Monolith on the Mesa: Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Wo Fat, Earthride, Magic Castles & Great Electric Quest Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Monolith on the Mesa, which kind of came out of the gate in full-fledged upstart fashion this year and put Taos, New Mexico, on the map as a destination for heavyheads from all over, continues to announce acts for its follow-up edition in 2020. The fest is set for May 28-30 at Taos Mesa Brewing, same spot it was held this Spring, and is $99 for the weekend, which doesn’t sound cheap, but uh, is, considering what you get. Not exactly slumming it as regards the whole experience of the thing. To wit, the photo below looks like something I would most definitely shell out a hundred bucks to stand in front of for three days and have my ass handed to me by awesome bands. If you disagree, I suggest you take the next few months to reassess your priorities.

But speaking of awesome bands, a bunch more have just joined the lineup, including Maryland’s favorite sons Earthride. They’ll make the trip west and give a bit of East Coast representation out in the desert that I can only imagine will go over like groove-rolling gangbusters. That alone would be worth the $99 in my book, let alone the likes of Yawning Man (always great) and Fatso Jetson (always great) and Wo Fat (always great), who, for those of you who don’t read parentheticals (why not?) are always great, as well as Magic Castles and Great Electric Quest, whom I’ve not yet seen, but whose sounds are most certainly readily diggable.

Cool fest, man. These guys got something going out there in the desert.

From the PR wire:

monolith on the mesa 2019 (Photo by Mike Goodwin)

Monolith On The Mesa prepares for second year bands include Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Earthride, Sons of Otis, Ruby the Hatchet, Mondo Generator, Year of the Cobra and more

MONOLITH ON THE MESA OFFERS A “HIGH” DESERT EXPERIENCE THAT DRAWS ROCK FANS FROM ACROSS THE NATION

THE MUSIC FESTIVAL PREPARES FOR ITS SECOND YEAR AND ANNOUNCES SIX MORE BANDS IN THE LINE-UP: Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Earthride, Wo Fat, Magic Castles, Great Electric Quest

300 early bird tickets on sale now through Black Friday

May 28-30, 2020 at Taos Mesa Brewing

Monolith on the Mesa, a “High” Desert Experience, is an independent three-day festival entering its second year in 2020. The festival takes place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, and on the grounds of Hotel Luna Mystica, just outside of Taos, New Mexico. The festival is focused on heavy riff-rock acts from across multiple sub-genres including stoner rock, heavy psych, doom metal, sludge, drone, and retro rock. The festival includes interactive art installations and visual projections throughout the grounds to compliment the mind bending sounds of the bands. Festival capacity is limited to 1,500 to provide an intimate experience. Bands perform on the club-style indoor stage, and the scenic “earthship” outdoor amphitheater stage.

A total of 35 bands will play over three days from May 28-30, 2020. Festival promoters Dano Sanchez and Roman Barham are excited to reveal the names of five more bands today including Yawning Man; Fatso Jetson; Earthride; Wo Fat; Magic Castles; Great Electric Quest. The thirteen bands already made public online include: Sons of Otis; Ruby the Hatchet; Mondo Generator; Duel; Mark Deutrom; Year of the Cobra; Mountain of Smoke; Destroyer of Light; Love Gang; Black Maria; Prism Bitch and Sun Dog. Tickets cost $150 for three-day passes. A limited release of 300 early bird tickets for $99.99 are on sale now through Black Friday (midnight on November 29, 2019).

Dano Sanchez says “We are inspired to continue on our path with Monolith II. We want fans to come to Taos and let go of technology and constraints of urban living for three days. Let your soul breathe! What we offer is unique but still linked musically to festivals like Psycho Las Vegas, Levitation and Stoned and Dusted. We think festival goers will appreciate what we are doing here.”

Monolith on the Mesa is produced as a “destination” festival offering attendees music as well as the unique and mystical Taos experience which includes crisp, clean air on the high desert mesa, surrounded by unobstructed views of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The festival is located adjacent to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. This enables festival goers to enjoy activities such as hiking, river rafting, bike trails, natural and resort hot springs — all making for an immersive experience unlike any other music festival.

DATES AND TIMES:
Box office opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
May 28th doors at 4 pm til 1:30 am
May 29th doors at 12 noon; outside stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am
May 30th doors at 12 noon; outdoor stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am

VENUE INFORMATION:
Taos Mesa Brewing: The Mothership
20 ABC Mesa Rd.
El Prado, New Mexico 89529
https://www.taosmesabrewing.com/

TICKET INFORMATION:
Rain or shine event! No refunds!
https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/344140

https://www.monolithonthemesa.com
https://www.facebook.com/monolithonthemesa
https://www.instagram.com/monolithonthemesa

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Year of the Cobra, Ash & Dust: Dark Shadows Dance

Posted in Reviews on October 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra ash and dust

To some degree or other, every generation carries the fear that it will be the last. Some have better cases in that regard than others — world wars, the Black Plague, environmental catastrophe, etc. — but apocalypse-ism is a historical consistency in the way few things can claim to be, and Year of the Cobra‘s second album, Ash & Dust, seems not so much to proliferate this concern, but to dwell in the aftermath of it. Also their debut on Prophecy Productions, it is a deeply human offering that communes with old gods in “The Divine,” surveys oblivion, finds love amid a devastated landscape in the ultra-moody “Demons” and gives itself a road-weary pep talk on “Into the Fray,” the hook of which shows a new pinnacle of the Seattle duo’s songcraft. That was already a proven commodity, frankly, on 2016’s …In the Shadows Below (review here) debut LP as well as 2015’s The Black Sun EP (review here) before it and most especially 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here) after, which worked directly to expand the sonic palette of the full-length in a way that the Jack Endino-produced Ash & Dust very much furthers, basking in heft and melodic drift alike, as well as a varied approach that’s no less at home in the rumble-punk of its early title-track as the airy pop evocations of “At the Edge” and the atmospheric, vocal-centric minimalism of closer “In Despair.”

The duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith altogether offer eight tracks and 41 minutes for their sophomore outing, and their ability to trade back and forth between rawness and fullness of sound becomes a crucial asset to their approach, making the most or the least of their two-piece configuration depending on for what a given song is calling, and from seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Battle of White Mountain” — which may or may not be about the slaughter of the Bohemians in 1620 in what’s now the Czech Republic — through the subtle nuance in the central verse progression of the penultimate “Dark Swan” and the ambience of the finale that follows, Ash & Dust is nothing less than the manifestation of what Year of the Cobra‘s earliest potential held the promise of them being.

They come by it honestly, and one can hear that as they begin to venture toward influences beyond the heavy rock standard — pop, punk, grunge; maybe even a bit of modern hip-hop’s rhythmic intricacy on “Demons” — and embrace a broader aesthetic on the whole. It’s easy enough to put this to a narrative of Year of the Cobra as a hard-touring band building confidence in their approach, to hear the sureness in Amy Tung Barrysmith‘s voice and the instrumental chemistry and inherent same-pageness of her bass and Jon‘s drums and understand that as something born of time on the road. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but they have toured a lot over the last few years domestically with increasing incursions abroad, and one seriously doubts that will cease with Ash & Dust and Prophecy‘s greater European reach. So be it, but at the same time, these songs are more than just pieces for the stage.

year of the cobra

From the very first measures of “The Battle of White Mountain,” glorious in their fuzz and only enhanced when the drums and “ooh” vocals join in, the songs offer depth for listener immersion, and even as Year of the Cobra contradict themselves, turning from the rolling “The Divine” into the outright raw insistence of “Ash & Dust” itself and finish out side A with “Demons” — each one bringing a different aspect of who they are to the forefront — they’re able to make these changes fluid in such a way as to bring the listener along with them on that journey. Hooks help. “The Divine” is an early highlight in that regard, as well as “Demons,” and in leading off side B, “Into the Fray” lumbers out perhaps the single most memorable chorus on the album, settling in on the lines of its last intonation, “Go slow/Stay low/In strength/We go.” It is difficult to read this as being about anything other than the band itself.

Of course, they don’t always go slow, and they don’t always stay low, but wherever Year of the Cobra go on Ash & Dust, they certainly go in strength and “face it head-on,” as an earlier verse says. Continuing the dynamic of side A, the subsequent “At the Edge” is grimmer lyrically, but the momentum of side B’s opening carries through nonetheless, and a subtle build of tension pays off in the song’s second-half melody, bringing about the drum start of “Dark Swan” and the patient and atmospheric build thereof, a background filled out by swirling drone touching on psychedelic impulses while ultimately remaining grounded by the drums and accompanying bassline. It never quite explodes, but neither does it seem to want to, and it does hit a peak in its final minute that serves the function well enough without being overstated, giving “In Despair” a smooth lead-in from silence from out of which the quiet bass and vocals emerge to hold sway for most of the duration. They’re five minutes in before sudden last crashes and feedback signal the end of the proceedings, and in that time, they never lost sight of the primacy of mood in the piece, making it all the more a standout finish.

What seems to remain for Year of the Cobra in terms of stylistic growth is to draw the different sides of their sound together, so that a track might carry the brooding vibe of “In Despair” and the push of Ash & Dust‘s title-track, but even if they went that route, I’m not sure it’d be worth the trade off in terms of how their output functions to interact here. Would they lose as much as they gained, in other words? I don’t have an answer for that, and I certainly wouldn’t speculate on where else the two-piece’s exploration outside genre confines might take them, but perhaps most of all, Ash & Dust finds Year of the Cobra earning the trust that they’ll figure it out when they get there, and that, yeah, one way or the other, they will indeed get there. This is a band interested in moving forward, in writing quality material with an engaging presentation and a cohesive, progressive underlying statement to make. From their first EP to now, they’ve yet to deliver anything that wasn’t a marked step forward from what they’d done prior. One doesn’t expect that would change anytime soon, and certainly hopes it doesn’t, in any case.

Year of the Cobra, Ash & Dust (2019)

Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks

Year of the Cobra on Instagram

Year of the Cobra on Bandcamp

Prophecy Productions on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

Prophecy Productions website

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 23

Posted in Radio on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Got into some longer tracks this time around on The Obelisk Show, and that was very much on purpose. Last episode was the Kyuss special, and that was a lot of fun, but when I started this show I guess over a year ago now, I was thinking of it specifically as something a little bit against the grain of what Gimme Radio usually does, so yeah, I definitely consider playing like 15-minute tracks and in this case, a 23-minute track, as counter to the general consideration of where “radio” — even in its interwebular iteration — generally goes. At least I like to imagine it being that way.

So yes. A lot of new music around here, and some longer tracks from the likes of Taras BulbaJesus the Snake (get jazzy, y’all), Ireland’s Coroza and Swedes V and Goatess. Also the new single from Blackwater Holylight because it’s so good that I had to play it, new stuff from Here Lies ManYear of the CobraOgreLamassu and the Alunah track that was premiered here this week, basically just as a brag on my part. And for the classic track? Oh, it’s only “Catharsis” by YOB. If you can think of a better way to spend the aforementioned 23 minutes of your life than listening to that, I’d love to hear it.

I haven’t cut the voice tracks yet as I write this (I’ll do them this afternoon), so I don’t know how much of a dork I sound like, but I’m sure I’ll sound like plenty of a dork when I get there. But thanks for listening if you do in just a couple hours, and thanks for your ongoing support generally, because it’s what lets me do crazy stuff like a radio show on the station that has Dave Mustaine and the dude from Amon Amarth as DJs. These are wacky times.

Listen at: http://www.gimmeradio.com

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.13.19

 

Year of the Cobra Into the Fray Ash & Dust*
Jesus the Snake Karma Black Acid, Pink Rain*
BREAK
Here Lies Man Iron Rattles No Ground to Walk Upon*
Taras Bulba The Yo-Yo Man One*
Blackwater Holylight Death Realms Veils of Winter*
V Led into Exile Led into Exile*
Goatess What Lies Beneath Blood and Wine*
Lamassu I Die Into the Empty*
BREAK
YOB Catharsis Catharsis
Alunah Hunt Violet Hour*
Ogre The Future Thrice as Strong*
BREAK
Coroza The Plutonian Drug Chaliceburner*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Sept. 27. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Women of Doom Compilation Beats Kickstarter; Set to Feature SubRosa, Year of the Cobra Members and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The basic mission of Women of Doom — celebrating women as a traditionally in recognition of being a marginalized group both within bands and as groundbreaking artists in general — is noble enough, but I have to think it was the personnel involved in this particular project from Desert Records and Blues Funeral Recordings that led to it trouncing the Kickstarter funding goal well ahead of the end date. New music from ex-SubRosa members, from Year of the Cobra‘s Amy Tung Barrysmith, but Frayle and others — hell, I just saw on Thee Facebooks a bit ago that Laura Pleasants (ex-Kylesa) had finished recording a new song for a yet-to-be-revealed compilation with her band The Discussion; that could easily fit here — and more announcements to come seems like an excellent start and I’ve no doubt the end result will be a comp that’s forward thinking in more than just its approach to issues of gender.

And whatever the inherent politics of the thing, I’m looking forward to seeing who else gets confirmed and how the songs sound when it’s all put together. There’s certainly a wide enough aesthetic sphere to draw from.

Info from the PR wire:

avarice

Ambitious WOMEN OF DOOM Project Announced, feat. Members of SUBROSA, YEAR OF THE COBRA, FRAYLE, DOOMSTRESS and DEATHBELL

Kickstarter for project celebrating female heavy artists surpasses goal easily, with more artist announcements to come during last 12 days

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Desert Records, in collaboration with Blues Funeral Recordings, has announced the concept for its forthcoming Women of Doom album project.

The carefully-curated release will feature new songs from female heavy/stoner/doom/riff/psych solo artists and bands with prominent female members, with the specific goal of spotlighting their immense talent and massive artistic contributions to all things heavy.

Women of Doom was announced via Kickstarter and social media on July 26th, and, after being singled out by Kickstarter as a project it loves, has already surpassed the initial funding goal with about half of the campaign duration left to go.

Some of the artists announced as participating with brand-new performances are:

Kim Cordray and Sarah Pendleton of the renowned and recently laid-to-rest SubRosa, collaborating with their new experimental project Avarice
Amy Tung of Year of the Cobra with a solo composition
Deathbell, featuring Irish doom siren Lauren Gaynor
Rebecca Vernon, also of SubRosa, with the first appearance of her new project The Keening
Alexis Hollada of Texas metal institution Doomstress
Frayle, featuring the spellbinding vocals of Gwyn Strang
More to come

Discussing the project’s genesis, Desert Records founder Brad Frye says:

“I started Women of Doom with the idea to highlight and celebrate the heavy music that female artists have brought us through the years. These are some of my favorite musicians, and I hope that heavy music fans around the world will discover their own new favorite musicians and bands through this one-of-kind project!”

With support and advisement from female music industry empowerment group Women in Vinyl, Desert Records and Blues Funeral will finalize the lineup on the project by end of Summer, with finished songs submissions already starting to come in.

The collaborative release is planned for arrival early next year, with a possible Women of Doom stage at a May 2020 festival being considered as well.

Further info and background on the project as well as personal video clips from some of the participating artists can be viewed on the Kickstarter, which runs through August 25th at this location: kck.st/2Y4RdE3

facebook.com/desertrecordslabel/
instagram.com/desertrecords/
facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
instagram.com/blues.funeral/
facebook.com/womeninvinyl/
instagram.com/womeninvinyl/

Deathbell, With the Beyond (2018)

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 19 (Maryland Doom Fest Special)

Posted in Radio on July 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Yeah, I know, Maryland Doom Fest 2019 was like a month ago. Quit livin’ in the past and all that. Well, this show was supposed to air July 5, so whatever. It got pushed back because apparently July 4 is some kind of holiday now — what.ever. — and it was kicked down the line to two weeks later with re-runs on in the interim. Did anyone notice? Did anyone care? I did. But I’m glad to have had the chance to pay homage to MDDF one way or the other, since it was such a killer time and boasted a lineup of so many good bands.

Of course I had to lead off with Beelzefuzz and Foghound, two staples of the Frederick diet, and the show unfolds from there with new stuff from Zed and Lo-Pan and Kings Destroy amid the likes of Devil to Pay and Earthride and Backwoods Payback and Greenbeard. I made sure to put Solace and Freedom Hawk and Horehound and Toke and Witchkiss in here because their sets were particularly righteous — not to mention Year of the Cobra! — and in addition to representing the headliners in Conan, Mothership and Earthride, I had to include WarHorse since their reunion set was something so particularly special and such a huge part of the festival.

For those who didn’t hear the show, Gimme Radio runs the ‘Gimme Brigade’ which you can sign up for. I think it’s $5 a month or something like that, but you get access to their full archive and help them with hosting costs, etc., so fair enough. If you got to hear this one, thanks. If not, the basic point of the thing was that Maryland Doom Fest 2019 kicked ass, which I sincerely hope also came across in the reviews.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 07.19.19

Beelzefuzz All the Feeling Returns Beelzefuzz (2013)
Foghound Known Wolves Awaken to Destroy (2018)
Zed Chingus Volume*
Lo-Pan Savage Heart Subtle*
BREAK
Devil to Pay Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife Fate is Your Muse (2013)
Kings Destroy Yonkers Ceiling Collapse Fantasma Nera*
Earthride Vampire Circus Vampire Circus (2005)
Witchkiss Seer The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes (2018)
Year of the Cobra Cold Burn Your Dead (2017)
BREAK
Solace Khan (World of Fire) The Black Black (2007)
Backwoods Payback Whatever Future Slum (2018)
Toke Blackened Orange (2017)
Greenbeard WCCQ Onward, Pillager (2018)
Conan Battle in the Swamp Monnos (2012)
Apostle of Solitude Ruination Be Thy Name From Gold to Ash (2018)
The Age of Truth Come Back a God Threshold (2017)
BREAK
Horehound Dier’s Dirge Holocene (2018)
Freedom Hawk Danger Beast Remains (2018)
Mothership Midnight Express High Strangeness (2017)
Warhorse Lysergic Communion As Heaven Turns to Ash (2001)

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 2. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Year of the Cobra Announce European Release Tour for Ash and Dust This September

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra

If I was like, ‘Hey guess what Year of the Cobra are up to?’ and you were like, ‘Well, they’re probably out touring right now kicking ass with Forming the Void and then in September they’re going to put out a new album called Ash and Dust as their first record for Prophecy Productions and go tour Europe again and do awesome stuff like play Prophecy Fest in a cave and do shows with Monolord or Amenra,’ you’d be absolutely right. Also oddly specific.

The hard-touring Seattle two-piece are indeed out with Louisiana’s Forming the Void as we speak, and their upcoming album, Ash and Dust, will be out just in time for them to head abroad in support this September. There are TBA shows, so get in there and book them because, having seen them just this past weekend, I’ll happily affirm their righteous bona fides, whatever my word might be worth on the subject.

I also like the At the Gates-style logo on the tour poster. “We are blind to the worlds within us,” and all that. Dig it:

year of the cobra tour poster

We are very excited to announce our European album release tour for “Ash and Dust” happening this fall! We’ll be playing Prophecy Festival in Balver Höhle, which is in a massive cave, and also have dates with Amenra and Monolord. There are still a few dates to fill, so we’ll keep everyone posted as we solidify the rest of the tour. Cheers!

Year of the Cobra remaining US dates:
6/26/19 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room
6/27/19 St. Louis, MO – Fubar
6/28/19 Springfield, MO – Outland Ballroom
6/29/19 Norman, OK – Red Brick Bar
6/30/19 Denver, CO – Hi Dive

Year of the Cobra European tour:
12/09 – Cologne, DE – MTC
13/09 – Berlin, DE – Zukunft
14/09 – Balver Höhle, DE – Prophecy Festival
15/09 – Tilburg, NL – Little Devil
16/09 – Hamburg, DE – Markthalle
21/09 – Udine, ITA – Backyardie
22/09 – Salzburg, AT – Rockhouse
24/09 – Slavonice, CZ – Barak
25/09 – Brno Kabinet, CZ – Muz
26/09 – Dresden, DE – Chemiefabrik
27/09 – Siegen, DE – Vortex
28/09 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso w/ Amenra
01/10 – Glasgow, UK – Nice n Sleazy
02/10 – Edinburgh, UK – Opium Nightclub
03/10 – London, UK -The Dev
04/10 – Lille, FR – La Rumeur
05/10 – Paris, FR – Saturday Mud Fever w/ Monolord
06/10 – Utrecht, NL – DB´s

https://www.facebook.com/yearofthecobraband/
https://yearofthecobra.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/
https://en.prophecy.de/

Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead (2017)

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2019 Night One, 06.21.19

Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2019 night one

I shudder to think of the poor bastard who, when this weekend is over, will have to mop up all the melted eardrums from the floor of the Cafe 611. With the expansion this year to four days — because again, the pre-fest yesterday was essentially a full night of the festival; 2020 pre-party on Wednesday? — Maryland Doom Fest enters a whole new echelon of being physically overwhelming. By the time Mothership went on last night, I was feeling it. Hard. Mostly in my back. And granted, they ran late and had some technical trouble getting set up, but I have the feeling that even had they been on time, I still would’ve been dragging my keester like the anchor it is.

But if that’s the case, it’s only true because the day was so goddamn good. Apart from not being allowed into Guido’s to see Benthic Realm because I didn’t have ID — my driver’s license got lost, I have no idea where or when or how, just looked in my wallet a couple weeks back and it was gone and the new one hasn’t arrived yet — and I guess the male pattern baldness, gray hair, wrinkles under my eyes and stiff, loping movements weren’t enough to confirm my age. “Sorry sir, you’re right. I’m actually three 16-year-olds in disguise as one old dude.” I respect the diligence, and the dude was just doing his job, so after a “seriously?” that was 100 percent genuinely asking if he was being serious, I wasn’t gonna make a stink, but that was a surprise.

It was a bummer though. Krista from the band I think had on an Obelisk t-shirt yesterday, and Dan‘s a really good guy all the time and being as I won’t be in Massachusetts anymore, let alone Worcester where they’re from, it would’ve been cool to see them. Nobody’s evening is made or broken by my showing up, but I wish I had caught their set. That’s all. It’s been a while since I got carded. Doubly so because I don’t drink.

That was the only snafu though, and otherwise, it was a have-my-cake-while-eating-my-cake-and-your-cake-golly-cake-is-good kind of evening as MDDF19 launched in earnest. It was a 6PM start, but the bill was stacked, so let me not waste time with tales of my own foibles.

Maryland Doom Fest 2019 night one:

False Gods

False Gods (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Oh they were mad. An angry start to the day to be sure. I give New York-based ultra-aggro five-piece crushers False Gods credit for coming up with the most excellent tagline, “If it’s too slow, you’re too young,” which is great, but for the most part, they actually moved at a pretty solid clip, taking aspects of post-hardcore and post-metallic intensity and putting them through a ringer of sludge riffs and tones, growls and screams cutting through. They’ve got a new two-song EP out called The Serpent and the Ladder, featuring, yes, “The Serpent” and “The Ladder,” and as frontman Mike Stack paced back and forth at the front of the Cafe 611 stage, his screams sometimes backed by growls from drummer Paulie Stack (let’s assume they’re related), the bass of Johnny Geirak offered density to underpin the more atmospheric elements of Greg March and Nick Luisi‘s guitars. A mid-set spaceout was welcome, but otherwise the chestbeating felt sincere and the impact of their sound was like a shock to the system. There would be no easing into the day, clearly. Welcome back to Maryland Doom Fest 2019. Now be pummeled.

The Druids

The Druids (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There’s another Druids, who are from Iowa and signed to The Company and who put an album out this year and made a bit of a splash with it. That’s not this The Druids, who are from here in Maryland and not signed to The Company but did put a record out in February called Totem (review here) that’s fully diggable in its blend of space and heavy rocks, a blend put to semi-psychedelic use in a we’re-actually-stoned stoner mindset. I had been looking forward to seeing them — not the least because Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, last night with Weed is Weed, etc.) plays drums — and felt justified in that. Isom‘s pedigree notwithstanding, they’re young. And they sounded like it, guitarist/vocalists Eli Watson and Danny Alger and bassist Jeremy Dinges bringing a fresh energy to the material that, while not stylistically revolutionary, still benefited it greatly. Dave Davidson, who has worked the sound for every Maryland Doom Fest that I’ve been to, kept reminding them between songs how much time they had left, as though if he didn’t, they might get high and wander into a jam, never to return. Not great for keeping to a schedule, but I wouldn’t mind hearing that, either.

Kingsnake

Kingsnake (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Pro-shop, and I’m not honestly sure how much else needs to be said. Philadelphia’s Kingsnake kicked off a Pennsylvania threepeat on the Cafe 611 stage, and they did so with hard-edged, Southern-tinged heavy that seemed to roll out the funk of Clutch into a more forward drive. Hooks? They got hooks. Riffs? They got those too. And they deliver. I’ll always remember them for their roots in Sugar Daddie, but that was like 14 years ago now, so it’s safe to say in that time Kingsnake have come into their own, and what they bring is down-home heavy vibes, for the distinguished working gentleperson who, whether they’re sipping IPA or living the High Life, knows exactly what they want out of the experience. They marked the beginning of schedule collision between Cafe 611 and Guido’s Speakeasy, the second venue about 150 feet right on the next block (easy walk, nice to get a bit of non-doomfart air), but I caught both the beginning and the end of their set, and they killed it to a high standard. Their got-it-togetherness was well on display, and reportedly they’ve had new songs in the works for a while to follow 2016’s Resonance, so hopefully something comes out soon.

Spiral Grave

Spiral Grave (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been tracking the emergence of Spiral Grave since the band announced their existence in the earliest moments of this year, and my first opportunity to see them live wasn’t one I was about to pass up. I walked right into Guido’s no problem this time — also part of what made it such a surprise later — as Spiral Grave were still setting up, but by the time they went on, that room would be completely packed. Not that that’s saying much — the space is intimate, to put it mildly — but still. They opened with their first single, “Nothing” (premiered here) and proceeded to give the assembled a preview of things to come as they move toward their in-progress debut album. The amalgam of Iron Man and Lord — quintessential Maryland doom meets oft-experimentalist Virginian noise chaos — works. Guitarist Willy Rivera (the Lord contingent) has beefed up his riffing style to suit the grooves of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, and the underlying metallic sharpness in his work suits the vocals of Dee Calhoun well. They’ve been in my “look forward to more” category for a while. Only more the case after seeing them play. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were back here next year after the album release. Nor would I complain.

Backwoods Payback

Backwoods Payback (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Sometimes life is pretty sweet, like when Backwoods Payback plays. The West Chester, PA/Richmond, VA trio were here last year heralding the arrival of their Summer 2018 LP, Future Slum (review here), and it was only more of a pleasure to see them this time around because, you know, the more the merrier. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson have a reputation that precedes them here, and I don’t know if it was people who saw them at the last Maryland Doom Fest or who heard the record or what, but they packed the room out and had people singing along. Or maybe that was just me. Either way, they made highlights out of Future Slum cuts like “Pirate Smile” and “Whatever,” “Generals” and “Lines,” which closed out with its tense build, as well as what I’d swear was some even-newer stuff but was too ass-kicked afterwards to ask. If you’ve never seen them, their style is as much grown-up punk as it is ’90s-weird-kid, but it’s delivered with heft and heart that are second to no one, and they’re the kind of band who win people over. They didn’t have to do that at Cafe 611 — the room was on their side to start with — but the converted were plenty happy to hear them preach. There are very few bands I so much enjoy watching play.

The Age of Truth

The Age of Truth (Photo by JJ Koczan)

No easy feat to be sandwiched on a bill between Backwoods Payback and Year of the Cobra with Lo-Pan still to follow, but Philly’s The Age of Truth wrapped up the Keystone triad with an unequivocal mastery of West Coast-style heavy rock meeting Northeastern noise crunch and aggression. Also repeat offenders from last year (review here), they remain entrenched in their righteous 2017 debut, Threshold (review here), starting with the immediate lock-in nodder “Come Back a God” — which still reminds me of Dozer, in the best way — as frontman Kevin McNamara pointed up to the sky, or at least the ceiling, and guitarist Mike DiDonato, bassist Bill Miller and drummer Scott Fressetto behind him were in go-mode from the start. For a band who haven’t spent months on the road — they’ve done plenty of shows, but not really full-on toured, and I don’t know if they want to or not — they rose to the occasion in such a way as to make me wonder how that might tie into their next record, if the tightness of their live presentation will be mirrored in their songwriting or captured output. Whatever they might have planned in that regard, they sounded ready to move forward, and in what, again, was a difficult spot, they shone, indulging a bit of drank in the process.

Year of the Cobra

Year of the Cobra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Looking at their setlist after they played, I felt way better about how few of Year of the Cobra‘s songs I recognized while they were on stage. The Seattle two-piece will release their second album later this year as their debut through Prophecy Productions — I’m not saying I’m holding a spot on my best-of-the-year list for it, but basically I am — and though they’ve toured hard to support 2016’s …In the Shadows Below (review here) and the subsequent 2017 EP, Burn Your Dead (review here), including just recently with Lord Dying, I’m embarrassed to say I’d never seen them before. That fact has been gnawing at me, so I was relieved when they went on, and all the more so when they absolutely leveled Cafe 611. They played “Cold” from the EP and “White Wizard” from the first record as well as the title-track of their first short release, 2015’s The Black Sun (review here), but everything else seemed to be new, titles like “Ash and Dust,” “The Divine” and “Into the Fray” scribbled out to represent a barrage of low-end tone, wash of crash and increasingly nuanced vocal melodicism from Amy Tung Barrysmith. With Jon Barrysmith on drums, they were a nation-of-two duo whose time on the road was obvious in their we-do-this-all-the-time vibe, and my only regret of the evening was not buying a shirt. That’s something I’ll rectify next time, and yes, there will be a next time.

Lo-Pan

Lo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Come on, Lo-Pan. You know that scene in that one episode of The Simpsons from the ’90s where Homer joins not-Lollapalooza and Sonic Youth are there and they steal Peter Frampton’s watermelon? That’s like Lo-Pan stealing all the awesome and keeping it for themselves. As they absolutely tore exclusively into cuts from their new record, Subtle (review here), it was as though they were standing next to an empty cooler going, “Come on, Mr. Frampton! You’re not gonna eat all that watermelon!” It was my first time seeing them since they added guitarist Chris Thompson, which was a couple years ago now — look, I can’t make excuses; sometimes it’s hard being a human being, let alone leaving the house — and with their lightbars on the sides of his and bassist Scott Thompson‘s cabs, singer Jeff Martin in back giving a clinic in vocal dynamics and drummer Jesse Bartz bashing away up front, they did what Lo-Pan do: they destroyed. I don’t think I’ve seen them at any point in the last decade and not come out of it unable to name a more powerful American heavy rock band. I’ll catch them again in a couple months as they tour with C.O.C. and Crowbar — they’re doing a one-off in Teaneck, NJ; fuck yes — and I’m already looking forward to that. This is a band to treasure.

Pale Divine

Pale Divine (Photo by JJ Koczan)

So here’s the thing: Pale Divine just put out a record. Not this week, but last November they released their self-titled LP (review here), and as it was their first outing in six years, it’s totally unreasonable to think they might do another one anytime soon. Pale Divine doesn’t owe anyone anything. You know how the pre-fest was all the Stoner Hands of Doom bands? Well, okay. Pale Divine played that fest seven times, including the first one 20 years ago. But on the other hand… since the album came out, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener, bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis and drummer Darin McCloskey added Dana Ortt — who’ll also play his last show with Beelzefuzz this weekend — on guitar and vocals, and they’re just at another level for having done so. You could hear the harmonies between Diener and Ortt on vocals throughout their set, and the interplay on guitar was no less glorious. So yeah, Pale Divine, you don’t have to put out another record right this moment. Don’t feel obligated. But if you wanted to make that happen sometime in the less-than-six-years-from-now near future, I think it would really be for the best all the way around. The wax is barely dry on Pale Divine, so it’s not even fair to ask, but I’m asking anyway. Or at least a live record as a stopgap. I’d take a 7″. A demo tape. Something. Anything.

Mothership

Mothership (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You know why I like Mothership? They play both kinds of music: rock and roll. How are you gonna be dead on your feet when Mothership are playing? The Dallas power trio manifest the best of Texas’ heavy legacy and offer it up in kinetic fashion. Already this year they’ve toured with Death Angel, done a spot on the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest out on the West Coast, and been on the road with C.O.C. (review here), and that’s after doing Europe last Fall on a by-now-legendary stint with Elephant Tree and Stoned Jesus, so yeah, Mothership are basically on fire and after a late start owing to some non-intentional feedback and other technical whathaveyou, they played like it. They’ve basically been go-go-go since before the arrival of their 2017 third full-length, High Strangeness (review here), and their “Midnight Express” shows no signs of slowing. They’ve made themselves ambassadors for ’70s heavy without ever really dipping into retroism, and more than just ape what classic bands did before them, they take those lessons and push them forward onto new ground. I honestly don’t know when they would’ve had time to write a new LP or anything like that, but they seem to have a keen sense of how to keep their momentum going — spoiler: it’s by busting their collective ass — so I have to think they’ll get there sooner or later, if they can manage to stop long enough to hit record. Hard to imagine the tour offers stopping, frankly. I’ll admit I didn’t stay for the whole set, but even with the hiccup at the outset, there was no question they owned that room.

I guess it was like 2AM when I got back to the AirBNB? Something like that. I crashed quickly, even before pictures were done being transferred from my memory card, and slept until eight this morning. Saw nine bands on Thursday, 10 bands on Friday. Today’s Saturday and there are 11 at the Cafe 611 alone — more if I can manage to con my way back into the good graces of Guido’s — and that’s the busiest day of the thing. I am beat but upright, and very much in need of a shower. At least I got a toothbrush yesterday. Today’s need is Advil.

Good times, y’all. Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Year of the Cobra Finishing New Album; Announce Tour with Lord Dying

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra

If you’re not looking forward to the new Year of the Cobra record, you’re fucking up. That’s about as simple as I can make it. Especially after the way they threw the doors open creatively with the 2017 Burn Your Dead EP (review here), and all the goddamn touring they’ve done, they’re not only a band with momentum on their side, but they’re a band with every opportunity to start really recasting their influences in their own image and join the upper ranks of underground bands making their presence truly felt in a way that will influence others. That potential is right there, waiting to come to fruition, and as the two-piece are in the studio this week finishing their next LP with none other than Jack Endino at the helm, it’s hard to argue they’re not placing their trust in the perfect person to make it happen. I can’t wait to hear the results.

And you know they’re actually wrapping things up because they’ve got live dates booked later this month, and a newly-announced tour next month with Lord Dying. Looks like it’s gonna be a good one too.

Dates follow as posted on thee social medias:

We have been pretty quiet lately while we’ve been finishing up our new album, so we’re super stoked to announce this tour with the rad dudes in Lord Dying ! Can not wait to hit the road again.

Dates below:
5/08/2019 Substation – Seattle, WA
5/09/2019 The Pin – Spokane, WA
5/10/2019 Old School Records – Kalispell, MT
5/13/2019 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
5/14/2019 Den Of Sin – Sacramento, CA
5/15/2019 Lexington – Los Angeles, CA
5/16/2019 Club Red – Mesa, AZ
5/17/2019 Backstage Bar – Las Vegas, NV
5/18/2019 Taos Mesa Brewery – El Prado, NM
5/19/2019 Streets – Denver, CO
5/21/2019 Gas Monkey Bar – Dallas, TX
5/22/2019 The Lost Well – Austin, TX
5/23/2019 Rudyards – Houston, TX
5/24/2019 Freetown Boom Boom – Lafayette, LA
5/26/2019 Southport Hall – New Orleans, LA
5/27/2019 529 – Atlanta, GA
5/28/2019 Cafe 611 – Frederick, MD
5/29/2019 Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY
5/30/2019 The Pinch – Washington, DC
5/31/2019 Hobart Art Theatre – Hobart, IN
6/01/2019 Bigs Live – Sioux Falls, SD
6/02/2019 Park Theatre – Winnipeg, MB
6/03/2019 The Exchange – Regina, SK
6/04/2019 Temple – Edmonton, AB
6/05/2019 Dickens – Calgary, AB
6/07/2019 SBC – Vancouver, BC
6/08/2019 High Water Mark – Portland, OR

https://www.facebook.com/yearofthecobraband/
https://twitter.com/yearofthecobra
https://yearofthecobra.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/
https://en.prophecy.de/

Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead (2017)

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