Wild Rocket, Disassociation Mechanics: Headfirst into the Ion Storm

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

WILD ROCKET DISASSOCIATION MECHANICS

If you’re going to push your listeners out into a churning realm of bright-feeling psychedelic noise wash, it helps to start with a hook. Wild Rocket clearly know this, and so their sophomore album, Disassociation Mechanics (on Art for Blind), begins with “Caught in the Triangle Again,” a song that finds the Dublin four-piece playing lumber and blast directly off each other, finding a line between heavy and space rock. That niche, which on paper seems so obvious it might as well be a punch in the face — and in the case of some of the freakouts on the ensuing five-song offering, it kind of feels like one — is deceptively individualized in the care of Niallo, Moose, Jon and Bres, and while there persists a strong current of Hawkwind blowing through “Caught in the Triangle Again,” the band neglects nothing in their songwriting, returning after eliciting this massive nine-minutes-plus sprawl to the chorus as if to let their listeners know how in control they actually are as artists.

They complement this broad-reaching vibe with a tonality that feels as geared toward altitude as the mix of the record is toward depth, and while only the 15-minute penultimate “The Future Echoes” will match and surpass “Caught in the Triangle Again” for runtime, Wild Rocket nonetheless stretch themselves down to the molecules as they plow through “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger,” the centerpiece “Into the Black Hole” and closer “The Edges of Reality,” the last of which in particular presents a mirror-universe chorus to complement “Caught in the Triangle Again” and give a sense of the journey’s destination being perhaps not so distant after all from its starting point, at least the way the limited human mind perceives the spaces between one thing and the other. Still, you might lose time as the 43-minute LP unfolds, and that’s cool. Check under your seat for a flotation device. Also headphones. You’ll want both.

I’ll readily admit that my opinion of Wild Rocket and the work they do in fuzz-echo-tripping their way through “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger” and the rest of the tracks here is affected by having recently seen the band perform at the inaugural and Obelisk co-sponsored Emerald Haze fest in their hometown (review here). I’m not sure why that would be an issue, especially with the energy the foursome put into their thrust being so in kind with their live show, but it feels like it’s worth mentioning all the same in a full-disclosure kind of way, and also because I feel like seeing the band on stage before and after having experienced Disassociation Mechanics was helpful in giving a fuller sense of the heavy psychedelic blend they for which they are shooting in these tracks.

Having seen them bring it to life, it’s a blend I’d argue they achieve on the CD (LP release impending), much aided by an almost constant fullness of sound brought on through the use of synth and keys that adds wash to “Caught in the Triangle Again” and “Infinite Reconnaissance Hanger” while giving the opening of “Into the Black Hole” a sense of more straightforward keyboard drama before the shouted echoes of the first verse bring the centerpiece to one of the album’s most singularly intense moments. For a release like this to work at all, it is essential that it be fluid in its transitions within and between its tracks and dynamic in how it presents its style, and Disassociation Mechanics is both of these things, to be sure. Taken as a whole in linear form — CD or digital — it brims with immersion and offers standout moments whether it’s the aforementioned repeated choruses of “Caught in the Triangle Again” and “The Edges of Reality” or the bounce and delivery of the title line in “Into the Black Hole,” or even just the sprawl of “The Future Echoes,” which invariably feels like and is a significant landing/launch point for Wild Rocket as they careen through the cosmos, remaining structurally intact all the while.

wild rocket

It is that factor, ultimately, that makes Disassociation Mechanics work so well. Yes, Wild Rocket beef up space rock impulses and present their material with nuance, vitality and flow. None of that is to be understated in how crucial it is. None of it. But it’s the underlying structural integrity of the work that gives it the legs on which to stand and lets it convey its resonant and exploratory sensibility without getting lost in its own wash of noise. Even “The Future Echoes” holds itself together as effects and backwards swirl top a temporary slowdown two minutes in before the push resumes — a thrill as much of pace as tone, and not by any means the last on offer. Indeed, they shift through that time warp again and hold the gruel even longer the second time around, a space-doom march emerging that holds firm and lumbers “The Future Echoes” just about to its midpoint before impulse power is restored.

At that point, the outward course is set and Wild Rocket engage with due fervency an instrumental kosmiche shove that will consume the rest of “The Future Echoes,” drums varying in snare punctuation even as they’re responsible for holding together the fluidity emanating from the righteous bass and guitar tones, no less elemental than the keys to the overall spirit of the piece. There’s a somewhat expected devolution that starts at about 14 minutes in as “The Future Echoes” blows itself out, and by its final minute, the instruments have crashed and only slow-fading static noise remains. This makes the side B companion “The Edges of Reality” something of an epilogue, but again, its purpose seems to lie as much in hearkening back to the opener as following-up “The Future Echoes,” and it does that well, taking off patiently with faded-in drums over an intro of synth with an emphasis on space rock rhythm. The repeated line, “Pushing at the edges of reality,” gives an initial foothold in an early verse, and will be repeated twice more as the finale moves further and further into phase-shifted, pulsating drift, including during the last fadeout, where it provides a telling moment of humanity at the core of what might otherwise come across as cold and void of life.

Ultimately, Disassociation Mechanics is anything but, and in answering the tonal and aesthetic promise of their 2014 debut, Geomagnetic HallucinationsWild Rocket further establish themselves through a cohesive and forceful execution of a brand of space rock that, wielded less capably, would simply unwind into a sonic mess. This speaks to a progressive edge in their craft that may or may not continue to take hold as they move forward from these tracks toward their inevitable next release, but whatever direction they take over the longer term — and they’re by no means limited to choosing one path over another; clearly capable as they are of adopting multiple stylistic facets as suits their purpose in a given song — their second album brings them to a dimension of color and warmth, and it is an utter joy for the listener to join them there.

Wild Rocket, Disassociation Mechanics (2017)

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Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night One, Sept. 1, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.30 – Friday night/Saturday morning – Sid’s house

First night of an inaugural edition of a festival. I couldn’t help but be affected by a kind of ambient level of anxiety in the room, though I’ll say as well that the hypercaffeination factor probably didn’t help in that regard. It was a cloudy day in Dublin with just a bit of a chill in the air and 10 bands on the bill, and before I put myself in the darkened recesses of the Voodoo Lounge for the evening, I sat at the coffee shop and could see the sundry black-t-shirt-clad weirdos who’d be attending the fest. They were easy enough to pick out.

The show got underway at 19.00 with Elder Druid on The Obelisk Stage, which even though I’m here and have seen it in-person still seems more than a little unreal, and was just about nonstop from there until Wild Rocket finished on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage after midnight, so there was plenty to see. I did the best I could with the back and forth and tried not to look like too much of an ass taking notes in between. Here are the results of that effort:

Elder Druid

elder-druid-photo-jj-koczan

Well, if you want to get things rolling, you might as well get someone that rolls, and Elder Druid have that part down. The Northern Irish sludgers weren’t heretofore unknown to me, having checked out their 2016 debut EP, Magicka (review here), and they broke out riff after sludgy riff for the early crowd filing in. It hardly seemed like a coincidence they were starting off the show. Although they’re from up north, like a lot of the representation Irish heavy would get throughout the night to follow, they were young and hungry, and looking to establish themselves as a force to the audience assembled. Aggro vocals over Southern-style riffs aren’t necessarily uncharted territory, but for a newer group, they worked quickly to find their momentum and held people in check for the duration, sounding full and mean through the Voodoo Lounge soundsystem with pro-shop lighting flashing behind them. They were angrier than a lot of the vibe would be for the rest of the night, but definitely drew people right into the thick of it with their set. They’re about to release their debut album, Carmina Satanae, on Oct. 6, and I hope I get to dig into it, because it was a fast half-hour from them to start the night.

Blaak Heat

blaak-heat-photo-jj-koczan

Talk about a band who deserves more respect than they get. I suppose that’ll happen when your stuff is so head-spinningly complex, full of frenetic rhythmic changes, blinding turns, obscure Eastern-inflected scales and progressive melodies, but still. Playing as a five-piece and sharing three members with Abrahma in percussionist Sacha Viken, guitarist Nicolas Heller and bassist  Guillaume Theoden — which left just guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier and drummer Mike Amster in the lineup from when I last saw them — they opened with “Sword of Hakim” and “Al-Andalus” from their new 7″ The Arabian Fuzz (review here) and proved once again how absolutely underrated they are and have been basically since they started. I had talked to them earlier in the day and Bellier said they had new stuff in the works, demos and whatnot (which I’d love to hear, though he doesn’t seem the type to send something unfinished, even just to check out), and while their 2016 full-length, Shifting Mirrors (review here), was the farthest they’d yet reached, the new single proves they’re still progressing, still pushing themselves, and I hope that will continue, because the results have never been anything less than stellar. They might be underrated, they might deserve more respect than they get, but clearly they’re chasing something within themselves sonically and that journey seems to thrive on the validation from the creativity that results from its undertaking.

Zlatanera

zlatanera-photo-jj-koczan

They were the first act upstairs on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like much of what followed them in the smaller room, they played a more straightforward vibe and did well representing the native Irish scene. I hadn’t quite realized the shape the evening would take until I actually looked at the schedule, with international bands exclusively downstairs and Irish acts upstairs, but it made sense, and it was clear to see who the locals were once the double-guitar five-piece got going. As had Elder DruidZlatanera drew a good early crowd, and though I was kind of in and out for their set as I wanted to catch the end of Blaak Heat back downstairs — conflicts, conflicts, conflicts; back and forth is life at a festival — when I went back down I could still hear them from the back of the bigger room, so they were clearly doing something right. Light on frills, but their sound filled that upstairs room perfectly.

Abrahma

abrahma-photo-jj-koczan

Parisian progressive heavy rockers Abrahma kept the theme — and the lineup — rolling from Blaak HeatViken moved behind the drum kit at the back of the deep downstairs stage, and Theoden and Heller switched sides from left to right as founding Abrahma guitarist/vocalist Sebastien Bismuth took the center spot. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch Abrahma live once before, in the Netherlands for Roadburn 2015 (review here), but neither Theoden nor Viken were in the band at that point, so it was half like seeing them for the first time anyway, even knowing how dynamic a frontman Bismuth is onstage. And he is. They said earlier this summer they’d be recording a new album this Fall as a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), and I hope they get there, because they seemed to be pretty locked in when it came to their presentation, right down to a pleasant-as-hell-surprise cover of Type O Negative‘s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” from October Rust. Unexpected, to be sure, and twice as daring without keys, but Bismuth led the charge through a two-guitar interpretation, and it’s worth noting that even after the show that song continues to be stuck in my head, where I hope it will stay for, I don’t know, ever? In all seriousness, I’m very, very intrigued to hear where their new (original) material takes AbrahmaReflections in the Bowels of a Bird added to much to their sound even compared to the preceding 2012 outing, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), that I can only wonder what the next step in that process will be. One to look forward to for 2018, at the very least.

Mount Soma

mount-soma-photo-jj-koczan

I was really hoping they’d be good, because I bought one of their shirts even before they started playing. Long story. Not really, but a boring story, so we’ll call it long and leave it at that. Being there to catch Mount Soma‘s mix of melodic and nasty heavy meant again trodding upstairs in my plodding-old-man kind of way, and again, when I got there, I found the native Dubliners, like Zlatanera before them, giving a right-on impression of Irish underground heavy. The scene representing itself to itself: here we are. Obviously I’m an outsider and no expert to start with, but the understanding I’ve come to is that while the UK has been in something of a boom the last decade or so, that’s kind of overshadowed what’s actually happening here in terms of outside bands coming to tour and native Irish acts garnering wider attention. Efforts like Emerald Haze, particularly backed by the county of Dublin as this event is, are crucial in making that happen, and I didn’t quite realize until I watched Mount Soma that while it’s great to see the international acts downstairs, perhaps even more attention has gone into curating the Irish groups playing here, because a huge part of the message of this festival is that Ireland’s scene is coming into its own, and while there’s still growing to do, the bands are clearly willing to take that responsibility on their shoulders. Mount Soma proved it with volume and force. No regrets on buying that shirt, to be sure.

The Cosmic Dead

the comic dead (photo jj koczan)

The spaced-out Scots started late. Like, way late. Would you expect anything less of The Cosmic Dead than the bending of time? If so, then perhaps you’ve never heard them before, because that’s kind of what they do. Also, bending space. Also, melting brains. In any case, late start or no, once they got going, the Edinburgh four-piece freaked the royal fuck out — immediately and thoroughly. Killer. All the way. No doubter. Front to back. Green lights flashing. Synth blaring. Low end righteousness under wash of swirl. Melt. Melt. Melt. Space. Space. Space. Right frickin’ on. Like a frequency check for your consciousness. A litmus to see how much jam your brain could take before turning into powder. Every level, they were a lysergic win to behold, and while the running theme for the night was holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-lucky-enough-to-be-here-to-see-this, The Cosmic Dead only underscored the point that, holy crap, I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be here to see this. I’d already purchased every CD they had for sale and though I didn’t have enough cash, by the time they were done — they had the lights turned out on them because they were running long (that late start coming back to bite them in the collective ass) — I wanted to go back out to the merch area and pick up a t-shirt too. There were times as they were dug in when each member seemed to be on his own out there, floating without gravity and purposefully so, but when they locked step, whoa. Chills up the spine. Hair standing on end. Pick your cliché and roll with it. Whatever you got, The Cosmic Dead earned it. When they were done, they hung their guitars and bass from the ceiling. Room: conquered.

King Witch

king-witch-photo-JJ-KOCZAN

To the best of my knowledge, they were the only band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage not from Ireland or Northern Ireland, but while they shared a hometown with The Cosmic Dead in Edinburgh, the four-piece King Witch, whose metallic roots came through clearly in the guitar work of Jamie Gilchrist and the vocals of Laura Donnelly, the straight-ahead groove anchored by bassist Joe Turner and drummer Lyle Brown fit them right in with the likes of Mount Soma and Zlatanera before them. Donnelly was, one should note, the evening’s only standalone frontwoman, and she provided melody and force in kind from the stage. They were going even as The Cosmic Dead were still setting up downstairs, so were easy to hear from the start, and while once more I was up and back down again and back up again, King Witch‘s doom-tinged approach was a welcome preface to some of what tomorrow’s even more extended lineup will bring.

Church of the Cosmic Skull

church-of-the-cosmic-skull-Photo-jj-koczan

I have to admit, on paper it looks a little strange. Granted, it was one of 2016’s best debut albums, but still, UK seven-piece cult proggers Church of the Cosmic Skull only have one record out in the stellar Is Satan Real? (review here), so to find them headlining the bigger of the two stages could’ve been taken as something of a surprise. Until about 10 seconds in. I’d watched them soundcheck earlier in the day, and even that did little to prepare me for the righteousness of their presentation. Whether it was the interlude samples timed to videos between their songs or the harmonies between guitarist Bill Fisher, vocalists Caroline Cawley and Jo Joyce, bassist Sam Lloyd and Hammond organist Michael Wetherburn, or the brought-to-life memorability of cuts like “Mountain Heart,” set and album closer “Evil in Your Eye” or personal highlight “Watch it Grow,” they were nothing less than a celebration. A joy to witness. Really. Wetherburn‘s Hammond had been onstage all night, and when they finally broke it out, it was like Chekhov’s gun earning its place. Between that, the cello, and Fisher‘s rainbow guitar and stately manner as a chapeaued otherplanetary-cult leader waiting to take the whole venue away on some spaceship hidden behind a comet — pass that Kool-Aid, I’ll give it a shot, carbs or no — there was no place Church of the Cosmic Skull would have worked except at the top of the bill, and the room, which was the most packed it had been all night, knew it. I felt greedy for thinking to myself I hope I get to see them at some point again in my life, especially when they pulled out what I’m pretty sure was a new song during the middle of their time. They didn’t miss a cue in the harmony arrangements, but that did nothing to undercut their tonal presence or the push in Loz Stone‘s drumming, and as positive and affirming as they were, there was just enough evil underlying their work to be truly sinister. Right on.

Electric Octopus

electric-octopus-photo-jj-koczan

In order to prepare myself for seeing Electric Octopus live, the other day I undertook the considerable task of listening to their 2017 offering, Driving Under the Influence of Jams, in its nearly-four-hour entirety. And well, I knew they’d jam. And they jammed. What I didn’t realize was that when I went upstairs to catch them in that, they’d be so funky that they literally had people dancing in front of the stage. Think you can funk out improvised space rock? Because Electric Octopus sure as hell can, and the Belfast-based trio of bassist Dale Hughes (who was pulling double-duty, having also played in Elder Druid at the start of the show), guitarist Tyrell Black and drummer Guy Hetherington were a party unto themselves. I’d say outside world be damned, but the truth is, they seemed to feed off the fun the crowd in front of them was having, and it became this awesome conversation, the band playing the music being danced to and then taking the energy from that dance and translating it back into the music. There was something classic and open about it, but still molten and psychedelic at the same time. Wild Rocket, who’d follow, were more directly galaxial in what they were doing, and ditto that for The Cosmic Dead earlier, but Electric Octopus had their own personality that came through in their play and in their chemistry, and while there was nary a hook to be had in their instrumental explorations, their energy was infectious all the same. I didn’t dance. I don’t dance. I didn’t dance at my wedding. I don’t dance. But I grooved and had a hell of a time doing so as Electric Octopus made me want to go back and download every single thing they’ve ever put out, which is convenient because it’s all name-your-price on Bandcamp. They also had three CDs for sale. I bought all three and I’ll rank them among the wiser purchases I’ve made since becoming unemployed this summer.

Wild Rocket

wild-rocket-photo-JJ-Koczan

Okay, so first thing. If you haven’t heard Wild Rocket‘s new LP, Disassociation Mechanics, do that. In fact, you’ll note that of the 10 bands who played Emerald Haze 2017 tonight, they’re the only one I’m directly linking to on Bandcamp, and that’s not a coincidence. What a blast they were. Only fitting to have a Dublin outfit close out the evening, and Wild Rocket made sure everyone had a final chance to be launched well beyond the atmosphere. Even the dudes from The Cosmic Dead came upstairs and were throwing down at the front of the stage, and that seemed appropriate enough to the proceedings. Certainly well earned. I had seen them last year in Norway at Høstsabbat (review here), but with a little bit more of an idea of what I was getting this time around, it was a pleasure to watch them flatten the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage and give the night the best kind finale it could’ve possibly asked for. How much further out could it go than to have MooseJonBres and Niallo trip so far there was no coming back? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Point is, go listen to that fucking Wild Rocket album. I mean it. The review’s pretty much over anyway. Only thing left to reiterate is how well the band did in giving the city of Dublin one more excellent showing of its own homegrown scene, because they were nothing if they weren’t world-class all the way, and unquestionably ready for export. Did you go listen to the record? Did you hear “Into the Black Hole?” Yeah. Good.

It’s well past 2AM as I finish writing this and there are still pictures to sort through and a full 15-band lineup for tomorrow, so I’m going to leave it there for the time being. I’ll have this posted hopefully before the day starts up again, but hell, it might be tight. We’ll see how it goes. Would you believe me if I said I was anxious about it? Thought so.

Thanks for reading. More to come and more pics after the jump here.

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

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

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

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

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the fest:

EMERALD HAZE ANNOUNCE DAILY LINE-UPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

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

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

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

Like, a lot.

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

Here’s word from the PR wire:

emerald-haze-2017-final-poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belzebong, Greenferno (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the latest announcement from the fest:

emerald haze 2017 poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lord Vicar, “Birth of Wine”

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

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2016 Night Two in Oslo, Norway, 09.17.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat-2016-poster

I slept. I slept and slept and slept. Then I wrote. Then I slept more. Then I wrote more, and by the time I was done with all that writing and sleeping, it was almost the start of Høstsabbat‘s second night. An earlier launch and more bands, but still a lineup of unmistakable quality, I didn’t want to miss any of it.

I’d hardly call myself an expert on the place, but Oslo seems like a really cool town if you like bands. On the 10-minute walk from the hotel to the Arena Vulkan I passed no fewer than three places that looked like they might host a rock show on any given night. Maybe that doesn’t sound like that many, depending on where you live, but it’s an embrace of culture that doesn’t exist in the place I’m from. Again, no expert, but that’s the initial impression.

Before I jump into the wrap of the day, I want to extend a personal thanks to Ole Helstad, Jens Storaker and all involved with the festival for having me over. The chance to see Oslo at all and to see these bands in this place is something very special and they clearly believe in what they’re doing. Rightly so. The vibe throughout the weekend was fantastic and I went almost the whole show without having beer thrown on me, so mark it a win for sure. Skål.

Here’s how night two went down at Høstsabbat 2016:

Reptile Master

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Post-sludge played through three guitars (plus bass) geared toward general tonal push, Reptile Master were an aggressive start to the day. I remembered the band from the release of their 2015 debut, In the Light of a Sinking Sun (track stream here), on Blues for the Red Sun Records, but live, the Tromsø five-piece made much more of an impression, bassist Rolf Ole Rydeng Jenssen and guitarist Nicolay Tufte Østvold set up facing each other with their mic stands crossed so as to accentuate the dual screams that permeated their set. They also had a split with Black Moon Circle out earlier this year, but their sound is much more crushing in its atmosphere, holding a tension even in its quiet moments without coming across as a post-metallic Neurosis clone. In that, the general pissed off nature of the material served them well as a distinguishing factor that changed the context even of those quiet moments, and the nod factor only became more prevalent as they went on. They’ve clearly started to make a mark in Norway, if the early crowd was anything to judge by.

Wild Rocket

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It was my first exposure to Dublin’s Wild Rocket, whose debut album, Geomagnetic Hallucinations, came out in 2014. Much as the night before at Høstsabbat had shifted vibe almost on a per-band basis, they were a significant jump in style from what Reptile Master had on offer, trading off between driving heavy rock and more spaced impulses, like that moment when the song “Motorhead” became the band Motörhead. About 25 minutes into their set opening the Vulkan stage upstairs, they announced it was time for their last song, warning, “It’s kind of a long one.” Fair enough. More people came up as their time went on — it was early yet — and they very clearly turned a few heads, including mine, with that final space jam, seeming to push further out in a way that recalled to my mind some of Death Alley‘s post-Hawkwind cosmic triumphs, though in the case of Wild Rocket, the interstellar was even more of a factor with the inclusion of keys. Their set still wound up short at roughly 35 minutes, but it was a welcome sampling of what they’re about, and their energy was infectious.

Mammoth Storm

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Arguably the most impressive headbanging I saw all weekend came from Mammoth Storm bassist/vocalist Daniel Arvidsson, and there was some stiff competition. The Swedish four-piece rolled out huge, clunky riffs on the Pokalen stage in a spirit that found them aptly named. They weren’t far off from what Reptile Master were doing tonally, but ultimately less angry, less atmospheric, and more about the heft itself than the cathartic expression derived therefrom. Still, they were way into it. Formerly a trio, they were on tour earlier this summer with High Fighter and Earthship, and the Høstsabbat crowd seemed to be the beneficiary of that experience. Their first album, Fornjot, was issued late last year by Napalm Records, and while they seemed to be figuring out some elements of presentation, no question they had their direction sorted, all skull-pummel and unrelenting push. Heavy band playing heavy music, is the bottom line. It was an easy set to enjoy and another jump to a different style from the band before them; that once again would become something of a running theme throughout the night.

Kollwitz

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To wit, Kollwitz. Quite simply a band I’d probably never get the chance to see anywhere else, the Bodø six-piece proffered vicious post-metal with a hardcore edge, the intensity of Converge met with the strict chug and strobe lighting of Amenra. They had the most crowded stage of the festival, but still plenty of room upstairs at the Arena Vulkan to thrash around, and they took advantage of it, their motion tied to the undulating lumber of their songs. They were another band I’d never heard before, which was by design — that is, I knew they were playing and could’ve checked them out, but sometimes it’s fun to go into these things blind — but they hit the decade mark in 2016 and came across with the command of an experienced act. Rarer for acts of their ilk, their material had a kind of direct thrust, and even when they did drone out an ambient section, quieting down all that push, percussion, screams, keys, and so on, it was plain enough that it was a temporary situation before the assault began anew. In accordance with the tenets of the style, they were cerebral and bludgeoning in kind. There’s nothing else I would’ve asked of them.

Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus

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Shit they were good. Come over from Stockholm, Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus were among the bands I was most looking forward to seeing this weekend, and they were quick to justify that anticipation. Most of what they played came from 2014’s Spirit Knife (review here), and that was zero reason to complain as they nestled into the classic groove and modern energy of “Wind Seized” after the opening cut “Andra,” which may or may not have been new. They’d get more tripped out as they went on, vocalist/guitarist Karl Apelmo — whose voice sounds even better live — leading the charge with guitarist Micke Pettersson, bassist Viktor Källgren and drummer Henke Persson all on the same page, fluid and vibrant. They tapped into four decades’ worth of Swedish heavy rock without losing sight of their own personality, and their play between the boogie of ages and a modern soulfulness was exceedingly well met, especially with the psychedelic range that emerged later on with “Fog by the Steep” and “Point Growth” closing out. How they’re not playing every single festival this fall, or, you know, all the time, I have no idea. Excellent band, and clearly still growing as well. Put them on the road with Radio Moscow immediately.

Siena Root

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Sweden’s Siena Root have been making the festival rounds across Europe over the last several months while working on a follow-up to their 2014 album, Pioneers. Next month, they’ll play Smoke the Fuzz in Athens, and they’re veterans of the likes of Freak Valley, Dome of Rock and so on. I said on the social medias that seeing Siena Root took some of the sting out of knowing I’d never get to watch peak-era Deep Purple play live, and while that’s perhaps simplifying their appeal, I think the comparison holds up, with the classic ’70s vibe Siena Root bring to life in their songs, costumes and delivery, the focus on interplay between the organ of Erik “Errka” Petersson (the only full organ setup on either stage at Høstsabbat) and the guitar of Matte Gustavsson, and the powerhouse vocals of Samuel Björö, the robe-clad guru bass from Sam Riffer and the swing-ready drumming of Love Forsberg. They were unabashed fun, all-in, and a pro execution that wasn’t at all staid. So genuine were they in their performance that it made me think it might be time to start considering Siena Root in the same league as Spiritual Beggars when it comes to crafting their songs and representing a natural lineage to the birth of heavy.

Slomatics

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They were the one. Slomatics. The headliners for the Pokalen stage were the band I was most dying to see all weekend, and the disappointment factor was zero. The Belfast trio of guitarists David Majury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/noisemaker Marty Harvey rolled out some of Høstsabbat‘s most satisfying riffs, and with a set spanning back to 2012’s A Hocht for “Tramontane,” “Return to Kraken” and closer “Beyond Acid Canyon,” and included “Electric Breath” and “Supernothing” from this year’s stellar Future Echo Returns (review here) as well as a host of cuts from 2014’s Estron (review here), they crashed, bashed and rumbled so loudly and so righteously that when it came to it, I just couldn’t remove myself from the front of the stage. Not only that, I did something I hadn’t done the entire time at the Arena Vulkan, which was to remove my earplugs part-way and let the full brunt of the volume hit my eardrums directly. That, I soon enough realized, was a mistake, but even so, the fact that the impulse was there should say something. Slomatics don’t get out of Ireland much, so to have them in Oslo was something special, and their performance showed it. A joy of ultra-heavy revelry. It was reportedly their first time playing “Supernothing” live, and I felt ridiculously lucky to be there to witness it. They’re the reason my neck is sore today. Don’t even care.

Truckfighters

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Very much the headliners for the fest as a whole. Immediately. No warmup. All go. The Swedish fuzzdudes left nothing to mystery as to why they were atop the bill. No place else to put them, frankly. They played in front of a banner so huge that it didn’t fit the Vulkan stage and all you could see from the crowd was the word “TRUCK,” but that was enough to get the point across. I’d had the good fortune earlier in the evening to sit and interview bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm about the band’s new album, V (review pending), and some of the growth the group has undertaken over their last couple records, the push past straightforward desert-style groove into more progressive territory, and something I wondered about was how they would continue to strike that balance onstage when it comes to songs like “Calm Before the Storm” from the latest record. The answer is basically they just do. Cedermalm still headbangs, guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren is as kinetic as ever, jumping in circles, running from one side to the other of the stage, generally playing the madman role and doing it well. They had a new drummer — Marcus was the name I got, if he has a last name or a Truckfighters-style nickname, I don’t know it — who will reportedly be one of two joining them on their Euro tour this fall, and from what I hear they’ll be back in the US in spring, but the gist of watching a Truckfighters set is the excitement of how much they put into playing their songs, and whether they’re fast or slow, upbeat or melancholy, that continues to be the case. I stuck around to the finish because not only were they killing it, but the setlist didn’t have “Desert Cruiser” written on it — though they did include “Mexico,” which was a nice touch — and I was curious to see if they could actually get away with not playing that song, ending instead with “The Chairman” from 2014’s Universe (review here). They wound up using it for an encore, closing out the evening and the Høstsabbat as a whole with a sing-along of the chorus that continued even after they left the stage. I’m not sure a more suitable ending would’ve been possible.

It was right after they finished that some dick behind me decided to launch the rest of his beer into the crowd. Jerk move, but a great set, and I wasn’t exactly fresh and clean as it was by that point. I’d been watching the end of the show with the Slomatics guys, and said a few goodnights before making my way out. Always sad to walk out of an even like this for the last time, knowing that it’s over, but this was a special time and a special event, and those things have a tendency to be fleeting. All the more reason to treasure the memories of them.

Thanks again to everyone involved for having me over. I am humbled by the experience and deeply, deeply grateful for the opportunity. I wouldn’t presume to think I would be, but if I was invited again, I’d be here in a flash.

Flight takes off bound for JFK Airport via Copenhagen in about two hours. I very much appreciate you reading and know full well that if you didn’t, I wouldn’t get to do awesome stuff like fly to a festival in Oslo for a weekend, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

More pics after the jump.

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Høstsabbat 2016: Bong, Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus, Cult of Occult and Day of the Jackalope Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Høstsabbat 2016 is set for Sept. 16 and 17 at Vulkan Arena in Oslo, Norway. Already confirmed at the top of the current bill are Conan and Truckfighters, and newly announced as joining are UK drone improvisationalists Bong, Swedish heavy psych rockers Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, French blackened metallers Cult of Occult and native Norwegian heavy rockers Day of the Jackalope. That’s a pretty wide spectrum for a single round of fest additions to cover, but as Høstsabbat has grown over the past couple years, it’s only broadened its stylistic reach, though it seems fair to use “heavy” as a kind of universally applicable umbrella for what’s on offer.

To wit, the full lineup and new band announcements below:

Høstsabbat 2016

September 16 – September 17
Vulkan Arena
Vulkan 26, 0175 Oslo, Norway

Conan
Truckfighters
BONG
Siena Root
Cult of Occult
Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus
Kollwitz
Mammoth Storm
Slomatics
Reptile Master
WILD ROCKET
MaidaVale
Day of the Jackalope

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally set to announce four new acts for this years edition of Høstsabbat.

BONG

First out, and for the first time in Norway, the British masters of droning doom; BONG. They’re back after a brief hiatus and returning in their original state as a power trio.

Solemn in its delivery and frightening in its implications, as masters of mesmeric drone, freeing listeners from the increasingly unfamiliar material world and mercifully trapping them in the weightlessness of Bong’s sonic void.

Expect the same Amon Duul, Ash Ra Temple Improvisational basslines, glacial tempo and crushing guitar fuzz drone tones.

Cult of Occult

Concealed from the view of the moribund mass of humanity, hidden in the darkness of the gates of Hell, waiting to spread the evil sound of the extermination of life is the most powerful and misanthropic force; Cult of Occult.

Fed by hatred, loudness and alcohol, the four headed monster of Apocalypse will destroy everything on its way with its unwavering wall of sound. Like the scream of Satan himself, the rising trio Cult of Occult, will make another first time appearance in the North.

Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus

From our beloved neighbor in the East, another Ratgang has emerged from its extremely vibrant scene. Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus rides the astral wave of psychedelic-progressive-desert rock, firmly rooted in the 70’s.

This band is the musical, northwest passage between classic rock and the unholy spirit of Pink Floyd.

They have been around, brimming in the underground for quite some time. Releasing albums on Transubstans and Small Stone Records, playing festivals such as Freak Valley and Desertfest, we’re surely in for a treat at Høstsabbat.

Day of the Jackalope

The last year, Day of the Jackalope has become a name on everyone’s lips, who’s following the underground scene in Norway. Filled with energy and groove, fusing old school 70’s bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with modern stoner rock, Day of the Jackalope are ready to get it on. Having existed for years with changing lineups in various rehearsal spaces, the band is now finally complete, the debut EP is out to rave reviews, and Day of the Jackalope is hitting the stage. Taking inspiration from bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Clutch, Church of Misery and the ever imminent collapse of human civilization, Day of the Jackalope invites you into their universe. It is a fuzzy and warm place of dark and confusing lyrical landscapes, screaming guitars and thumping rhythms.

Catch them live at Høstsabbat!

See you in September!

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Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Live in Brazil 2015

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