Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Saturday, 08.18.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho las Vegas 2018

08.19.18 – 5:45AM – Sunday morning – Hotel room

I woke up an hour before both my alarms — my early alarm to write and my later alarm to shower in that glorious Hard Rock Hotel shower and start the day. Bothersome but not the end of the world. One doesn’t come to a festival expecting a lot of rest. Make do with what you get.

Today also started an hour later, so I actually had a little time to kill. psycho las vegas 2018I sat down in the center bar for a while and drank a coffee, just kind of soaked in the place and the reality of the casino’s weirdness. They were playing rock videos on the tvs in the bar and the Little League world series next to each other. The Yankees game was on elsewhere but I didn’t get to see a score.

I’ve met a lot of really nice people who’ve said a lot of really nice things about this site. A lot. And it’s been good to put faces to names I’ve seen on posts and comments and stuff like that. I’ll admit Vegas isn’t really my kind of town, but I feel incredibly fortunate to be here this weekend and I’m utterly stupefied every single time someone comes up to say hi. Thank you.

Day kicked off in Vinyl, which packed out early. Here’s how it went down:

Venomous Maximus

Venomous Maximus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some mystery to start off the day with Houston’s Venomous Maximus, who played as the trio of guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt, sans frontman guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins, who’s a significant presence to the band. I’m not looking to spread rumors, and I was hoping to run into the guys after they played so I could ask what happened, but what I heard was that Higgins went Vegas AWOL, which is apparently a thing that happens here. That left Larson on vocals, and he did an admirable job filling in on songs like the title-track of last year’s No Warning (review here) and “October 14th” from 2015’s Firewalker (review here). With the lone guitar and Larson stepping into a frontman role, it was a markedly rawer presentation than one would expect from Venomous Maximus, since Higgins‘ theatricality has always been such a big part of what they do live, but if anything, it proved that the heart of the band has always been their songwriting, which remains memorable and largely undervalued. Given the circumstance, it’s commendable they played at all, but by the end of the set Vinyl was slammed with people and surprisingly loud for one in the afternoon.

Batushka

Batushka (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elaborate. It was not a minor production. Polish black metallers Batushka opened The Joint about a half-hour past their listed start time, and the line outside to get in told the tale of a band people were itching to see. Robed and chanting, surrounded by candles, incense, vestments and other sundry appropriated Christian this-and-thats, they tore open a cosmic blackened assault that was powerful. Elsewhere at the Hard Rock, and completely unrelated to the festival, there was a bikini contest happening, and I kept thinking what an amazing and odd planet it is that Batushka and the bikini contest would be going on at the same time in basically the same place. Surreal. The production, lights, sound, everything, was spectacular in the truest sense, and as I was basically unfamiliar with them going into the set, the delay made more sense once they actually got going, spread out on the stage as they were, with multiple vocalists and the whole ceremonial vibe. It was fascinating to see them use so much religious imagery and iconography, giving the whole set the feeling of being a mass, and then of course ripping it in half. Or maybe burning it to the ground? Either way.

Forming the Void

Forming the Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Forming the Void are a better band than they know. They’re starting to figure it out. You can hear that happening on their third record, Rift (review here), and accordingly, it’s a really exciting moment to have the chance to catch the Louisiana four-piece live. They started out somewhat reserved on stage, but by the end, guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Thomas Colley were more fully engaged with the material, and when they closed out with “On We Sail” into “Saber” from their 2016 debut, Skyward (review here), one could hear the progressive sonic growth they’ve undertaken. They’re doing everything right. They have the songs, they have the aesthetic, they have a budding presence on stage. They just need time to keep doing what they’re doing. I hope they tour more. Vinyl was, again, full for them, and they already had the room on their side. They’re in the process of becoming something really special as a group, and one only hopes they keep moving forward the way they have thus far into their tenure. They were a must-see for me this weekend, and I heard from a lot of other people who said much the same. There was no mistaking why once they got underway. Felt lucky to watch their set.

With the Dead

With the Dead (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Speaking of doom royalty, one Lee Dorrian strutted out onto the Joint stage with all the assurance of a high roller at one of the tables out in the casino. I’ve been fortunate enough to see With the Dead once before, but this set was going to be something inherently different from the grime-laden ubergroup, since Dorrian and his chapeaued fellow former Cathedral bandmate, bassist Leo Smee, were playing as a trio with Unearthly Trance‘s Darren Verni sitting in on drums. The band canceled their appearance at Bloodstock in the UK just over a week ago owing to some unforeseen situation with guitarist Tim Bagshaw (also of Ramesses), and sure enough, Bagshaw didn’t make this trip either. Still, the whole point of With the Dead is to sound as filthy and maddeningly doomed as possible, and channeling Smee‘s bass through guitar amps in addition to his own was a good way to get there. They opened with “Living with the Dead” from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and made a highlights of “Isolation” and “Cocaine Phantoms” from last year’s Love from With the Dead (review here), the low-end wash and downer gloom pervading through low lights and massive volume, and though they were without a guitarist, the issue found a welcome answer as Scott Carlson (Repulsion, Septic Tank, ex-Cathedral, etc.) came out for a cover of Cathedral‘s “Ebony Tears” from their landmark 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, thereby finishing their set with about as deep a plunge as you can get. Probably not their ideal circumstance, but righteous just the same.

Monolord

Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The ascent over the last five years of Swedish trio Monolord has been among the most meteoric in underground heavy. Amplifier worship, tone worship, riff worship and worship of the very idea of sonic largesse itself have been their aesthetic calling cards over the course of their three-to-date RidingEasy Records full-lengths, but the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems have fleshed out their sound to incorporate a thundering spaciousness steadily encroaching on psychedelia. Their latest record, 2017’s Rust (review here), is the most progressive in that respect, but they still bring a crushing groove that they’ve quickly made their own. They’ve also toured — a lot. But I’m lame as shit, so it’d been a long time since I last caught a gig and it was nothing short of a pleasure to watch them unleash their massive lumber on the assembled and waiting crowd. Obviously used to playing on bigger stages, they seemed to climb inside of each riff and inhabit the material, channeling it physically as well as through the P.A., and the nod that resulted filled the room from front to back, upstairs and down. They’re a band living up to their potential in every way, and I’m already looking forward to what album number four brings.

Voivod

Voivod (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Here’s a general rule for life, and stop me if I’ve told you this before — oh wait it’s the internet you can’t stop me well tough shit — but: Go see Voivod. If you’re in a place where they are or can put yourself in a place where they’ll be, do that. Go see Voivod. You will never regret it, either in that moment or later on. And while I’m doling out advice, here’s another one: If you meet someone, and they’re a real Voivod fan, chances are that person knows their shit. The Canadian weirdo-sci-fi-thrash legends appeal to a very specific subset of headbanger, and I’ve never known a Voivod fan who was a prick. And I’ve been luck enough to know a few. They have a new record on the way — always — and with founding drummer Michel “Away” Langevin pounding away behind and long-tenured frontman Denis “Snake” Bélanger getting the dusk-time pool stage crowd into the show, the vibe was only positive the whole way through. Flanked by guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain, who’s been in the band now for a decade — time flies — and bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche, they hit into new single “Obsolete Beings” from the upcoming The Wake and it fit right in with classics like “Overreaction” and the eponymous “Voivod” from their decades-spanning catalog. What a blast. My phone registered the outside temperature at 106 degrees Fahrenheit, but Voivod seemed right at home in the swelter and were an unadulterated good time. Go see Voivod.

Godflesh

Godflesh (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Man, Margaret Thatcher must have been the absolute fucking worst to produce the kind of disaffection Godflesh continue to proffer. Their dystopian churn is, of course, almost painfully relevant today despite its origins over 30 years ago, and with guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist G.C. Green on a stark, largely empty Joint stage, they unfurled the oppressive electrified grit that’s made them so influential for so long. They’ve been active again for a while now, with two albums out in last year’s Post Self (review here) and 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here), so have gone well beyond “reunion band” status, but a Godflesh show still doesn’t feel like something that happens every day, and it’s always something special to watch their blend of inhuman(e) audio — the beats, the electronics, etc. — and the sheer emotion with which Broadrick executes his guitar and vocals. With Green on the other side a steady presence, Broadrick thrashed and headbanged and tried to tear himself apart with his playing, and each of his shouting bellows brought fists in the air from the crowd out in front. Very much the opposite vibe of Voivod out at the pool despite both groups’ ’80s origins, but likewise a wonder and a pleasure to behold. I wouldn’t mind a new Jesu record either, but as far as I’m concerned, Godflesh can just go on perpetually and that’ll be fine, thanks. The world needs them now more than ever.

Howling Giant

Howling Giant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I knew I wanted to see Nashville’s Howling Giant. I didn’t know quite how much I wanted to see them until they started. Having toured their way to Vegas in a hearse — because of course — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler and bassist Mike Kerr took the stage in Vinyl with an immediately outgoing personality. Actually, they showed that before they even went on, hopping down front after they set up to talk to the crowd on the other side of the barricade, but it was for sure in the performance as well. Their 2017 EP, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here), and its 2016 predecessor, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here), featured heavily in the set, and all around they put on a show that was definitely about having fun, being loud, rocking out and all that happy whatnot, but also deceptively intricate and progressive. Their studio material has carried that over to some degree, but it’s clear they’re moving forward with their sound, and one hopes they continue to do so as they move toward their inevitable, awaited full-length debut. They and Forming the Void were my two totally-gotta-see bands for the day, and they would seem to share a bright future in developing their own take on heavy rock. For Howling Giant, not even a busted snare stand could stop them, as Polzine and Kerr treated the crowd to an improv psych jam while Wheeler got a new one and they were back up and running in no time, pro-style. Nicely done.

Spirit Adrift

Spirit Adrift (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There seemed to be some trouble with the monitors before they went on, but once Phoenix four-piece Spirit Adrift got going, the project spearheaded by guitarist/vocalist Nate Garrett (ex-Take Over and Destroy) brought out a vibe that spoke even more to classic metal than the doom with which the band is so often lumped. Their late-2017 sophomore LP, Curse of Conception, brought progressive tendencies to bear following their 2016 debut, Chained to Oblivion (review here), and while the band was founded by Garrett as a solo-act, there’s no shortage of chemistry that’s come up between Garrett and his cohorts, guitarist Jeff Owens from Goya, bassist Chase Mason (also Gatecreeper) and drummer Marcus Bryant, and with the recording of that second album and a load of touring leading up to this show and their stop Aug. 21 at Brick by Brick in San Diego, they they were on fire the whole way through. Taking the stage to Buck Owens‘ “Big in Vegas,” they took the prime slot at the pool — CKY would play, but a few hours later — and never looked back, their performance duly energized to suit the occasion. If this was what their tour was leading up to, then it seemed to be worth it.

Got up stupid early this morning and seem to be undergoing a science experiment whereby I trade out sleep for coffee. Hour per 24 oz. cup? Hell if I know. What, you’re supposed keep track of your findings?

Today is the final day of Psycho Las Vegas 2018, which is an utterly bizarre beardo circus to behold, and it’s also Gene Roddenberry‘s birthday, which is as much an occasion to celebrate as I can possibly think. All the more reason to bash one’s head once more on the skull-cracking granite that is Psycho Las Vegas, and leave it to tomorrow to reassemble the pieces.

If you’re here, have fun. If you’re anywhere, thanks for reading.

More pics after the jump:

Read more »

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Voivod to Release The Wake in September; European Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

voivod

Ten million metal bands. Only one Voivod. And woe unto those who can’t do the math on that. The stalwart-among-stalwarts Canadian prog-metal pioneers will release their umpteenth long-player this Fall via Century Media. It’s been dubbed The Wake and will arrive in time to catch the four-piece on their way out to Europe for a huge round of touring that includes support from Maggot HeartNightrage and Bio-Cancer in alternating slots. No audio or track titles yet for the record, but the release is still three months out and CM is pro-shop, so they’re not about to give everything away in one press release. In any case, who could read another list — say, one of the album’s tracks — without getting exhausted after looking at all those tour dates anyway? I’m out of breath by the time they get to Krakow.

More details forthcoming, then, and fair enough. The more I get to talk about Voivod kicking ass, the merrier. And you know my disposition can get pretty merry. I know it’ll certainly be that way watching them at Psycho Las Vegas in August.

To the PR wire, then:

VOIVOD EURO TOUR POSTER

VOIVOD – Announce new album “The Wake” and European tour!

Canadian progressive sci-fi metal innovators VOIVOD are not only celebrating their 35th band-anniversary, but have also just wrapped up studio-work for their upcoming new studio album entitled “The Wake”. Expected for a late September worldwide release via Century Media Records, “The Wake” is the highly anticipated successor to 2013’s “Target Earth” album and the 2016 mini-album “Post Society”.

VOIVOD drummer Michel “Away” Langevin checked in with the following comment:

“We are thrilled to let you know that our new album, “The Wake”, is completed! The music is like a futuristic prog thrash metal trek with many twists and turns, and the story involves the usual Voivodian topics: disasters, chaos, conflicts, strange plots and alternate consciousness. We are excited with the result and can’t wait to get the material out to you this fall!

Also, try to catch us when we tour Europe in September and October. It will be a great opportunity for the band to test some songs from our upcoming album.”

Here is a list of the comprehensive European run, which will feature the following rotating support acts: Maggot Heart (from 7th until 16th Sept), Nightrage (from 18th until 26th Sept) and Bio-Cancer (from 28th Sept until 20th Oct):

VOIVOD – European Tour 2018:
07.09.2018 Prague (Czech Republic) – Futurum *
08.09.2018 Poznan (Poland) – U Bazyla *
09.09.2018 Warsaw (Poland) – Hydrozagadka *
10.09.2018 Krakow (Poland) – Kwadrat *
11.09.2018 Bratislava (Slovakia) – Randal Club *
13.09.2018 Cluj-Napoca (Romania) – Flying Circus Pub *
14.09.2018 Belgrade (Serbia) – Elektropionir *
15.09.2018 Budapest (Hungary) – Durer Kert *
16.09.2018 Vienna (Austria) – Szene *
18.09.2018 Bologna (Italy) – Locomotiv **
19.09.2018 Rome (Italy) – Largo **
20.09.2018 Milan (Italy) – Santeria **
21.09.2018 Winterthur (Switzerland) – Gaswerk **
22.09.2018 Seyssinet Pariset (France) – Ilyade **
24.09.2018 Barcelona (Spain) – Boveda **
25.09.2018 Madrid (Spain) – Nazca **
26.09.2018 Porto (Portugal) – Hard Club **
28.09.2018 Marseille (France) – Jas’ Rod ***
29.09.2018 Paris (France) – Petit Bain ***
30.09.2018 Nantes (France) – Ferrailleur ***
02.10.2018 Southampton (UK) – The Joiners ***
03.10.2018 Cardiff (UK) – The Globe ***
04.10.2018 Leeds (UK) – Temple Of Boom ***
05.10.2018 Glasgow (UK) – Cathouse ***
06.10.2018 Manchester (UK) – Rebellion ***
07.10.2018 London (UK) – Underworld ***
09.10.2018 Brussels (Belgium) – Magasin 4 ***
10.10.2018 Amstelveen (The Netherlands) – P60 ***
11.10.2018 Eindhoven (The Netherlands) – Dynamo ***
12.10.2018 Cologne (Germany) – Luxor ***
13.10.2018 Hamburg (Germany) – Logo ***
14.10.2018 Copenhagen (Denmark) – Pumpehuset ***
15.10.2018 Stockholm (Sweden) – Klubb Nalen ***
17.10.2018 Helsinki (Finland) – Tavastia ***
18.10.2018 Tampere (Finland) – Klubi ***
20.10.2018 Oslo (Norway) – John Dee ***

Support bands:
* Maggot Heart (from 7th until 16th Sept)
** Nightrage (from 18th until 26th Sept)
*** Bio-Cancer (from 28th Sept until 20th Oct)

Previously, VOIVOD will also appear at selected festivals in North America as follows:

VOIVOD – Live 2018:
29.06.2018 Jonquière (Canada) – Jonquiere en Musique Festival
29.07.2018 Montreal (Canada) – Heavy Montreal Festival
08.08.2018 Lévis (Canada) – Festivent
18.08.2018 Las Vegas (USA) – Psycho Las Vegas Festival

More details and news and VOIVOD and “The Wake” following soon…

VOIVOD line-up:
Snake – Vocals
Chewy – Guitar
Rocky – Bass
Away – Drums

http://voivod.com
http://www.facebook.com/Voivod
http://www.centurymedia.com
http://www.youtube.com/centurymedia
http://twitter.com/centurymediaeu
http://www.facebook.com/centurymedia
http://www.cmdistro.com

Voivod, “Target Earth” official video

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018 Reveals Lineup; Dimmu Borgir, Hellacopters, Godflesh, Witchcraft and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 logo

It’s only taken a few years for Psycho Las Vegas to establish itself as the premier underground festival in the US. All well and good. With 2018’s lineup, though, it’s time to start thinking of Psycho among the best in the world.

Sounds like too much? Consider Godflesh and Dimmu Borgir sharing a stage, both for exclusive West Coast appearances. Think of Sweden’s Witchcraft playing one of the two shows they’ll do in the US at Psycho, and ditto that for Japanese riff-madmen Church of Misery. Think of US exclusives from Lee Dorrian’s With the Dead, or Lucifer, whose Johanna Sadonis will also DJ the Center Bar. The commitment to up and coming underground acts local, domestic and foreign like Temple of Void, King Buffalo, Dreadnought, The Munsens and DVNE. Picture yourself watching Wolves in the Throne Room headline a pre-fest pool party with Elder, Young and in the Way, Dengue Fever, Fireball Ministry and Toke.

2018 is the year Psycho Las Vegas outclasses even itself and pushes further than it ever has in terms of stylistic reach (Integrity walks by and waves… at Boris) and the sheer power of its construction. If you’re looking for the future, you’ll find it in scumbag paradise.

Here’s the lineup:

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 poster

Psycho Las Vegas 2018

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas
4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89169

Tickets: https://www.vivapsycho.com/pages/tickets

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018 lineup:
DIMMU BORGIR (west of chicago exclusive)
HELLACOPTERS (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
SUNN 0)))
GODFLESH (west of chicago exclusive)
WITCHCRAFT (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
ENSLAVED
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
HIGH ON FIRE
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
RED FANG
ZAKK SABBATH
CHURCH OF MISERY (usa exclusive 2018 with exception to one other show in San Diego)
TINARIWEN
GOBLIN
CKY
VENOM INC
EYEHATEGOD
VOIVOD
BORIS
COVEN
INTEGRITY
PALLBEARER
WITH THE DEAD (USA exclusive 2018)
MONOLORD
LUCIFER (USA exclusive 2018)
ACID WITCH
SURVIVE
DOPETHRONE
BIG BUSINESS
UNEARTHLY TRANCE
MUTOID MAN
TODAY IS THE DAY
HELMS ALEE
SPIRIT ADRIFT
BATUSHKA
PRIMITIVE MAN
DVNE
ALL PIGS MUST DIE
EIGHT BELLS
WORMWITCH
INDIAN
NECROT
HOMEWRECKER
BRAIN TENTACLES
CLOAK
BLACK MARE
MAGIC SWORD
UADA
TEMPLE OF VOID
DREADNOUGHT
WOLVHAMMER
ASEETHE
DISASTROID
FORMING THE VOID
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
GHASTLY SOUND
HOWLING GIANT
KING BUFFALO
NIGHT HORSE
THE MUNSENS
GLAARE

Paradise Pool Pre Party
August 16th

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
ELDER
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
DENGUE FEVER
FIREBALL MINISTRY
TOKE

Center Bar DJ’s
Andrew W.K.
Nicke Andersson (Entombed/Hellacopters)
Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer)

https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas/
https://www.facebook.com/events/125340824913552/
http://vivapsycho.com

High on Fire, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2016

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2012 Adventure, Pt. 17: Distortion Clinging Salvation (Roadburn Day Two)

Posted in Features on April 13th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

04.13.12 — 00.10 — Friday Night — Hotel Mercure

Today was going to be my calm day. Yesterday was a ton of running around, tomorrow indeed will also be a ton of running around. Today the idea was fewer bands, but more full sets. I wanted to let the fest sink in a little. To savor it for a while without having to be off somewhere else immediately.

Day two of the 17th annual Roadburn festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, was dedicated to Canadian legends Voivod‘s curated event, Au-delà du Réel (the French translation of “the outer limits,” keeping with the band’s oft-affirmed affection for sci-fi). With the likes of Farflung and Barn Owl on the bill, though, it was as Roadburn as ever, but the idea — at least according to the literature — was to blend loud and quiet around the Voivod set doing all of Dimension Hatröss, and in that, they succeeded. It was probably the most mixed Roadburn lineup I’ve ever seen.

I’d been up until about 05.00 in the morning putting together the writeup of day one, so I slept late and got up after noon to get ready for the next round. Wino & Conny Ochs provided a subdued beginning at Het Patronaat, which was welcome. They both mentioned that they’d been on the road together touring Europe for six weeks, and they sounded like it. The harmonies between the two singers were tighter even than on the Heavy Kingdom collaborative album (review here), and they opened with the first cut from that, the ultra-quiet “Somewhere Nowhere.” Cameras around me clicked off pictures, and the music was so quiet that each click of a camera sounded like someone was breaking a window.

They picked up the energy level, though, at least somewhat. “Labor of Love” was a high point, as was “Heavy Kingdom,” and they played a new song they wrote while on tour called “Hellbound Train” that was bluesy enough to earn its title. It’s good to know that their collaboration will continue, or that they’re thinking it will at this point, anyhow. It will be interesting to hear how (and see when) they follow Heavy Kingdom and in what ways they expand their approach. Wino kicked some fuzz into his acoustic guitar for a solo — it might have been during “Old and Alone,” it might not — and later, Ochs brought out a bow and started playing his guitar with that as he also worked a kickdrum with his foot to provide more of a rhythm. Not exactly fireworks, I know, but it was an unplugged set, and seeing how well Wino and the malleable-voiced Ochs work together was excitement enough.

Nachtmystium was taking the main stage at the 013 just as Wino & Conny Ochs were finishing, but I stayed put and waited a short while until Hexvessel came out and delivered their take on alternately Satanic and pagan folk. Before they took the stage, the Het Patronaaat DJ — whose name was Kevin, we’d later eat dinner together — played Black Widow and Coven, and that was appropriate enough a lead-in for Hexvessel, whose sound is very purposefully in that vein, but a tad more Finnish. I give it about five more months before avant garde pagan folk is the new doom, everyone wearing forest tunics and selling the good word of Satan’s majesty made flesh in the indulgent wonders of the earth. Not that I’d care if it happens, but if it does, I’d like another band to add to the list of comparison points. One gets tired of repeating, “Black Widow and Coven” all the time.

I did not stay in Hexvessel‘s darkened forest for long. Los Angeles psych unit Farflung — who I believe are actually in the process of being legally adopted by Europe — were in the Green Room, and I stood and watched some through the door, but my main thing was hitting the merch area at that time. I know I didn’t mention it yesterday, but buying merch is a major part of the Roadburn experience, whether it’s the festival t-shirt itself, exclusive vinyls, limited CDs. Whatever itch you’ve got to scratch as regards doomly commerce, all the bands are there at V39, which is right across the alley from the 013, and they’re all ready to sell. Groups playing Het Patronaat also get to sell their stuff at the church’s downstairs room, and it was there I bought six short-run handmade CDRs from GNOD, who I’d wind up not seeing tonight but am still glad to have dealt with. The dude took me through each CD one at a time and explained what the band was doing at that point, which order the discs were in, etc. It was actually pretty fascinating.

Back at the main merch area, though, it was crowding up. Depending on who’s at what table, it can be just as hard to move through there as it is to get into the Green Room or Stage01, but the difference I suppose is the merch area is a constant flux. I got myself a much-needed espresso from the machine (could use one now; my eyelids are getting heavy as I type) in the lower room that looks out onto the little courtyard smoking area, and conducted some business, picking up discs from Farflung, Black Rainbows and Dopethrone. The same people selling The Obsessed‘s new limited live LP were also selling CD/DVD digipaks of the new Saint Vitus record, Lillie: F-65 (review here), so I grabbed that too, and a Voivod shirt specially made for the Dimension Hatröss performance at Roadburn.

The next several moves I made can basically come down to one goal, and that was to see Conan at Stage01. I tried to get into Stage01 twice yesterday and failed both times. Couldn’t even get to a point where I could see in the doorway. It was pitiful, and as a result, I adjusted the course and direction of my afternoon with the single trajectory in mind: To be up front, Stage01, 19.15 as the British megadoom trio hit the stage. Was a bit of a process, beginning with seeing J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia in the main room. I think Sólstafir at Het Patronaat was drawing a lot of the crowd away, not to mention what remained of Farflung‘s packed-out set, but I wanted to catch J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia specifically because I knew nothing about the project. When I walked into the main hall, there was a string quartet setting up and piano, extra percussion — bit of chamber music to balance out the Au-delà du Réel mission. So be it. Excellently performed and it was great to watch these burly beardo sludge heads in the crowd shut their eyes and did on the cello. I’d have stayed longer, but for the mission of my own.

Dinner was a necessity. I was dragging ass already and it was only 17.50. Still a lot of Day Two left. So I went and ate as fast as I could so that I’d be in time to catch some of Kong in the Green Room — but upstairs, on the balcony. You see, the balcony of the Green Room connects to Stage01 in a way that already puts you in the room. No more waiting by the door. Well, yes, you’re still waiting by the door, but it’s a different door, and you don’t have to be in the hall — ah, forget it. It made sense at the time. Let’s just say that and roll with it. I made my way through and up to the Green Room balcony as Kong were setting up. They were pretty decent, instrumental heavy stuff with a bit of electronics thrown in in a way that was satisfyingly creative without being weird on purpose or desperate for attention. I snapped some shots, most (if not all) of which were terrible, but could not linger, lest I mistime my approach to the smallest of 013‘s three rooms and blow the entire Conan operation.

No way I was going to let that happen. Danava were on stage in there, and I’ve never been a fan. Back home in the States, we call it “hipster metal,” but I guess that matters less here. No wonder the Euro scene is so strong. Some dude leaned over to me and in an accent I’m pretty sure was Italian said, “They’re good like The Atomic Bitchwax!” The Bitchwax with a marketing budget. Had all the right t-shirts — Ted Nugent, Blue Öyster Cult — but weren’t nearly as tight as the last three Bitchwax gigs I’ve seen. Nonetheless, when traveling away from home, one hesitates when it comes to engaging debate on these points. No real cause to do so anyway. I’d just be a prick who doesn’t like popular bands. Better to just save the time and realize that at the outset. Whatever. They were fine and the crowd loved them.

And I probably wouldn’t have been there at all, but Danava — who, of course, more drew Stage01 to be more-than-capacity full — were another means to the my already stated end. They still had more than 20 minutes of their hour-long set left, but during that time, I put my plan into action and slowly made my way into the crowd. I didn’t push. I wasn’t a jerk about it. As people made their way back, I made my way up, and then, when Danava were finally done, I bolted (as much as I ever “bolt” anywhere) toward the front of the room and nabbed a spot right in front of the stage. Victory was mine, and victory was sweet. Not even the carts of road cases and amps that were wheeled up to go on the stage would deter me from my position in front of it. Of course, I made room, but when Conan was done loading their equipment on and those carts were pushed away, I was right back to where I was, which was just where I’d wanted to be. It had taken me the better part of an hour and a half to do it, but I was up front for Conan at Roadburn.

Sure enough, I stayed put for the entirety of their performance. There wasn’t much choice in the matter, but I wanted to be as close as possible to that tone that’s been my litmus test for “heavy” ever since I first heard Horseback Battle Hammer in 2010 (review here). Their new full-length, Monnos (review here), proved no less uncompromising, tone-wise, so I knew it would be worth my time, and it was. They played cuts from Monnos including opener “Hawk as Weapon” and did “Retaliator” and “Older than Earth” (I think) from their split with Slomatics (review here), bassist Phil Coumbe adding metallic growls and screams to guitarist Jon Davis‘ shouts and cleaner yelling. Conan were one of my impetus bands this year — that is, one of the reasons I’m here — and there was no letdown to be had. The lights, the fog, the overwhelming crush of sound — it was all astoundingly heavy whether they were playing fast or slow.

It also gave me a new appreciation for drummer Paul O’Neil‘s work in the band, as he not only manages to keep time through their tidal morass, but does so interestingly and works in subtle flourishes on his cymbal work that maybe get lost in the shuffle because they’re not as obvious as, say, the giant riff that’s bashing your brains out. Either way, Conan were so heavy that my earplugs vibrated in my head, and that hadn’t happened yet this weekend, so it’s worth noting. I was glad too to be trapped up front the whole time, so I didn’t get the itch to go and wait for YOB to come on in the photo pit. I still had plenty of time to get there watching all of Conan, and since it’ll probably be the only time I can get in there this weekend — Mike Scheidt of YOB opens up in there tomorrow doing solo acoustic stuff, but that’s a hard one to work out the logistics on making it to, much as I’ll try — I’m glad it was for a band I couldn’t see anywhere else at this point.

I say, “At this point,” because with a band as massive as Conan, you never know what’s going to happen. Already they were too big for the stage they played on, so hell, maybe they tour the US in some future either near or distant and demolish everything in their path. Who knows? There was a time — a few years, actually — when I was sure I’d never get the chance to watch YOB play a show, and it’s been four times now and by Monday it’ll be five. I caught Midian when they came through New York, but I knew there was no way I’d ever get to see YOB, and it was a bummer. I’m sure I’ve told the story before, so I’ll spare it, but as I made my way back over to the main stage to watch the Eugene, Oregon, trio unleash the 2005 full-length, The Unreal Never Lived, in its entirety, I couldn’t help but feel glad to have the chance to do so.

Fact: In my CD wallet, there is only one disc I’ve never been able to remove, and that disc is The Unreal Never Lived. The swan-song of YOB‘s original run, it was the culmination of everything the band had built to creatively up to that point; a four-song masterwork of psychedelic undulations that capped with the 21-minute monolith that was “The Mental Tyrant.” YOB has played “Quantum Mystic” every time I’ve seen them, and usually at the start of their set, so that was familiar enough, but as they progressed through the rolling groove of “Grasping Air,” another regular, and “Kosmos,” not so much, the tension seemed to be building to get to the final onslaught. When it arrived, it was glorious. They cut nothing out of the long opening and the gradual course of the song held its flow the whole time. There was one point during “Grasping Air” where I thought the whole rhythm was going to come crashing down, but kudos to drummer Travis Foster. He kept it together and pushed YOB forward into reaches of slow so desolate they were more or less stopped.

Decked out in Iron Maiden sneakers, the aforementioned Mike Scheidt only came more alive as the set progressed, and when it finally was time for “The Mental Tyrant” to begin its galloping payoff, I got a chill up my spine. It wasn’t the first claw I’ve hoisted over the last two days, but it was the most automatic, visceral response. Bassist Aaron Reiseberg (also of Norska) stepped back to let Scheidt riff out, true to the album, but every hit, every time he played a note, the floor I was standing on toward the back of the room shook. Not to overstate it, but it’s basically been seven years that I’ve wanted to see “The Mental Tyrant” played live, and the only reason I don’t go further into hyperbole is because I’m saving it for Sunday when YOB is set to do all of 2003’s Catharsis. Worth the flight to hear those two records alone. When they were done, I had to sit down.

There were a lot of bands today I didn’t see. Some, like Dopethrone, or Gnod, or Barn Owl, or End of Level Boss, I would’ve liked to. As Voivod came  on stage, though, I was glad to have held firm on the course I’d charted for myself, staying through whole sets and not volleying from room to room, only to catch the first couple songs before having to tear myself away to get to the next thing. I mean, that’s fun too, that rush, but I very much needed a day of standing relatively still, and I was glad the schedule could accommodate. Voivod — vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger, bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault, drummer Michel “Away” Langevin (also responsible for much of the visual aesthetic of this year’s fest) and guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain — come preceded by 30 years of individualistic innovation. I won’t pretend to have a grip on their entire catalog, but even if I hadn’t seen them at Roadburn last year, I knew they were a sight I had to see, and more so for their doing Dimension Hatröss.

Of course, one can hardly think of Voivod and not recall the untimely passing of guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour in 2005, but Mongrain (also of Martyr and formerly of Cryptopsy) has become more than a hired gun in his position. D’Amour having been so instrumental in constructing Voivod‘s sound and progression, I don’t know if he’ll ever be as heralded in the guitarist spot, but he was clearly playing the songs with feeling and seemed natural on stage with Langevin, Bélanger and Thériault. As they were last year, Voivod was a pleasure to watch and had a presence on stage that spoke to their decades of influencing forward-thinking heavy music. It should say something that as they continue to push their career to its own seemingly expanding outer limits, as much as one gets excited at something like the prospect of hearing Dimension Hatröss done live, the prospect of finding out what they’ll do on their next record is no less thrilling.

They were the finale of my evening. I thought I’d maybe catch some Dopethrone, but you know how that goes, with the doorway and all that, and anyhow, it was getting on time to come back to the hotel and start typing. It’s three in the morning now as I wrap this and look at the prospect of having to find images for these bands, but hell, at least I can sleep late tomorrow, since the only thing I have to do is wake up and go to Roadburn for the final day of the fest proper, which will feature much back and forth between the main stage and the Green Room for the likes of 40 Watt Sun, Church of Misery, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky and Sleep, among others. It’s the most packed day yet, so please, stay tuned.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Roadburn 2012: YOB Will Play The Unreal Never Lived, Voivod Will Play Dimension Hatröss; Black Cobra, Celeste, Red Fang and More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

At this point, I don’t even know what to say. Two YOB sets — one of The Unreal Never Lived, one of CatharsisVoivod doing Dimension Hatröss, plus Black Cobra, Red Fang and of course Sleep, The Obsessed and everyone else already announced. I don’t know how they do it. Kudos to Walter and Roadburn for putting together what looks like it’ll be the biggest and best festival yet.

Here’s the announcement:

As curator for the 17th edition of the Roadburn festival, Voivod will transport you into Dimension Hatröss as part of their special headline show during the Au-delà du Réel event on Friday, April 13, 2012 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. As if the promise of the band’s classic fourth album in its entirety performed live for the first time ever wasn’t enough, the set will conclude with a not-to-be-missed surprise.

Psychedelic doom metal giants YOB will return to Roadburn Festival 2012 for two one-off performances, each time performing an album in its entirety. YOB has been personally invited by Voivod for Roadburn 2012. For their first show, they will be playing their seminal album, The Unreal Never Lived, on Friday, April 13th at Au-delà du Réel, and then in order to reach the greatest of heights (and doom depths), they will follow up by performing Catharsis in full at the additional Afterburner event on Sunday, April 15.

We’re also very pleased to announce that Black Breath and Celeste are the latest confirmed acts for Voivod‘s Au-delà du Réel at Roadburn 2012. They will join Anekdoten, Aun, Dopethrone and YOB on Friday, April 13.

Beer-driven, groove-heavy hard rock are what Portland’s finest, Red Fang, deliver on their latest opus, Murder the Mountains. Catchy, fun, cool, and downright awesome, Red Fang bring a welcome return to great rock that still has a sense of humor. Roadburn is really pleased to welcome Red Fang to Midi Theatre on Thursday, April 12.

Black Cobra will be playing a one-off show at Roadburn Festival Afterburner in support of their new album, Invernal.

Tickets for Roadburn 2012 will go on sale Saturday, November 26, 10:00 Central European Time. There will be a two ticket limit (per order) for 3-day and 4-day passes and Afterburner tickets – the same goes for the Campsite Tickets.

Please visit www.roadburn.com for more info.

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Coroner Added to Roadburn 2012; Voivod Name Curated Event

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 27th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The 2012 Roadburn is shaping up to be pretty stellar. Already announced performances by The Obsessed, Sleep, Om and others are righteous in and of themselves, but the latest down the PR wire is that Coroner will headline the Afterburner and that Voivod‘s curated event — named Au-delà du Réel — has just gotten its first addition to the lineup. More to come, obviously, but here’s the latest, straight from the festival:

Roadburn Festival has announced that Coroner will be bringing its amazingly tight brand of technical thrash metal to the 2012 Afterburner, set for Sunday, April 15 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

Roadburn Festival 2012, including Voivod‘s curated event, Sleep, Om, d.USK, Virus, The Obsessed, Hexvessel, 40 Watt Sun and Sólstafir, among others, will run for four days from Thursday, April 12 to Sunday, April 15, 2012 (the traditional Afterburner) at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

Voivod named their curated event at Roadburn Festival 2012, Au-delà du Réel, after the band’s favorite sci-fi show, The Outer Limits, when it was broadcast in French during the ’70s. As curator, Voivod will personally select the bands that will play during Au-delà du Réel, set for Friday, April 13 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.

Voivod‘s excited to announce that Sweden’s Anekdoten has been confirmed for Au-delà du Réel. Anekdoten ranks amongst the very best prog-bands to emerge from Scandinavia since the early ’90s. Firmly rooted in King Crimson-inspired, Mellotron-drenched prog/art-rock (with hints of Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull as well), the band has released several acclaimed albums that garnered them a devoted cult-following over the years.

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Voivod to Curate Roadburn 2012

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

This is unexpected and fascinating news. Canadian progressive metal LEGENDS Voivod have been selected to curate the 2012 installment of the Roadburn festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands. I think it’ll be really interesting to see who they select over the next couple months, and either way, with the chance to see them perform not one, but two times over the course of the 2012 fest, it’s automatically worth the trip. If you haven’t yet, no time like today to book that flight.

Here’s the news, direct from Roadburn‘s site:

Roadburn is elated to announce the curator for the 17th edition of the festival: Voivod. After the band’s widely acclaimed and artistically inspiring performances at the 2011 festival, Voivod has agreed to curate our festival on Friday, April 13, 2012.

As curator, Voivod will personally select the bands that will play during their special event at Roadburn and perform a special headline show. We had a revelation this year: namely, that Voivod and Roadburn are not only kindred spirits musically and artistically, but also on the same wavelength in other ways, too. Voivod personifies the laidback Roadburn vibe.

Respected by fans and bands that span the festival’s sonic spectrum, Voivod is the ideal pick as Roadburn’s fifth curator. The band will carry on a tradition that began in 2008 with David Tibet, followed by Neurosis in 2009, Triptykon’s Tom Gabriel Warrior in 2010 and SunnO))) at this year’s festival. After Voivod agreed to curate the Friday, we could not resist asking them to stay for a second show. It’s on! The band will appear on Saturday, April 14, 2012, too.

Away comments: “We are truly honored to curate the Roadburn Voivod day on April 13, 2012. We will make sure that the whole spectrum of experimental music influential to Voivod is represented. Thanks to the Roadburn folks for inviting us, we’re already counting the days in anticipation of the event!!”

We are truly looking forward to the new ideas and visions that Voivod will bring to the festival next year. If asked to sum up Roadburn in one word, “progressive” would be a fitting choice. Evolution is a big part of this. The festival is a tribute to the open-mindedness of its bands, curators and audience. The joy comes from expanding musical horizons and looking at familiar territory from new angles. We will definitely be in for some artistic surprises with the always-intrepid Voivod as our curator. We are excited to find out what they have in store for us!

Roadburn Festival 2012, including Voivod’s special event, will run for four days from Thursday, April 12 to Sunday, April 15 (the traditional Afterburner) at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. Pre-sales will start Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011.

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audiObelisk: Sixth Batch of Roadburn 2011 Streams Posted (Voivod, Wovenhand, Blood Farmers and More)

Posted in audiObelisk on July 1st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The sixth handful of audio captures from this year’s Roadburn festival might be the most eclectic yet. Sure, past installments had the likes of Black Pyramid or Spindrift, but how many times in your life are you going to see Wovenhand next to Voivod?

That’s all part of the experience of the fest, and as always, it’s presented gorgeously on these streams by Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team at Spacejam. Dig it:

Wovenhand
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44901054#ondemand.44901054

Voivod (Midi Theatre)
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44901050#ondemand.44901050

Sabbath Assembly
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44901025#ondemand.44901025

Year of No Light (Vampyr soundtrack)
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44901058#ondemand.44901058

Circle
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44901008#ondemand.44901008

Blood Farmers (Afterburner)
http://3voor12.vpro.nl/speler/ondemand/44900998#ondemand.44900998

Special thanks once again to Walter and Roadburn for granting me permission to host these links. Roadburn 2011 took place April 14-17, at the 013 Popcentrum in Tilburg, Netherlands.

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