Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
I only have one hesitation — and let me stress, only one — when it comes to the notion of a new album from Icelandic progressive melancholia specialists Sólstafir. Simply put, it’s that I’m not sure I’m done with 2014’s Ótta (review here). That fifth outing was my first exposure to the four-piece’s emotionally resonant moodiness — universal enough to overcome a rather significant language barrier — and the prospect of a sixth full-length makes me a little nervous. Still, time marches forward, and Berdreyminn is due out May 26. Hopefully that’s enough time for me to begin to wrap my head around the concept of its existence.
Among my most vivid memories of live performances over the last couple years as well was being able to catch Sólstafir at Roadburn in 2015 (review here). They performed as part of the day curated by Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, and stunned in both presence and execution. They’d go on to tour the US and Europe multiple times over, and I expect Berdreyminn will bring them back again. That set played significantly in growing my affection for Ótta, so hopefully at some point we’ll cross paths as they support the new one.
Really, I’m nervous about it.
The PR wire brings album preliminaries and gorgeous cover art from Adam Burke:
Sólstafir announce new album, reveal cover art and track list
Acclaimed Icelandic rock band SÓLSTAFIR have revealed new details their highly anticipated forthcoming sixth album. The new album is titled ‘Berdreyminn’, (which translates to a “dreamer of forthcoming events”) and will be released worldwide on May 26th. The new full-length was produced by Birgir Birgirsson (SIGUR RÓS, ALCEST) and Jaime Gomez-Arellano (GHOST, PARADISE LOST, ULVER).
The album cover, painted by Adam Burke (UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS, DANAVA) and track list for ‘Berdreyminn’ can be found below.
Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.
Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’
Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.
Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.
Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.
— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —
1. Abrahma, TBA
Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
If 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.
3. Alunah, Solennial
Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.
4. Arbouretum, TBA
I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.
5. Atavismo, Inerte
This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.
6. Bison Machine, TBA
In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA
News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.
8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust
Okay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.
9. Colour Haze, TBA
I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.
10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA
Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?
11. Elder, TBA
I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.
12. Electric Wizard, TBA
Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.
13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
Out Jan. 28 on Napalm, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo Burn, Hermano, Vista Chino, Zun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.
14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads
Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.
15. Ides of Gemini, TBA
Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.
16. Kind, TBA
Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.
17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
Yes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.
18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA
It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.
19. Monster Magnet, TBA
I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
20. Mothership, High Strangeness
A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.
21. The Obsessed, Sacred
On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of Weinrich, Costantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.
22. Orange Goblin, TBA
When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.
23. Pallbearer, Heartless
Doomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.
24. Radio Moscow, TBA
Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.
25. Roadsaw, TBA
Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in Kind, White Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.
26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.
27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA
It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for Desertfest, Riff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.
28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA
Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.
29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun
Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.
30. Sleep, TBA
If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.
31. Stoned Jesus, TBA
Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.
32. Stubb, TBA
Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.
33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
It Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.
34. Ufomammut, TBA
Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.
35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.
Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates
Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.
Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:
36. Against the Grain
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
42. Beaten Back to Pure
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
73. Green Desert Water
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
87. Merlin, The Wizard
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
110. Spidergawd, IV
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
Definitely Could Happen
Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.
So, you know, life.
123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
140. Devil Worshipper
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
164. Mondo Drag
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
169. Never Got Caught
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
191. Zone Six
Would be Awfully Nice
This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:
192. Across Tundras
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
204. Masters of Reality
207. Queens of the Stone Age
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.
As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan
With their new video, Reykjavic’s Sólstafir end what’s been a pivotal chapter of the band. The Icelandic melancholy specialists gleaned a substantial following behind 2014’s Ótta (review here), and rightly so, touring in North America for the first time as well as of course Europe, Japan, and so on behind material as emotionally vibrant as it was sonically and atmospherically heavy. They’re currently in the process of making the follow-up to Ótta — as of Nov. 29, guitars are done — but their new clip for “Dagmál” is as fitting a goodbye to the prior album as I can think of, capturing the band on stage throughout the year and a half they basically spent on the road.
Like Ótta, Sólstafir‘s next album will be released by Season of Mist, as the PR wire confirms:
SÓLSTAFIR release new video, re-sign with Season of Mist, and record new album
Acclaimed Icelandic rock band SÓLSTAFIR have released a new video for the track “Dagmál”. The video, shot during the band’s extensive touring across Europe is streaming now, here. “Dagmál” appears on the band’s most recent full-length album, ‘Ótta’.
Regarding the video, the band comments: “‘Ótta’ is coming to a close with a third and final video for the song, ‘Dagmál’. The footage for this clip was shot over the course of 18 months of heavy touring. It also features our newest band member Hallgrímur ‘Grimsi’ Hallgrímsson, who started filling in for us behind the drum kit in April 2015.”
The quartet have also signed a new deal with Season of Mist, and begun work on their forthcoming new album.
Regarding the signing, the band comments: “With our previous contract coming to an end, we have had plenty of great offers on the table for which we are grateful. Yet, why should we end a good thing? The entire team works brilliantly together and everyone involved decided that continuing is the logical step moving forward.”
SÓLSTAFIR are now three weeks into the recording their new album. The new full-length will be produced by Birgir Birgirsson (SIGUR RÓS, ALCEST). Jaime Gomez-Arellano (GHOST, PARADISE LOST, ULVER) is also assisting on the new record.
Vocalist and guitarist Adalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason comments: “We are back here at Sundlaugin for the third time to record our seventh album. We feel right at home and after being locked up in songwriting mode for two months, it is a one of a kind feeling hearing the demos gaining life. We have fourteen songs recorded but at the moment it is too early to tell what will end up on the album. The new album will definitely sound like SÓLSTAFIR and as always, there will be surprises too.”
Gomez-Arellano also comments: “I feel humbled to have the opportunity of working with SÓLSTAFIR. As a fan of the band for many years, I have been trying to work with them before and now it is finally happening. So far it has been a great, creative and positive experience. Working alongside Birgir in his beautiful Studio Sundlaugin has been very productive and fun. I am very excited about the new material.”
The new album is yet to be titled and will be mixed at Arellano’s Orgone Studios in the UK.
Must be getting on winter as thoughts return to Iceland’s Sólstafir and their 2014 Ótta (review here). I expect that will be the case for years to come and regardless of whatever the band does next, since some albums just stand in for a certain time, place, etc., and Ótta was such a winter record. Its black and white progressive feel finds new manifestation in a video for the subdued piano piece “Miðaftann,” and perhaps unsurprisingly, the desolate atmospherics of the clip suit the song perfectly.
I wouldn’t exactly call it subtle in terms of visual metaphor, a stranded sailor carrying a white flag across an empty volcanic landscape in hope of finding his salvation somewhere, presumably anywhere that might hold life, screaming and grinding his hands into the black dirt along the way, but as a set-piece, its nod to The Seventh Seal feels appropriate, and while the band don’t appear, the cinematic value of the work holds the viewer in place to find out where and how the narrative will end. Spoiler alert: the ending is in color.
To go with the new video, Sólstafir just announced a string of UK/European dates for May 2016 in which they’ll play Ótta in its entirety, with full string and piano arrangements. You can find the info for that tour, as well as some comment from the band on the song and the director on the video, as well of course as the video itself, all below.
Sólstafir, “Miðaftann” official video
Enigmatic Icelandic rock band SOLSTAFIR have seen the release of a new video for the track “Miðaftann”. The video, directed by Harri Haataja and Vesa Ranta, is streaming now.
Regarding the video, SOLSTAFIR guitarist/frontman Aðalbjörn Tryggvason comments, “The track is about wandering in darkness. Playing chess with Death, getting burned by salt, drowning in the ultimate wave of sin and returning back home by using moonlight as navigation.”
Video directors Harri Haataja and Vesa Ranta comment, “They told us a real-life story about a sailor who lost his crew at sea and was stranded to shore as the only survivor,” the directors write. “He proceeded to find his way to town and [along the way] he found a barrel filled with water. But the water was frozen, so he had to punch through the ice with his bare hands to fight the dehydration. Eventually, after a long journey, he found his way to town and survived.”
May 2016: Ótta in its entirety – complete with strings and piano – followed by a selection of fan favourites from Solstafir’s history.
14 May 16 London (UK) Islington Assembly Hall 15 May 16 Paris (FR) Divan du Monde 16 May 16 Haarlem (NL) Patronaat 17 May 16 Hamburg (DE) Gruenspan 18 May 16 Leipzig (DE) Taubchental 19 May 16 Aarau (CH) KiFF 20 May 16 Wörgl (AT) Komma 21 May 16 Wien (AT) Arena 22 May 16 Praha (CZ) Palac Akropolis
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
Icelandic outfit Sólstafir have begun a new European tour alongside The Ocean and Mono that follows a stint in Japan with Anathema last month in support of 2014’s Ótta (review here), released on Season of Mist and which even now sounds like winter beckoning. The melancholic, emotionally-driven heavy post-rockers have been around the world to herald the album, including North America, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. The current run will take them into the beginning of next month, running all the way up to Damnation Festival in Leeds, UK.
They’ve also got a brand new drummer in Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson. The PR wire has it like this:
SOLSTAFIR kick off European tour
SÓLSTAFIR are kicking off their European autumn tour with MONO and THE OCEAN at the Voxhall in Aarhus, Denmark tonight. SÓLSTAFIR are furthermore announcing Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson as the new man on the drum stool for this road-trip (photo-credit: Mikio Ariga). All confirmed dates can be viewed below.
“Please welcome our current touring drummer, Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson!”, states Aðalbjörn Tryggvason. “He already played some shows with us, and we are looking very much forward to have him aboard on this journey. His previous bands include TENDERFOOT, BEE SPIDERS, and JEFF WHO.”
12 Oct 15 Aarhus (DK) Voxhall 13 Oct 15 Oslo (NO) Vulkan Arena 14 Oct 15 Stockholm (SE) Debaser Medis 16 Oct 15 Turku (FI) Vimma 17 Oct 15 Helsinki (FI) Cirkus 18 Oct 15 St. Petersburg (RU) Zhal Ozhidaniya 19 Oct 15 Moscow (RU) Volta 21 Oct 15 Vilnius (LI) New York 22 Oct 15 Warszawa (PL) Proxima 23 Oct 15 Berlin (DE) Heimathafen SOLD OUT! 24 Oct 15 Leeuwarden (NL) Into the Void Fest 26 Oct 15 Köln (DE) Live Music Hall 27 Oct 15 Wiesbaden (DE) Schlachthof 28 Oct 15 München (DE) Backstage 29 Oct 15 Bologna (IT) Locomotiv 30 Oct 15 Mezzago (IT) Bloom 31 Oct 15 Lyon (FR) CCO Villeurbanne 01 Nov 15 Barcelona (ES) Apolo 02 Nov 15 Toulouse (FR) Metronum 03 Nov 15 Lausanne (CH) Les Docks 04 Nov 15 Zürich (CH) Harterei 05 Nov 15 Paris (FR) Trabendo 06 Nov 15 London (UK) Electric Ballroom 07 Nov 15 Leeds (UK) Damnation Fest
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan
Globetrotting Icelanders Sólstafir are playing Japan this week in support of their 2014 Season of Mist release, Ótta (review here), which as we come to the end of summer 2015 has been on my mind with the lingering threat of colder weather. The band have been touring their collective arse off for Ótta, playing in Europe and North America, where they’re basically introducing people to who they are and what they do — I’ll make no attempts to claim I’m Johnny Groundfloor; this spring was my first time seeing them too — but as processes go, that one seems to be going well. I would not be surprised to have them come back to the States before they do another record, but after Japan it’s Europe next on deck, so we’ll just have to see what winter brings.
Other than a massive amount of repeat listens for Ótta, that is. Sorry, but some records are just made for low temperatures.
This, from the PR wire:
SOLSTAFIR kick off tour dates in Japan
Enigmatic Icelandic rock band SOLSTAFIR have kicked off a trek to Japan tonight, where the band are performing two exclusive dates in Tokyo alongside British progressive legends, ANATHEMA. The Japanese tour dates see the band perform ahead of their previously announced European tour alongside MONO and THE OCEAN, taking place later this October. A full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below.
SOLSTAFIR are touring in support of their critically acclaimed new album , ‘Otta’. The album is streaming here, and is available now at theSeason of Mist E-shop.
SOLSTAFIR Japanese tour dates: 8/31 Tokyo, JP @ Liquid Room w/ANATHEMA 9/1 Tokyo, JP @ Liquid Room w/ANATHEMA SOLSTAFIR European tour dates: 10/12 Aarhus, DK @ Voxhall 10/13 Oslo, NO @ Vulkan Arena 10/14 Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Medis 10/18 St. Petersburg, RU @ Zhal Ozhidaniya 10/19 Moscow, RU @ Volta 10/21 Vilnius, LI @ NEW YORK 10/22 Warsaw, PL @ Proxima 10/23 Berlin, DE @ Heimathafen 10/24 Leeuwarden, NL @ Into the Void Fest 10/26 Cologne, DE @ Live Music Hall 10/27 Wiesbaden, DE @ Schlachthof 10/28 Munich, DE @ Backstage 10/29 Bologna, IT @ Locomativ 10/30 Mezzago, IT @ Bloom 10/31 Lyon, FR @ CCO Villeurbanne 11/02 Toulouse, FR @ Metronum 11/03 Lausanne, CH @ Les Docks 11/04 Zurich, CH @ Harterei 11/05 Paris, FR @ Trabendo 11/06 London, UK @ Electric Ballroom 11/07 Leeds, UK @ Damnation Fest
The curated day is a Roadburn tradition going back to David Tibet of Current 93, who was the fest’s first curator in 2008. This year, the hallowed duty was bestowed on Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, and their day took on the title “Houses of the Holistic.” I don’t know who picked what individual band for what stage, or if the two agreed on everything or what the situation was, but I know the results were pretty magical, particularly on the Main Stage, which hosted — in order — Virus, Sólstafir, Fields of the Nephilim, Warduna and Enslaved, who joined forces for the final set of the evening to perform Skuggsjá, a Norse-minded work originally commissioned to honor the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution and first performed at the Eidsivablot festival last fall. To my knowledge, Roadburn 2015 is the second time it’s ever been played in public.
I did some wandering, as one will, but the day started with Virus, who played Roadburn in 2012 and were among the most talked-about bands that year. I knew I didn’t want to miss them again, so I got to the main hall well in time for their start, which unfolded quickly in a technically intricate post-black metal from the lineup of guitarist Carl-Michael “Czral” Eide, bassist Petter “Plenem” Berntsen and drummer Einar Sjursø. They came highly recommended, and while I heard The Black Flux, their second album, when it was released in 2008, that was also seven years ago and it seemed reasonable to expect they would’ve progressed even further along their dissonant path. Sure enough, while they dipped back to their debut, 2003’s Carheart, for “Be Elevator,” it was the material from 2011’s The Agent that Shapes the Desert that most stood out to me, “Chromium Sun,” which appeared early in the set, and “Dead Cities of Syria,” which followed soon after, as well as the new song that served as their closer, “Rogue Fossils,” which Eide teased as being included in their to-be-recorded fourth record, calling it “atonal.”
A challenging start to the day, but Virus‘ avant twists weren’t impossible to track. “Rogue Fossils” was downright catchy,” and the turns of “Lost Peacocks” from The Black Flux weren’t so sharp as to go off the rails. Obviously that’s a credit to the trio, whose sound is individualized enough that it could only have grown organically. If you were to start a band and say, “Okay, we’re going to sound like this,” wherein “this” is Virus, it would fall flat. Some things just need to grow on their own. It was an impressive showing, but I also wanted to catch Ivar Bjørnson‘s ambient project, BardSpec, which was making its debut on Stage01, the smallest of the rooms at the 013. Easy enough to wander over, and I managed the rare feat of getting in before it was too packed and found Bjørnson‘s experimental side in full display, a table set up on the stage with mixing boards, guitars — Enslaved‘s Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal sat in on guitar, and I mean “sat” literally; he was behind the table, largely hidden from view, sitting on a monitor wedge — a laptop and no doubt two or three other swirl-making doodads obstructed from view.
Decked out in a shirt the homemade-seeming designs of which reacted with the blacklights in the room to look like they were glowing in the dark and glasses with lights in them, Bjørnson soundscaped and built on waves of drone from Isdal‘s guitar, manipulating a live mix while video played on the screen behind. Formative, maybe, but ambitious, and Enslaved bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson showed up to watch as well. With a primary focus on atmospherics, it was maybe more of something you’d put and close your eyes to than something to watch on stage, but I almost always find the live creation of droning sounds interesting, to think of that as part of a performance. I stayed for a while and went back and forth to watch Virus finish their set, waiting for Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir to take the Main Stage, which they did — in force, by storm, or however else you want to say it. Like Virus, they played in 2012 and were much heralded, though they also played yesterday doing the live soundtrack to the Icelandic film Hrafninn Flýgur (“Flight of the Raven“), so either way, the Roadburn crowd was familiar with their wares.
Even after playing yesterday, though, Sólstafir drew what was at that point the biggest crowd I’d seen so far at the Main Stage. There were many Sólstafir shirts in the audience, and it didn’t take long for the band — who’ve had the same lineup since the turn of the century with guitarist/vocalist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, guitarist Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson, bassist Svavar Austman and drummer Guðmundur Óli Pálmason — to demonstrate how they earned such loyalty. Supporting last year’s fifth LP, Ótta (review here), they played “Dagmál,” album-opener “Lágnætti” and the title-track right off the bat, Tryggvason a consummate, emotive and charismatic frontman, wielding an e-bow for his guitar as if it was powered by his heart, but the whole band just dead on, through and through. I had been looking forward to seeing them for a while, and they more than justified the anticipation. The ending of “Ótta” alone was worth standing there, but I stayed put for just about the entire set and was treated to “Kukl” and the title-cut from 2011’s double-album, Svartir Sandar, as well as “Rismál” from Ótta, which was a highlight, and “Goddess of the Ages” from 2009’s Köld.
The latter showed off some blackened roots, but there was strong sense of performance running through the whole set, and as far back as Sólstafir dipped into their catalog, that tied the show together. A dynamic band, strong in mood and consistent in their songwriting, they also held down that stage, no questions whatsoever. In their energy and their presence, they owned it. Another album or two to follow-up Ótta and I would not at all be surprised to find Sólstafir return to Roadburn in a couple years even higher on the bill. I won’t get to see them on their US tour, which begins April 22 (dates here), but at least now I know what I’m missing. I can’t imagine what they’d be like in a smaller space — Reggies in Chicago, Red 7 in Austin, etc. — if Tryggvason would go into the crowd as he did for “Goddess of the Ages” before climbing back on stage to end out with more e-bow. They’re something special, and I got the vibe from their set that they’d likely be something special whatever the context in which one happened to be seeing them.
There was a break in between Sólstafir and Fields of the Nephilim, so I shuffled over to the merch area and picked up a couple odds and ends — mostly Live at Roadburn releases; Papir, Papermoon, Sula Bassana, and I had my eye on a YOB, The Unreal Never Lived Live at Roadburn 2012 LP that I might have to make mine on the morrow — and ran back to the hotel to drop off the goods, getting back in time for the legendary UK goth rockers to hit the Main Stage, carrying with them a host of classics I’m woefully out of my depth discussing, having never really followed vocalist Carl McCoy or the band. They were something unknown to me, which has an appeal on its own, and particularly following Sólstafir, it was easy to read a Fields of the Nephilim influence in retrospect, in headwear and style. I never gothdanced, but there were some shimmying shoulders to be seen for “Dawnrazor,” “Moonchild” and others, though with Dutch prog legends Focus shortly on in the Green Room, the Main Stage attendance thinned out noticeably, Fields of the Nephilim having gone on about 15 minutes late. They’re back tomorrow as the headliners on the Main Stage.
As I understand it, that’s because Walter is a huge fan, which is probably the best reason you’re ever going to see a band playing Roadburn. They don’t have a new record out, they’re not touring, but they’re here doing two sets because Walter, who is the head, figurehead and face of the festival, loves them. Who could argue? I’m not sure I’m a convert, but it gave me a chance to get some dinner, watch Focus through the door for a bit — I’d done similar with Icelandic black metallers Svartidauði earlier, and found them satisfyingly ripping — and still get back in time for the start of Wardruna, about whom I had zero preconceptions. Before they went on, two tiers were added to the stage, making room for the Norwegian outfit’s range of percussion, vocalists, and so on.
Very much led by Selvik — he was the only one on the lowest level of the stage while they played — they were nonetheless an orchestra. Atmospheres so thick you could swim in them, harmonies rang out in Norwegian, telling Viking tales of a history to which I can’t relate but set me off wondering what it might be like to be from a place with a traditionally homogeneous culture; how it might be to have a “team” in terms of nationality. Americans divide. That’s what we do. I don’t have any experience with a history like that into which Wardruna seemed to be tapping, Selvik with a variety of traditional instruments at hand. It’s easy to respect it, and the performance, if you’ll pardon my saying, was splendid. Soulful, rich, immersive and as complex and beautiful as anything I’ve heard at Roadburn in my seven trips here. But even “Americana” discounts entire portions of my nation’s population, so outside the language barrier, I had a bit of cultural wall standing between me and Wardruna‘s Viking paeans, though by the time they got around to the memorable dirge “Helvegen” from 2013’s Runaljod – Yggdrasil, I was ready to set sail on whatever hand-carved ship they might’ve had parked outside the 013. One could almost hear the lapping waves of the Norwegian Sea.
Over in the Green Room, it was a different kind of traditionalism playing out. Oslo-based trio Tombstones riffed loud, riffed early and riffed often — their tones a dense, earplug-vibrating lumber that grooved on vicious roll. I knew I liked that band from 2013’s Red Skies and Dead Eyes (review here), but I didn’t realize quite how much I liked that band. Guitarist Bjørn-Viggo Godtland and bassist Ole Christian Helstad shared vocal duties atop their own punishing low-tone and drummer Markus Støle‘s swinging crash, and with a hooded statue of Death on either side of the stage, they played some material I didn’t recognize — might be new? — but slammed home their sonic tonnage as though it was a thing to be directly hammered into the assembled skulls before them and headbanged with true doomly fuckall abandon. I hadn’t seen a band be heavy like that all day, so Tombstones were more than welcome, and the savage heft likewise. They were an act I was very, very glad to have seen at Roadburn.
Coming out of their set, I felt I had a better understanding of what they were about. Not that the album didn’t paint a coherent picture, but to actually see Tombstones made me better appreciate the intensity of their approach. “Intensity” would prove an operative word back in the main hall as well, with Enslaved getting ready to go on. Drummer Cato Bekkevold — buried, as ever, behind his kit — and keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen had already had their gear positioned in the back row, the highest of Wardruna‘s tiers, in anticipation of the Skuggsjá set still to come, but this was a special gig as well. Dubbed “House of Northern Gods,” it found Bjørnson, Kjellson and Isdal down front of the stage, leading the way through a setlist spanning all the way back to 1993’s Hordanes Land EP, with “Allf?ðr Oðinn” one of the several cuts chosen to represent Norse deities or their archetypes as the band tore through their discography with spoken samples between each song, and runes appearing and disappearing behind them on the Main Stage projection screen along with animations by the artist Costin Chioreanu.
No doubt there were many in attendance who’ve seen Enslaved more than I have, but I’ve seen Enslaved six or seven times by now — including at Roadburn — and this was hands-down the best show I’ve ever watched them give. Also the best setlist. For how tight they were, for the fact that after opening with “Frøyas Smykke” from 2000’s Mardraum (Beyond the Within), they launched into “Fusion of Sense and Earth” from 2006’s Ruun. Kjellson‘s rasp was in top form, and all five of them were raging full-on. It was, yes, intense, and it only became more so as “Fenris” from 1994’s Frost led into the more chorus-centered “The Watcher,” the closer from 2008’s Vertebrae, a one-two that brought to mind not only Enslaved‘s intended focus on Norse mythology for the set, but the progression they’ve undertaken in their 24 years together. For his part, Larsen now sounds better live singing the clean parts on a song like “The Watcher” or “Path to Vanir,” which followed, than he sounded in the studio when they were recorded, his confidence and prowess as a vocalist an ever-increasing factor in Enslaved‘s growth.
Put it this way: I saw Enslaved in New York about three weeks ago. Not only did I stay put for the entirety of their “House of Northern Gods” set, but I’m planning on watching them again tomorrow as well. They wrapped by bringing out an acoustic guitar for “Axioma,” which seemed intended to serve as a transition to Skuggsjá, though there was a changeover necessary and one of Selvik‘s stringed instruments had some technical trouble, so there was an added delay there too, the members of Enslaved and Wardruna both on stage at their appointed start time of 00.15, or thereabouts, but not actually getting going until after 00.30.
When they did start, Skuggsjá was both modern and deeply rooted. With Bjørnson and Selvik at the front of the stage, and a total of 11 people participating, they blended elements from both bands as well as some experimentalism and grand choruses into something beautiful and unique unto itself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it gets released as a Live at Roadburn album, because it deserves it. To describe the bare parts doesn’t really do justice to what was happening on stage. It was a moving late-night performance that, knowing it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I was glad to stick around and see.
With the second day down, there’s still plenty of Roadburn 2015 to come. More tomorrow, but until then, there are some more pics as well after the jump.
Some good Roadburn‘ll cure what ails you. Especially if what ails you — it’s what ails all of us, really — is the fact that the rest of your life isn’t Roadburn. Today was my busiest day, and it felt like it. A lot of back and forth. My dogs, such as they are, are barking. It was an early start and a late-enough finish, though it’s worth noting that the finish could’ve been even later. One has to find balance in these things. It’s a four-day fest. This was day one.
I sat on the backside of the photo-pit barrier before Sólstafir went on. They were opening the fest at 15.00, the same time Bell Witch were taking the stage at Het Patronaat — Roadburn means hard choices, always. I sat there, early, alone, tilted my head back and closed my eyes, took a breath in through my nose and let it out through my mouth. My last quiet moment, you see. I let it go, and a short time later, the Icelandic outfit took the stage, performing a live soundtrack to the 1984 film, also Icelandic, Hrafninn Flýgur (translated: When the Raven Flies). It would be my first time seeing them perform, and my first time seeing the movie, so I was probably at a significant disadvantage to some in the crowd, but essentially I was glad to be seeing the band at all, and knowing they’ve got a regular set scheduled for tomorrow, I went in with a pretty open mind. Whatever they were going to do, I was happy to be watching Sólstafir play. Not the most impartial of attitudes, but I dig the band.
Interestingly, a lot of what they did to accompany the movie, was rework their material as instrumental or atmospheric rock. Parts from last year’s Ótta (review here), the back end of the title-track — a landmark for the album if there ever was one — was distinct as the film went on, subtitles in English at the bottom of the big screen behind the band, who were spread out in a manner almost orchestral on the Main Stage. Maybe not surprising, but their sound fit pretty well with images of revenge-seeking Viking-types on horseback, distant mountains, stone weapons and the like. I’m still not entirely sure what was going on, but even to catch Sólstafir playing parts of their songs, I was glad to see it, and it made me look forward to their regular set. They took a bow when they were done, after the credits had rolled, and it seemed like they earned it. Over in the Green Room — the middle-size space, smaller than the 013‘s Main Stage or Het Patronaat, bigger than 013‘s Stage01 or the back of Cul de Sac where the stage is (got all that?) — Salem’s Pot were setting up for a buffet of riffs soon to unfold.
Swing, swing, swing. Swing like madmen, and they dressed the part too, all in masks, one in a dress and fishnets, like a troop of droogs gone stoner cult. The Swedish five-piece released their …Lurar ut dig på prärien debut LP (discussed here) last year on RidingEasy Records, and they had a new song for the Roadburn crowd as well as stuff from the album, which was more than solid in that heavy but kind of familiar way, but took on a different character live. Even apart from the theatrics, I guess so much on …Lurar ut dig på prärien was down to the rhythm, but on stage, the songs had different off-kilter melodies in the guitars, the dual vocals worked more dynamically, and the synth and effects swirl was a major factor in how it all came together. “Creep Purple” and “Nothing Hill” were rolling-groove highlights, and the shorter “Ego Trip,” released as the A-side of a 7″ last fall, was right on as well. I hate to think I had dismissed them, but in presence and performance, Salem’s Pot exceeded my expectations and not only had swing, swing, swing working in their favor, but a more complex approach overall than I saw coming.
A pleasant surprise, then, even though I kind of knew what they’d get up to. In the next room, the Main Stage was being set up for Floor. Now, I’ve seen Floor a few times at this point, and even since they put out their long-awaited studio comebacker Oblation (review here) about a year ago, and my general rule for Roadburn is that the bands I’ve already seen get low priority. Lower, anyway. The difference with Floor was that I’d been hearing all along about how excited people were to see them. I’m not 100 percent, but I think that until this tour, the trio of guitarist Anthony Vialon, drummer Henry Wilson (also of House of Lightning) and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks (also of Torche) had yet to play Europe since getting back together half a decade ago. That would make them, if nothing else, due.
The bomb-toners lived up to what one might’ve hoped for on the big stage. As it will, their 2002 self-titled featured prominently in the set, starting off with the one-two-three of “Scimitar,” “Return to Zero” and “Downed Star,” Brooks and Vialon pushing out now-classic riffs as Wilson seemed to drum with his whole body behind the kit. The guitarists kept a more quiet presence, Brooks here and there on stage, moving with the music but hardly thrashing about, and Vialon more or less still in a zen-through-volume kind of fashion, but the thrust of those songs is undeniable, and as they moved into “Dove” and “Night Full of Kicks” and Oblation cuts like “Trick Scene” and “Find Away” and “The Key,” they kept their momentum, fast or lumbering. “Tales of Lolita” is always a good time, and it worked well next to the thudding “The Quill,” and closing duo “Loanin'” and “Triangle Song” wrapped up to ensure that no bases were left uncovered. They weren’t, and yeah, I’ve seen Floor before, but there was no question doing so again was the right choice.
That said, there was no way in hell I was missing Spidergawd. Largely unknown in the States, and I think known mostly to those in Europe who’ve heard their two Stickman/Crispin Glover Records LPs to date — 2014’s Spidergawd (review here) and 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) — because of their affiliation with Norwegian prog magnates Motorpsycho, whose bassist, BentSæther,and drummer, Kenneth Kapstad, double in the more boogie-oriented outfit alongside saxophonist/vocalist Rolf Martin Snustad and guitarist/vocalist Per Borten, who is related to but not to be confused with a former Norwegian prime minister of the same name. Spidergawd were a must-see for me. One of several, but a must-see all the same, and they delivered all the way in the energy and upbeat feel of their songs. By the time they got down to “Fixin’ to Die Blues” from the new record, maybe three songs in, they had Het Patronaat eating out of their hands.
And rightly so. I saw a lot of music today and I’ll see a lot more before this weekend’s out, but I don’t know if anyone will give off a genuinely-happy-to-be-here vibe as much as Spidergawd did, still managing to both groove and be heavy while enjoying themselves. Their spirit was infectious, as are their hooks, and though it was hot in the church — damn hot — they had no letup, Snustad, Kapstad and Borten up front on the stage while Sæther played behind in a curious configuration, but one that obviously works for them. They’re a band more people should know, based solely on the merit of what they play and how they play it, never mind anyone’s pedigree or anything like that. They lit that room up, closing with the Thin Lizzy-style “Sanctuary” from Spidergawd II as if to portend even better things to come. They’ve been working quickly over the course of their first two records, and hopefully it’s not long before a third surfaces as well. The more the merrier.
I stopped by to see some of Primitive Man through the door of the Green Room before they finished. Unsurprisingly they were punishing as fuck. Floor had started something of a bang-bang-bang for the rest of my night, one to the next to the next, and I had planned on catching a bit of Uzala in the Green Room and moving on to the next set, but once they went on, the Boise, Idaho, three-piece held me in place. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were just what I was looking for. Guitarist Chad Remains, guitarist Darcy Nutt (also running her guitar through a bass rig, for extra low-end) and drummer Chuck Watkins had a new song in tow called “The Gallows,” and that moved a little faster than some of their more plodding material from 2014’s righteous Tales of Blood and Fire, songs like “Dark Days” and “Seven Veils,” but wherever they headed, they were just the right blend of beat-you-over-the-head heaviness in Remains and Nutt‘s tones, melody and lurching groove that I couldn’t have left even if I’d wanted to. They were not to be missed, in other words. Vocals were a little low, at least up front where I was standing, but Nutt has a powerful voice and as dense as those tones got — seriously, there were parts where they sounded like a machine grinding to a halt; I wondered how they’d restart it for the next measure — she cut through with little trouble and palpable soul.
Their set was a highlight of the day for me, all the more because I’d seen them before, knew what I was getting into and they still managed to surprise with how switched on they were. Remains shredded his solos in top form and had some technical trouble along the way that was fixed so promptly by the Green Room crew that I’m not even sure he noticed. Only complaint? No “Tenement of the Lost.” The closer from Tales of Blood and Fire that begins with a wash of feedback and culminates in one of the sweetest minimalist doom ballads my ears have heard in the last five years — it’s my go-to sad song — would’ve certainly been welcome, but honestly, I think the maximum-volume approach they took was probably a more practical call given the room. I could’ve gone to see Russian Circles on the Main Stage, or Thou at Het Patronaat, or Moaning Cities, whose merch I later looked for and could not find, in Stage01, but Uzala kept me where I was. They were a thrill to watch.
Somewhere in there, it would’ve made sense to have dinner. I did not. No time. Wovenhand would be on the Main Stage shortly, and I knew that was where I wanted to be. It was a return appearance for them and the second time I’d have seen them at Roadburn — never seen them anywhere else, come to think of it — but as I consider the set they played in 2011 a personal landmark, as in, “before I saw it” and “after I saw it,” I’d been very much anticipating their arrival. They were headliners this time along with Eyehategod, who’d play the Main Stage afterwards, but Wovenhand had the longer set, and put their 80 minutes to use in the most dynamic manner I saw all day, frontman David Eugene Edwards far to the left side of the stage while drummer Ordy Garrison had the middle, and guitarist/backing vocalist Chuck French and bassist Neil Keener anchored the right. Edwards is among the more charismatic stage presences I’ve ever seen, and though he said before they ended that they knew they were “out of their league” in coming back to Roadburn, I felt more like I was out of mine watching them.
Last year’s Refractory Obdurate (review here) featured prominently in their set, which opened with “Hiss,” arguably their heaviest work to-date. Ultimately, it would be a much different kind of intensity they brought than four years ago, when Edwards, seated, laid bare a deeply spiritual — religious, Christian — neo-folk, worldly in its arrangements and deeper than the eye could follow. Standing, the vocalist/guitarist still had a feather in his hat and still taunted or teased the audience in a kind of war-whoop, but he also softshoed while he played, and Wovenhand this time around was a much more stripped-down, rawer, meaner-toned outfit. Garrison‘s drums, aided now and then by some extra percussion by French, were a driving force, and the seething energy of their rhythm could be felt throughout the main hall, whether they happened to be raging at the time, as in “Hiss,” or engaged in a more quiet brooding, à la “Closer” from 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here). Opener “Long Horn” from that album was also a highlight, and I was amazed what a few years could do for band like that progressing in unexpected ways and pursuing different avenues of sound. “Good Shepherd” lacked nothing for its melody, but even that had a coinciding element of pummel.
It was to the point where, I knew I wanted to see Monolord. I’d wanted to see Monolord all along, and they were playing Het Patronaat at the same time Wovenhand were on the Main Stage — Roadburn giveth and Roadburn scheduleth conflicteth. I left Wovenhand and went down the block to the other venue just as Monolord were going on. How heavy were they? They were superlatively heavy. A monumental sonic impact that seemed to hit all at once, as though the guitar and bass were also kick drums. It was ridiculous, and the line outside the Patronaat was backed up the longest I’d seen it yet to get in, but as I stood there and watched them, I couldn’t take the fact that Wovenhand were playing Roadburn and I wasn’t in the same room where it was happening. Monolord slayed the place, absolutely. I saw people coming out of there when they were done and they looked even more in a daze than usual. But me, I had to back and watch Wovenhand finish. They were too good to let it pass. And when they were done, they came back out and did an encore. Fucking a.
My evening was more or less done and I knew it, but when Wovenhand finished their encore, I swung back to Het Patronaat to watch some of Kandodo, who are led by guitarist Simon Price of The Heads and were doing a special set with Robert Hampson of Loop sitting in as part of The Heads‘ residency. I didn’t know what that collaboration might bring, but it brought a fervent run of heavy psychedelia that was perfect for me to close out the night. They started in the dark, Price and Hampson on guitar on opposite sides of the stage, bassist Hugo Morgan (also The Heads) and drummer Wayne Maskell (also also The Heads) between, but the lights gradually came up as they jammed their way through a first song — read as “Kandy Rock” on the setlist — and into the next. Watching them made me want to buy many albums, I’ll say that, but time was getting on and I had a review to write, so I cut out after a bit and made my way back to the hotel. It was a mindbender of a first day, but I know there is still much more to come over this weekend.