The Machine Post New Video for “Coda Sun”; Offblast! out June 1

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the machine

Two weeks after the initial announcement of their awaited fifth album’s Summer release date, Dutch heavy rock trio The Machine unveil a new video from Offblast!, for the song “Coda Sun.” Directed by guitarist/vocalist David Eering, it’s a trippy performance clip captured at Elektra in Sliedrecht and is the premiere audio to be made public from the upcoming full-length, which will be out on Elektrohasch and finds the three-piece of Eering, bassist Hans van Heemst and drummer Davy Boogaard grooving easily around a fuzzed-out central riff, watery vocals trailing the turns as a jammy vibe pervades following an initial verse/chorus split, an extended guitar solo taking hold and carrying the track through the better part of its second half before a quick return to the verse provides a neat bookend reminding of the songwriting still at work no matter how far out The Machine are willing to let their wanderings roam.

I’ll have a review of the album at some point soon, but “Coda Sun” is a welcome first look from The Machine, whose evolution beyond 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) stands them out from the heavy psychedelic pack in terms of their chemistry and the fluidity of their jams. I don’t at all mind telling you I’ve been looking forward to the album for some time, and between its lengthy jams at the front and back and the flowing earliest Queens of the Stone Age vibes that persist between, it’s one that’s been well worth looking forward to. So, with the June 1 release date solidified and the promise of more to come, please find the video for “Coda Sun” below, and enjoy:

The Machine, “Coda Sun” official video

There were some technical difficulties during the mixing stage (a.k.a. the phasing phase), a number of various things had to be sorted out, band members were having babies, etc. In other words: it took a while but it’s finished. Needless to say, we’re very proud to present you the final details of Offblast!.

Although we had a lot of positive reactions after posting the April Fools version of the artwork, we still decided to proceed with Jakob Skøtt’s beautiful piece. Wait until you see the fold out vinyl cover. Speaking of vinyl: due to a popular demand for wax discs, the production time for the LP will take a couple of months. But hey, it will be summer by then so we’ll take it easy.

The Machine – Offblast!
Elektrohasch Records
CD – June 1, 2015
LP – August XX, 2015

01 – Chrysalis (J.A.M.) [16:25]
02 – Dry End [03:05]
03 – Coda Sun [05:34]
04 – Gamma [06:48]
05 – Off Course [06:36]
06 – Come To Light [12:11]

Recorded and produced again by David, we’re super happy with the final result. It is by far our best sounding album to date. And we’re most certainly not done yet.

The Machine on Thee Facebooks

The Machine’s BigCartel store

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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The Machine Announce Summer Release of New Album Offblast!

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the machine (Photo by Paul Verhagen)

If you were to go back and look at the two latest posts prior to this one about Dutch trio The Machine, you’d see that it was the 2015 and 2014 most anticipated albums lists, respectively. Their fifth full-length, the title of which has been revealed to be Offblast!, has now been given June (CD) and August (LP) release dates through Elektrohasch, and arriving three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), it serves as the longest stretch between outings The Machine have had since they made their debut with 2007’s Shadow of the Machine.

In that 2014 list linked above, I remarked that they were hosting a contest on Thee Facebooks for naming their next record and that my contribution was Come to Light, which sounded all spacey and psychedelic but was also a reference to The Big Lebowski, as was the title Calmer than You Are. They didn’t use it for the name of the album, obviously, but apparently they liked the idea well enough to use it for the final track. Very much looking forward to checking out the closer, “Come to Light,” and thanks to The Machine for the shout and giving me credit for the title.

Artwork by Jakob Skøtt of Causa Sui and details about the release follow, courtesy of the band:

the machine offblast

You guys got teased for what is it? Over a year? We can finally give you an update about our new album, which we already dubbed our very own Chinese Democracy.

There were some technical difficulties during the mixing stage (a.k.a. the phasing phase), a number of various things had to be sorted out, band members were having babies, etc. In other words: it took a while but it’s finished. Needless to say, we’re very proud to present you the final details of Offblast!.

Although we had a lot of positive reactions after posting the April Fools version of the artwork, we still decided to proceed with Jakob Skøtt’s beautiful piece. Wait until you see the fold out vinyl cover. Speaking of vinyl: due to a popular demand for wax discs, the production time for the LP will take a couple of months. But hey, it will be summer by then so we’ll take it easy.

The Machine – Offblast!
Elektrohasch Records
CD – June 1, 2015
LP – August XX, 2015

01 – Chrysalis (J.A.M.) [16:25]
02 – Dry End [03:05]
03 – Coda Sun [05:34]
04 – Gamma [06:48]
05 – Off Course [06:36]
06 – Come To Light [12:11]

Recorded and produced again by David, we’re super happy with the final result. It is by far our best sounding album to date. And we’re most certainly not done yet.

We’re also in the middle of editing a music video for the track Coda Sun, you can expect that one within a week or two.

Oh and remember the album title contest we once had? That was just for our own fun. We already had this title. HA! JJ Koczan sort of won the thing though… Thanks for Come To Light!

https://www.facebook.com/themachine.nl/
http://www.themachineweb.com/
elektrohasch.de

The Machine, Live at Keep it Low, Oct. 19, 2013

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Cigale, Cigale: The Time of Harvest Begun

Posted in Reviews on May 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

cigale cigale

It is a humble start in just about everything but its sound. Cigale‘s self-released, self-titled debut full-length is flush with gorgeous melodies, resonant soulfulness and an airy psychedelic sensibility that’s prone to taking off in one direction or another but never loses itself completely or drifts farther from the song than it wants to. The Dutch four-piece craft an engaging sweetness throughout, the intertwining vocals of guitarist/keyboardist Romy Endeman, bassist Roel Imfeld and guitarist Rutger Smeets working fluidly to provide not only variety, but moments of engrossing richness no less lush than the guitar or bass tones. One might recognize Smeets or drummer Hans Mulders from taken-too-soon next-gen fuzz hopefuls Sungrazer, and Smeets‘ guitar retains its Gary Arce-worthy sound, but Cigale is a much different band with a much different dynamic, and what they’re doing across the seven songs/37 minutes of their first album is immediately their own. You can draw a line from one otherworldly sensibility to another, but it’s an easier and more satisfying listen to take songs like “Grey Owl,” “Random Day” and “Eyes Wide Shut” as they are rather than trying to fit them somewhere they don’t want to be. Endeman‘s strength as a vocalist makes her a major presence throughout — the Celtic flair she brings to “Eyes Wide Shut” over Mulders‘ far-back percussion and the subtle but building wash of cymbals, toms and guitars stands that song out as a highlight — and if a challenge before Cigale was establishing a personality of their own apart from what those who heard Smeets and Mulders‘ might expect coming into a new band featuring the both of them, then it’s a challenge Cigale meet well across their self-titled’s flowing, hypnotic span.

They open quietly, with the fitting melodic hum that eases the listener into “Grey Owl,” warm bassline from Imfeld and what sounds like brushed if it’s not drumbeat from Mulders arriving as a precursor to the dreamy guitar tone and Endeman‘s vocals for the first verse. Her command is palpable immediately amid the echoing lines, but backed by Imfeld and Smeets, she is hardly carrying the song by herself. “Grey Owl” has an exploratory feel, lyrics repeating in the second half to lead the way into an open section of atmospheric guitar interplay and tom runs from Mulders, who flourishes in Cigale‘s quiet spaces as well as its louder moments, the track moving toward a still-understated apex that drops out to make way for one of the record’s defining hooks in “Steeplechase,” a somewhat moodier atmosphere emerging, but the tones remain bright as the vocals run through a processor at first then step out for a more forward, upbeat verse and chorus. Ultimately, the structures of the first two cuts are similar, but the impression they give is much different between vocal arrangements, general lushness and ambience, Cigale using their spaciousness and songwriting well to bring the listener into the album and not so much try to hold attention with cloying hooks as to slow everything down so that attention doesn’t wander in the first place. The subsequent “Feel the Heat” might be the strongest piece included — it’s also the longest at 5:54 — offering a particularly soulful progression with Smeets‘ guitar rumbling in a vast, open movement behind, the bass and drums tying the whole thing together so subtly that one almost forgets there is a build underway. Some improvised-sounding guitar weaving stretches out over an instrumental finish that’s less crescendo than thematic exploration, and a few seconds’ silence stands between “Feel the Heat” and “Random Day,” the centerpiece of Cigale and its quietest, most contemplative-feeling moment.

cigale

Percussion, which might be keyboard-programmed initially, is intermittent, guitars quietly noodling, bass minimal, cymbals washing every now and again, but Endeman‘s vocals croon over a quiet key line and that turns out to be more than enough to carry the soft flow of “Random Day,” which picks up in the guitar, adds some background singing, but never comes close to the rhythmic push even of “Feel the Heat,” which seems a world away about three minutes later. No matter how far out or spacious Cigale get, there seems to be one element responsible for providing the foundation — much to their debut’s benefit, that element changes — and on “Random Day,” it’s the keyboard built upon, but “Harvest Begun,” which follows, offers another shift. The shortest song on Cigale at 3:54 and arguably as close as the four-piece come to heavy psychedelia, it offers another album-defining hook and a satisfying lockstep of organ sounds and bass initially before opening its fluid motion and shifting into a wash, first of vocals, then lead guitar, coming to as much of a head as anything does across the record, but still ending quietly and giving way to the peaceful plucked notes, slide ambience, cymbal wash and percussion of “Eyes Wide Shut,” a linear build playing out in probably the most direct a-to-b included, the earlier structural similarity cast off in favor of a more stark turn, Endeman and the backing vocals topping the ending with suitable, tasteful energy, leaving closer “Pieces” to develop that momentum and finish out the album with all the rhythmic swing of “Harvest Begun,” but a more patient progression overall, unfolding through keys and guitar as the rhythm section sets the bed for the jam that winds “Pieces” to its last fadeout, the final statement of Cigale‘s Cigale finding a balance between catchy songcraft and (purposeful) instrumental meandering. The soothing atmosphere of that ending is as much easing out as “Grey Owl” was easing in, and it demonstrates the prowess either conscious or not of Cigale for creating an undercurrent of structure for their sonic expanse. As they continue to develop sound-wise, that’s likely to act as the keys, guitar, bass and drums do throughout the tracks of Cigale — as a foundation from which absorbing, varied and colorful explorations are launched. For now, it serves as one of 2015’s most promising debuts, and that seems like plenty to ask.

Cigale, “Feel the Heat”

Cigale on Thee Facebooks

Cigale on Bandcamp

Cigale on YouTube

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Roadburn 2015: Sets from Minsk, Lazer/Wulf, Coltsblood, Domo, Eagle Twin, Agusa, Mortals and Sun Worship Available to Stream

Posted in audiObelisk on April 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

coltsblood-4-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

You know, I went back and looked. Last year, it wasn’t until May 21 that the first batch of audio streams from Roadburn 2014 surfaced. Here we are, it’s April 30. We’re not even a full month removed from Roadburn 2015, and already eight sets are out from the festival. Kudos to Marcel van de Vondervoort, who no doubt will spend the next few months going deeper into the heart of Roadburn — at least from a musical standpoint — than anyone else as he continues to mix the live recordings and make them ready for streaming. The expediency of the arrival of the first audio is just one more example of how special this fest is. Hell, reviews are still being posted.

I’ve been kind of jealous seeing those reviews, actually. Part of covering the fest in the way I do — writing the review of the show that same night and posting it before the next day starts — sort of robs me of being able to step back and really look at the bigger picture of Roadburn and particularly what it means to me and of being able to express that, whether for fatigue or just being so close to it at the time. It’s a tradeoff, and ultimately I think the point gets across anyway perhaps even with that process as a part of it. Maybe I just feel like it all needs to be said again afterwards.

Part of the Roadburn after-experience is listening to these streams and hearing what you missed. To that end, I’m very much looking forward to digging into Minsk, Eagle Twin and Sun Worship. Whatever you caught or didn’t, I hope you enjoy:

Agusa – Live at Roadburn 2015

Coltsblood – Live at Roadburn 2015

Domo – Live at Roadburn 2015

Eagle Twin – Live at Roadburn 2015

Lazer/Wulf – Live at Roadburn 2015

Minsk – Live at Roadburn 2015

Mortals – Live at Roadburn 2015

Sun Worship – Live at Roadburn 2015

Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here.

Roadburn’s website

Marcel Van De Vondervoort on Thee Facebooks

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Wino Wednesday: The Obsessed, “Endless Circles/Lunar Womb” Live at Roadburn 2012

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

happy wino wednesday

Up until Spirit Caravan got rolling again last year at Desertfest, the Roadburn festival seemed to be the home for a Wino reunion. In addition to Wino playing there with the Wino trio and Shrinebuilder in 2009 and 2011, it was where the Wino-fronted Saint Vitus first came back in 2009 and where The Obsessed launched their reunion in 2012. I was fortunate enough to be there, and while The Obsessed has always been the most straightforward, sans-frills brand of doom, the excitement in the room was palpable for the trio’s return, Scott “Wino” Weinrich on guitar/vocals, bassist Guy Pinhas and drummer Greg Rogers coming together on stage for the first time in more than a decade and a half. I don’t mind saying it was one of the best days I’ve had at Roadburn to date.

Their tour continued on and The Obsessed continued to play shows — Doom Shall Rise, tours here and there, Maryland Deathfest, etc. — with Pinhas departing to sign onto Victor Griffin‘s In~Graved for a time and then ultimately split with that group as well. Weinrich and Rogers kept The Obsessed rolling with Reid Raley of Deadbird on bass, but the current status of the band is kind of up in the air. The aforementioned Spirit Caravan reunited in 2014, Saint Vitus continued to tour, Wino joined forces with Conny Ochs for a second time this year. Rogers, meanwhile, drums on Goatsnake‘s upcoming Black Age Blues — their first album in 15 years — and Raley and Deadbird hit the studio this past year to record a new full-length, which would be their first since 2008’s Twilight Ritual, an underrated molasses crawl of doomed Southern blues.

Not to say they couldn’t pick up The Obsessed again and get out at some point, but everybody seems pretty busy for the moment. Fortunately their live shows for the reunion were well documented, right from the start. The clip below is “Endless Circles” and “Lunar Womb” a one-two punch from The Obsessed‘s 1991 sophomore outing, taped live at Roadburn in 2012, and I think it says a lot about what the band’s straight-ahead appeal is in the first place.

Hope you enjoy:

The Obsessed, “Endless Circles/Lunar Womb” live at Roadburn 2012

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Death Alley Interview & Track Premiere: Into the Heart of Black Magick Boogieland

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on April 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

death alley

[Please note: Click play above to hear “Black Magick Boogieland.” Death Alley release Black Magick Boogieland May 19 on Tee Pee Records. Preorders are available through Tee Pee, on iTunes or on Amazon.]

It’s had many names, but ultimately, Black Magick Boogieland is a familiar idea. For Sleep, it was their Holy Mountain. For George Clinton, his Mothership. For Motörhead, a certain card out of the deck. It’s that thing or that place that represents who a band is or where they feel they’re coming from, existentially as much as sonically. For Amsterdam four-piece Death Alley, the last year and a half has found them locked in recording dungeons, finding birth and rebirth onstage and in the studio, hitting the road hard, reveling in good times and pulling together through the strange moments that seem tiny at the time but ultimately help us all discover who we are.

Death Alley‘s Black Magick Boogieland — almost impossibly — lives up to the righteousness of its title. Yes, it’s over the top at times and it knows that and sees the value in it, but most importantly, it’s a work that finds cohesion in the black, the magic(k) and the boogie. Of the various times I’ve written about the band on this site, almost each one finds them with a different genre tag, from protothrash to retro heavy punk to heavy rock and roll. Truth is, they’re all of those things, and the multi-faceted sound of their debut, from the reworked versions of “Over Under” and “Dead Man’s Bones” which were also the A and B sides to their first single (review here), to the 12-minute space-rocking closer death alley black magick boogieland“Supernatural Predator,” is tied together by the energy with which the material is delivered and the won-over knowledge of what they want to accomplish stylistically and in terms of their songwriting.

Born out of the demise of three acts — punkers Gewapend BetonThe Devil’s Blood and Mühr — Death Alley brings elements together from each into a served-raw blend of fist-pumping, sonically-weighted classic-styled heavy. The album is neither metal nor punk but has elements crucial to both, and when it pushes beyond the roughneck shuffle of “Bewildered Eyes” and “The Fever” into the groovier roll of “Golden Fields of Love,” somehow it not only makes sense, but becomes utterly necessary. The elements at root in its creation might be primitive, and Black Magick Boogieland might seem that way at first listen as well, but there isn’t a level on which one might approach the work as a whole that it doesn’t fulfill, pulling you back to when rock and roll was irony-free, guns blazing, ass shaking and seemed able to hit you directly on a skeletal level.

To herald their debut’s May 19 release through Tee Pee Records, I spoke to all four members of Death Alley — vocalist Douwe Truijens, guitarist Oeds Beydals, bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Ming Boyer — about some of the moments that have shaped the band to this point, among them playing Roadburn in 2014, touring hard alongside their soon-to-be labelmates in The Shrine, recording the first single with Guy Tavares (Orange Sunshine) at his Motorwolf studio in Den Haag, bringing in Beydals‘ former bandmate, ex-The Devil’s Blood vocalist Farida Lemouchi, to sing on “Supernatural Predator,” and more, and the result is one of the best conversations I’ve had the pleasure to host here in a long time.

All told, it wound up coming awfully close to 6,900 words, so there’s plenty to dig into, but I think the story (and stories) these guys have to tell is well worth the time. The complete Q&A is after the jump. I sincerely hope you enjoy.

Read more »

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ROADBURN 2015 AFTERBURNER: A Blink of an Eye

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Roadburn 2015 banner. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.13.15 — 00.21 — Sun. Night — Hotel

I did manage to get back to sleep this morning for a little bit after I finished writing the review and sorting pictures for last night, but first I went downstairs and took full advantage of the hotel breakfast. You get one free, and I wasn’t saving it or anything, I just hadn’t been up when it was served. Well, today I was. It opened at seven, I’d been up since four, so yeah. No problem. Some eggs, cheese, fruit, juice, bacon and sausage later, I was a new man. Who needed sleep. I got maybe half an hour before I needed to be up and out again to get to the 013 office and finalize the last issue of the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, Thee cover.with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman.

We did it, put the issue out and everything. I folded paper like a champ and have the ink stain on my edge-flattening fingernail to prove it. Not the only mark Roadburn would leave on me today, but we’ll get there in a bit. In the meantime, check out the last Weirdo Canyon Dispatch of Roadburn 2015 here. Go on and give it a read.

Today was the Afterburner, which is Roadburn‘s traditional way of saying, “Sooner or later, you have to get back to real life.” It’s a transitional day. Less stages, fewer running back and forth, fewer people around, and so on. Band-wise, it’s usually a little more of Roadburn‘s roots: Heavy rock, psych, doom, though of course like the fest proper, the Afterburner has branched out stylistically as well.

One didn’t have to look much farther than Gnaw Their TonguesClaudio Simonetti’s Goblin or headliners Anathema — who, since they were playing a special set spanning their career, both fit a doomed aesthetic and pushed beyond it — to see that. Still, it was underrated New York space/psychedelic outfit White Hills who startedArgus (Photo by JJ Koczan) the afternoon off at 15.00 on the Main Stage. An East Coast equivalent in my mind for L.A.’s Farflung — who also did quite well at Roadburn once upon a 2012 — they remain a much more popular band in Europe than in their hometown. So be it. For me, a little space is almost always welcome, but I wanted even more to see Pennsylvania’s Argus open up in the Green Room.

Riding the line between doom and traditional metal, the Brian “Butch” Balich-fronted Argus launched their set with “By Endurance We Conquer,” “No Peace Beyond the Line,” and “The Hands of Time are Bleeding,” the first three songs from their third and latest full-length, 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here). The crowd knew the songs and sang along to the hooks, particularly in “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the five-piece of Balich, guitarists Jason Mucio and Dave Watson, bassist Justin Campbell and drummer Kevin Latchaw making the best case I’ve yet heard for their songwriting. With the two guitars, driving, forward rhythms, roots doom and NWOBHM-precision, Balich‘s powerful voice in addition to that level of craftsmanship, it was no challenge to see the appeal of Argus, and the Green Room certainly got into it. Heavy metal might be a subculture, but it’s one that crosses an awful lot of national borders, and I doubt if there’s any fist-pumping headbanger types who couldn’t get down with Argus. They’re as classically-styled as classically-styled gets, and they delivered in force at Roadburn.Argus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They were dug into the particularly Trouble-y “Pieces of Your Smile” when I made my way over to the main hall for Chicago instrumental four-piece Bongripper. Now, it would’ve been awfully nice to see those dudes kick the living crap out of their latest album, 2014’s Miserable (review here), way back on Thursday night, but they were going on late and, well, you know the story, with the typing and the clacky-clacky and whatnot. Fine. No way in gosh darn heck was I going to miss my second chance to see guitarists Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham, bassist Ron Petzke — with whom I shared a cab to Tilburg from Schiphol Airport on Wednesday — and drummer Daniel O’Connor bludgeon all in their path with volume and raw, plodding riffs. With a formidable stack of amps and cabinets behind them, Bongripper tore into a swath of material, a crowd having shown up early to get a good spot for the punishment they knew was in store.

Seeing Bongripper live is like being swallowed by sound. Like if sound had a mouth — maybe the mouth from the front cover of Miserable would suffice, if you need an image — and that mouth ate you. A beastly barrage of riffs and tonal thunder, all of this maddening heft pushed onto the audience in an unrelenting assault. They ended by wailing on their instruments Bongripper (Photo by JJ Koczan)in time to O’Connor‘s crashes, a kind of violent assault on their equipment that fed into the thick wall of noise built up, the packed Main Stage room nodding in unison. The band stopped short of taking a bow when they were done, but no one would’ve been able to say they didn’t deserve to do so. It’s a primal element of doom and sludge and stoner riffing that Bongripper feeds into, fattens, and then slaughters, but the grungus is mighty in what they do and spread out on the wide stage, it was as much an art project as a wanton beatdown. Even their feedback was a weapon.

I’d run into Ohio’s Lo-Pan earlier in the day. They’re on tour with Abrahma now, have been for a couple nights, and like a lot of US heavy bands who come to tour Europe for the first time, I think they’ve been impressed at the show culture. People show up, bands aren’t treated like crap, and it’s a generally cared-for situation, something precious done in a general public interest. The crew workingLo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan) at the 013 as a part of Roadburn are second to none in professionalism or hospitality, and so it seemed reasonable to me the band would be singularly impressed. All the better for the show, which is both the intent and precisely how it worked out when they went on in the Green Room at 18.30. They were clashing with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, but I’ve been itching for Lo-Pan to make a debut at Roadburn since they put out Salvador (review here) early in 2011. Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t miss them anyway. I’ll go see Lo-Pan just about any night of the week, but I knew this one was going to be special.

Of course, it was. “El Dorado” from Salvador opened and “Regulus” from last fall’s rager Colossus (review here) followed, the band immediately on fire. It was my first time seeing them with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, who came aboard in Nov. 2014 to fill the role formerly held down by Brian Fristoe. A new Lo-Pan, in a new place with new energy and even a new song in the set, there was nothing not to like. They were so tight it hurt With vocalist Jeff Martin set up in back behind drummer Jesse Bartz as per usual, Zambrano on stage left and bassist Scott Thompson on stage right, Lo-Pan were a heavy rock and roll force. Zambrano brought a little showmanship and style to the riffs and solos, and where Bartz and Thompson have always hit it hard on stage and the guitar was a more subdued presence (nothing against that whatsoever), having Zambrano headbanging away, tapping on the frets while throwing his pick-hand behind him, tossingLo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan) a leg up on the monitor and so on both reinforced the energetic character of the band, as well as the material, and made it all the more exciting.

Speaking of headbanging, I did. It was among the best sets I’ve seen Lo-Pan play — lights, sound, performance, you name it — and yeah, I was getting into it a bit. I wound up banging my head into one of the monitors at the front of the stage early into the set. No blood, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ve got a bump sticking out of my forehead now and I expect by the time I get off the plane tomorrow in Boston it’ll be a good-size bruise. Easy enough to laugh it off and keep going, even if it’s a little sore when I raise my eyebrows, which I apparently do all the time. That’s how you find out that kind of thing.

Anyway, point is it was so, so, so, so good to see Lo-Pan. Not only because they’re one of American heavy rock’s best bands — I’ve called them the finest in US fuzz for pretty much the last four years — and not only because they killed it and put on a stellar show, but because they did it here, as a part of Roadburn 2015, looking across the stage at each other and challenging themselves to play better, harder than they have before. Their first European tour comes after countless US slogs and will hopefully lead to more, but it seems likely to me they’re going to remember this one, and I’m glad to have stayed through “Eastern Seas” and “The Duke” to watch them hammer down their victory. I’d been looking forward Abrahma (Photo by JJ Koczan)to it since they were announced, and it warmed my cold, dead heart to see them kick so much ass.

Their tourmates from Paris and Small Stone labelmates, Abrahma, were going on shortly down the block at Cul de Sac, which is right in the stretch of bars on Heuvelstraat adjacent to the 013 that for I don’t even remember how many years now I’ve been calling Weirdo Canyon (hence the Dispatch). The relatively small club is where the Hard Rock Hideout was held on Wednesday (review here), and I like the room a lot, so it seemed perfect to follow Lo-Pan with Abrahma and head over. Already they were on stage when I got there, dug into what turned out to be their soundcheck, but with the lights up, I snapped a few pictures just in case when they actually started they decided to play in the dark, as pretty much every band I’ve ever seen in that space has done. Abrahma, however, dared to be different.

In keeping, their upcoming second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review/track stream here), does likewise, pushing into moodier, somewhat less psychedelic territory than their 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here). Their set, which was actually just about split between the two records and leaned slightly toward the new one,Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan) was surprisingly heavy. Very riffy, very big in tone. Not quite to the level of Floor-syle bombdropping, but not far off either. As a frontman, Sebastien Bismuth was charismatic and engaging, banging his head harder than many and managing not to injure himself in the process unless you count an almost certain sore neck tomorrow, and joined by drummer Fred Quota for this tour along with bassist Guillaume Colin and guitarist Nicolas Heller, their sudden bursts of weighted groove hit with an impressive, genuine impact. As their songwriting continues to grow and become more complex, I’ll be interested to see how that impact evolves.

A prudent move would’ve been to stay longer, but even though it’s the AfterburnerRoadburn means time to move. Anathema would soon be on the Main Stage, playing a special set allotted 130 minutes that was being called “Resonance” and which started with the eponymous “Anathema” from last year’s Distant Satellites and working backwards through their discography. The Cavanagh brothers, Vincent (lead vocals, guitar), Danny (guitar, backing vocals) and Jamie (bass) were down front of the stage with drummer Daniel Cardoso and keyboardist/programmer John Douglas on risers behind, and over the course of their time, current vocalist Lee Douglas made intermittent appearances — a striking one for “A Natural Disaster” lit, at the band’s request, only by cellphone lights from the crowd, as seen on the cover of their 2013 DVD, Universal — and former bassist Duncan Patterson and former vocalist Darren White both showed up the farther along Anathema went, deeper Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan)and deeper still into their 25-year history.

They’re doing a short “Resonance” tour, are Anathema, but Roadburn 2015 was the first night, and the first time White had been on stage with the band in 20 years. Something special, no doubt. Here’s a fun fact, though: I love that band. Along with Amorphis, who were playing through the main hall P.A. just before Anathema went on, Anathema were one of the acts that led me into exploring underground metal, and ultimately — so the story goes — selling my soul to Tony Iommi at the expense of career, well-being and, this week, sleep. No complaints. But while Anathema are a pivotal band for me personally, a landmark act without whom I genuinely don’t believe I’d be the same person, I also fall into a rarer category of Anathema fan. It’s not their early stuff that I got into back when I was in high school. Not 1995’s Pentecost III, from which “Kingdom” and “Mine is Yours to Drown In (Ours is the New Tribe)” were aired at the start of what would be a third individual component set in the longer runtime, and not even the album The Silent Enigma, which followed it that same year, powerful though “Sunset of Age” and “A Dying Wish” were.

I have those records, and I dig those records a lot, but what got me into Anathema is their often-overlooked middle period: 1998’s Alternative 4, 1999’s Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster. When I’m reaching for an Anathema album — as I invariably do in a depressive Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan)fit as I wallow in my own filth and worthlessness because I’m just the right kind of emotional cripple that music offers comfort I apparently can’t allow myself to feel otherwise; whoops — those are what I go for, and when Vincent led the way into “Pressure” from A Fine Day to Exit and “One Last Goodbye” from Judgement tonight, those were the songs that had me tearing up. No bullshit, bringing Darren White out was incredible. Clearly charged up to be on stage with the band in the context of headlining at Roadburn 2015, he settled in and nailed the dramatic chorus of “Kingdom” — shades of Fields of the Nephilim influence showing themselves — and led the band through the finish of their professionally polished but still emotionally potent set, “Sleepless” from Anathema‘s 1993 debut, Serenades, closing out.

This was the Anathema show I’ve been dreaming of, covering their whole career, but their mid-period, pre-prog, post-doom, was what hit me the hardest, the first four cuts from Alternative 4 played with Patterson on bass to morose and atmospheric effect. They could’ve done a third hour, easily, and I might have The Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan)stayed for it if they did.

As it was, time was ticking away. One more stop to make, and it was back in the Green Room of the 013 for Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass, whose 2014 self-titled debut (review here) has only grown in my esteem since it was released. They’re a reminder of home for me, the East Coast, New York and all that, so they were perfect to close out my own little version of Roadburn. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Morgan McDaniel are on tour with Hypnos, who’d wrapped a bit earlier at the Cul de Sac, and though I knew I wouldn’t be there the whole time, I wanted to catch at least a bit of their sunshine boogie to help make the thought of walking out of Roadburn 2015, taking off my wristband and coming back to the hotel to put this last review together not quite such a bum-out. By the time they were through “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” and into a newer song I didn’t know, a bum-out was out of the question. Nothing but good vibes the whole way as I said a few quick goodbyes andThe Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan) walked down the stretch of Weirdo Canyon, a little quieter Sunday than Saturday, but by no means abandoned. I owe The Golden Grass one for that.

Strange to think that “tomorrow” (read: in three hours) when I get up to shower early and head out, it’ll be to the airport instead of the 013 office to bang out another issue of the Weirdo Canyon DispatchRoadburn develops its own culture so quickly each year, and the more and more I’m fortunate enough to come see Tilburg in the springtime, the more it feels like home.

I’ll have another post up to close out this series and say thanks and whatnot, so until then, I’ll just say the same thing I always say: More pics after the jump and thanks for reading.

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ROADBURN 2015 DAY THREE: Return to the Lake of Madness

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

roadburn 2015 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.11.15 — 04.00 — Late Sat./Early Sun. — Hotel

It was a misguided attempt at sleep that led me to bed after watching Coltsblood to round out my night. Didn’t work beyond the apparently standard three hours, which is what I’ve gotten give or take each night since Wednesday. When I lie down, my head hears parts of songs, David Eugene Edwards saying, “You don’t know me from Adam, down here in the lamp light,” or Sæþór Sæþórsson of Sólstafir‘s banjo in the back half of “Ótta,” among others. One day bleeds into the next. I dragged ass most of the afternoon and evening, to be perfectly honest, and given the tossing and turning I’ve just done and the fact that I’m up two hours before I set the alarm, I expect the trend to continue. weirdo canyon dispatch sat coverStill, when you’re here, you have to keep going. There’s more to see and more to hear.

We finished the third issue of this year’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch on schedule, folding and all. It’s online here if you get the chance to check it out.

The weather, which had been gorgeous enough to boast some restorative effect of its own, has turned. I could just as easily call it “yesterday,” but for the purposes of review, I hope you’ll allow the editorial decision to keep current: “Today.” The weather turned today. As though it knew UndersmileUrfaust, and Fields of the Nephilim were all on the bill and decided “enough of this sunny shit, let’s get down to business for real.” It cleared up later, but was still colder than it had been, and early in the afternoon, I looked outside at one point and saw waves of rain coming down. That was right after Coma Wall, which, you know, fair enough.

Playing as a five-piece with their usual two couples plus a cellist, the mostly-acoustic alter-ego of Undersmile started my day off at Stage01. I got there early, which you have to do, and I wasn’t the only one. Taz Corona-Brown, Olly Corona-Brown, Hel Sterne and Tom McKibbin, plus Tom Greenway on the cello spread out over the stage, McKibbin behind, pulling double-dutyComa Wall (Photo by JJ Koczan) on drums and banjo. With Taz and Hel in dresses and quickly sliding into the sort of drawling dual vocals that are a trademark of both Coma Wall and Undersmile, there was a theatrical element to it, but the thickness of the atmosphere spoke for itself as they hit into “Summer” from their 2013 Wood & Wire split with, who else?, their other band. Off to the side of the stage, Olly sat on bass facing the others, kind of overseeing the whole thing with one leg crossed over the other. He looked managerial, but the low end filled the room well, and Coma Wall eased my way into the Roadburn Saturday better than I could’ve asked.

I’d still like to hear them take on “Rotten Apple” or “Don’t Follow” — something off Jar of Flies — which I think they’d nail in the vocals and really be able to darken the mood on, but wouldn’t you know they weren’t taking requests. Couldn’t argue, anyway. Over in the main hall, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin were well into a live soundtrack to 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, which played on the big screen behind them, audio and all. I saw them here for a bit last year, and sure enough parts of the score were recognizable from that set as well as the movie. Like with Sólstafir‘s live soundtrack on Thursday, there were spaces without any music at all, but of course the difference is that Goblin also wrote the score originally, so to see them do it live to the film was something extra special.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin (Photo by JJ Koczan)Perhaps most impressive about it was the timing, which they nailed. Keeping pace to scene changes and the film’s quick cuts, they ran through various pieces and themes, the quick bursts for tension as everything goes to crap with all the zombies at the mall, the biker gang showing up and bringing Tom Savini, and so on. It’s been a while since I saw it, and I’d forgotten how many classic lines there are in the film, about Hell being full and the dead walking the earth, and “Operator dead, post abandoned.” There were some times where the balance of audio was lopsided one way or another — hard to match up a film and a live band on stage — but it smoothed out, and I can’t imagine it was many attendees’ first time seeing the movie. That said, I’ve never watched Suspiria, which Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin are scoring as part of the Afterburner, so who knows? When they were done, the four-piece came to the middle of the stage from their spread-out positions, two on one side, two on the other, the middle open to allow the eye to watch the movie, and took a bow. A few seconds before, the credits rolled past with their name listed as The Goblins. So be it.

Enslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan)Next up on the Main Stage was a second go for Enslaved. I tried before they went on to calculate in my head how many Enslaved-related sets there were this year in comparison to 2010, when they were the official artist-in-residence and did sets with offshoot projects like Trinacria and their collaboration with Shining. Between their set last night, the Skuggsjá collaboration with Wardruna that followed, guitarist Ivar Bjørnson ‘s BardSpec set and today, I think they might have 2010 beat. I’m not sure if Bjørnson curating with Wardruna‘s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik counts for double or anything — you’d have to get into percentages and it proved too much for my feeble brain to take. In any case, today’s Enslaved set focused much more on newer material. Fair after last night. The recently-issued In Times (review pending) featured heavily with “Thurisaz Dreaming,” “Building with Fire,” “In Times” and “Daylight,” but there was still room to dip back to 2001’s Monumension for “Convoys to Nothingness,” or 2003’s progressive turning point Below the Lights for “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth,” and a balance was struck between the older and newer.

Further distinguishing today from yesterday, though, were the guests. When they got to “Daylight,” bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson announced they’d be joined by SelvikAðalbjörn Tryggvason from Sólstafir and Per Wiberg, now in CandlemassEnslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan) but known also for his work in Opeth and Spiritual Beggars. The three contributed on vocals at the beginning and end of the song, and Selvik came back out for a longer, soulful guest spot on “Convoys to Nothingness,” while Enslaved proper delivered again the kind of set that brought the crowd back from last night, “Isa” tossed in as a bonus and a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song” with more guest guitar included to add even more intrigue. It was not as intense as Friday had been, their newer material offering a more intricate but decidedly less raging style, but they handled it professionally, and seemed to be having as much fun as the audience while they ran through their second of the weekend’s two full sets. The Heads, who followed, are the official artists-in-residence this year, but Enslaved always seem to find welcome at Roadburn.

Particularly having missed The Heads when they played at Het Patronaat last night — Roadburn means hard choices — I knew I wanted to see them today. They were supposed to be here last year, and played in 2008, but with Walter doing live visuals The Heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)and the four-piece of lead guitarist Paul Allen, guitarist/vocalist Simon Price, bassist Hugo Morgan and drummer Wayne Maskell (the latter three who played as Kandodo on Thursday and joined forces with Loop‘s Robert Hampson at Het Patronaat), it was unmissable. A righteous set boasted jam-laden takes on “Gnu,” “Legavaan Satellite,” “U33″ and “Spliff Riff,” the effect positively molten as they enacted space rock supremacy and handed Roadburn its ass over the course of 75 minutes. For me, they were the day’s hypnotic highlight, and I don’t think I was the only one. The crowd cheered as they went into and out of jams, builds paying off and starting anew. As I stood in the back and watched, next two me, two dudes were arguing in German and a third turned around and told them, in accented English, “Please, no politics while The Heads are on.” All laughed. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all Roadburners.

As with Kandodo the other night, The Heads‘ set made me want to The Heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)head over to the merch area and go, “Just give me everything,” though they have enough live albums over there that to try it and I’d be broke(r) in no time flat. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, knowing records like Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, which was just recently reissued, At Last and their 1995 debut, Relaxing With…, but they were molten on stage, one song bleeding into the next in a consuming entirety that, even after they’d long since gone, kept the crowd howling. It was fucking awesome. I don’t know how many times I’ll get to see The Heads in my life, but I’m not likely to forget the first, in any case, and if I take nothing else away from Roadburn this year, I’ll take a new touchstone for heavy psych live performance. “It’s good, but is it The Heads good?” will prove a hard standard for most to meet.

Over in the Green Room, Black Anvil were finishing up a punishing set and I watched for a minute through the door as they pummeled away. Undersmile were on next in there, and I’ve been following them since their split with Caretaker in 2011 (review here), undersmile 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)so I didn’t want to miss it. They have a new full-length out called Anhedonia, and while I’m a little heartbroken at not having heard it — I loved 2012’s lung-filling debut LP, Narwhal (review here), and thought I had a pretty good relationship with the band — it still seemed prudent to show up early for a dose of their grueling, claustrophobic-but-melodically-brilliant doom, especially as a crushing companion piece to Coma Wall earlier in the day, a sort of bookend with the same lineup minus Greenway‘s cello. They were heavy enough to feel the sound in your chest. I give McKibbin credit for being able to push the tones of HelTaz and Olly along, even at such a lumbering pace. By the sound alone, it seems like a task more suited to the crane outside working on the addition to the 013, but the drums do drive Undersmile‘s material forward, and they packed out the Green Room to the point where even the space to watch through the door was full. I felt equal parts lucky to see them, bummed I haven’t heard the new album, and glad I showed up early while they were setting up. It was quite an emotional rollercoaster. Maybe that’s why I had to come back to the hotel and go to sleep afterwards.

Or maybe I was just rendered unconscious by fucking Coltsblood who — holy shit — took Stage01, removed all its fillings and performed a root canal with a safety pin. It was fucking ridiculous. Hyperbole-worthy madness that even H.P. Lovecraft himself would stare at and be like, “Damn, that’s horrifying.” I watched the final few minutes of synth-heavy proggers Zoltan before the UK trio of bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested (also of Black Magician, who played Het Patronaat at Roadburn 2013) went on, Coltsblood (Photo by JJ Koczan)but god damn. Even before they started, as Jemma checked her guitar and John ran the line on his bass, you knew it was going to be filthy. Their 2014 full-length debut, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here), seemed all the more aptly named as they got underway, and even though John had some technical trouble early on, they shared a bottle of mead on stage and absolutely laid waste to the smaller of the rooms at the 013. I say in full knowledge of John‘s prior association with the band that they were the heaviest thing I’ve seen in that space since Conan made their Roadburn debut there in 2012. They were unbelievable.

And it became quite clear that they’ve earned some loyalty of fanbase as well. The front of Stage01 was crowded with UK types, one of whom took on the solemn duty of making sure that Coltsblood‘s incense (of which I was markedly downwind) stayed lit. Another dude next to me alerted John when the sound guy called for him Coltsblood (Photo by JJ Koczan)to start checking his bass. This is a band that people are obviously taking very seriously. The deathly rumble of their extreme, dark, sludgy doom made earplugs a futile exercise, and especially in a one-two with Undersmile, they justified that reaction. With John shouting and growling into the mic while Plested slammed away behind and Jemma, entranced, riffed out a viscous, oil-thick morass, it made sense. I’d want to keep the incense lit too.

By the time I split out from Stage01, the air had more or less been driven out of the room. It was hot, sweaty, smelly — Roadburn means fart clouds — and suitably oppressive. Outside smelled like french fry grease from the food tent, but even that seemed like fresh air. I made my way back to the hotel and started to sort pictures out and get everything ready to review, but noticed after a few minutes that my head was down on the table and I couldn’t seem to pick it back up. I stared up at the laptop monitor for a little bit and decided to crawl into bed.

Wasn’t a crawl. More of a lurch. Either way, about three and a half hours later, I gave up the ghost and decided the middle of the night would be a perfect time to recount the day’s varying destructive encounters. Tomorrow — Sunday, which now that it’s after 06.00, I’m about ready to call the new “today” — is the Afterburner, also plenty busy with Lo-Pan and Abrahma and Argus and BongripperAnathema and The Golden Grass. Work on the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch starts in about four hours and it will be here and gone before I know it. At least that’s how it usually seems to go.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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