Live Review: Kings Destroy, Gozu, Forming the Void and Clamfight in Brooklyn, 03.02.19

Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Half a decade ago, I tagged along with Kings Destroy on a West Coast tour that took us, among other places, through a snowstorm in Wyoming. It was late at night, and cars were sliding off the road and pulled over with their flashers on, plows nowhere to be seen. A general wreck. I took over driving that night — hi, I’m sober — and we just went to where we were staying very, very slowly. One does not want to flip the Sprinter van with all the gear in it when one is not even in the band.

I thought about that snowstorm at seven in the morning on Saturday to go south from Massachusetts to see Kings Destroy‘s record release show at the Saint Vitus Bar in the Lost City of Brooklyn after seeing them the night before in Boston, with Gozu and Forming the Void, who’d also be playing again, while Philly’s Clamfight stepped into the opening spot. It’s not every band on the planet I’d leave the house for, let alone take six hours to make a four-hour trip. It all worked out, though, and nobody flipped any vehicles. A win, even before the night started.

It was an early show, which is fine by me forever. There was an NYC Beer Week event with metal breweries at the Vitus Bar before the show kicked off, and Alewife Brewing had a special beer for Gozu — a Gozu Gose — and so it was a double release gig, with Kings Destroy marking the arrival this week of their fourth album, Fantasma Nera, and Gozu having a few cans of their own special brew on hand. There was no way it wasn’t going to be a party.

The beer thing was basically irrelevant to me other than the Gozu cans were cool looking, but it made sure the crowd had gotten plenty of “tasting” done by the time Clamfight went on. Here’s how it all went from there:

Clamfight

Clamfight (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hugs all around. I’ve known Clamfight for well over a decade at this point, and they played three songs at the Saint Vitus Bar, but honestly, apart from being happy to see them and the fact that in the time since I last did — in the same place, no less — they released last year’s III (review here), which was by any measure a huge leap forward in sound and approach, I spent the bulk of their set feeling cripplingly nervous. I had put out on social media a post with their track “Echoes in Stone” that said how I daydreamed about singing the song on stage with them, and they invited me to do it. When I was in a band a decade ago, we used to do shows together a lot and it was how we got to be friends. They invited me to do the song, and, after much hemming and hawing, I actually did it. I sang backups to drummer Andy Martin and was up on the Vitus Bar stage with him, bassist Louis Koble and guitarists Joel “Papa” Harris and guitarist Sean McKee and I did the song. The last time I was on a stage was eight years before, and I thought I’d never do it again, but in the end, the situation felt right and when it was done, I was glad I did it. Sore, and glad. And sore. But also glad. And sweaty. Before I got up, they also killed and the metal-breweries crowd left over from the beer event earlier were right on board with their more aggressive side. It had been too long since I saw them, and I’m glad to know I’ll catch them again at New England Stoner & Doom Fest this Spring.

Forming the Void

Forming the Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was really, really easy to watch Forming the Void play two nights in a row. They seemed comfortable on a bigger stage, and were able to spread out a bit more in their setup, but the huge tones and progressive melodies came through no less effectively for the larger space they occupied in Brooklyn than they had in Boston. And it’s interesting to see that people are clearly onto them. They brought out a good, growing-band crowd both nights, and what they brought to the bill was to be the one on the lineup that people hadn’t seen yet on the tour. The seeing-them-for-the-first-time band, because of course neither Gozu nor Kings Destroy — nor Clamfight, for that matter — were strangers to the venue, but you could see in the crowd people being engaged by the Louisiana natives, and that initial curiosity turning into fandom in real-time. Touring suits them. They’re building a stage presence and as they become more confident in their approach, that will become all the more a factor, but they’re already able to take a room and bring the people in it onto their side, and that is a massive step. Good band. Good band. Go see Forming the Void. Their next album or two — they work quickly — will tell the tale, but already, good band. They’ll be at Maryland Doom Fest in June, I’m hoping with new material in tow.

Gozu

Gozu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Appropriately enough, Gozu and Kings Destroy switched up the order from the night before in Boston, giving the New York band the play-last spot in their hometown, but Gozu still tore through Saint Vitus Bar like headliners. This was their last night of the three on the road with Kings Destroy and Forming the Void — Portland, Boston, Brooklyn — and they railed into their set in absolute blowout fashion. If I didn’t know they were playing with a new drummer in Alex Fewell, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, and it was clear they were getting it together as they were going. No flubs that I heard, and frankly, I was paying pretty close attention. If he’s permanent, Fewell (also of thrashers Black Mass) would be the third drummer in Gozu, and though he’s playing established material with parts originally written by someone else — either Mike Hubbard or Barry Spillberg — he brings his own sensibility to it. I was glad to see him a second night with the band, because that came through all the more. He’s not a pure tech drummer, but he’s able to carry the sharp-edged “Nature Boy” without trouble and still swing when called upon to do so. By the time guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney was shaking his hips later into the set in the middle of the stage with guitarist Doug Sherman and bassist Joe Grotto headbanging on either side, Gozu seemed fully locked in and sustainable as they are now. I don’t know how fluid their situation is, but their intent to keep moving forward was plain to see, and it’s worth being thankful for that.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I was at the record release show at Saint Vitus Bar in 2015 for Kings Destroy‘s self-titled third LP (review here). I got to do a track premiere for that one. This time, I wasn’t cool enough, but as they move toward the release of their fourth album, Fantasma Nera, this week as their offering under the banner of Svart Records, I couldn’t help but think back to that show and the massive difference in sound between that material and the newer stuff. They liken it to grunge, which is fair in a sense, but New York — and really, East Coast — grunge was always a bit meaner, and that holds true for Kings Destroy as well. What they’ve ended up with is a kind of heavy rock that in some ways communes with their hardcore past, but is much more melodically present and more than ever sure of its songwriting approach. I said of the Boston show they were still feeling out how to present the new songs live — once again, they played all Fantasma Nera material except for “Mr. O” from the last album — but being on their home turf definitely helped. This was their 25th show at the Saint Vitus Bar. I haven’t been at every one of those shows, but I’m happy to have seen as many as I have, and I know full well this won’t be the last one I catch. They are the masters of that domain, new songs or old, and owned the show the way you own your living room. I stood in the middle of the crowd — something I rarely do — and however many times I’ve seen them later, still felt lucky to be there.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and your place. Some people come to underground music with an endgame in mind. They have a goal and are working toward that goal. That’s not always the wrong call, but if you’re looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of underground heavy, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not about the gold, it’s about the rainbow. It’s not what you get from the work, it’s the work itself. The work is the reward. People can support each other and help out and whatever else, but at the end of the night when you’re driving home from the show, if you’re not happy with the work, there’s no point to any of it. Because that gold? It’s bullshit. You’re never going to get it. But rainbows really do exist and they’re fucking awesome. Live for the work or live wrong. Nights like this, they help you align your perspective and inspire you to keep it right.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Live Review: Yawning Man and Freedom Hawk in Brooklyn, NY, 01.17.19

Posted in Reviews on January 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yawning man (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It’s not the most intuitive pairing, but it worked. By the time they hit Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Jan. 17, Yawning Man had already been on the road for more than two weeks. They’d started on Jan. 2 in Arizona and made their way gradually east and north, playing Philadelphia and Boston the two nights prior and accordingly probably well familiar by then with the stretches of I-95. That’s not a fun ride. Freedom Hawk had joined the party a few nights before that, in Asheville, North Carolina, taking over the support slot from Nick Oliveri‘s Mondo Generator, and the bi-coastal complement suited both bands well — Yawning Man with their deeply atmospheric approach and Freedom Hawk more given to a straightforward classic heavy rock songwriting modus. Perhaps an odd fit on paper, but it made way more sense on stage. Kudos to Tone Deaf Touring for the vision.

Both groups released albums last year. Yawning Man had The Revolt Against Tired Noises (review here) on Heavy Psych Sounds over the summer and Freedom Hawk plowed through their fifth LP, Beast Remains (review here), before that. It had been years and years since the last time I saw the Virginia Beach outfit, as bassist Mark Cave politely reminded me — he said the last time was Small Stone‘s 2011 showcase in Philly (review here), but actually it was Small Stone‘s 2012 showcase in Boston (review here), though to be honest, that night was fuzzy in more ways than one — and it’s been a tumultuous few years for them, losing guitarist Matt Cave and deciding to continue as a three-piece, only to see Mark, guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton and drummer Lenny Hines bring in guitarist Brendan O’Neill in 2016, moving as well from Small Stone to Ripple following 2015’s Into Your Mind (review here).

Nonetheless, what’s remained true is the following: Freedom Hawk believe in the power of heavy rock and roll, and if you’re fortunate enough to spend a little time in their company, they might make you a believer too. As one would expect and hope, much of what they played came off of Beast Remains and Into Your Mind — songs like “Blood Red Sky,” “Darkness and the Light,” “Solid Gold,” “Waterfall,” “Radar,” “Lost in Space,” and “Danger,” which Morton introduced with the choice line, “I don’t know if you guys can handle this next song. It’s a little dangerous. It’s called ‘Danger.'” Charm always goes a long way in my book, but the band wanted nothing for delivery either. That shouldn’t be surprising, as they’ve toured consistently over the course of this decade, here and there in the US as well as abroad in Europe, where just last year they played Desertfest London and Berlin and more besides. They’re veterans as well of Roadburn, Morton wore a shirt he likely picked up when they played Freak Valley in Germany, and on the most basic level, they’ve been together for 14 years, so yeah, Freedom Hawk coming across like they know what they’re doing is well enough earned.

They dipped back to 2011’s Holding On (review here) late in the set for the ultra-catchy “Indian Summer” and gave representation to their 2009 self-titled (review here) and 2008 debut, Sunlight, which Ripple reissued in 2017, but new or old, their material’s central purpose has remained true in conveying the strength of their songwriting. O’Neill, who also fronts thrashers The Pestilence Choir, is way more metal than MortonCave or Hines, at least in outward appearance, but that adds a bit of edge to the otherwise smooth corners of Freedom Hawk‘s stage presence, and they were a blast to watch. It had been too long, clearly.

A good general rule for life is any time you can see Yawning Man, do it. When I last caught them, headlining at Borderland Fuzz Fiesta (review here) in Arizona in early 2016, they were practically a family band, with keys and additional guitar and so on. For this tour, the traveling three-piece was what’s become the modern core of the group: guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson. And they’re masters of what they do. One could go on and on about Yawning Man‘s legacy as one of the principal architects of Californian desert rock — and I have, on multiple occasions — but what gets discussed far less is just how much they stand out even from so many of the groups they helped inspire. With Arce‘s signature tone ever at the center of their instrumental, wide-open approach, their atmosphere is immediately identifiable, and the character with which they bring their material to life is as vibrant as that material is subtle. Over the course of more than three decades, they’ve carved a niche for themselves that is theirs alone.

And I’m not saying Mario Lalli was there when they invented cool or anything, but he’s definitely the guy they had in mind for it. Switching between picking and fingering his bass in such a way as to add nuance to Arce‘s echoing lines or emphasize a sonic weight with a strummed chord, Lalli — who also fronts Fatso Jetson — was locked in immediately and incredible to watch as he held down the low end. Looking kind of gaunt in a lined hoodie and with a cap pulled down over his face, he was all-business save for jumping on mic quickly to thank the crowd for showing up, etc., but just unreal to watch him play, and as Stinson held together the molten vibes encompassing the room, Lalli and Arce showed off the inimitable chemistry that’s served as the root cause for the spread of their influence. Yeah, it was cold out, and yeah, it was a weeknight, and yeah, real life loomed outside the door like some kind of invisible babadook, but as they peppered The Revolt Against Tired Noises material with “Perpetual Oyster,” it was hard to think of them as anything other than a classic band living up to their reputation.

It was an early show and they were done by 11PM, which I don’t know if that’s a capitulation to how the neighborhood around the Vitus has gentrified over the last three-to-four years or what — there didn’t seem to be a dance party starting, which sometimes happens after rock gigs elsewhere — but with more than an hour’s ride back to Jersey afterward, I took anyway. I don’t get out as often as I used to, and it’s mostly anxiety-based. I get worried about seeing people, meeting people, not remembering names of people I’ve met once or twice, taking pictures, on and on, but this was a good show and it felt good to be there. I didn’t seem to be the only one who thought so.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Shroud Eater, Eternal Black and Begotten in Brooklyn, 09.05.17

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shroud eater photo jj koczan

You ever have one of those bands you just can’t seem to see? I’ll try not to bore you with the barrage of internal links, but I’ve been writing about Miami’s Shroud Eater for eight years since their demo (review here) arrived on my doorstep in 2009, and yet, at every opportunity when I’d otherwise see them, something has come up, the show has been canceled, I’ve moved out of the state, whatever it might be — point is it’s always been something. Well not this time, god damn it. This time I was going to finally see Shroud Eater.

The good news is it worked out. The Floridian three-piece hit Brooklyn’s venerated Saint Vitus Bar with support from reformed riffers Begotten and the doomly Eternal Black for a Tuesday night lineup that had no dip front to back. The bad news? Pretty much the only reason I was able to be there was because I was on my way to New Jersey for my grandmother’s funeral later in the week. Further bad news? Shroud Eater canceled the rest of their tour and were turning back south after this show in order to prepare for Hurricane Irma, which had already been called the strongest storm ever seen in the Atlantic Ocean, begotten-Photo-JJ-Koczanto make landfall in their peninsular homeland.

Even with these things hanging overhead, though, the most was made of the night and I can’t speak for anyone else, but from where I stood the show was killer. Begotten were onstage when I walked in, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Anselmo immediately placing himself in the running for the title of “most New York dude ever” as he led the band through a soundcheck and asked afterward if that wasn’t the start of the set. Bassist/vocalist Amanda Topaz and drummer Rob Sefcik (the latter also of Kings Destroy) confirmed that, indeed, the show wasn’t yet starting, the sound guy told everyone to hit the bar for a couple minutes, and all seemed more than happy to oblige.

When they did get started with the show proper, Begotten‘s post-Sleep lumbering came through with due thickness, Topaz‘s Sunn amp sitting precariously atop her bass cabinet while Anselmo‘s Marshall JCM 2000 stood like a totem at the head of a full stack. This was only the second show Begotten have played since reuniting, begotten-2-Photo-JJ-Koczanand they did four songs in the set, among them “Apache,” which was among the lost tracks that premiered here last October to mark their getting back together, and “Judges,” which was the opener of their 2002 self-titled debut, released by Man’s Ruin Records. They actually had that disc for sale, as well as an original Frank Kozik poster for the release in metallic ink that was nothing short of stunning to behold, but the highlight was that they also played a new song, giving a clear signal that they’ll move ahead toward the creation hopefully of a second long-player.

After 15 years since the debut, I don’t think anyone will be in a rush to put a timeline on that, but it was welcome news all the same. When they were done, Eternal Black took the stage quickly, sharing drum gear — guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob noted the Kings Destroy kickdrum head on the kit through which drummer/best-guy-ever Joe Wood was playing, eliciting a chuckle from all, including bassist Hal Miller — and set about rolling forth their likewise dense-toned doomer grooves. Their self-released debut, Bleed the Days (review here), came out Aug. 8 and was still pretty fresh in mind, and their straightforward and roughed-upeternal-black-photo-jj-koczan take on classic, traditionalist riff-led doom was no less welcome from the stage than from that disc. If anything, more so for the voluminous onslaught through which the persistent roll seemed to emanate.

I dug that record — I dig that record. A lot. And granted, I’m biased as regards the band because of my overarching love of Joe Wood (who really is the best guy ever; it’s like his thing) and because I find the gritty edge they bring to Maryland-esque doomery speaks to a particularly Northeastern, particularly New York intensity that always seems to remind me of home. Music like Eternal Black‘s has to come from someplace crowded. Population density is a factor, and I don’t think you could produce a song like the downtrodden “Sea of Graves” without it. One way or another, Bleed the Days is easily among the best doom offerings I’ve heard in 2017, first album or not, and the three-piece made it clear at the Vitus Bar as they had when I saw them at Maryland Doom Fest last year (review here) that the process of their coming together as a band is still veryeternal-black-photo-jj-koczan much at its beginning stages. That is to say, they killed and they sound like they’re only going to keep getting better.

And then my brain finally got to process Shroud Eater live. I’ve had bands-I-should’ve-already-seen out the wazoo over the years, but few have had the kind of consistent stretch of Shroud Eater. Yet, as I stood in front of the Saint Vitus Bar stage and tried my best to snap photos of them in the drawn-down lighting, I couldn’t help but feel like it was somehow serendipitous to catch the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz, bassist/vocalist Janette Valentine and drummer Davin Sosa in support of 2017’s Strike the Sun (review here). Released through STB Records — whose honcho, Steve, was also on-hand for the show and someone else I was long overdue to meet in-person — the second Shroud Eater full-length is hands down the band’s best work yet, and though it was shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanobvious in talking to them that concerns of family back in Florida and the impending potential for storm destruction were weighing heavily on them, let alone the general bummer of having to cancel shows in the first place, they were nonetheless devastating onstage.

A performance that galloped and slammed and crashed and careened and lumbered and did all that stuff that means it basically kicked the living shit out of the room, Shroud Eater‘s set came through with density to match either of the acts that preceded them and a sense of motion that was all their own. Songs like “Awaken Assassin” from the new record and the furious 2015 single “Face the Master” (video premiere here) brought forth groove and pummel in kind, and with samples between various tracks, traded vocal parts from SaizValentine and Sosa, and an overarching intensity that came through even the most atmospheric of stretches, Shroud Eater made me so fucking happy I was finally getting to see them that I’m not sure I can shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanhonestly say I’d trade having done so at any point in the last eight years for the experience of watching them play this set. That’s as sincere as I can be about it.

So — clearly not a night for critical impartiality. From feeling lucky to see Begotten on their second show back to having Eternal Black in the middle as the icing on an evening the cake of which just happened to be a long, long, long-awaited Shroud Eater set bludgeoning my consciousness, what the proceedings might’ve lacked in my emotional distance from them, they more than made up for in my raw enjoyment — which, if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take. When Shroud Eater were done, I’m fucking proud to say I was the first person to shout for one more song and even prouder to say they played it, and as I stood among friends in the crowd like Kings Destroy vocalist Steve Murphy and guitarist Carl PorcaroClamfight drummer/shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanvocalist Andy MartinDave from Made in Brooklyn SilkscreenersSteve from STB Records and others, I was reminded of how special some nights can become when the planets finally align just so in order to make them happen.

The rest of the week? We’ll see how it goes for things like familial grief and category five storms — I wished Shroud Eater safe home and safe afterwards; spent the last eight dollars I had to my name on a copy of their Three Curses and Strike the Sun tapes (wanted the CD but didn’t have the requisite $10 and wasn’t about to be like, “Hey you need to buy bottled water for survival this week, can I get a free disc?”) — but this one was restorative on just about every level possible and a show I hope not to forget anytime soon.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Snail Post Live Video of “Blood” from The Obelisk All-Dayer

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

snail at the obelisk all-dayer

If you’ll allow me a sentimental moment: I remember quite clearly standing in front of the stage at Kimo’s in San Francisco in 2010 and singing along with Snail‘s Mark Johnson and Matt Lynch to the titular hook of their 2009 return album, Blood (review here). It was among the greatest joys of the day to do so again this past August at The Obelisk All-Dayer at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Some time passed between the two events, obviously, and Snail have put out two more records in the meantime in 2012’s Terminus (review here) and 2015’s Feral (review here) and shifted from a four-piece back to the original trio of Johnson on guitar, Lynch on bass and drummer Marty Dodson, but still, it was something special.

When I announced The Obelisk All-Dayer was a thing that was happening, Snail were among the first acts who got in touch with me, offering to make their way across the continent for what would be their first East Coast appearance ever in a history that stretched as far back as their 1993 self-titled debut (review here). The generosity of that gesture was unbelievable, but the truth of the matter is I’d already dreamed of having Snail involved in the show, as Feral was so decisively their best album to-date and those songs ones I very, very much wanted to see brought to life onstage. I’m hardly an impartial observer at this point, but they were even better in Brooklyn than they’d been six years earlier in California.

The video below for “Blood” was recorded at The Obelisk All-Dayer and takes footage captured by the esteemed Frank Huang and Jennifer Hendrix and manipulates it with some additional psychedelic weirdness suited to the overall vibe. But listen to the sound as well. Snail were so on-point that I was just blown away, and as I watch “Blood,” I can only keep my fingers crossed they follow this up with a companion clip for “Thou Art That,” or, you know, a tape release of the whole set. Either way. No pressure. Ha.

I’ve included the full-stream of Feral at the bottom of this post also. I know you’ve heard it, but hell, you should hear it again.

And please enjoy:

Snail, “Blood” at The Obelisk All-Dayer official live video

Happy New Year! The high point of 2016 (for us) was getting to play The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn. Matt combined footage from a variety of sources and the board tracks and created a really trippy video of our performance of ‘Blood.’ Check it out! See if you can find the footage of a person giving blood at a blood bank…

Video and Sound Production: Matt Lynch
Footage courtesy of Frank Huang and Jennifer Hendrix. Photos by Jennifer Hendrix.

Special Thanks to: Jennifer Hendrix, Frank Huang, JJ Koczan and The Obelisk and all the folks who came to rock.

Snail, Feral (2015)

Snail on Thee Facebooks

Snail website

Snail at Small Stone Records

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The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016: Frank Huang Posts Videos from Full Lineup

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk all-dayer

No question 2016 has had some highs and some lows, but for me, the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, held Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, was something truly special. Hardly stress-free, with the broken-down car and assorted this and that throughout the day and evening, but at the end of the show, my head down on the bar while DJ Adzo spun classic heavy rock after Mars Red Sky finished, barely able to stand, it was entirely worth every second of effort and freakout. What a blast.

As I dig into the wrap-up portion of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what was the real peak moment. I put a book out this year, which is something I’ve daydreamed of doing since I had the cerebral complexity to daydream. There’s always Roadburn. This past weekend sitting around playing video games with The Patient Mrs. was pretty sweet, if I do say so. But I keep coming back to The Obelisk All-Dayer, and I think that might be it.

That whole weekend was so special to me, not even just the show. It was an incredible time and I was humbled to see people enjoying themselves throughout the day, digging on the free tacos (thank you, Steve Murphy), gratified to hang out with good friends and to see excellent performances. It was an honor to play a part in hosting those who came out, including Brooklyn’s premiere videographer Frank Huang, whose work I’m thrilled to feature today.

If you’ve ever YouTubed anything from the Saint Vitus Bar or seen anything from the venue posted here, you know Frank Huang‘s work. Someday they’ll make a documentary about him, but until then I’ll just note that the guy is unparalleled in his dedication to capturing live music, and the quality of what he does has become an essential component of an entire generation of NYC showgoers’ live experience. Even for shows I attend, when I see Frank there, I look up the video afterwards, because inevitably his camera got something I missed. He is an invaluable resource and a gentleman to boot.

Below you can see snippets of varying length from each of the eight bands who played the All-Dayer, which Frank has newly posted with my deepest appreciation.

Whether you were there or not, I hope you’ll dig in and please, please enjoy:

Heavy Temple, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

King Buffalo Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

Funeral Horse, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

EYE, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

Kings Destroy, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

Snail, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

Death Alley, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

Mars Red Sky, Live at The Obelisk All-Dayer 2016

Once again, thanks to Frank Huang for being on hand to tape these sets, and to the Saint Vitus Bar for letting me put this show on. Stay tuned in the New Year for more info on The Obelisk All-Dayer 2018.

Frank Huang’s website

Saint Vitus Bar website

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Stardust VI Lineup Announced with Aluk Todolo, Insect Ark, Absu and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Is there such a thing as a post-festival? I suppose finding out might be the mission of Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul, which is set to take place over a viciously-curated four-night span at Brooklyn’s venerated Saint Vitus Bar, with the likes of Insect Ark, Absu, Aluk Todolo, Obliteration and many others performing. The event has a kind of manifesto for its purpose that you can see below, and knowing that it’s headed up by writer/photographer/organizer/etc. Stefan Raduta, if the point doesn’t get driven home by the 900 words that follow, let me just say outright that this is clearly a work of passion brought to life. Raduta is among the most deeply, intensely driven individuals I’ve ever met in music — that includes artists — and I’ve no doubt that every second of these nights has been pored over and thought out to the utmost. Blood, sweat and tears? That’s just the start of it when it comes to anything Stefan does. Dude is ready to prolapse organs for something he believes in.

Dig it:

Stardust VI to feature performances by Slagmaur, Aluk Todolo, Absu, Obliteration

Book presentation and lecture by Metastazis

From February 2nd to February 5th, 2017, Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul will take place in Brooklyn, NY at Saint Vitus Bar. Although appearing on the surface to be a conventional “music festival,” Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul is anything but “conventional.” Presented by the Stardust NYC collective, Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul will not only feature music performances by the likes of Absu, Slagmaur, Aluk Todolo, Obliteration, Dispirit, Lluvia, Lycus, Blood Incantation, and Hail among others – 22 bands in all, with 23 total performances – but will also feature a special book presentation and lecture by acclaimed artist Metastazis.

FULL EVENT INFO, ALONG WITH TICKET INFORMATION, CAN BE FOUND HERE.

For the past five years, Stardust NYC has endeavored with their Stardust series to present, simply, an artistic event for artists and art lovers. It is completely democratized from the bog-standard “copy/paste festival.” There are no “headliners” nor openers; every artist is considered equally amazing and important, part of a unique fabric binding together great art; and the curation itself – and its fluidity across each day’s performance, all carefully selected – is diverse, esoteric, and exotic. In essence, it’s for us.

“We started the Stardust Series five years ago with the genuine intention of creating an atypical platform that will help the underground music scene in its full diversity and splendor,” the collective write. “As part of that mission, we want to deliver a high-quality curation meant to support true artistry and passion. We believe that actions always speak louder than words, and we continue on our path of celebrating unknown Greatness.”

“More than anything, we envision Dark Nights Of The Soul to be a unique and genuine event of discovery,” they continue, on the topic of the sixth installment. “We’d like to see people want to open new doors for themselves, to get out of their comfort zones and completely lose themselves in the Moment. To be utterly shaken from body to soul by something completely new is a blessing, and many times life-changing. This is the true live experience we aim for each and every time.”

Where else can you witness the first US performance of Norway’s singular Slagmaur – itself a rarity, on any continent – alongside America’s equally singular Absu? Or the occult krautrock of France’s Aluk Todolo alongside the gnarly death metal of Norway’s Obliteration? Or an event that gives equal footing to freak folk, black metal, and ambient drone?

Take Madison Mandrake, for example, a stunning freak rock/dark folk entity from Oakland, whom Stardust NYC discovered in the woods of Cascadia at this year’s Thirst For Light Festival. Here’s a band with just one EP out yet who will play after Absu, so they can take the audience even further away from this world. They represent the quintessential artist for Stardust VI – Dark Nights Of The Soul: completely unknown to the world, but utterly sublime, cathartic, and exotic. They are the Heroes; they are the perfect embodiment of the artists who have chosen to suffer and sacrifice all they have in order to bring things of awe, sorrow, beauty, and wonder into this often grey and banal world. Like many of you reading this and like every other artist on the bill, they have chosen this life of financial uncertainty, relationship instability, pinnacle highs and soul-crushing lows so that they can share their beauty with the world, with us. We should cherish them, embrace them, and learn how to show our gratitude for their sacrifice, because if we don’t, we’re going to ask ourselves one day what happened to our music?

Not only that, but Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul will witness the book release of Metastazis’ Fire Work With Me. This nearly 300-page book presents a broad selection of many of the visual productions created by the graphic design studio Metastazis the past 15 years. And it goes way beyond the mere compilation of album covers: Fire Work With Me offers more than a decade of documents, studies, and often unpublished texts. Since the early 2000s, Metastazis leader Valnoir has worked with over 70 bands and artists, including the likes of Morbid Angel, Behemoth, Sunn O))), Laibach, Alcest, Watain, Blut Aus Nord, Paradise Lost, Arcturus, Ulver, Samael, and Amorphis among many others.

And yet, his work exceeds by far the limits of common musical illustration; Fire Work With Me hereby reveals a wide range of projects that flirt with contemporary arts and the fringes of legality, including cooperation with the North Korean state. Many leading figures in the worlds of design and music, such as David Vincent (Morbid Angel), Kristoffer Rygg (Ulver), Erik Danielsson (Watain), and MkM (Antaeus) as well as Steven Heller (honored by first lady Michelle Obama for the National US design award), Mirko Ilic, Miran Mohar (NSK), and Morten Traavik exclusively contributed to this publication by providing their own texts and articles. At Dark Nights of the Soul, in addition to the US premiere of the book, Valnoir will give a special lecture on the fourth and final day, February 5th.

As a leadup to the launch of Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul, an exclusive full-album stream of Slagmaur’s forthcoming (and LONG-awaited) Thill Smitts Terror will be revealed in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, the full and final lineup is as follows:

Thursday, February 2nd
Dreadlords
Destroying Angel
Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks
Scout Pare-Philips
tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1393627

Friday, February 3rd
Aluk Todolo
Uada
Dispirit
Blood Incantation
Sanguine Eagle
tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1393668

Saturday, February 4th
Lluvia
Obliteration
Young And In The Way
Reptilian
A God or an Other
Inculter
Insect Ark
tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1393729

Sunday, February 5th
Slagmaur
Madison Mandrake
Absu
Spectral Voice
Lycus
Aluk Todolo
Hail
Metastazis – Fire Work With Me US book premiere and lecture
tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1393745

https://www.facebook.com/events/135674466908454/
www.facebook.com/stardustnyc
www.saintvitusbar.com

Aluk Todolo, Live in Poland, June 12, 2016

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The Obelisk All-Dayer — THANK YOU!

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on August 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-all-dayer-thanks

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was so tired. Pure physical and mental exhaustion. By the end of the day I could barely stand up, keep my head up, or down one last cup of coffee while watching Mars Red Sky close out the show. It’s been three days. I’m still not sure I have the mental faculties to write this post.

I hereby dub the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer a success.

The day started with The Patient Mrs.’ car breaking down on I-95 in Connecticut on the way south to Brooklyn and continued through flash floods, the first two bands running late (both got there on time, but my nerves were already frayed from being late myself), my camera breaking – again – during Funeral Horse, Death Alley blowing a tire on their way up from Philly, and so on, but there were tacos, the day ultimately ran on time, and everybody killed.

Absolutely killed. I mean it. Front to back. What a show.

From Heavy Temple bringing it for an early 2:30 start through Mars Red Sky dipping back to their first record for a rendition of “Strong Reflection” that nearly brought a tear to my eye, and everything in between. King Buffalo? Funeral Horse? Fucking EYE? Kings Destroy? Snail? Death Alley’s absolute ownership of the room? There wasn’t a dud in the bunch.

Most importantly, it seemed like everybody there had a good time. The tacos went. We wound up with about 170 people in the door, not counting bands and guests, and with the professionalism of the Saint Vitus Bar staff, the show ran smoothly the whole time, changeovers were easy, and my sincere hope is that everyone who came felt welcome, because they absolutely were.

On that note, I’ll say that I’m not going to review the show. Just doesn’t feel right. But I did want to say thank you to a few people who helped make the day so incredibly special.

First to The Patient Mrs., who not only handled money at the end of the night, but sold posters and patches, kept me sane as we stood on the side of the highway and waited for the tow truck, reminded me to eat, and got me that aforementioned last cup of coffee to get me through the last part of the show. She was there (almost) the whole day and it was deeply meaningful to me to have her around.

Thanks to Walter Roadburn, who left the comforts of home to come and co-DJ the afterparty, sat in traffic with The Patient Mrs. and I on the trip from Boston to Connecticut, Connecticut to Brooklyn, and back again. The time we got to spend talking about music, about what he does with his festival, and his insights on the show are memories that I imagine I will continue to treasure for as long as I can remember anything at all. Highlight of the weekend, without question. And thanks to Esther, who convinced him to come.

Thanks to David Castillo, George Souleidis, Sound Guy Jeff and the staff at the Saint Vitus Bar, which leaves absolutely nothing to question as to why it has the reputation it has. The generosity they showed in welcoming the All-Dayer into their rightly-hallowed space, the accommodation of the weird schedule, and just the sheer slog of the hours put in – all handled with professionalism beyond enviable. Other venues should aspire to run such a ship. It was staggering to see it from the end of someone organizing a show. Thank you so much.

Thank you to Steve Murphy for the endless, thoroughly unjustified belief in my being able to pull this whole thing off, for the tacos and for the support across the board. Thank you for your friendship, your kindness, and for your threat to print up bootleg Obelisk t-shirts to give away at random. I hope that works out.

Thanks to the bands. Mars Red Sky coming from France to play, Death Alley from the Netherlands, Snail from the West Coast, Kings Destroy giving New York due representation with a special set – “Planet XXY?” who knew? – EYE from Ohio, Funeral Horse from Houston, King Buffalo from Rochester and Heavy Temple from Philly. And to Walter and Adam Otracina for helming the afterparty. Whether they were coming from near or far, it really felt like everybody put something extra into the show and I was continually humbled and blown away by what I saw and heard all day and into the night. People loaning each other gear, making adjustments on the fly, starting and ending on time, everything came together better than I could’ve hoped, and it was just wonderful to see. I am deeply grateful.

Thanks to Jaime Traba for recording the audio of the sets. More on that hopefully soon. Thanks to Frank Huang for capturing video. Steve Truglio, Randy Blood, Harry Booth and others for getting photos. Like I said, my camera died, so knowing that there were plenty of others around was a great comfort.

Thanks to Skillit for the amazing poster and logo design, and to Dave from Made in Brooklyn for printing the patches. Thanks to my family, Suze Wright, Andy Wright and Rob Jones, for coming and helping sell merch. Thanks to Slevin and Ralph. Thanks to Liz and Dave from Earsplit and Becky Laverty for the plugs. Thanks to Postman Dan for buying tickets even though he couldn’t make it. Thanks to Randy and Laura Blood, Juan Lopez, Jen Hendrix-Johnson, Kenny Sehgal, Phil Moon, Adam Sawford, Nico Liengme and Laurel Jane May, Earl Walker Lundy, Seibert Lowe, Paul John Shaft, Lisa Hass, Melanie Streko, Ron, Jill Lavilette, Brian Schmidt, Ross Colombo, Alex Jakstas, Natasha Padilla, Tad Proshansky, Zack Kurland, Greg Aramini, and many, many others who came out, everyone who had a kind word about the site, the band selection, my book, everything. I’m quite sure I’ll add to this list as I regain even my usual limited use of my mental faculties, but this is for starters and please know that whether you were there in-person or if you shared a link or saw a post about it and liked it or bought tickets in advance or just read the site generally. Thank you. Thank you all so much. Thank you.

Thank you.

I’m going to take a couple weeks and really think about whether this is something I want to do again, but if I do, I know it won’t be an annual thing. Whatever happens moving forward, I want you to know how unbelievable this night was for me and I hope for everyone who attended as well. One more time, thank you.

I don’t have photos of my own, Steve Truglio was kind enough to send me shots of each band who played, and you’ll find them after the jump.

Read more »

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The Obelisk All-Dayer Countdown: Afterparty with DJ Adzo & Walter Roadburn

Posted in Features, The Obelisk Presents on August 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk all-dayer

The Obelisk All-Dayer tickets

It’s going to be a long day. I know it, you know it. That’s kind of the idea. Some all-dayer it would be if it was a three-hour gig. Nonetheless, I urge you to stick around when The Obelisk All-Dayer is done this Saturday at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NYC, because the afterparty is going to be ridiculous in all the right ways.

Even after Mars Red Sky finish. After Death Alley, Snail, Kings Destroy, EYE, Funeral Horse, King Buffalo and Heavy Temple are done, the show will go on. The first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer (just buy your goddamn tickets already) is proud to welcome DJs Walter Roadburn and Adzo for a vinyl-spinning set after the last band to cap the night with a final reinforcement of the show’s party vibe.

All are welcome.

I am thrilled and honored to have Walter Roadburn coming over for the fest. Over the last seven-plus years, there is no single individual who has inspired me more through his passion and relentless work ethic. As the organizer of the Roadburn Festival held annually in Tilburg, the Netherlands, he’s helped shape European and worldwide underground heavy rock in ways I don’t think he’d ever admit to, and the creativity he puts into what he does is second to none. He is someone who has turned “putting on a show” into an art form, a genuine expression of love and reverence that only continues to grow and develop with each passing year. It will be humbling to have him there, let alone picking tracks.

He’ll be joined by DJ Adzo, aka Adam Kriney, drummer/vocalist of Brooklyn natives The Golden Grass. That outfit has been one of the highlights of a Brooklyn psych scene over the last couple years, tapping into a vein of proto-heavy that encompasses a positivity few bands would dare go near. Their unabashed joy for what they do comes through in their recorded output and live shows, and they’re the kind of group you just know has some killer taste. Kriney has made numerous DJ appearances around NYC over the last several years as DJ Adzo, and I can’t wait to hear what he spins as Saturday night creeps into Sunday morning at the Vitus Bar.

That’ll do it for the countdown. Show is the day after tomorrow, and quite frankly, you need to be there. I hope you’ll come. I’ve worked hard to make it a special day front to back, and while I know not everyone will be there from start to finish, my hope is that everyone who shows up gets something memorable out of the experience.

Thank you.

The Obelisk All-Dayer tickets

Saint Vitus Bar website

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