolling Stone and SPIN’s “Greatest Guitarists of All Time”) and California space rock masters EARTHLESS at the 2009 SXSW Festival left an onlooking crowd stunned and breathless. When word of the performance spread, the world-renowned musicians were asked to play the main stage of Holland’s annual international rock festival, Roadburn, to attempt to recreate the magic that revved-up an Austin audience at what was thought to be a one-time event.

Fast forward to the 2012 installment of the fantastic fest; when EARTHLESS’ guitarist Isaiah Mitchell had to back out at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstance, six-string shredder Graham Clise from J Mascis’ loud, psychedelic project HEAVY BLANKET (and who also plays with Mascis in WITCH and in the bitchin’ Bay Area band LECHEROUS GAZE) stepped in on second guitar. Backed by the best rhythm section in today’s adventurous rock world — Mario Rubalcaba and Mike Eginton from EARTHLESS — the quartet stormed the stage for what would become an incredible one-time happening, leading to almost a full hour of some of the most mind-bending heavy psych imaginable. The epic jam session gave birth to shredding psychedelia and hard rock blues underpinned by the muscular rhythmic sensibilities of kraut-rock and the unbridled energy of 70’s guitar rock. The formidable foundation laid by drummer Rubalcaba became a jumping off point for Mascis, Clise and Eighton to explore their inner cosmoi for consciousness-expanding riffs and music-induced psychedelic experiences.

Track listing:
1.) Paradise in a Purple Sky (58:34)

Now, the rest of the planet can ready their receivers and hoist headphones on high as the full live set from that magical evening in Tilburg is set to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world! Far-out, gatefold-spanning artwork by San Francisco tattoo artist and designer Tim Lehi (High on Fire, Black Anvil, Xasthur) perfectly animates this incredible audio adventure, while matchless mastering by Carl Saff (Boris, Guided By Voices), pushes this priceless performance over-the-top. Flame retardant clothing is highly recommended!

EARTHLESS Meets HEAVY BLANKET In A Dutch Haze is available for pre-order purchase now at this location. The initial LP pressing takes the form of a special, 2xLP on purple sky vinyl, limited to 300 copies. Collectors, don’t delay!

http://burningworldrecords.com/artist/earthless-meets-heavy-blanket
http://www.outerbatteryrecords.com/products/earthless-meets-heavy-blanket-in-a-dutch-haze

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Roadburn-Exclusive Vinyl from Napalm Death, YOB and Candlemass Now Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 28th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Over the last couple years, the number of Roadburn‘s fest-exclusive releases has been quietly growing. In 2013, one could pick up vinyl from Dread Sovereign and The Obsessed, and this year, no less than the grind royalty of Napalm Death put together an EP. Add to that live records from YOB and Candlemass and you have a bit of a series going. Or Burning World Records has a bit of a series going, anyway.

Today the label has put the word out that they’ve culled all the leftover vinyl and instead of hording it all to themselves, holing up in a corner somewhere with their arms wrapped tightly around Our Pain is Their Power, they’ve decided to make it available to the buying public who maybe didn’t get the chance to pick the stuff up at the fest itself. In addition, Burning World has made Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 — which I’m told has one or two of my photos in the layout — available as a pay-what-you-want download, which if nothing else is generous. Elder‘s on tour now in Europe with Hull, so that ties together nicely.

Burning World sent the following down the PR wire:

Roadburn Festival exclusive vinyl

We managed to get our hands on these exclusive and limited Roadburn Festival 2014 only vinyl releases:

Napalm Death – Our Pain Is Their Power – The Roadburn Festival EP
Yob – The Unreal Never Lived live at Roadburn 2012 2LP
Candlemass – Live At The Marquee 1988 2LP

Free Elder Live at Roadburn download

Download Elder Live At Roadburn 2013 from Bandcamp. As usual with the Roadburn releases this download is free (or more exact ‘pay what you want’). If you need more you can pre-order the album on cd (in digipack with artwork) here (vinyl is sold out, get it on tour with the band).

http://burningworldrecords.com/
http://burningworldrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/officialnapalmdeath
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yob/36708497970
https://www.facebook.com/candlemass

Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013

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