Friday Full-Length: Massive Gratitude and Some New Sleep for the Hell of It

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I try to say thank you as often as I can on here. I really do. I’ve considered getting a ‘thanks for reading’ tattoo. Maybe for the 10th anniversary. Anyhow, this week, you’ve really saved my ass, and I don’t even know how to start showing my appreciation.

If you didn’t read the Elephant Tree live review yesterday or haven’t seen on the social medias, I’ve been in England this week with my wife, who along with another professor is leading a study abroad trip for some of her undergrad and graduate students. The three of us were staying in a house in Canterbury earlier this week, and overnight on Tuesday the place was robbed — or “burgled” as Constable Toby put it the next morning — while we slept in the bedrooms upstairs.

Well, first off, nobody got hurt. Nobody’s passport was taken. The baby didn’t even wake up. It could’ve been much worse.

Along with some other stuff, they took my laptop Big Red, camera, lenses and backpack, all of which was set up on the kitchen table so I could come downstairs early in the morning Wednesday and start to write. When the alarm went off at 5AM — a luxury for being away; usually it’s 4:30 these days — I found the door was wide open and the kitchen table had been cleaned off.

I lost stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Even my laptop and camera, which, as I’ve said, were by a wide margin the two nicest pieces of stuff I owned.

What really hurt was the years of writing on Big Red and my notes for The Obelisk. Upcoming releases, ongoing best of the year lists, Quarterly Review slots, and a calendar of upcoming premieres. Now I don’t even know what I’m reviewing on Monday. I know I’ve got commitments to host things into June and I just have no idea what they are. Online backups? Nope. Why would I need those? What, am I gonna get robbed?

Plus the years’ worth of past writings. A half decade or so of bios, press releases, my own personal stuff. That collection of Star Trek-themed poetry I was never going to finish. All that. And the music. The music on my desktop alone — new records from YOB, the Sleep album above, so many others I can’t even remember. I’ll get a new computer. But that other stuff I’ll never get back. It’s just gone.

Within hours, I couldn’t even hang my head. Scott Harrington, a friend at this point for more than a decade and the dude whose passion drives Salt of the Earth Records, sent a text and asked if he could set up a GoFundMe.

I’m not comfortable asking for money. I’m not comfortable handling money. But the fact of the matter is I’m a homemaker. I don’t work except to take care of the house and the baby and therefore I’m in a much different financial position than I was in when I purchased these things.

Scott set up a GoFundMe for $3,000, which would be enough to cover most of what I lost. It would get me a new laptop of some color — red, green, blue, banana yellow (?), whatever — a comparable camera and pay for part of the cost of a professional-grade lens like the one I had.

By the time it was Wednesday night here in the UK, as I was using a camera loaned to me by one of my wife’s students to take pictures and banging my head to Elephant Tree’s “Aphotic Blues” — maybe if I get a blue laptop I’ll name it ‘Aphotic Blue’ — the $3,000 goal was met and surpassed. Here’s where it’s at currently:

Over $4,000. More than a third beyond the original goal. I don’t even know what to say. It’s fucking insane. All of a sudden I’m looking at the Canon 5D Mark IV as a real possibility of something I can bring into my life. It’s something I never expected, and I’m absolutely floored and humbled and just given this incredible sense of warmth from the support I’ve received and all the kind words people have said about me, and this site, and everything. It’s been two days now. I still can’t get my head around it. Does not compute.

From the deepest part of me, thank you. The money’s gonna help, make no mistake, but the feeling of community, of belonging, and of being appreciated has been so incredibly validating that I’m astounded. Astounded and touched and, yeah, just made to feel like something I’ve done has mattered to somebody. It makes me want to be a better person, to be better at this, and it’s utterly renewed my faith in this project as a whole, which if I’m honest wasn’t exactly lagging but could only benefit from a kick in the pants.

So once again, thank you. The only thing I could think to do was close out the week by saying thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’d put the notes here for what’s coming up next week, but again, I haven’t got a clue. I know at some point I was supposed to do something with Saturno Grooves and I think maybe review the new Graveyard (which, whoops, was on Big Red), and maybe a House of Broken Promises video premiere? I honestly don’t know. I’ll be seeing Colour Haze on Tuesday night, so will hope to have a review of that up Wednesday. I also travel back to the US on Wednesday, so might take Thursday off? I’m going to play it by ear a little bit and see what surfaces.

But in the meantime, thank you once again for your incredible support, whether you’ve made a donation or just shared the link, it’s huge for me. Genuinely life-changing. I will aspire to live up to the faith shown in me.

Oh, and I put a YouTube playlist with the new Sleep at the top of the post because if my gratitude was a new record, that’s the one it would be, and on the off-chance you haven’t heard it yet, you really should. I reserve the right to close out a week with a proper discussion of it again sometime probably years down the line. If you’d like to read the review of it, it’s here.

For not at all the last time, thank you. I promise something will be up Monday one way or the other.

The Obelisk Forum

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Sleep, The Sciences: The Pterodactyl Flies Again

Posted in Reviews on May 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sleep the sciences

In their absence between 1998 and 2009, Sleep became the stuff of legend. The stoner metallers were unquestionably ahead of their time in 1993’s genre-defining Sleep’s Holy Mountain (reissue review here), but it was the 2003 release of Dopesmoker (discussed here) through Tee Pee Records that seemed to solidify them as objects of reverence. Previously issued through The Music Cartel in an edited form as Jerusalem (and before that, self-bootlegged by the band), the narrative behind the release of Sleep inking a deal with London Records only to take the money from their recording budget, blow it on weed, and then essentially turn in an album unreleasable to a mass market is well documented and has become one of the great tall tales of underground heavy.

This, coupled with the success bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros went on to find in the then-duo-now-trio Om and guitarist Matt Pike likewise achieved fronting the more aggressive High on Fire, only increased Sleep‘s profile, and when Cisneros and Pike reformed the band with NeurosisJason Roeder on drums and began playing shows again in 2009, the speculation of new studio material was immediate and nearly as deafening as the volume of the riffs emanating from the stage. Sleep had gone from a cult footnote in the Earache Records catalog to headlining festivals and tours, and with their unabashed worship of Black Sabbath, weedian mythologies and massive influence, they became a genuine guiding force for a new generation of bands and fans alike. The last decade of heavy simply would not be the same had they not reformed, and as their first studio full-length in 15 years, the six-track The Sciences is all the more a landmark in one of the genre’s most storied and pivotal careers.

Is there any way The Sciences isn’t the biggest heavy underground release of 2018? Look at the sheer circumstances of its arrivala. On April 19, word was put out in morse code that the next day Sleep would release an album. Bam. There was no advance press, no track premieres through NPR or Rolling Stone or other major outlets with smirking treatises on the group’s importance, no months-long agony of trickled out information: the tracklisting in one press release, the artwork in another, a teaser video, etc. It simply wasn’t there and then it was. How many heavy bands could get away with that and expect any kind of response? Sleep dropped a record like Beyonce drops records, and it absolutely worked. Issued through Jack White‘s Third Man Records, The Sciences dominated the high holiday of stoner idolatry, and while any release of this magnitude is bound to have detractors as well as proponents, it’s a basic truth regardless that for many listeners, this year will be defined by Sleep‘s 53-minute march to the riff-filled land. Rightly so.

There are a host of higher-profile offerings still to come in the next several months, from groups like Graveyard (who return after a much shorter hiatus), ConanClutchAncestorsYOBAll Them Witches and so on, but none of them orany of the others as yet announced will show up after a 15-year absence, and none will be released with the same kind of break-the-internet anti-fanfare fanfare as The Sciences, which it should be noted isn’t the first studio output Sleep have had since their reformation. In 2014, they had the lone track The Clarity (review here) as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series, and though it’s been four years, that would prove to be a crucial lead-in for The Sciences in preparing the audience and laying the groundwork for the album’s overall sound. The single was recorded by Roeder‘s Neurosis bandmate Noah Landis, and the LP is likewise — cover design by former Neurosis visual specialist Josh Graham is another line between the bands — and the style is consistent between the two. The Sciences works because it does not try to pretend the last 20-25 years didn’t happen. It doesn’t try to rewrite Dopesmoker. It doesn’t try to rewrite Sleep’s Holy Mountain or their preceding 1991 debut, Volume One.

In “Marijuanaut’s Theme” and “Giza Butler,” it embraces the same weed-and-riff-worship/Tony Iommi-as-deity (anyone remember that t-shirt?) mythology that Dopesmoker was essential in creating — “Marijuanaut’s Theme” has “planet Iommia” and an “Iommosphere” in its lyrics while “Giza Butler” speaks of an “Iommic Pentacost,” and riffs and weed, well, are just about everywhere lyrics are — but The Sciences is an honest look at Sleep in 2018. They know who they are as a band, they’ve crafted this aesthetic on stage over the last nine years, and rather than ignoring Pike‘s work in High on Fire or Cisneros‘ in Om or even Roeder‘s in Neurosis, the offering to the holy trinity of riffs, weed, and Black Sabbath presents its addled adorations in tales of blown-out space travels, reborn Antarctic legions set free from icecap prisons (based on a true story, from what I’m told), and a homeless guy living under a bridge getting stoned (ditto).

All of this arrives amid groove that somehow remains inimitable despite the fact that an entire generation of bands has and continues on a daily basis to directly emulate it. The nod isn’t immediate, as the opening title-track is three minutes of layered amp noise and feedback in a filthy-sounding but appropriate beginning to what follows, a church organ at the end and volume swell cutting sharply to the sound of a bong being hit and then the first crash of “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” which quickly establishes the thickness of tone, the rhythm and the distinct patterning and melodic delivery in Cisneros‘ vocals that will remain consistent throughout The Sciences and tie its songs together despite variations in theme and tempo.

At 6:39, “Marijuanaut’s Theme” is the shortest of the non-instrumental material — closer “The Botanist” is just a bit shorter and “The Sciences” itself, as the intro, is the shortest — but its position after the hypnotic feedback of the title-cut is pivotal in leading the way into the trio of “Sonic Titan,” “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Giza Butler,” all of which top 10 minutes and comprise the heart of the record, showcasing Pike‘s penchant for wild soloing has he layers across the right and left channels in Iommian tradition and the stoned serenity of Cisneros‘ vocals, which deliver “Sonic Titan”‘s only lines, “Look unto Zion though it can’t be seen/Man in the moon cannot help me see,” twice — and that’s it — after unfolding an entire narrative for “Marijuanaut’s Theme.”

sleep

It’s worth noting that those lyrics have changed since a live-in-studio version of “Sonic Titan” appeared as a bonus track for the ’03 Dopesmoker release, and though he doesn’t really there, Cisneros plays the role of storyteller again in “Antarcticans Thawed” — which has also featured for years as part of live shows — and “Giza Butler,” crafting clever weed puns and twice referencing the “rifftree”; one imagines a sort of THC-laced yggdrasil dripping hash oil like maple sap. The characters in these songs — the Marijuanaut, the Antarcticans, and the guy living under the bridge on his “milk crate throne” who is presumably Giza Butler himself — make The Sciences a richer listening experience and deepen Sleep‘s overarching process of world-creation. Like any good science fiction, they’re setting the rules of their own universe, and it’s one of tonal depth and narrative arc alike. The Marijuanaut blasts to Planet Iommia; the Antarcticans board a skyship and sail off to parts unknown thereupon; Giza Butler smokes an ounce a day.

As much as Sleep are about what they’re about — see “riffs, weed and Black Sabbath” above; these may well be the sciences to which the title re(e)fers — there is a pervasive sense of craft in these tracks. They came together over a period of years and they sound like it. They are not haphazard or sloppy either in construction or execution, and even as “Sonic Titan” marches to its lyrics at about the halfway point and then riffs-out hypnotic before a madness of shredding soloing takes hold after 11 minutes into its total 12:26 and they cap with one of the record’s best nods, the plotted progression makes sense both on its own and leading into the opening riff of “Antarcticans Thawed.”

Spending its first two minutes on a linear build toward the first verse, “Antarcticans Thawed” again demonstrates the consciousness at work behind The Sciences, and as the longest inclusion at 14:23, the mid-paced plodder plays a special role in setting and maintaining the smoke-filled vibe. A somewhat more shouted vocal from Cisneros tops Pike‘s relatively languid central riff and the ride/crash work of Roeder, who has long not only done justice to the work of original Sleep drummer Chris Hakius, but also brought his own stamp to the material. He shines here, and if the album were to accomplish nothing else, it would still be worth making for getting the trio in this form on tape for more than just a single. As “Antarcticans Thawed” presses forth, it seems to get slower and slower until the Antarcticans sail off on the windship and Pike marks the occasion with a highlight solo. The central riff resumes and after a last verse, Roeder moves to a snare progression as the song gradually deconstructs itself in the guitar and bass, fading to silence ahead of the languid start of the 10-minute “Giza Butler,” which lasts for about the first two minutes before the chugging riff starts the verse and Cisneros begins his tale of the “shopping cart chariot” and the “rifftual commenc[ing] around the tree stump altar.”

There’s obviously humor at work here, but Sleep aren’t making fun so much as preaching to a converted who once took the advice “drop out of life with bong in hand” to heart. “Giza Butler” boasts the album’s standout lyric: “The pterodactyl flies again/Over emerald fields,” and a companion riff that makes it seem like a realistic possibility leading to the apparent summary of the entire point of view in the lines, “Marijuana is his light and his salvation/Harvest sustains the altitude within/Ends the rationing/Hocks the Ohaus Triple Beam,” as the central character gets rid of his scale and, seemingly, smokes the entire harvest. As “Giza Butler” stomps through its instrumental finish and lands after seven minutes into a highlight riff for the record as a whole, one might say Sleep are doing the same thing all throughout The Sciences. They’ve hocked the scale, gone all-in, and smoked the entire planet’s worth of weed in ritualistic fashion and in one sitting. The aforementioned leads and groove cap “Giza Butler” in an apex that could easily go another five or six minutes and not meet with any complaints, and residual noise gives way to the closing instrumental lumber of “The Botanist.”

A final nod to nod itself, it mellows out after a minute in and picks up with a relatively subdued solo — I saw someone on the social medias call it Matt Pike‘s “Maggot Brain”; not quite, but it’s choice work — before feedback seems to end and Roeder‘s drums restart at 4:16 to add an epilogue to the proceedings. The jam that ensues for the last two minutes of “The Botanist” is laced with noise and sounds improvised over that drum movement, and if it is off the cuff, all the better to leave on a moment of spontaneity on a full-length at least 15 years in the making. It shows that even after the distances traveled in these songs, there’s still a creative spark in Sleep. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do another record.

I won’t take away from the band’s past accomplishments. I refuse to. Sleep’s Holy Mountain is arguable as the greatest achievement in riff-led heavy outside of Black Sabbath‘s original lineup, and in both its legend and its over-the-top, barely-listenable course, Dopesmoker stands on a level of its own in power, concept, delivery and influence. However, The Sciences stands as the most sonically cohesive record Sleep have ever made. It’s the output of a band who know exactly what they want their material to do, how to make it do that thing and how to capture that process in the studio. It’s new Sleep, taking the lessons of the old and bringing them into a more modern context.

For a whole generation of their fanbase, The Sciences will serve as something like a new debut, and for older fans who were able to get into The Clarity or have seen them live since they got back together, it may or may not top what once was, but neither has it had 25 years of deification around it. Give it some time. The songs are memorable, the sound impressively weighted, and it’s got riffs, weed and Sabbath. There’s nothing more one could possibly ask of a Sleep record that The Sciences doesn’t bring to the table, and it’s an easy contender for album of the year. For many, it already was before they even listened.

Sleep, “Giza Butler”

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Friday Full-Length: Sleep, Dopesmoker

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Sleep, Dopesmoker (2003)

In the annals of post-Sabbath riffing, Sleep‘s Dopesmoker reigns supreme. “Dopesmoker,” the single, 63-minute track that comprises the album, is the stuff of legend, and rightly so. Recorded circa 1996 by the trio of bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike and drummer Chris Hakius, and backed by the formidable, inimitable production of Billy AndersonDopesmoker is a story that’s been told time and again at this point, perhaps most completely in the 2008 documentary Such Hawks, Such Hounds, and so I’m not sure how much it really needs to be recounted here, but suffice it to say that the narrative behind the record’s creation has become nearly as central to the listening experience as the clarion riffing and the weedian pilgrimage that takes place in the lyrics of the extended verses, revolving around the Bay Area three-piece having issued the now-landmark Sleep’s Holy Mountain (reissue review here) in 1992 and subsequently jumped from Earache Records to London/Sire Records, spent their recording budget on reefer and turned in a 52-minute version of what became “Dopesmoker” to the label, only to be met with the kind of horror that only a major label can express to, say, an underground band who just turned in a 52-minute single-track album of unmatched stonerly excess. No doubt there were some priceless looks on a variety of the involved faces.

Then titled “Jerusalem,” that version of the extended piece did ultimately emerge — released first by the band as a self-bootleg with a cover by Arik Roper and then as Jerusalem by Rise Above Records in the UK and The Music Cartel in the US — in 1998, but with the song broken up over six shorter segments, the effect was nowhere near the same as when Dopesmoker saw its first issue — the track itself and a live version of “Sonic Titan” included — via Tee Pee in 2003. Sleep were long done by then, of course. Pike had moved on to High on Fire and Cisneros and Hakius were on the cusp of unveiling their new meditative duo Om, but one could easily argue that the arrival of Dopesmoker nonetheless played a significant role in igniting the heavy rock boom of the post-internet age. Finally with an avenue for the word of mouth regarding their righteousness that had long been spreading, Sleep were able to connect with an audience without even actually being a band anymore, and with Sleep’s Holy Mountain and the prior 1991 debut, Volume I behind them, their back catalog seemed like relics of a lost age of stoner authenticity — a source of influence worldwide already that has only continued to spread in the years since, bolstered in part by the emergence and ongoing relevance of Om and High on Fire, as well as the 2009 reunion of Sleep proper that has resulted in copious headlining and touring appearances as well as the release of the 2014 single The Clarity (review here), amid a contract dispute with Earache and near-constant rumors of a new full-length in progress on one level or another.

As for the song itself, “Dopesmoker” — which I’ve chosen to put here without the accompanying “Sonic Titan” — remains overwhelming in its scope. Its tonal thickness presents a morass from which Cisneros‘ guttural vocals rumble upward like some ancient call to arms, and when it comes to speaking to the converted, there are few lines short of “What is this that stands before me?” that have ever resonated as thoroughly as “Drop out of life, bong in hand.” Arriving after a solid eight minutes of hypnotic establishment of “Dopesmoker”‘s central riff, it is nearly impossible to measure the impact that single line has had on underground heavy rock. From there, “Dopesmoker” unfolds the tale of a journey rife with transcendentalist THC-ism, the setting a Zion that turns weed into an object of nigh-on-dogmatic ritualism, all the while Pike‘s riffing leads the way along a march punctuated by Hakius that’s no less epic than the lyrical thread. By the time they’re halfway through, their smoke-filled haze has become a churning universe unto itself, and then the guitar solo kicks in. About seven minutes later. Though often imitated at this point, the scale at which “Dopesmoker” works remains largely its own, and like any such monument, even those who’ve come along since to sound bigger or write something longer or whatever it might be invariably exist in its shadow. Its gospel ends with the stoned deliverance of the caravan and a return to the opening lines, but the riffing goes on for a few more minutes thereafter — as it should, pretty much into perpetuity. On repeat. Forever.

Southern Lord reissued Dopesmoker with new art by Arik Roper in 2012 and has gone on to do multiple pressings since in various vinyl and CD editions, so it is readily available for those who’ve yet to chase it down, but as one of the most essential heavy rock releases of all-time, I suspect a good amount of that is geared toward collector impulse rather than filling a gap, at least at this point. Either way, Dopesmoker has been and still represents a watershed moment of riffly creation. There will never be another one that hits in exactly the same way, from Sleep or anyone else, and even if that stems in part from the story of what went into its becoming, the result of that process — everything that went into its being — speaks to the core of one of the heaviest releases of all time. It resounds.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

What else could’ve possibly been heavy enough to close out the week that saw my son brought into the world?

Born at 8:09AM on Oct. 25, 2017, The Pecan came into this world after a plodding 41 hours of labor on the part of The Patient Mrs., whose water broke on Monday afternoon and who delivered the baby via C-section after grueling her way through on Wednesday morning. It was brutal, I don’t mind telling you. I write this post from the chair of the hospital room, my son cradled sleeping in my arms (every time I type with my left hand, his head moves a bit, but he doesn’t seem disturbed by it, which bodes well). We might get to get out of here this evening — Monday to Friday in the hospital has been long and The Patient Mrs. and I are both ready to go, I think — but otherwise it’ll be tomorrow, and then begins a round of family visits that I expect will continue through at least the next couple weeks. Already our mothers and sisters were hanging out in various waiting rooms for extended periods of time, attending his delayed arrival.

So, as for fatherhood: so far so good, I guess. Obviously nothing we’ve yet faced even holds a candle to anything to come pretty much as soon as we get out of here, but we’ve managed to keep him alive for two days, and I’m willing to take that as a win in the immediate. Last night was rougher than the first night, but after a couple hours of cluster-feeding, he slept for a solid four hours and so we did as well and I think that did us all a world of good. The Patient Mrs. is napping now with a pillow over her head. I went home for a bit yesterday and made myself some good coffee to bring back in my thermos, have been sipping that this morning, so we’re holding up. We’ve had talks about being in “survival mode” basically between now and next April — from here to Roadburn, is how we put it — and that seems like a reasonable timeline. We’ll see how it goes. We’re on an adventure.

You may have noticed the last two days were light on posts. Two per day still seems pretty good to me for a dude whose wife just had their first baby, so if you’re gonna complain about that, please don’t. There’s a lot of news to catch up on though, so I’m going to dedicate early next week to that and hopefully get into some early, soon-to-change pattern establishment for morning writing, etc. Here’s what’s in my notes for the week:

Mon.: News catchup, Lizardmen video premiere.
Tue.: SubRosa Subdued review; Operators video.
Wed.: Black Moon Circle review, whatever comes.
Thu.: Electric Wizard review, whatever comes.
Fri.: Fireball Ministry review, whatever comes.

That’s me catching up on reviews a bit as well, and it’s light on premieres on purpose to let me have some flex as I need to, so yeah, bottom line is it’s subject to change as always. Also more than always.

So there you have it. The Pecan has arrived. We’re in the midst of feeling things out, which I expect we will be for, you know, the next 20-odd years. Maybe more.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Wrapping up #VinylDay2017

Posted in Features on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Grooves and platters galore. My motivation behind doing Vinyl Day 2017 was simple: I felt like listening to records and sharing that process. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Just an idea I had and ran with it. I figure it doesn’t need to be anything more than that, right? Isn’t putting on an album its own excuse for putting on an album? I tend to think so.

And yeah, I made it a hashtag. Because it’s the future, and hashtags. Instagrammaphone and whatnot. I’m a novice at best when it comes to the social medias, but it seems to me that if you’re going to share a full day’s worth of what you’re listening to, that’s the way to do it. So that’s what I did. If I clogged up your feed or whatever and it pissed you off, sorry.

For anyone who might’ve missed it, it turned out to be nine records of various sorts. Here they are, complete with accompanying audio when I could get it, because it’s the age of instant gratification:

There you have it. Had to be Sleep to end it. Pretty awesome day of music on the whole, and whatever was on your playlist yesterday, if it was this stuff or anything else, I hope you enjoyed. I’m gonna call Vinyl Day 2017 a definite win. Thanks for reading.

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Desert Survival: How to Do Psycho Las Vegas on a Budget

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2017 banner

Hey, if you’re going to go broke, let’s face it: You’re not likely to run into many causes as worthy as the lineup culled together for Psycho Las Vegas. It ain’t cheap — any event that advertises a payment plan obviously knows it’s a considerable ask — but whether you’re going to see Slo Burn for their only US gig or King Diamond doing Abigail or Mulatu Astatke because going to see Mulatu Astatke is a life-event, the arguments in favor are plentiful and convincing. Whatever else you want to say, Psycho Las Vegas is the first annually-held American festival with a focus on heavy and underground rock to really establish itself as world class.

That in itself is a reason to support the cause, whether it’s through a day ticket or a pass for the entire weekend, but it doesn’t necessarily lesson the expense of making the trip or staying in one of the US’ most lucrative tourist traps, let alone things like band merchandise, meals and the occasional adult beverage if you’re inclined to have one. The thought of seeing NeurosisSleep and Carcass share a stage over the course of a weekend or watching Conan, the new trio-incarnation of Pentagram and Yawning Man poolside or from the balcony of a room in the Casino Tower is incredible, and after hearing stories from those who undertook the journey in 2016 or attended the prior Psycho California in 2015, the idea wants nothing for appeal. Fiscal issues can be a bummer. By the time August rolls around, I’ll have been out of paid work for two months. I know how it goes.

And I’m hardly the most responsible person when it comes to money, but the truth of the matter is there are ways to mitigate costs for travel, lodging and other concerns, and if the thing preventing you from picking up a ticket to the show has been the seeming impossibility of affording a stay at the Hard Rock or of finding a cheap-enough flight to get there, maybe it’s worth trying to shift finances around to make it happen. Music is important, and when debt collectors are spamming your phone it’s hard to think about the non-cash value of life experiences, but the fact is the bills you need to pay will still be there. The bill with Corrosion of Conformity in a lineup alongside Kylesa‘s Laura Pleasants, Domkraft, Swans, Elephant Tree and Heavy Temple? Much less so.

Here are a few pointers that hopefully can save you a couple bucks. Some of it’s day-one stuff, but things like hotel picks and transportation nuances are good to know either way.

Check it out:

psycho-las-vegas-2017-poster

Flying In
• Buy tickets on a Tuesday for the cheapest rates.
• Use a discount flight search.
• If you can, fly in on Thursday and leave on Monday for better rates, search different days and times to come in and leave.
• Book early. Rates go up in the summer.

Getting There
• Ride apps cost less than cabs.
• The Hard Rock is less than a mile from the airport. Cheap trip anyway.
• There are free shuttles from most Vegas hotels to the strip and tourist attractions.

Staying There
• This one is huge… don’t stay at the Hard Rock if you can’t afford it! Alexis Park, RUMOR, Red Roof Inn are all across the street and cheap. Scope out a position on a map if you need to; that’s what Street View is there for.
• Partner up to share rooms. You’ve got social media and it’s not like you’re going to do more than sleep and (hopefully) shower there anyway. Might as well join forces and save expense where you can.

Drinks
• BYO. Vegas has open-container laws. If you think hooch is too expensive at the Hard Rock, get loaded on the sidewalk before you go in.
• One way or another, hydrate. You’re staying in the desert in August. Don’t be stupid.

Psycho Las Vegas 2017 Lineup
Abbath, Ace Frehley, Black Anvil, Blood Ceremony, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Buzzov*en, Carcass, Celeste, Chelsea Wolfe, Cirith Ungol, Cloud Catcher, Code Orange, Conan, Corrosion of Conformity, Cough, Cult Leader, Cult Of Luna With Julie Christmas Diamond Head, Domkraft, Earthless, Elephant Tree, Eternal Tapestry, Fister, Floorian, Gatecreeper, GEQ, Gojira, Gost, Graf Orlock, Heavy Temple, Hollow Leg, Inter Arma, Khemmis, King Diamond, Laura Pleasants & Special Guests, Magma, Manilla Road, Merlin, Minsk, Morne, Mothership, Mouth of the Architect, Mulatu Astatke, Murder City Devils, Mustard Gas & Roses, Myrkur, Neurosis, North, Oathbreaker, Pelican, Pentagram, Psychic TV, The Rods, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Saturndust, Sleep, Slo Burn, Slomatics, Snail, Sons of Otis, Sumac, Summoner, Swans, The Skull, Toke, Urchin, Usnea, Vhol, Weedeater, Windhand, Wizard Rifle, Wolves in the Throne Room, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra, Youngblood Supercult, Zeal & Ardor.

http://www.vivapsycho.com
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas

Pentagram, “Relentless / Broken Vows” Live in Richmond, VA, 2017

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Matt Pike Selling Signed Limited Edition ‘Rabid Mammal’ Guitar Pedals

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’m just going to assume that if you’ve ever seen Matt Pike tear into a shred-your-skin-from-your-bones solo either on stage with High on Fire or in any of the infinite number of live clips of him with that band or with Sleep on YouTube, you probably don’t need to be told why his signature guitar pedal from Black Arts Toneworks is called the ‘Rabid Mammal.’ As a player, he’s rightly earned a reputation for the kind of I-just-make-this-happen abandon that has typified guitar greats for generations, and the unhinged sensibility of his style is just one aspect of his accomplishments with his weapon of choice.

Pike and the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based pedal maker first released the ‘Rabid Mammal’ late last year. It’s a limited edition creation, featuring art by Alyssa Maucere and the guitarist himself — begging the question why he’s never done a cover for High on Fire, though that’s not to take anything away from the gorgeousness that adorned the front of 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) — and though it’s been out for a while, Pike has put a batch of 18 up for sale at the link below, signed and everything. If you ever wanted to directly support the guy, this would seem to be the opportunity to do exactly that.

Next month, Sleep have a couple US shows ahead of heading abroad for a headlining spot at Desertfest London 2017. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for a new recording of some sort this year, but I’ve yet to hear solid word of such a thing materializing. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen though. They’ll of course be at Psycho Las Vegas in August as well.

Pedal info and live dates follow:

matt pike black arts toneworks rabid mammal

Introducing the Rabid Mammal

Working in tandem with Matt Pike ( Sleep/High on Fire) Black Arts Toneworks are excited to announce this new Boost/Fuzz.

The Rabid Mammal consists of two separate circuits which compliment and push your tone in two different directions.

The Boost function will add a searing amount of treble and upper mids. Controls are: Treble and Volume

The Fuzz function will add a thunderous amount of low mids and and a foggy lowend with a somewhat loose sludgy feel. Controls are : Volume, Fuzz, Tone, High, Pre, and a toggle for Led or Mosfet clipping.

Switching is independent and true bypass.

Artwork by Matt Pike and Alyssa Maucere. Graphic layout by Jason @ Gr8Scott Graphics.

Sleep live:
APR 19 First Avenue Minneapolis MN
APR 20 Majestic Theater Madison, WI
APR 22 White Oak Music Hall Houston, TX
APR 23 Decibel Metal and Beer Festival The Fillmore Philadelphia, PA
APR 30 Desertfest London 2017 Camden Roundhouse London
JUN 3 Primavera Sound 2017 Barcelona, Spain
AUG 12 Alcatraz Festival Kortrijk, Belgium
AUG 18-20 Psycho Las Vegas Hard Rock Las Vegas, NV

https://www.blackartstoneworks.com/rabid-mammal/
https://reverb.com/item/4562941-matt-pike-rabid-mammal-signed-bundle-black-arts-toneworks
https://www.facebook.com/officialsleep/
http://www.facebook.com/highonfire

Matt Pike Rabid Mammal pedal demo

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Psycho Las Vegas Completes Lineup: Ace Frehley, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Corrosion of Conformity, Sasquatch, Mothership, Ruby the Hatchet, Heavy Temple & Many More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The Psycho Las Vegas lineup wasn’t exactly lacking in ‘holy shit’-factor before, but, uh… holy shit. The poster below is so god damned packed it’s got me wondering if they’re going to sneak in an extra day to fit it all. Well, I guess they are if you count the pre-party — a fest unto itself with the additions of Ruby the HatchetSasquatch, ConanYawning Man and Great Electric Quest — but to see acts like EarthlessCorrosion of ConformityDiamondheadLaura Pleasants of KylesaMothershipSaturndust, Heavy TempleToke and so many others added to the bill for the fest proper, it borders on the overwhelming. Sons of OtisYear of the CobraEternal Tapestry? I take back that part about “borders on.” Shit’s giving me the vapors.

Swoon.

Blah blah blah tickets, blah blah blah on sale, blah blah blah how much you don’t need me to tell you this is probably the best heavy lineup the US has ever seen. Also Ace Frehley will be there.

Full lineup follows:

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS

Psycho Las Vegas 2017

-CONFIRMED LINEUP-
KING DIAMOND (USA 2017 Exclusive)
THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE
ACE FREHLEY
GOJIRA
SWANS
NEUROSIS
MAGMA
SLEEP
MELVINS
CARCASS
MURDER CITY DEVILS
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY
SLO BURN
DIAMONDHEAD
CIRITH UNGOL
ABBATH
CHELSEA WOLFE
CULT OF LUNA WITH JULIE CHRISTMAS
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
MULATU ASATKE
PSYCHIC TV
EARTHLESS
SUMAC
MANILLA ROAD
CELESTE
WINDHAND
PELICAN
BLOOD CEREMONY
CODE ORANGE
WEEDEATER
MINSK
COUGH
VHOL
ZEAL & ARDOR
OATHBREAKER
MYRKUR
BUZZOV-EN
THE SKULL
INTER ARMA
SLOMATICS
GOST
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
GATECREEPER
MOTHERSHIP
CULT LEADER
LAURA PLEASANTS & SPECIAL GUESTS
MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT
SONS OF OTIS
SNAIL
MORNE
DOMKRAFT
KHEMMIS
ETERNAL TAPESTRY
JEX THOTH
FISTER
NORTH
WIZARD RIFLE
USNEA
ROYAL THUNDER
YOUNGBLOOD SUPERCULT
TOKE
SATURNDUST
HEAVY TEMPLE
SUMMONER
BLACK ANVIL
FLOORIAN
HOLLOW LEG
YEAR OF THE COBRA
MERLIN
ELEPHANT TREE
CLOUD CATCHER

PSYCHO PRE-PARTY:
PENTAGRAM
CONAN
YAWNING MAN
SASQUATCH
MUSTARD GAS & ROSES
GRAF ORLOCK
RUBY THE HATCHET
URCHIN
GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST

Psycho Las Vegas 2017 is set for Aug. 18-20 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Tickets are available at https://www.vivapsycho.com

http://www.vivapsycho.com
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas

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Desertfest London 2017: Individual Day Schedules Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I have no problem admitting to feeling overwhelmed looking at the full lineup and individual day splits for Desertfest London 2017. I mean, seriously. Look at that poster. What a way to spend a weekend.

Likewise, I have few grand reflections to offer in light of that overwhelming feeling, except perhaps to take a step back and be massively impressed at how much this event has grown in just six incarnations. Along with Desertfest Berlin, the London edition has become an anchor not only for the UK heavy rock underground — which is well represented here as ever in Elephant TreeBlack SpidersStubbVodunPigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs PigsTerminal CheesecakeChubby Thunderous Bad Kush MastersMammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, and so on — but for bands from abroad as well. You’ll note the three headliners: two American, one Norwegian, and the next line down on the poster is two Swedish, one American. Desertfest London 2017’s reach feels wider than ever. Staring at the final lineup, it’s clear just how much of a big fucking deal this festival has become.

Wish I could be there to see it.

Here’s the announcement of the individual day lineups from their website:

desertfest london 2017

DESERTFEST 2017 DAY SPLITS AND DAY TICKETS ARE HERE!

Finally, the Desertfest 2017 day and stage splits are here, along with individual day tickets. It’s the point of the year where you can start planning the weekend, you can imagine the sets in your head and you can curse those god damned clashes.

Last things first, let’s get straight to that insane Sunday main-stage. To celebrate The Roundhouse joining the Desertfest family, we made their debut appearance something special. Not only will stoner doom icons Sleep be topping the bill, but the Roundhouse hosts a full bill of huge acts. Candlemass, with over three decades of underground acclaim to their name, bring the epic doom metal. USA’s Wolves in the Throne Room bring the atmospheric black metal. Traditional doom metal stalwarts Saint Vitus bring the classic riffs. And how about this for a ‘curtain jerker’? Bongzilla bring the raw weed metal for their second show of the weekend; more on the first later.

It’s not just about the Sunday though. Friday’s stage at the Electric Ballroom is headlined by returning heroes Slo Burn whose short run in the mid 90s furthered the then fledgling stoner rock scene. One band they surely had an impact on is Lowrider, who play Europe’s finest stoner rock alongside them. Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus celebrate their resonant album Seven Thunders Roar, and 1000Mods and Pontiak round up the main stage on the Friday.

The Electric Ballroom on Saturday will be swarming with Turbojugends as death-punk grandmasters Turbonegro turn Camden into party central. John Garcia sticks around for a solo show, sure to feature classics from his years of nonstop mastery in the stoner rock scene. Sheffield’s rock and roll five piece Black Spiders visit London for one last time on their farewell tour, with Satan’s Satyrs and Avon rounding up the main stage.

As ever though, it doesn’t stop at the main stages. Our regular partners have delivered three stages with diverse lineups. Human_Disease_Promo and When Planets Collide take over The Underworld on Saturday in a bill headlined by Bongzilla with a special set celebrating the band’s early work. The Quietus stage is led by synth wavers Zombi, and Nightshift Promotions bring an eclectic mix led by Hungary’s Apey & the Pea. To be honest, just stick a pin in the lineup poster and you’re guaranteed a good time.

For those who can’t make the full weekend, we have a limited number of individual day tickets. Priced at £40 for Friday tickets, £40 for Saturday tickets and £45 for Sunday tickets, links are below.

So there we have it. Our final lineup for Desertfest 2017. We hope you’re as excited as we are to get back to Camden this April and riff London to the ground.

DESERTFEST LONDON 2017 Final Lineup:
SLEEP
SLO BURN
TURBONEGRO
CANDLEMASS
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
SAINT VITUS
JOHN GARCIA BAND
BONGZILLA
LOWRIDER
SCISSORFIGHT
BLACK SPIDERS
SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT
THE PICTUREBOOKS
STONED JESUS
SATAN’S SATYRS
INTER ARMA
WEAR YOUR WOUNDS
1000MODS
STEAK
AVON
DEATH ALLEY
DEAD LORD
BOSS KELOID
PONTIAK
YURI GAGARIN
HARK
VODUN
CHRON GOBLIN
PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS
THE WELL
MAMMOTH STORM
CELESTE
STUBB
MONOLITHIAN
WUCAN
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
BRUME
APEY & THE PEA
ELEPHANT TREE
GRAVE LINES
IRON WITCH
EARTH SHIP
BACKWOODS PAYBACK
WIZARD FIGHT
BRULE
CLOSET DISCO QUEEN
GRAND MAMMOTH
CHUBBY THUNDEROUS BAD KUSH MASTERS
MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD
SAMAVAYO
WELCOME BACK DELTA
DEAD LETTUCE
MONSTERTONE
LEDFOOT
ZOMBI
TERMINAL CHEESECAKE
KHÜNNT
BASK
BRUXA MARIA

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/#tickets-section
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/desertfest-2017-tickets-27305267791
http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/

Dead Lettuce, Booze and Blues EP (2015)

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