Quarterly Review: Tia Carrera, Inter Arma, Volcano, Wet Cactus, Duskwood, Lykantropi, Kavod, Onioroshi, Et Mors, Skånska Mord

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day four. I should’ve known we’d hit a snag at some point in the week, but it happened yesterday afternoon when Windows decided I desperately needed some update or other and then crapped the bed in the middle of said update. I wound up taking my laptop to a repair guy down the road in the afternoon, who said the hard drive needed to be wiped and have a full reinstall. Pretty brutal. He was going to back up what was there and get on it, said I could pick it up today. We’ll see how that goes, I guess. Also, happy Fourth, if America’s your thing. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple

tia carrera visitors early purple

They had a single out between (review here), but the two-song LP Visitors / Early Purple is Tia Carrera‘s first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The Austin, Texas, three-piece — which now includes bassist Curt Christianson of Dixie Witch alongside guitarist Jason Morales and drummer Erik Conn — haven’t missed a beat in terms of creating heavy psychedelic sprawl, and as the side-consuming “Visitors” (18:32) and “Early Purple” (16:28) play out, it’s with a true jammed sensibility; that feeling that sooner or later the wheels are going to come off. They don’t, at least not really, but the danger always makes it more exciting, and Morales‘ tone has been much missed. In the intervening years, the social media generation has come up to revere Earthless for doing much of what Tia Carrera do, but there’s always room for more jams as far as I’m concerned, and it’s refreshing to have Tia Carrera back to let people know what they’ve been missing. Here’s hoping it’s not another eight years.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Inter Arma, Sulphur English

inter arma sulphur english

I can’t help but think Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English is the album Morbid Angel should have made after Covenant. And yes, that applies to the harmonies and organ of “Stillness” as well. The fourth full-length (third for Relapse) from the Richmond, Virginia, outfit is a beastly, severe and soulful 66-minute stretch of consuming, beyond-genre extremity. It punishes with purpose and scope, and its sense of brutality comes accompanied by a willful construction of atmosphere. Longer pieces like “The Atavist’s Meridian” and the closing title-track lend a feeling of drama, but at no point does Sulphur English feel like a put-on, and as Inter Arma continue their push beyond the even-then-inventive sludge of their beginnings, they’ve become something truly groundbreaking in metal, doing work that can only be called essential to push forward into new ground and seeming to swallow the universe whole in the meantime. It’s the kind of record that one can only hope becomes influential, both in its purpose toward individualism and its sheer physical impact.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Volcano, The Island

volcano the island

So you’ve got Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals and JOY guitarist/Pharlee drummer Zach Oakley on guitar, and bassist Billy Ellsworth (also of Loom) and Matt Oakley on drums, plus it seems whoever else happened to be around the studio that day — and in San Diego, that could be any number of players — making up Volcano, whose debut, The Island (on Tee Pee) melds Afrobeat funk-rock with the band’s hometown penchant for boogie. The songs are catchy — “10,000 Screamin’ Souls,” “Naked Prey,” “Skewered,” “No Evil, Know Demon”; hooks abound — but there’s a feeling of kind of an unthinking portrayal of “the islander” as a savage that I can’t quite get past. There’s inherently an element of cultural appropriation to rock and roll anyway, but even more here, it seems. They make it a party, to be sure, but there’s a political side to what Afrobeat was originally about that goes unacknowledged here. They might get there, they might not. They’ve got the groove down on their first record, and that’s not nothing.

Volcano on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

 

Wet Cactus, Dust, Hunger and Gloom

wet cactus dust hunger and gloom

Sometimes you just miss one, and I’ll admit that Wet CactusDust, Hunger and Gloom got by me. It likely would’ve been in the Quarterly Review a year ago had I not been robbed last Spring, but either way, the Spanish outfit’s second long-player is a fuzz rocker’s delight, a welcoming and raucous vibe persisting through “Full Moon Over My Head,” which is the second cut of the total five and the only one of the bunch under seven minutes long. They bring desert-jammy vibes to the songs surrounding, setting an open tone with “So Long” at the outset that the centerpiece “Aquelarre” fleshes out even further instrumentally ahead of the penultimate title-track’s classic build and payoff and the earth-toned nine-minute finale “Sleepy Trip,” which is nothing if not self-aware in its title as it moves toward the driving crescendo of the record. All throughout, the mood is as warm as the distortion, and Wet Cactus do right by staying true to the roots of desert rock. It’s not every record I’d want to review a year after the fact; think of it that way.

Wet Cactus on Thee Facebooks

Wet Cactus on Bandcamp

 

Duskwood, The Long Dark

duskwood the long dark

A follow-up EP to Duskwood‘s 2016 debut long-player, Desert Queen, the four-track The Long Dark is a solid showcase of their progression as songwriters and in the capital-‘d’ Desertscene style that has come to epitomize much of the UK heavy rock underground, taking loyalism to the likes of Kyuss and topping it off with the energy of modern London-based practitioners Steak. The four-piece roll out a right-on fuzzy groove in “Mars Rover” after opening with “Space Craft” and show more of a melodic penchant in “Crook and Flail” before tying it all together with “Nomad” at the finish. They warn on their Bandcamp page this is ‘Part 1,’ so it may not be all that long before they resurface. Fair enough as they’ve clearly found their footing in terms of style and songwriting here, and at that point the best thing to do is keep growing. As it stands, The Long Dark probably isn’t going to kick off any stylistic revolution, but there’s something to be said for the band’s ability to execute their material in conversation with what else is out there at the moment.

Duskwood on Thee Facebooks

Duskwood on Bandcamp

 

Lykantropi, Spirituosa

Lykantropi-Spirituosa

Sweet tones and harmonies and a classic, sun-coated progressivism persist on Lykantropi‘s second album, Spirituosa (on Lightning Records), basking in melodic flow across nine songs and 43 minutes that begin with the rockers “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia” and soon move into the well-paired “Darkness” and “Sunrise” as the richer character of the LP unfolds. “Songbird” makes itself a highlight with its more laid back take, and the title-track follows with enough swing to fill whatever quota you’ve got, while “Queen of Night” goes full ’70s boogie and “Seven Blue” imagines Tull and Fleetwood Mac vibes — Flutewood Mac! — and closer and longest track “Sällsamma Natt” underscores the efficiency of songwriting that’s been at play all the while amidst all that immersive gorgeousness and lush melodicism. They include a bit of push in the capper, and well they should, but go out with a swagger that playfully counteracts the folkish humility of the proceedings. Will fly under many radars. Shouldn’t.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

Lightning Records website

 

Kavod, Wheel of Time

kavod wheel of time

As Italian trio Kavod shift from opener “Samsara” into “Absolution” on their debut EP, Wheel of Time, the vocals become a kind of chant for the verse that would seem to speak to the meditative intention of the release on the whole. They will again on the more patient closer “Mahatma” too, and fair enough as the band seem to be trying to find a place for themselves in the post-Om or Zaum sphere of spiritual exploration through volume, blending that aesthetic with a more straight-ahead songwriting methodology as manifest in “Samsara” particularly. They have the tones right on as they begin this inward and outward journey, and it will be interesting to hear in subsequent work if they grow to work in longer, possibly-slower forms or push their mantras forward at the rate they do here, but as it stands, they take a reverent, astral viewpoint with their sound and feel dug in on that plane of existence. It suits them.

Kavod on Thee Facebooks

Kavod on Bandcamp

 

Onioroshi, Beyond These Mountains

onioroshi beyond these mountains

Onioroshi flow smoothly from atmospheric post-sludge to more thrusting heavy rock and they take their time doing it, too. With their debut album, Beyond These Mountains, the Italian heavy proggers present four tracks the shortest of which, “Locusta,” runs 10:54. Bookending are “Devilgrater” (14:17) and “Eternal Snake (Mantra)” (20:30) and the penultimate “Socrate” checks in at 12:29, so yes, the trio have plenty of chances to flesh out their ideas as and explore as they will. Their style leans toward post-rock by the end of “Devilgrater,” but never quite loses its sense of impact amid the ambience, and it’s not until “Socrate” that they go full-on drone, setting a cinematic feel that acts as a lead-in for the initial build of the closer which leads to an apex wash and a more patient finish than one might expect given the trip to get there. Beyond These Mountains is particularly enticing because it’s outwardly familiar but nuanced enough to still strike an individual note. It’s easy to picture Onioroshi winding up on Argonauta or some other suitably adventurous imprint.

Onioroshi on Thee Facebooks

Onioroshi on Bandcamp

 

Et Mors, Lux in Morte

et mors lux in morte

Whoever in Maryland/D.C. then-four-piece Et Mors decided to record their Lux in Morte EP in their practice space had the right idea. The morose death-doom three-songer takes cues from USBM in the haunting rawness of “Incendium Ater,” and even though the 19-minute “House of Nexus” comes through somewhat clearer — it was recorded to tape at Shenandoah University — it remains infected by the filth and grit of the opener. Actually, “infected” might be the word all around here, as the mold-sludge of closer “Acid Bender” creeps along at an exposed-flesh, feedback-drenched lurch, scathing as much in intent as execution, playing like a death metal record at half-speed and that much harsher because they so clearly know what they’re doing. If you think it matters that they mixed stuff from two different sessions, you’re way off base on the sound overall here. It’s patch-worthy decay metal, through and through. Concerns of audio fidelity need not apply.

Et Mors on Thee Facebooks

Et Mors on Bandcamp

 

Skånska Mord, Blues from the Tombs

skanska mord blues from the tombs

When Sweden’s Skånska Mord are singing about the deep freeze in album opener “Snow” on the Transubstans-released Blues from the Tombs, I believe it. It’s been seven years since Small Stone issued their Paths to Charon LP (review here), and the new record finds them more fully dug into a classic rocker’s take on hard-blues, rolling with Iommic riffs and a mature take on what earliest Spiritual Beggars were able to capture in terms of a modern-retro sound. “Snow” and “Simon Says” set an expectation for hooks that the more meandering “Edge of Doom” pulls away from, while “The Never Ending Greed” brings out the blues harp over an abbreviated two minutes and leads into a more expansive side B with “Blinded by the Light” giving way to the wah-bassed “Sun,” the barroom blueser “Death Valley Blues” and the returning nod of closer “The Coming of the Second Wave,” stood out by its interwoven layers of soloing and hypnosis before its final cut. It’s been a while, but they’ve still got it.

Skånska Mord on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records website

 

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 11

Posted in Radio on March 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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Oh, it was a cold and snowy Sunday night, but the rawk was hawt, and so on. Okay, so maybe I’m not much for the introductions, but I dug this episode. I want to screw with what I’ve kind of made the “format” of this show, and starting out with Kings Destroy, Clamfight and Forming the Void in honor of the show I saw on Saturday at the Saint Vitus Bar was fun. So it’s a little more than just be being like, “Duh, I like this record so here’s this song by this band,” though of course that pretty much applies here as well. I don’t know. Just something a little different. Branch out a bit. Try not to set rules for myself.

Speaking of a lack of rules, this one gets a little weird. Look out for Return to Worm Mountain and Hhoogg in the second hour, and then Volcano leading into longer tracks from Sons of Morpheus and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree. That last song from the latter is 17 minutes long, and hell yeah I was going to include it. So good. That record is an unexpected turn from them, but absolutely awesome, so if you know it, all the better, and if not, maybe you’ll dig. Dig dig dig.

New tunes besides from Hexvessel, Snowy Dunes, High Reeper, Yatra and the sadly-defunct Cloud Catcher, and a classic riff-roll from Spirit Caravan round out what I thought was a pretty killer mixtape, so yeah, if you checked it out last night or get to listen to it tomorrow morning, thank you.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 03.03.19

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera Fantasma Nera*
Clamfight Echoes in Stone III
Forming the Void On We Sail Rift
BREAK
Yatra Smoke is Rising Death Ritual*
Hexvessel Wilderness Spirit All Tree*
Snowy Dunes Let’s Save Dreams Let’s Save Dreams*
High Reeper Bring the Dead Higher Reeper*
Cloud Catcher Beneath the Steel The Whip*
BREAK
Spirit Caravan Cosmic Artifact Jug Fulla Sun
Hhoogg Journey to the Dying Place Earthling, Go Home!*
Return to Worm Mountain Song for the Pig Children Return to Worm Mountain*
Smokey Mirror Sword and Scepter Split w/ Love Gang*
Volcano No Evil Know Demon The Island*
BREAK
Sons of Morpheus Slave (Never Ending Version) The Wooden House Session*
Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree Cinitus Grandmother*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is March 17. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Volcano Premiere “Naked Prey” Video; The Island Due Feb. 15

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

volcano naked prey

The first real inkling of what Volcano are all about came last year when the San Diego unit released a single track on their Bandcamp page. Already an album was said to be in the works, and soon after “10,000 Screamin’ Souls” (discussed here) showed up, the band was booked at Roadburn. It was, if I recall right, their second — maybe third? — show, in the 700-capacity Green Room, and EarthlessMario Rubalcaba sat in on percussion. Not too shabby. I was fortunate enough to be there to see it, and with Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals as the madman bandleader and JOY guitarist Zach Oakley jamming through funked-out riffs and classic-style soloing backed by the rhythm section of bassist Billy Ellsworth (also Loom) and drummer Matt Oakley (brother to Zach), the band were immediately locked in to being free as all hell, obviously having a blast and inviting the crowd to do the same as they ran through songs like “Naked Prey,” “No Evil, Know Demon,” “10,000 Screamin’ Souls” and “The Island” melded Afrobeat grooves with the psychedelia and heavy rock that’s become such a staple of their hometown.

Given the association with JOY and Harsh Toke, and the fact that the music was awesome, it was no surprise to find out Volcano had signed to Tee Pee Records, which together with Kommune Records will handle thevolcano the island release of The Island, the band’s first album. Comprised of Messer, the Oakleys, Ellsworth, and Ake Arndt (Operation Mindblow) on percussion, the studio incarnation of Volcano would seem to be no less feral in their intent than the stage version was last April. Having since pulled down “10,000 Screamin’ Souls” as a single from their Bandcamp page, the band has made “Naked Prey” available as the first audio from The Island, and it’s my pleasure today to host the premiere of the song’s accompanying video.

The footage is kind of grainly, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is getting naked, but if running through a jungle surrounded on all sides by ocean with no clothes on is the vibe Volcano are going for, they’ve pretty much got it down. “Naked Prey” is first and foremost a party, a good time in the tradition of letting loose, breaking through stylistic barriers and exploring a range of sounds from a range of places. A bit of cultural appropriation? Oh, most definitely. The video moves in a different direction, though, tapping into a grainy tube-TV aesthetic that Zach, who directed and offers some comment under the clip below, relates directly to early ’70s German music television. Because obviously. And suitably enough, they’re thinking of “Naked Prey” as analogous to what the rest of The Island has to offer. I haven’t heard the full thing yet, but having been lucky enough to hear at least some of these songs live, I believe it.

The Island is out Feb. 15. If you have an ass, get ready to shake it.

Enjoy:

“Naked Prey” official video premiere

Zach Oakley on “Naked Prey”:

“Every song on this record was fun to write, record and produce so it was hard to pick a first single. I think we chose “Naked Prey” because it’s the first tune on the record and so why not have it act as Volcano’s first introduction to the world.

It’s the leadoff track on the record for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s a banger! The drum intro is syncopated and groovy and the rest of the band drop in all at once with a twin guitar and keys melody that foreshadow a lot of what you’ll hear during the rest of the album. We’re basically telling people that if they like the first 15 seconds of “Naked Prey”, then they’re gonna dig the rest of the album too!

Lyrically speaking it sets the tone for the record. We tell the story arch of “The Island” and it’s inhabitants over the course of the record. Each tune it’s own chapter. In this first chapter we learn about their ruthless gods and the relentless aggression of nature and it’s dark governing forces. It’s a theme that we explore throughout the record, and it starts with NAKED PREY! Let the chase begin!

The “Naked Prey” music video began as a complete joke. Just talking about filming ourselves for a video was too goofy to take seriously. But we set out with the attitude that if it turned out too silly to release then we’d simply ditch it and never tell anyone we tried! I had just filmed and edited a short film documenting a jam session that I had been a part of at a friend’s property in Campo, CA, a month or two earlier and it turned out cool. Nothing too complex or professional looking, but really neat and nostalgic and plenty psychedelic. I took that same approach to shooting and editing Volcano’s first music video.

We felt like keeping it simple since it was our first video. Very little plot line aside from Gabe speaking as an angry deity. It’s mostly shots of the members of the band playing the tune against a non-descript background. It puts the focus on us as a players. No frills. Just plenty of trippy edits and overlays and other tricks lifted straight from the editing playbook of the 60s-70s German Television show “The Beat Club.” Anyone that has seen the Birth Control, Black Sabbath or Rory Gallagher performances on that show will get a kick, or at least a giggle out of our new video! We hope everyone has as much fun watching it as we did making it!”

Volcano on Instagram

Volcano on Bandcamp

Kommune Records on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records website

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Roadburn 2018 Day Three: No Evil No Demon

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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04.21.18 – 11:31PM CET – Saturday night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

A text came in this morning from The Patient Mrs., who told me she wanted me to be kinder to myself in how I described moving through the world around me. I saw this right when I woke up this morning, so had no idea what she was talking about. It was all the “galumphing” and “lumbering” and “waddling” and whatnot I’ve been doing the last few days. I told her it’s a running gag and that in describing my every movement from placebell witch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) to place today, I would use the word “farting” exclusively.

It was a busy day. I did a lot of farting back and forth. We did not set a new land-speed record in getting the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch to the press, but we did still manage to get it out on time like the pros that we are. It was a good thing, too, because Roadburn 2018 day three started extra early with Bell Witch at Koepelhal, and it was not to be missed. Clearly there would be no time for farting around.

The Seattle-based duo play here tomorrow as well, but today they were performing last year’s brilliant and affecting Mirror Reaper (review here) in its entirety, with six-string bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman joined by Erik Moggridge, also known as the solo-performer Aerial Ruin, to contribute guest vocals as he does on the album, which was written in memory of former drummer Adrian Guerra, who passed away in 2016. The piece, an 80-minute single-song full-length, was to be rendered in its complete form, with all the crushing tones and searing emotional resonance brought to life.

I’ll be honest with you, it felt a little voyeuristic to watch. I’ve seen tribute sets at Roadburn before — one recalls the Selim Lemouchi tribute in 2014, and even as Bell Witch were playing today at Koepelhal, back at Het Patronaatbell witch (Photo by JJ Koczan)Stephen Brodsky and Adam McGrath of Cave In were paying homage to their late former bandmate, Caleb Scofield, who died in a car accident last month. But still. Maybe it’s just because it was so heavy coming from Bell Witch, or maybe it was the way Shreibman started out with his head down on his snare, or how he, Desmond and Moggridge all came together on vocals, but there was something so raw about the grief on display that it would’ve been next to impossible not to be affected by it. Powerful. Moving. One only hopes there some measure of catharsis derived from the process, because they managed to turn the darkest of feelings and sounds into something beautiful.

Somewhat dazed, I dragged my oafish, unworthy, hideous fucking carcass out of the Koeplhal — where in the merch area they couldn’t even find a Sacri Monti t-shirt big enough to wrap around my bloated fucking form (shit just got tragic; dial it back) — and over to the Hall of Fame where even-younger-than-I-thought-they-were-and-I-thought-they-were-pretty-young boogie rockers Supersonic Blues were getting set to go on. Hall of Fame is the smallest of Roadburn 2018’s venues, and I hadn’t been supersonic blues (Photo by JJ Koczan)inside yet other then to pop in on Petyr playing heavy ’70s covers yesterday, so this was my first real set there. Supersonic Blues also did a set of covers at some point in the last two days, and they worked a UFO song into this set of originals as well, I suspect because they just don’t have that much original material yet. They were allotted 50 minutes, and they’ve only released one two-song single (review here), so yeah. Maybe they just ran out of songs.

As happens in some fortunate occasions with young acts who aren’t arrogant as hell, Supersonic Blues are a better band than they know. They were somewhat timid on stage, or at least subdued, but their boogie, their tones and their swing were all right on, and their material was warm and classic feeling in a way that fit with some of the San Diego Takeover groups — PetyrArcticSacri Monti, etc. — but laid back enough to still be its own vibe. I was already looking forward to their next release and am only more so after seeing them play.

My next move was something of a debate. In the Green Room, Minami Deutsch and Damo Suzuki were doing a set together, which sounds like, yes, something you want to stand in front of for as long as you can. On the Main Stage, however, Panopticon were doing a full-on full-hour, and well, I watched both Minami Deutsch and Damo Suzuki yesterday — albeit in different contexts — and I’ve never seen Panopticon, so the Minnesota-based, folk-infused American black metallers won out. Not a phrase I say often. Led by guitarist/vocalist Austin Lunn, who also owns and operates Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota, which smells delightfully like fresh-cut and/or burning wood when you go therepanopticon (Photo by JJ Koczan)Panopticon absolutely packed out the Main Hall, and with family members to the side of front of the crowd, they unleashed a torrent of USBM intensity that made no bones about its intent to scorch.

For a band who doesn’t tour nine months out of the year, their ownership of the big stage was complete and unflinching, and as they have a brand new record out in the form of The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II on Bindrune, their energy level was no less ferocious than the material itself, though there was plenty of dynamic to be had as well. I knew I wanted to be back in the Green Room for Volcano, so I hopscotched out of the Main Hall and downstairs to grab a quick bite to eat. Some vegan meatballs and seasoned mystery (actual-)meat later, I lubbered up to the front of the Green Room and there planted myself to wait for Volcano to hit it.

And I mean hit it. Led by the keys of Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer and the guitar of Joy‘s Zach Oakley, with Red Octopus‘ Billy Ellsworth on bass, I don’t even know who on drums, Sacri Monti and Joy drummer Thomas Dibenedetto on percussive sticks and Earthless‘ own Mario Rubalcaba sitting in on volcano (Photo by JJ Koczan)bongos and other percussion, Volcano were an Afrobeat-inspired melee of psychedelic funk, starting out their set with a song called “Naked Prey” and ending with their previously-posted single, “10,000 Screaming Souls” (discussed here), and in between, they were an absolute blast of rhythm, vibe and motion. “No Evil No Demon” invited shouting sing-alongs, and as my understanding is that their record is already done and they’re already signed to Tee Pee for the release — hardly a surprise given the personnel involved — I was thinking of their set as something of a preview of what’s to come when the album lands, but they were already crazy tight, locked in, and looking and sounding like they were having a total blast.

It was their second show. Two. I’d sat next to Ellsworth on the bus ride from the airport to Tilburg the other day and he told me the band figured they might as well get one under their belt before playing Roadburn. Their second show. In the Green Room. And they totally killed it.

They are a band about which you will no doubt hear more in the months, maybe years, to come, and they made an excellent lead-in for the psychedelic masterclass that long-running UK cosmotrodders The Heads delivered in the same space. I’ve seen The Heads at Roadburn before — they played the Main Stage in 2015 (review here) and subsequently released it as the live album, Burning up With… (review here) — and their history with the festival and with Walter goes back much farther than that, and as he worked the live video mixing projected behind them once again in the Green Room, the swirl was unmistakable and irresistible. Before they went on, the heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)I had been reading a news story about diamonds found in a meteorite that were supposed to be leftover from a planetary collision 4.7 billion years go or something like that.

Could there possibly be a better analog to what The Heads bring to the stage? Diamonds from space? Shit, as I watched them conjure a gravity well with “Coogans Bluff” and “Widowmaker,” all I could think about was a giant rock slamming with a couple billion years’ worth of momentum into the earth and Paul AllenWayne MaskellHugo Morgan and Simon Price popping out of the thing like a presidential birthday cake and jamming a swirl hot enough to melt crucial elements into new molecules. Heavy. Psychedelic. Perfection. I don’t think there’s really any other option when The Heads play except to stand there with your mouth agape and just try to retain as much of it as humanly possible. The only challenge is not snapping back to reality when they’re done and realizing you’ve lost time, like on an old episode of X-Files.

Oh, and by the way, The Heads are really, really, really fucking good.

I did not at all envy Sacri Monti the task of following them up, but the San Diego five-piece represented the Takeover well, with a contingent of their clique on hand to watch as guitarist/vocalist Brendan Dellar, guitarist Dylan Donavon, organist Evan Wenskay, bassist Anthony Meier (also of Radio Moscow) and Dibenedetto sacri monti (Photo by JJ Koczan)on drums tore into songs from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and some new material from the follow-up that that first album is due. I’ve no idea what the state of their next record is, but what they played sounded right on and though they were less spaced-out than The Heads, one could still get a sense of the intended continuity in the Green Room as they played, which started with Petyr and Minami Deutsch with Damo Suzuki, got far out with Volcano and The Heads and came back to the boogie via Sacri Monti before Sweden’s Maggot Heart closed out the room for the night with more of a post-punk vibe.

After poking my laughably-gargantuan cranium into the Main Hall to take a peak at Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whose second set of the weekend I’ll watch tomorrow, I poor-coordinationed my way over to Het Patronaat to close out my night with a blast of Japanese sludge from Greenmachine, who were performing their 1997 debut, D.A.M.N., in its entirety. Their onslaught was immediate save for a small technical issue with one of the amps, and they delivered a pummel worthy of the underground influence they’ve had in their home country and beyond. I was digging the hell out of it, but have no problem admitting I was done before they were. When it’s time to go greenmachine (Photo by JJ Koczan)back to the hotel and write, there’s really nothing else to be done except that.

With the banana I’d found earlier in the day backstage still in the side pocket of my cosmic backpack, I knuckledragged back to the hotel through a Weirdo Canyon that looked like some kind of clash of civilizations, with dance clubs open and beardo metallers sitting out in cafes red-eyed and addled from a long day of whathaveyou. The anthropologist in me — and no, there isn’t an anthropologist in me — wanted to start interviewing members of different subcultures to see how they could possibly exist in the same space at the same time, but, well, there’s still Day Four of Roadburn 2018 to go tomorrow, and plenty enough already to keep me busy in the meantime.

You know what I did tonight? I introduced myself to Ester Segarra. Zero chance you remember, but a couple months back, I posted about how incredibly talented a photographer she is (and she is) and the collection she had coming out via Season of Mist and I said that in all the years I’d seen her in the photo pit at Roadburn, I’d never been brave enough to introduce myself. Well, as I was on my way from Sacri Monti to Greenmachine, she was walking the opposite direction in the front hallway of the 013 and I stopped her, shook her hand and said who I was. It might’ve been the bravest thing I’ve done this weekend up to this point, and to be frank, I don’t really see myself trying to top it tomorrow. But hey, I said hi to Ester Segarra. And she didn’t even tell me to go fuck myself. She was super-nice. Bonus.

More of my nowhere-near-as-good-as-Ester-Segarra’s photography after the jump, if you’re up for it. Thanks for reading.

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Friday Full-Length: Volcano, 10,000 Screaming Souls

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I bought this track this morning. According to Bandcamp, the time had come to open my heart/wallet, so for a buck, I figured it was easily worth it. This is Volcano‘s late-2017 debut single, and as they move forward with their first album presumably later this year, you never know what could happen. Releases like this one have a habit of disappearing when “real records” show up. So yeah, for a dollar, “10,000 Screaming Souls” was easily worth the asking price.

The occasion is Roadburn Festival, which, holy crap, is next week. I feel like I’m in no way mentally prepared for what’s happening next week in Tilburg, and therefore I must be. Volcano are playing as one of the slew of acts on the bill. I could’ve closed out the week with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or Earthless or whoever, but I went with Volcano for two reasons.

First, they represent the San Diego Takeover, which is one of the parts of Roadburn 2018 I’m most excited to see, with bands like Arctic, Harsh Toke — when Harsh Toke jams, you show up — Petyr, Pharlee, and others. The band, who again are new enough only to have released one single a couple months band, is comprised of Zach Oakley from Joy on guitar, Gabe Messer from Harsh Toke on keys and vocals, Billy Ellsworth of Loom on bass, Matt Oakley (brother to Zach) handling drums and Ake Arndt from Operation Mindblow holding down percussion. I’ve done a fair amount of writing about what I’ve come to abbreviate in emails as the “SDT,” and Volcano have become one of the bands I’m most looking forward to seeing thanks to “10,000 Screaming Souls.”

Second is the newness of it. Not only is it a fairly recent release, posted by the five-piece on Dec. 22 last year, but it also brings new ideas to the established stylistic tenets of San Diego’s dominant underground sphere — a penchant for classic heavy rock, touches of psychedelia, a heavy focus on tones, jamming, the word “rad,” connections to skate culture, etc. — with Messer taking on the role of a Fela Kuti-style bandleader telling the story of a jungle leading toward the shout-out hook, “Let the lava flow!” Elements of funk, classic psych, Afrobeat and boogie show themselves quickly on the track, melded into a fluid approach of keys, guitar and driving, ass-shaking rhythm.

If the band isn’t yet signed to Tee Pee Records for their debut album, they probably should be, given both sound and personnel. But the newness factor has another level of meaning as well, specifically as regards Roadburn, which never seems to fail to deliver some kind of surprise or progressive moment from its years past. I know Walter loves his Icelandic black metal, and I’m not going to take away from the maddening intensity of those performances, but something like importing a decent amount of an entire scene and basically saying, “Okay, go jam” — as he’s done with the San Diego Takeover — is pretty special and pretty forward-thinking.

On the off-chance you didn’t catch the above “holy crap,” Roadburn kind of snuck up on me this year in terms of “okay, I have to be at the airport when?” and concerns like that. Still, go ahead and count me in for watching Volcano next Saturday in the Green Room. I’ll let you know how it goes, and in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the track. Let the lava flow, and so on.

Just by way of a note, at six minutes, this is probably the shortest ‘Friday Full-Length’ I’ve done. One song. The idea, of course, is to close out each week with a complete album. Well, think of this time as a full release that just happens to be one song. It’s the whole single. That’s how I got over the hump. I sincerely doubt anyone cares that much — if anyone did, it would probably be me, and I don’t — but there you go anyway.

Time’s pretty limited, so I’ll keep this short. As I write, I’m sitting on the floor in the living room with The Pecan, who’s getting pretty close to rolling over back to front, proto-crawling, etc. Mobility. A whole other animal, I suspect. We just dropped his mother, The Patient. Mrs., off at work and will have to pick her up again shortly, then off to CT for the next two days at least. Been a rough couple nights of sleep. Baby stuff. So it goes.

I leave Tuesday evening for Roadburn. Here’s what’s in the notes for the week anyhow, subject to change pending things falling through, volcanoes, whatever:

Mon.: Mordor track premiere; Willow Child video premiere.
Tue.: Svvamp track premiere; Ancient Lights album trailer premiere.
Wed.: Sun Voyager album stream.
Thu.: Roadburn
Fri.: Roadburn
Sat.: Roadburn
Sun.: Roadburn
Mon.: Travel day

Assuming all goes how it should go, that’s how it’s going to go. We’ll see how it goes. Got that?

Excellent. I wish you the best of weekends. If I’m spotty answering emails or Facebook messages more than usual, it’s because I’m traveling. As always, I’ll do my best to keep up.

Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Roadburn 2018 Announces Cul de Sac Lineup with Bison, Comet Control, Mirror Queen, Hair of the Dog and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2018 banner

And so we see Roadburn 2018 once again open its gaping maw of righteousness to hurl forth another barrage of acts to its long-since-completely-overwhelming lineup. You know how many distinct acts are discussed in the press release below? 32 by my count. And granted, I’ve never been much for counting, and a couple of them were previously announced and are playing additional sets, etc., but do you see my point?

My point is this: Roadburn 2018 makes an announcement for its smallest venue — the get-there-super-early-no-earlier-than-that Cul de Sac — and tightens up a few other odds and ends, and all of a sudden you’ve basically got an entire other festival being announced. 30 bands? That’s a fest. Roadburn throws it all out there like, “Oh it’s nothing. We do this every year.” And they do.

So who’s my absolute gotta-see on this list? If you read the names below and have been hanging around here for a bit, you can probably already guess it’s Comet Control. I was hoping they’d be added since they’re touring with Earthless and still supporting 2016’s much-loved Center of the Maze (review here). I’ll be there for them for sure — scheduling conflicts be damned. If it means there’s a chance I might get to watch that band play “Artificial Light,” I don’t care if I have to set up a tent in the middle of the Cul de Sac floor. I’m not missing it.

Here’s the update from the PR wire:

Roadburn 2018: Cul de Sac bands, pre-show party & more!

Roadburn’s artistic director, Walter Hoeijmakers comments:
“The sales of day tickets alongside weekend passes have surpassed our expectations and we’re on course for another sell out year at Roadburn. We couldn’t be happier as we dive headlong into putting the finishing touches to the 2018 edition.

“We still have the side programme to announce, and of course, the all important schedules, but for now, we think there’s plenty for you to sink your teeth into with this announcement. The depth and variety of talent on show here is truly stunning.”

CUL DE SAC
The Cul de Sac may be Roadburn’s smallest venue, but each year a hell of a lot of talent is packed into it’s confines. 2018 is no different with a stellar line up of bands both big and small who will be squeezing into the diminutive space and packing an enormous punch.

THURSDAY will see Une Misère reprise their performance with a second set. They’ll be joined by instrumental duo Insect Ark, hard rockin’ New Yorkers Mirror Queen, Dutch force of nature – Black Decades, the droning riffs of Galg, plus your personal soundtrack to the end of times courtesy of Sum of R.

FRIDAY has Earthless’ tour mates, Comet Control preparing for lift off, extreme metallers Départe from Down Under, Danish export Hexis, Dutch death metal darlings, Ulsect and a second set from Worship that promises some special surprises.

SATURDAY will see Planning for Burial perform again, mining his back catalogue for gems. Hair of the Dog will return to Roadburn, and be joined by fellow 2016 alumni Concatenatus, plus Mania’s mix of doom and black metal, and Phantom Winter’s suffocating sludge.

SUNDAY sees tour mates Bison and LLNN roll into Tilburg in an uncompromising fashion. They will be joined by the progressive sounds of Hidden Trails, a dual pronged Dutch attack in the form of Dystopia and Nefast, and visceral Italians, Syk.

SAN DIEGO TAKE OVER
Good news for fans of psychedelic riffs! There are new additions to the San Diego Take Over, and they’re sure to bend your mind further into previously unknown directions. Unraveling the threads that run between the family of bands that make up the SDTO would require a headspace much clearer than anyone involved is quite capable of, but suffice to say that the pedigree running through the bands is of the standard you have come to expect.

RED OCTOPUS mix influences such as early Sabbath, Hawkwind and Can into a psychedelic wonderland.

ARCTIC is a California power trio steeped in the roots of early 70’s blues/psych, á la Blue Cheer and Band of Gypsies, while drawing elements of modern heavy, reminiscent of early Sleep. Heavy, sludgy, stoner psych played with a slow, driving energy. The band features three pro skaters, Figgy on guitar, Frecks on drums and Nuge on bass.

VOLCANO is a soundtrack for an ancient apocalypse. Primordial rhythm and afro-inspired melodies fill their grooves. The rumble in the distance grows, the forest falls silent. Let their trance fuel the dance, while theres still time. Let the lava flow…

PHARLEE was forged in the middle of the white-hot psychedelic jam scene in San Diego, California from members of Harsh Toke, Sacri Monti and Joy. But don’t let their geographical origin and associated acts mislead you. Pharlee walks their own path on scorched-earth. Forgoing the weed-fuelled jams of their counterparts for full-on the speed-ruled riffage. Partying off the sounds of Priest, Motorhead, Betty Davis and ACID, Pharlee create a new shrilling sound.

The San Diego Takeover is supported by the Performing Arts Fund NL.

TOBY DRIVER & ZVI
These two component parts of Kayo Dot will be making their presence felt at Roadburn 2018 as they perform (separately) on Thursday, 19 April.

As a solo performer, on guitar, keyboard, and voice, Toby Driver has been exploring dark, austere neofolk akin to Grouper, Talk Talk, Current 93, and others, with a subtle progressive and unsettling edge, featured in his recent release, Madonnawhore (The Flenser, 2017). Along with songs from Madonnawhore, he will also be performing pieces from his forthcoming solo album, They Are The Shield, and additionally, a few left turns are of course to be expected.

Zvi is guitarist / vocalist Ron Varod (Kayo Dot, Sabbath Assembly, Psalm Zero, Myrkur) performing and recording solo since 2004. During the 40 minute run time of Zvi’s 2016’s Death Stops Us All, Varod gently wakes us up with a whispered vocal over nylon string guitar, pummels us with throbbing noise and lulls us back to sleep with droned out suspended clusters and Talk Talk-esque clean guitars.

RRRAGS
Formed by singer / drummer Rob Martin (formerly of Bliksem), guitarist Ron Van Herpen (Astrosoniq, ex-The Devil’s Blood) and Rob Zim (bass, Lords of Altamont), RRRags emulates the sounds and styles of power trio’s such as Grand Funk, Blue Cheer and James Gang. But in addition to their fuzzed-out and soulful approach, there are also touches of psychedelica and psyfunk, which sets the band apart from the current crop of Sabbath worshipers, or old school hardrock devotees.

HARD ROCK HIDEOUT
Roadburn’s annual pre-party returns! For those in Tilburg on Wednesday evening, before the festival kicks off “proper”, we welcome Roadburners to the city in style! This year we have teamed up with Babylon Doom Cult Records in Belgium to present speed metallers Bütcher, and Speed Queen, plus genre-crossing Witch Trail.

The Hard Rock Hideout is FREE and will take place at the Cul de Sac.

As with last year, the festival’s wristband exchange will be open on Wednesday, April 18 between 18.30-23.00 for early arrivals to pick up their passes in advance of Roadburn kicking off on Thursday.

https://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival/
http://www.twitter.com/Roadburnfest
http://www.instagram.com/roadburnfest
http://www.roadburn.com

Roadburn 2018 Cul-de-Sac Announcement Video

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