Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night Two, Sept. 2, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.15 – Saturday night/Sunday morning – Sid’s house

Yesterday was not short. Today was notter-shorter. The bummer news as of last night was that Mother Mooch would have to pull out because of a schedule conflict between the after-party and the venue. I had been looking forward to seeing fest-organizer Sid Daly‘s band as a part of Emerald Haze 2017, but he had to cut someone, and decided it was better to cut himself than anyone else, and that’s the noble thing to do so it’s hard to fault him. I was still hopeful this morning they’d be able to pull it out and make it happen.

There was, however, plenty going on even with 14 bands instead of the original 15. A packed day, to be sure. Like yesterday, it was a lot of back and forth between The Obelisk Stage downstairs and the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect after the first night, so when things got rolling in the afternoon, I felt at least a little bit prepared for what was coming. Vaguely. A smidgen. Okay, not really, but still. I did my best.

It went like this:

Gourd

gourd-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

They were the first duo of the weekend and inarguably one of the nastiest acts who played at any point of Emerald Haze, though by the end of today, Gourd would have some pretty stiff competition in that regard. Still, ultra-crawling, ultra-lurching, fuckall-laden extremity was the order of the opening salvo on the downstairs stage at the Voodoo Lounge, and Hick and Ray, who released a self-titled EP last year that seems to be their only offering to-date, brought drone to blackened-to-a-crisp extremity in that already-dead, post-Khanate fashion that’s just as much at home in arthouse as in a dank, mold-stenched basement with a shitty P.A. and a couple disaffected hangers about for a crowd. As it was, they did pretty well filling the bigger space at Emerald Haze with volume — this too would be a running theme for the evening — and they served as an immediate signal that today’s mission was going to be much, much different from yesterdays. And so it was.

Korvid

korvid (photo jj koczan)

I didn’t even see a window to look out of, but if I had, I probably would’ve been surprised it was still daylight. Just as my brain was beginning to process the onslaught that was Gourd, I clomped upstairs to check out Belfast five-piece Korvid, who would set in motion the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage with their own brand of extreme sludge, two guitars riffing out with cupped-mic-and-crazy-eyes standalone vocals cutting through, screaming, growing, the whole nine. The humor was good though. I mean, how many times in your life are you going to hear a lead singer say, “This one’s called ‘Zombie Sludge Groove’?” Six? Maybe seven? For most people, probably not more than three. In any case, for all the pummel they brought, vocalist Jonny Gault, guitarists Thomas Carmichael and Alex Keys, bassist Theo Gordon-Boyd and drummer David Malone didn’t forget to have a good time doing it, and while that put them in immediate contrast with Gourd, still misanthroping away downstairs, their own brand of sludge was light neither on tone nor aggression. Plus a zombie apocalypse happened. That’s always bleak in its own way.

Ten Ton Slug

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If Emerald Haze had a quota for burl, Ten Ton Slug filled it. In about the first three minutes of their set. The Galway five-piece have a new EP to follow-up last year’s Brutal Gluttonous Beast (review here) from which they aired “Slug Grinder,” but that was right in the mix with the rest of their attack, which centered around densely-packed chugs and metallic growls and screams. It felt early for something so dudely — didn’t I just finish my coffee? — but Ten Ton Slug had their own agenda, and as the downstairs room started to fill up, they beat the living crap right out of it for a half-hour solid. No-letup sludge metal that handed out punishment the way one thinks of construction equipment as vigorous in its purposes. As they played, I wrote the words “very heavy” in my notebook and wondered how many more times throughout the day I’d wind up using that exact phrase. To say the least, several. They closed with “Siege” and yet more testosterone oozed from the stage in voluminous form. That new EP was reportedly recorded at Dead Dog Studio in Drogheda, and one can’t help but look forward to how Ten Ton Slug‘s tones might come out of that process. My advanced, thinking man’s critically-minded guess? “Very heavy.”

Vulpynes

vulpynes-photo-jj-koczan

Riot grrl comparisons are bound to ensue when you’re a ’90s-influenced two-piece like Dublin’s own Vulpynes, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Maeve Molly and drummer Kaz, but to my ears they were rawer in their presentation than the likes of Babes in Toyland and more punk than L7 seemed interested in being most of the time. There was still a definite air of post-grunge, however, so I suppose in the world of ready-made genre classifications, riot grrl works just as well as anything else. It’s more concise than “raw and semi-aggro heavy garage punk rock,” at least, even if that’s more what Vulpynes seemed to be up to to me. The rawness is worth emphasizing though, especially since that seemed to be half the point and since it suited them so well. They were nowhere near as mosh-ready as Ten Ton Slug back downstairs, of course, but neither did they want to be, and though the afternoon/evening was just getting going, Vulpynes were already a refreshing change of pace from the viciousness that had thus far been served. Nice to be reminded that not everything needs to crush to be effective — though of course that’s plenty of fun too.

Iron Void

iron-void-photo-jj-koczan

Doom! File Iron Void under “hell yes I’ll have more of that please” in being the Emerald Haze night two’s first representation of oldschool doom righteousness. Fair perhaps to think of the UK trio, who toured this Spring alongside Indianapolis-based The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch, as a preface to Lord Vicar still to come, but that only made them more welcome in my book, and while they played, I went out to the merch area to buy a copy of their 2015 outing, Doomsday and its 2012 predecessor, Spell of Ruin. No regrets there, but as I was on my way back into the venue proper, I got stopped by Rando-Dude-Who-Works-at-the-Venue who told me my backpack — aka my camera bag, which I’d had on my person all along — wasn’t allowed in and would need to be checked. As it also held my laptop and I’d carried it with me the entire night before without word one from anybody, my position was hell no I’m not checking this bag, and no shit, dude wound up manhandling me and kicking me out of the venue. Out of fucking nowhere. Felt pretty fucking special to get kicked out of a show I was supposedly helping to present, let me tell you. The bummer was that while I was dealing with his completely needless bullshit, I was missing Iron Void back inside. I didn’t check it, but left it with Sid‘s girlfriend Olga who was working the door and was kind enough to come to my rescue outside, and yeah, I eventually got back in well in time to see Iron Void finish their set with “The Devil’s Daughter” from Doomsday, but I’ll readily admit that one threw me for a loop and it was a while before I was able to really get my head back into the show the way it should’ve been all along. Moral of the story? Fuck you, Rando Dude. Either do your job all the way and round up every backpack in the place, including mine the first night, or don’t bother. And either way, fuck you twice as hard when there’s killer doom to be had.

Crowhammer

crowhammer-photo-jj-koczan

Maybe had I not been so thoroughly distracted by that just-discussed unfortunate bit of whatnot I’d have had an easier time getting a handle on Crowhammer‘s sound, but somehow I doubt it. It was my first exposure to the Dublin trio — who also boasted the weekend’s first singing drummer, though not the last of the day — and they played the sort of part-psych weirdo rock that’s probably best described as “progressive” and left at that, though that’s hardly a summary of the willfully bizarre krautrocking chicanery that was actually on display during their set. Again, I was all out of sorts and didn’t get to see nearly as much as I would’ve liked to otherwise, but while they seem to just have a single out that was released in 2013, there was no doubt Crowhammer were in a niche of their own among the rest of the Emerald Haze lineup, and that would come to kind of be the message of the day from the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage: strange things will ensue. And for sure they did for what I caught of these guys.

Witchsorrow

witchsorrow-photo-jj-koczan

I recalled digging Witchsorrow‘s 2015 outing, No Light, Only Fire (review here) when I heard it, as well as their prior sophomore full-length, 2012’s God Curse Us (review here), so to see them in the flesh back downstairs in the larger room was something of a treat. They had more NWOBHM-style gallop than I remembered, but that might’ve just been a proximity comparison to Iron Void, who rolled pretty steadily for the duration, though drummer Dave Wilbraham (also of Twelve Boar) had plenty of double-kick behind the riffs of guitarist/vocalist Nick “Necroskull” Ruskell and the basslines of Emily Witch to act as a means of propulsion. That lent Witchsorrow a deceptively uptempo feel for how thick they were tonally, but though I was still kind of looking around the room and playing my own private game of ‘Count the Backpacks’ — there were many to be found — it was still easy to appreciate the underlying motion cutting through all that heft. They’ll be out in the UK and Europe with The Moth later this Fall and they seem like they’re about due for a new release. Maybe in 2018? If so, it would be one to watch out for.

The Magnapinna

the-magnapinna-photo-jj-koczan

Say, is your name a dick joke? Nothing wrong with that, said Obelisk Guy. Things got off-kilter quick with Cork fivesome The Magnapinna, who were all dressed up with ties and whatnot and unleashed a barrage of hard-alt-rocking strangeness somewhere betwixt Mr. Bungle and a multi-singer early incarnation of System of a Down — aggressive at their core, but still definitely with an experimentalist edge. They had some pretty significant depth of arrangement the vocal department between their frontman and the guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but the pervasive everything-weirder-than-everything-else ethic that seemed to infiltrate every move they made remained the dominant flavor of their set on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like Crowhammer before them, they served notice that not only is the Irish scene rich when it comes to sludge and heavy rock, but that there are groups legitimately pushing stylistic boundaries as well. The Magnapinna — dick joke or not — were a vastly different kind of freakout from everyone else who played this weekend at Emerald Haze, and since standing out was apparently the top priority, I can only call their efforts at not fitting in a success. Nicely and strangely done.

Death the Leveller

death-the-leveller-photo-jj-koczan

A break downstairs essentially funneled everyone who wasn’t going to eat dinner up to the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage to see Death the Leveller. Fair enough. The Dublin four-piece are new — as in I think this might’ve been their fifth show — but it was clear they had roots somewhere, and one finds them in Cursed Earth and Mael Mórdha. One of those bands almost too much on lockdown to actually be newcomers. There was no question they knew what they were doing, no question about their sound — goth-tinged doom; healthy sense of drama to the show, and very much a show, but not at all half-hearted or insincere for that — and they owned the room in a way that completely undercut the fact that they only have one EP out and are still waiting for the vinyl to be pressed. No substitute for experience, in other words, and Death the Leveller, while fresh, had a professional presentation and a professional presence that brought the upstairs room to a different level and once again represented another, darker but still nuanced side of what Dublin and the greater Irish underground has to offer those who’d investigate. I wondered looking around the room for how many of the attendees this set was their first exposure to Death the Leveller, and I suspect the answer is at least a few apart from myself, but watching the band take charge of that space, it was hard to argue they didn’t absolutely deserve to be the focal point that the scheduling made them. Tons of promise there. Gotta chase down that EP at some point in the near future.

Dread Sovereign

dread sovereign photo jj koczan

Speaking of presence: there’s only one Nemtheanga. Also known as Alan Averill, the vocalist of premier Irish post-black metallers Primordial and arguably one of the country’s key underground figureheads can hold down a stage like few frontmen I’ve ever seen, and while he also handles bass in Dread Sovereign — his tone might be the most “dread” element of all in the band; the downstairs floor at Voodoo Lounge shook with each note he hit — he still was very much at the helm alongside shred-prone guitarist Daniel “Bones” Holohan, drummer Johnny “Con Ri” King and a synthesist/noisemaker who may or may not have been Nemtheanga‘s cousin, Gareth Averill filling out the wash. I picked up a copy of their 2017 sophomore long-player, For Doom the Bell Tolls (review here), without further incident, and considered that a win, and while the vibe of their time onstage definitely leaned toward the oldschool — they nestled into a partial cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” for a minute there and it felt earned — they were lung-collapsingly weighted in tone, and flattened the room like an early headliner or, at the very least for me, a highlight of the weekend. It wasn’t my first time seeing them — though it was my first time seeing them with synth, which worked well — so I wouldn’t call what they were doing a surprise, but it was a tooth-rattling, grim-of-spirit, trod-all-over-your-soul joy in any case.

Gorilla Pulp

gorilla-pulp-photo-jj-koczan

Things got kind of complicated when it came time for Gorilla Pulp to play upstairs. The Italian four-piece were originally slated to close out the downstairs stage after Sólstafir, but when Mother Mooch dropped off the bill, it was basically to give their time slot to Gorilla Pulp so they could still have a showcase. Fine, but no question the speedy, upbeat, almost-metallized heavy rock with psychedelic flashes — also a theremin! — that Gorilla Pulp brought forth was a departure from what Mother Mooch would’ve been doing, and the simple fact of the geographic shift was also noteworthy in that they were the only band not from Ireland or Northern Ireland to play all day on that stage, including Nomadic Rituals, who followed and closed it out. I guess sometimes when you put together an event like this, adjustments have to be made, and to Gorilla Pulp‘s benefit, the context in which they appeared, following Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Crowhammer, Vulpynes and Korvid, had already touched on so many different styles that by the time they got around to also being all over the place, the door was wide open for them. Their next show? A wedding later this month. Because of course it is. They may not have been Irish natives, but they only wound up adding to the variety of the day’s presentation on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and even as downstairs continued to thunder with Dread Sovereign‘s lumbering, Gorilla Pulp did well in offsetting that darkness with a bit of a stylistic challenge that was only more fun to try to keep up with once they got that theremin warmed up. Good times.

Lord Vicar

lord-vicar-photo-jj-koczan

And then sometimes you just have to bow your head and realize you’re in the company of masters. Watching Kimi Kärki play doom riffs while Christian “Chritus” Linderson fronted Lord Vicar, yeah, that was definitely the way it went. The former Reverend Bizarre guitarist and the former Saint Vitus/Count Raven vocalist — both of whom have been involved in a slew of projects over the years and decades from Orne and solo work for Kärki to Goatess and Terra Firma for Linderson — were hands-down a focal point for attention from the crowd, which packed in as tightly as I’d seen all weekend to watch them in the downstairs space, but as is universal for quality doom, the contributions of the rhythm section were not to be overlooked. With relative newcomer bassist Rich Jones and founding drummer Gareth Millsted providing the groove behind them, Kärki and Linderson flourished, leading the way through cuts from last year’s Gates of Flesh (review here) like a jammy take on “Birth of Wine” complete with last-measure boogie shuffle, or “The Green Man” and “Leper, Leper,” leaving a particularly resonant extended finale for “The Funeral Pyre” from their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain, which I can only say was flat out awesome from the second it started to the second it brought the house down at the end. Line of the weekend also has to go to Linderson who said from the stage atsome point between songs, “We have a new album out. It’s called British Steel.” Cheers sir. Seeing Lord Vicar — the kind of thing that someone in my position never really thinks is going to happen — only underscored how stupid lucky I am to be in Dublin at all for this weekend, and the proceedings only got more righteous as they warmed up and dug further in. Like I said, the company of masters.

Nomadic Rituals

nomadic-rituals-photo-JJ-Koczan

I had checked out Nomadic Rituals‘ 2017 release, Marking the Day — I also bought a copy of 2013’s Holy Giants — and knew they were something I wanted to behold for myself. The final band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage upstairs, the Belfast trio might’ve also been the heaviest, as they conjured a tectonic wash of low end and noise driven by synth and geared toward maximum abrasion. Guitarist Peter Hunter and bassist Craig Carson both contributed screams and growls to the proceedings while Mark Smyth plodded away behind them, and with as much as this second and final day of the inaugural Emerald Haze had already had to offer in terms of sludgy extremity, Nomadic Rituals — their moniker not at all to be confused with the name of the Yawning Man record from 2010, which was Nomadic Pursuits — still managed to distinguish themselves through the ferocity of their volume and the unmitigated slow-motion violence of their assault. Rightfully so, they seemed to be an apex point for the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage– pushing that space, that soundsystem and the eardrums of those standing in attendance to an absolute limit — no place left to go or to run away from their all-consuming post-sludge. Even when I stumbled back downstairs to catch the end of Lord Vicar and get a spot up front for Sólstafir, I could still hear Nomadic Rituals living up to the savagery implied. They were nothing if not thorough in that endeavor.

Sólstafir

Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Timing, of course, is everything, but even before Icelandic overlords of melancholy Sólstafir took the stage downstairs — took The Obelisk Stage, god damn it — to the cap on Emerald Haze 2017, it occurred to me that I watched at least some portion of every single band that played this weekend. Two stages, two days; a total of 24 acts between the 10 yesterday and the 14 today. And you know what? If Mother Mooch had played, I’d have watched them too. Gladly. Accordingly, seeing Sólstafir do the title-track from 2014’s golly-that’s-still-brilliant Ótta (review here) and cuts from this year’s worthy follow-up Berdreyminn (review here) was like a victory lap, and as much as the crowd was pressing in, and as much as my back hurt, and as much as I miss my wife and as much as I haven’t had a meal in the last two days that wasn’t comprised either of protein powder, a protein bar or a three-ounce package of vacuum-sealed salmon I brought with me, Sólstafir were magnetic onstage as I knew they’d be. I’d only ever caught them before at Roadburn, so to watch them play at a venue of the size of even the downstairs space at the Voodoo Lounge felt really special, and it was. It was. It was one last reminder that, whatever else was a part of this experience, I’m so unbelievably fortunate to have been in Dublin this weekend, and if it comes to it, I’ll absolutely play the role of the tourism council: FUCK YES. COME TO IRELAND. There’s rock and roll here from within and without, and while Sólstafir fall into the latter category, they received a hero’s welcome just the same. There were afterparties to be had when they were done, and for the take-themselves-way-too-seriously/no-fun blogger types, writing to do, so I hightailed it sooner or later and made my way back up the road, but not before taking a final lap through Emerald Haze, trying to imprint it all on my memory, where I can only hope it will stay for a duration much longer than this trip will actually be by the time I fly out of the country tomorrow afternoon.

Holy shit, did I really just say “tomorrow afternoon?”

Turns out, yes.

I’ll have a post up to close out this series probably Monday, but before I turn you over to the photo gallery, I just want to extend a quick preliminary thanks to Sid Daly, Olga, Fiona and everyone else I met at the Voodoo Lounge (with one noteworthy exception), as well as all the bands who took part in this weekend. It was truly an honor to be involved in this event in the minuscule, didn’t-actually-contribute-anything way I was, and whether or not they decide to bring my ass back again, I hope they keep it going into perpetuity.

More to come. Pics follow here. Thanks for reading and as we get on toward three in the fucking morning, good night.

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The Obelisk Presents: Emerald Haze 2017 Announces Full Schedule

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Can I be brutally honest for just a second here? Just a second — won’t take long. I’m not worthy.

I’m sorry. I’m just not. I look at the lineup that’s come together for the first Emerald Haze on Sept. 1 and 2 in Dublin, I see this site’s name on a stage that will be shared by the likes of The Cosmic Dead, Abrahma, Lord Vicar, Sólstafir, Iron Void, Blaak Heat, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Elder Druid, Gourd, WitchSorrow, Gorilla Pulp and Ten Ton Slug, and I have to just shake my head. I’ve done nothing to deserve to be so honored as to be associated with these people. Nothing. I didn’t earn this. I’m not worthy. Seeing a logo for The Obelisk on the posters below, I feel like I’m getting away with some kind of scam.

Again, I’m sorry, but that’s how I really feel about it. This show is so god damn sick. They need me as a part of it the way they need a hole in the head. If you had told me eight-plus years ago when I started this site (1:) that I’d still be doing it in eight-plus years and (2:) that I’d be co-presenting shows in places like Dublin, Ireland, I’d have immediately and rightly told you to screw off. There’s unbelievable and then there’s absurd, and from where I sit, this falls definitively into the realm of the latter.

My flight’s booked. If you’re going, I’ll see you there. Please let me know if you’d like me to tell you all of this in-person, because I am 100 percent ready and willing to do that at any point. What I can’t do is even begin to properly express how grateful I am to be involved in this.

Okay. That’s my piece.

Full schedule for Emerald Haze 2017 follows here:

Emerald Haze 2017 – Full Schedule

Friday, Sept. 1
Doors – 6.00

The Obelisk Stage
7.00–7.30 Elder Druid
7.45–8.15 Blaak Heat
8.30–9.00 Abrahma
9.15–10.00 The Cosmic Dead
10.30–11.20 Church of the Cosmic Skull

MFB Stage
8.00–8.30 Zlatanera
8.45–9.15 Mount Soma
9.30–10.10 King Witch
10.25-11.05 Electric Octopus
11.20–12.20 Wild Rocket

After Party DJs Til Late – On The Rox

Saturday, Sept. 2
Doors – 2.30

The Obelisk Stage
3.30 – 4.00 Gourd?
4.15 – 4.45 Ten Ton Slug?
5.00 – 5.45 Iron Void?
6.00 – 6.45 Witchsorrow?
Break
7.20–8.00 Dread Sovereign
8.15–9.15 Lord Vicar
9.45–10.45 Sólstafir
11.00-11.40 Gorilla Pulp

After Party DJs Til Late – Voodoo Lounge

MFB Stage
3.45–4.15 Korvid
4.30–5.00 Vulpynes
5.15–5.45 Crowhammer
6.00–6.30 The Magnapinna
6.45–7.15 Death The Leveller
Break
8.00–8.30 Mother Mooch
8.45–9.40 Nomadic Rituals

Subject to change

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Boris, Sólstafir, Desert Suns & Chiefs, Elara, Fungus Hill

Posted in Radio on July 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

Some bigger releases going up to the playlist for The Obelisk Radio this time around, and that’s just fine by me. It’s five albums listed here, but there are a few others included as well that you can see listed on the updates page and it’s good stuff all the way around. It was all actually supposed to go up last week, but you know, life is chaos and all that. I hope as always that you manage to find something you enjoy, and if you haven’t heard some of this stuff as yet — I suspect you have, because you know what’s up and I’m perpetually behind on these things; more than just a week, on average — then all the better. Let’s dig in together.

The Obelisk Radio adds for July 31, 2017:

Boris, Dear

boris dear

If you were Boris and you were looking to celebrate a quarter-century of innovating heavy rock, noise, drone, J-pop, and genreless forays into bizarre sonic delights, how would you do it? If you said, “I’d release 69 heavy-as-hell minutes of rumbling tectonics and progressive scope making for one of the best albums of the year,” you’d seem to be on the money. The Japanese trio’s umpteenth full-length, Dear (on Sargent House in the US/EU and Daymare in Japan), begins with the appropriately-titled “D.O.W.N. – Domination of Waiting Noise,” setting forth a consuming six-minute onslaught of feedback and lumbering pummel before the SunnO)))-rivaling drone of “Deadsong” takes hold, shifting at its midpoint to a spaciousness all Boris‘ own. Then they chug out galloping riff triplets on “Absolutego” like it ain’t no thing. That’s Boris: the band who named themselves after a Melvins song and then utterly outdid their namesake on every creative level and have continued to do so throughout one of underground music’s most landmark tenures. Dear offers simultaneous melodic breadth and droning depth on its centerpiece duo of “Kagero” and “Biotope” after counteracting minimalist march with explosive crash on “Beyond,” but they’re still just getting started. The seven-minute “The Power” leads off the second of the two LPs and seems to stem upward from the same roots as YOB at their harshest, brutally feedbacking into the dronegaze of the shorter “Memento Mori” before the 12-minute “Dystopia – Vanishing Point” and the nine-minute title-track comprise a side D that’s nothing less than a triumphant lesson in how to meet your audience head-on right before you swallow them whole, setting its stage with keys and tribalist drums quickly before hypnotizing through five minutes of quiet stretch and bursting gloriously to life ahead of one last contrast of empty spaces and crushing tonality on “Dear” that gives way at last to the noise and feedback that’s always been so essential to their process. If Dear is a letter to Boris‘ fans, as they have said, it is also a willful embrace of the wide-open sensibilities that have made the last 25 years of their craft so uniquely their own. They can go anywhere stylistically and remain Boris precisely because they refuse to settle on a single idea that defines them.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris at Sargent House’s website

 

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn

solstafir berdreyminn

Having now passed the 20-year mark since their founding in 1995, Iceland’s Sólstafir continue to reshape melancholy in their own image on their sixth album and third for Season of Mist, Berdreyminn. The Reykjavik-based four-piece keep the significant achievements of 2014’s Ótta (review here) close to the chest throughout the eight-track/57-minute offering, but songs like “Ísafold” have an upbeat push behind their emotional resonance, and even on a brooding piano piece like “Hvít Sæng,” the overarching sense of motion and the dynamic is maintained. The penultimate “Ambátt” — first of two eight-minute cuts in a finale duo — might be Berdreyminn‘s richest progressive achievement, with its lush opening vocal harmonies giving way to a patiently-delivered clinic on texture, build and payoff that borders on the orchestral. Of course, strings and horns to appear on the album, adding to already complex arrangements, but Sólstafir never lose their corresponding human center, and as “Bláfjall” closes with an intensity of thrust hinted at by the cymbal-crash wash of opener “Silfur-Refur” and the post-blackened push of “Nárós” but ultimately on its own level, they underline the realization and poise that is simply all their own. Berdreyminn is the sound of a band doing important work, and with it, Sólstafir only prove themselves more crucial on an aesthetic level, yet it might be their ability to somehow still feel in-progress that most defines what makes them so special. More than two decades on, they still come across like a group exploring their sound and finding new ways to develop their songwriting — which they are and which they do here. That in itself is an accomplishment worthy of every accolade they reap, and Berdreyminn lives up to that standard front to back across its engaging, encompassing span.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Sólstafir at Season of Mist’s website

 

Desert Suns & Chiefs, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5

second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-5-desert-suns-chiefs

Ripple Music has made its The Second Coming of Heavy series of split LPs an essential showcase of the variety in underground rock. The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 brings together San Diego heavy psych/blues rockers Desert Suns, who also reissued their debut long-player through Ripple in 2016 and followed it with the single “The Haunting” (review here) in conjunction with Ripple and HeviSike Records, and Phoenix, Arizona’s Chiefs, whose 2015 debut, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), arrived on vinyl via Battleground Records and whose five tracks included on side B here cast them among the best Ripple Music bands in the Southwest not currently signed to Ripple Music for their next album. More than some prior installments, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 finds its two featured purveyors complementing each other’s work excellently, as Desert Suns offer three seven-plus minute tracks running from the harmonica-inclusive “Night Train” and the rolling, long-fading “Solitude” with the push of “Heavy” in between and Chiefs — though their individual runtimes are shorter — holding straightforward heavy/desert rock methods at their core in unpretentious fashion across “The Rhino,” the standout “Baron to Chancellor,” “Low Tide,” “Caroline” and “My Last Stand,” nodding initially at ’90s noise rock à la Helmet in “The Rhino” but in the end keeping to their sandy, well-structured mission. As ever, The Second Coming of Heavy asks nothing more of its audience than a basic exploration of the groups included, and certainly both Desert Suns and Chiefs earn that. Whether one takes it on in the context of the prior chapters or as a standalone split release, it delivers a collection of cuts from two outfits with a shared core of quality songcraft and the underlying message that sometimes the straight-line route is the way to go. Right on, once again.

Desert Suns on Thee Facebooks

Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Elara, Deli Bal

elara deli bal

Both sides of Elara‘s PsyKa Records-released debut full-length, Deli Bal, are comprised of one shorter track on either side of eight minutes and one longer one, 12 and 17 minutes, respectively. Between that and the cover art, it should come as no surprise that heavy psychedelic drift is central to what the Stuttgart, Germany, trio of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, guitarist/noisemaker Felix Schmidt and drummer Martin Wieland — who also stylize their name as the bracketed [Elara Sunstreak Band] — get up to in their first offering, but there’s an underlying progressive melodic sensibility as well, and Schmidt‘s guitar seems to have picked up a few lessons from My Sleeping Karma‘s minor-key solo mysticism, so one can hear a sound beginning to take shape early as the leadoff title-track gives way to “Amida,” which swaps back and forth between organ-laden krautrock meandering and fuller-fuzz thrust, and as “Quarantania” reinforces that classic vibe with a warm bass tone from Daniel. Whether you’re listening to the platter itself and switching sides or digitally or on CD, Deli Bal is clearly intended to be consumed as a whole work, and one can hear the vocal melody of “Harmonia” tying back to that in the opener as another example of the underlying structure with which it plays out, despite the broad feel of the songs themselves and the expanses they both intend and actually do cover. The LP has just the four tracks, but the digital version comes with the 9:42 bonus cut “Trimenon,” which builds around a core post-rocking guitar line to come to a fervent apex before receding again to let the listener go gently from Deli Bal‘s total 56-minute runtime; no minor undertaking, but effectively executed and a pleasure in its wandering mind and spirit.

Elara on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records on Bandcamp

 

Fungus Hill, Creatures

fungus hill creatures

This early-2017 psychedelic curio from Umeå, Sweden’s Fungus Hill begins by asking “Are You Dead?” The just-under-nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of the groovy outfit’s four-song, self-released, 28-minute debut Creatures EP doesn’t sound overly concerned with whether the answer is yes or no so much as enacting a serene flow by posing the question over a laid back bluesy vibe. Arrangement? Fluid. With dual vocals from guitarist Gustav Orvefors and percussionist Jenny Isaksson — the five-piece is completed by guitarist Erik Sköld, drummer Nils Mörtzell and bassist Tom Westerlund — Fungus Hill are able to bring variety as they turn to post-Ghost straightforward ’70s chorus-leaning in the first half of “Beware of Evil in the Sky,” prior to a midsection trip outward on subdued shimmy and deceptively complex melodicism. The flute (or keyboard flute sounds) of the jazzy “Evolution” brings Isaksson to the floor with a smoky, even-bluesier feel, and the guitar answers back with fuzzy lead flourish that only enhances the soul on display, while a seven-and-a-half-minute closing title-track delves deepest of all into thicker riffing, a “Na na na na” hook taking hold quickly just in case you weren’t sure it was going to be a highlight. It is. More tonally dense than most retro boogie — and less retro, for that matter — Fungus Hill‘s Creatures nonetheless has its traditionalist elements, but across its individual pieces each one points to a different side of the band’s personality, and from the Alan Watts sample at the beginning of “Are You Dead?” to when we meet the troll later in “Creatures,” each side of that personality utterly shines.

Fungus Hill on Thee Facebooks

Fungus Hill on Bandcamp

 

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Emerald Haze 2017: Individual Day Lineups Announced; Sólstafir & Church of the Cosmic Skull to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It says something about the adventurous nature of the inaugural Emerald Haze festival — set for Sept. 1-2 in Dublin, Ireland and co-presented by The Obelisk — that it will be headlined by Sólstafir and Church of the Cosmic Skull. The former, a genreless Icelandic outfit, specialize in a highly individualized brand of melodic melancholia. The latter are an almost brand new UK outfit whose debut, Is Satan Real? (review here), came out last year and was rife with proggy flourish in keys and vocal arrangements. Both are legit choices, but neither is quite what you’d expect for a festival centered around heavy psych and rock, and as someone fortunate enough to be involved in the fest in the tiny, infinitesimally small fashion I am and who will also be fortunate enough to be there to cover it, I appreciate that unexpected nature of the goings on.

And as I’m pretty sure I’ve said in every single post about Emerald Haze 2017, I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the fest:

EMERALD HAZE ANNOUNCE DAILY LINE-UPS

EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival has announced the daily line-ups for the inaugural edition which takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Friday will see main stage headliners Church of the Cosmic Skull joined by The Cosmic Dead, Wild Rocket, Abrahma, Blaak Heat, Electric Octopus, Elder Druid, King Witch, Mount Soma and Zlatanera while Saturday sees Sólstafir, Belzebong, Lord Vicar, Dread Sovereign, Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Gorilla Pulp, WitchSorrow, Electric Taurus, Ten Ton Slug, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid across two stages in Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox.

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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Emerald Haze 2017: Belzebong, The Cosmic Dead, Blaak Heat, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Electric Taurus, Mount Soma & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Thus far, the inaugural Emerald Haze fest has been pretty metered in posting its lineup additions, but in this final one, they’re pretty much going for broke in welcoming a range of acts from Ireland and beyond, including Poland’s Belzebong, Scottish jammers The Cosmic Dead, US/France-based desert progressives Blaak Heat, and UK doomers Iron Void among a vast slew of others. These as well as a swath of native Irish acts — Electric Taurus, Mother Mooch, Gourd, Vulpynes, Korvid, Death the Leveller, Nomadic Rituals, Bad Boat, Magnapinna and Mount Soma, to see the list below — will converge on Dublin the first weekend in September for the festival co-presented by The Obelisk, and as I’ve said all along, I could not be more thrilled to be involved in the fest in the very minimal way I am and to be able to be there to cover it as it happens. Very, very much looking forward to it.

Like, a lot.

My understanding is this is the last announcement for the lineup, but of course there’s always the possibility of some shakeup between now and September, so I’ll keep an eye out. Tickets are available in the meantime via the links below, so get on that. Meet me in Dublin. We’ll hang out. It’ll be awesome.

Here’s word from the PR wire:

emerald-haze-2017-final-poster

EMERALD HAZE: Final band announcements- Belzebong, The Cosmic Dead, Iron Void and more

For further information, interview requests and/or press passes, please contact: emeraldhazedublin@gmail.com

The final bands have been announced for the inaugural Emerald Haze, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival. Poland’s heavy doom/fuzz metallers Belzebong and Scottish psychonauts The Cosmic Dead head the list along with international acts Blaak Heat from France and British doomsters Iron Void. The last of the home grown talent to be announced come from all four corners of Ireland and spans the full spectrum of heavy psychedelic sounds – Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Electric Taurus, Mother Mooch, Death The Leveller, The Magnapinna, Mount Soma, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid.

Early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie priced at €35 + €3.50 booking fee.
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

The Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage has been an integral and very successful aspect to CANALAPHONIC Music & Culture Festival since its inception in 2015. EMERALD HAZE creates an opportunity to further develop and nurture Ireland’s contributions to the worldwide aesthetic of heavy psych, draw international attention to the high quality and quantity of acts emerging around the country and provide festival experience to these bands.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Belzebong, Greenferno (2016)

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Emerald Haze 2017: Lord Vicar, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket and Witchsorrow Added

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The second round of announcements from the inaugural Emerald Haze festival in Dublin (presented by The Obelisk, among others) brings further intrigue and anticipation. Also doom of the highest quality, and of course by that I mean Lord Vicar are playing. The Finnish masters released the righteous Gates of Flesh (review here) last year and join a bill already heralding the likes of Dread SovereignAbrahmaTen Ton Slug and Zlanatera. I am unbelievably stoked at the prospect of seeing them live.

Ditto that for Church of the Cosmic Skull, who had one of 2016’s best debut releases in their first full-length, Is Satan Real? (review here), which basked in a lush and classically progressive sensibility marked out by its vocal harmonies and generally fluid approach. Add Wild RocketWitchsorrowElectric OctopusGorilla Pulp and Elder Druid to the mix as well and Emerald Haze 2017 already seems to be taking shape nicely as a diverse, quality bill that, once again, I’m honored to be co-presenting.

And as I said last time, I’m planning on being in Dublin to cover it, so please come and please say hi. I’m super-awkward in person, but always appreciate a chance to shake hands, put faces to names and so on. I hope to see you there.

Here’s the latest announcement from the fest:

emerald haze 2017 poster

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Lord Vicar added to line up for EMERALD HAZE

Rising stars of the UK psych scene Church of the Cosmic Skull and international doom supergroup Lord Vicar are among the bands to be added to the bill for EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Nottingham’s seven-piece multi-vocal prog/psych superstars in the making and self professed new religious movement will headline the opening night of Dublin’s inaugural EMERALD HAZE.

After gaining widespread critical acclaim with the 2016 release of their debut album “Is Satan Real?”, Church of the Cosmic Skull embarked on a a highly commended headline tour of the UK in April, and will perform at a number of European festivals over the summer including Freak Valley Festival and Desertfest Antwerp.

Lord Vicar – whose international line up includes former members of Reverend Bizarre, Count Raven and Saint Vitus – along with Dublin-based space punks Wild Rocket, U.K. doomsters WitchSorrow, Italian rockers Gorilla Pulp and two more bands from the fertile Northern Irish scene, Elder Druid and Electric Octopus have all been added to the previously announced line up of Sólstafir, Dread Sovereign, Abrahma, Ten Ton Slug and Zlatanera, with more Irish and international acts to be named in the coming weeks.

Early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie priced at €35 + €3.50 booking fee.
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Lord Vicar, “Birth of Wine”

Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Black Slug” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: Emerald Haze 2017 with Sólstafir, Dread Soveriegn, Abrahma, Ten Ton Slug, and More

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Proud today to announce that The Obelisk is among the presenters for the inaugural Emerald Haze festival in Dublin, Ireland. Set for Sept. 1 and 2 at Voodoo Lounge and On the Rox, the new two-day fest will be headlined by Iceland’s Sólstafir and feature native Irish acts Dread SovereignTen Ton Slug, alongside Northern Ireland’s Zlatanera and other imports like Abrahma (France) and King Witch (Scotland). More groups are still TBA for the lineup, but I’ve seen the list of names, and it is formidable. Further word is expected in the next week or so, so keep an eye out.

In the meantime, this first announcement shows Emerald Haze with an immediate intention toward sonic diversity and a breadth shifting between doom, heavy rock, psychedelia and whatever you’d call Sólstafir at this point — is “sad awesome” a subgenre? — that will only continue as more groups are confirmed and announced in the weeks and months to come. Until then, earlybird tickets go on sale June 5 and it seems entirely the show will sell through, so get them while you can.

If all goes according to my evil plan, I will be there covering. Here’s the info from the fest:

emerald haze 2017

EMERALD HAZE – Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 1-2, 2017

SÓLSTAFÍR to headline EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s new heavy psych festival.

Iceland’s SÓLSTAFÍR return to Dublin for the first time since their sold out 2014 Irish tour to headline EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival, on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September, 2017.

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

SÓLSTAFÍR’s unique blend of metal with beautiful melodies, psychedelic moments and a strong undercurrent of hard/classic rock comes as varied and at times appealingly bizarre as the landscapes of their native Iceland. Their latest album “Berdreyminn” was released through Seasons of Mist on May 26th 2017 and a European tour in support of the album begins on June 10th at Download, Paris.

Irish acts Dread Sovereign and Ten Ton Slug, France’s Abrahma, Scotland’s King Witch and Northern Ireland’s Zlatanera are among the first names confirmed to appear, with more Irish and international acts to be announced in the coming weeks.

Early bird tickets priced at €35 are available from Monday 5th June from www.tickets.ie

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
www.facebook.com/emeraldhaze

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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Prophecy Fest 2017 Lineup Finalized: Sólstafir, Arcturus, Dool, Hypnopazuzu and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Haven’t you ever wanted to go to a festival in a German cave? Fucking of course you have. Don’t even pretend otherwise. And somehow, given the vast sonic swath it covers, from the post-everything metal of Arcturus to the Eastern European folk of The Moon and the Nightspirit to the goth-infused heavy rock of Dool — all of which operates under the banner of Prophecy Productions, it has to be noted — the lineup for Prophecy Fest 2017 couldn’t be more appropriate. The fest is set for July 28 and 29 at Balver Höhle in Balve, Germany.

Yes. It’s really a cave. Yes, you can go there and see cave stuff. There will also be a lineup of bands that emphasizes the unique (not a word I use often) breadth of Prophecy Productions, and that only makes it more special as an event. I don’t know how many fests you go to in the average year — 10? 15? — but I try and hit a few. I’ve never been to one in a cave. I’m ashamed to admit it.

Lineup rules, location rules. Concept rules. I can feel the vibe from here already.

From the PR wire:

prophecy fest 2017

Prophecy Fest 2017 – 28th & 29th July 2017 – Balver Höhle/Germany

Prophecy Fest takes place in a natural cave from Old Stone Age – Balver Höhle. According to Germanic Saga, the blacksmith Wieland had his workshop in the cave. Balve, Germany, is situated between Dortmund, Cologne, Frankfurt and Hannover.

After the amazing work Austrian graphic designer Irrwisch did made for Lotus Thief’s “Gramarye”, he was our choice for the art director function at Prophcy Fest 2017. We are delighted to have him on board and can’t wait for his exhibition in the cave of Balve!

Sun Of The Sleepless, the black metal/experimental side project of Schwadorf (Empyrium, The Vision Bleak), will play its second show ever at Prophecy Fest 2017! As a side note, the first concert was at the first small Prophecy label festival in 1999. Dornenreich will grace us with a special history acoustic concert at Prophecy Fest 2017! The set list will contain songs from all their albums as well as the “Mein Flügelschlag” demo tape. The Vision Bleak will perform with the Shadow Philharmonics for the first time since 2006 again.

We are proud to have Schwadorf and Konstanz back at Prophecy Fest 2017 for a special performance with a classical ensemble of strings, percussion and vocals! We are proud to add DOOL, one of our most exciting signings in recent years, to the billing of Prophecy Fest 2017. Ryanne van Dorst and her pack will prepare a special set with five additional musicians and singers exclusively for this event! The Moon and the Nightspirit will play a one-time show at Prophecy Fest! Their line-up will be extended by a pianist/harpist and a flutist and their set will include songs never played before.

Hypnopazuzu, the new band of David Tibet (Current 93) and Youth (Killing Joke), give their very first concert in Germany! Lotus Thief will be in Europe for the first time and we let them set ancient words to song in the cave of Balve. Hexvessel will prepare an extended performance for us with implemented acoustic set. Arcturus, the epitome of avant-garde metal, will perform at Prophecy Fest. Soror Dolorosa will perform “Severance” in its entirety for the first time. Additionally, they will present their new album “Apollo”.

Glerakur surprised us and blew us away with their performance at Prophecy Fest 2016. It was an easy decision for us to invite them again. Sólstafir will illuminate the cave of Balve! NOÊTA will play their first concert outside Scandinavia at this year’s Prophecy Fest! Spiritual Front will play a special “Armageddon Gigolo” set for Prophecy Fest 2017! Nhor world premiere performance at this year’s Prophecy Fest!

Unlike other festivals, we will not start with the most “unknown” artist and end with the “headliners”.

To us, they are all headliners and were chosen because we expect an amazing performance from them.

Therefore, all artists will receive the playing time they need for their performance, and the running order will reflect what we consider the optimum in terms of dramaturgy and suspension.

http://en.prophecy.de/prophecy-fest/
http://live.weltnetz.lu/en/titel/prophecy-fest-28-07-29-07-2017-balve/

Les Discrets, Live at Prophecy Fest 2016

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