SonicBlast Fest 2024: New Lineup Additions & Day Splits Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

sonicblast fest 2024 day split banner

With a quick round of lineup adds and the announcement of how the pre-show and three days of the festival-proper will play out, SonicBlast Fest 2024 continues to take shape, and golly it looks like fun. Germany’s Daily Thompson will make the trek westward to herald their new album, Chuparosa, and the everywhere-in-Europe-this-year-apparently duo Earth Tongue from New Zealand will appear in support of their upcoming sophomore LP, Great Haunting. Also new to the bill are Canadian psych-prog forebears Black Mountain and thrash outfit Fugitive, because sometimes you just need a punch in the face.

There are still some names to add, as you can see on the poster below. The day splits put Daily Thompson on the pre-show, and that will be a party. I’d expect at least one of the TBCs there, if not both, to be Iberian bands, as SonicBlast runs deep in support for its own regional underground, and given how packed the fest-Friday (Aug. 9) is, they could go just about anywhere in mixing it up, more thrash, hardcore, noise, psych, doom, stoner, whatever, and make it work. There’s a lot to like, even before you find yourself sitting on the beach in Âncora waiting for whoever to go on.

The below was culled from a couple different social posts, so if it reads weird, that’s why, but I expect you get the idea. Here you go:

sonicblast fest 2024 day splits poster

Daily tickets are already on sale! Check the daily line-ups here 🔥 Looking forward for August!

*this is not in the order of performance

Psychedelic rockers @blackmountainarmy, thrashers supergroup @fugitive_tx (with members of Power Trip and Creeping Death), heavy psych rockers @earthtongue and sonic fuzzers @dailythompson_ will join us in this insane party, this August at Praia da Duna dos Caldeirões

🔥 Daily and full festival tickets are already on sale at BOL (Fnac, Worten, Ctt…), at and at

Check all the news at
Artwork by @branca_studio

Daily Thompson, “I’m Free Tonight” official video

Earth Tongue, “Bodies Dissolve Tonight!” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Temple Fang, Live at Krach am Bach

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The tab’s been open for the last week in my browser, and that’s as long as Temple Fang‘s Live at Krach Am Bach has been out. I exhausted however many streams were allotted listening through the two-song/52-minute set the Amsterdam psych-of-spirit four-piece played at the June 2023 edition of the Krach Am Bach Festival in Beelen, Germany, and, well, April is tax season here in the US, so I was thinking maybe I could write off the three-euro download if I classify The Obelisk as a failed business venture. Yes, I do consider “failed business venture” a compliment.

There is a cassette pressing of Live at Krach Am Bach as well, 100 copies. It looks pretty sweet, with Maaike Ronhaar‘s on-stage photo of guitarist/vocalist Jevin de Groot as seen from behind mid-testimony printed on a black and white j-card, kind of a bootleg vibe, but pro-shop, as is the recording by Niek Manders for which guitarist Ivy van der Veer handled the mix. To be honest, I just didn’t have the €10 for it this morning or I’d have picked that up, but you take what you can get, and that Temple Fangde Groot, van der Veer, bassist/vocalist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Daan Wopereis — are able to put together an enticing live record at this point should come as little surprise. Live at Krach Am Bach is their sixth one in the last two years.

One might extrapolate from that some idea where the band’s priorities are generally when setting six live releases against their lone studio LP, Fang Temple (review here), which first arrived in 2021 and was pressed the next year through Stickman Records, and its later-2022 EP follow-up, Jerusalem/The Bridge (review here), but if Manders has a penchant for recording off the board while doing front-of-house sound for the band, that has only to this point served them well. To wit, Live at Krach Am Bach is — I believe — the third release from the tour they were doing at the time in 2022. It follows Live at Schlachthuis and Live at Freak Valley (review here), both released last April (the former on tape, the latter a CD/LP on Stickman), and as with those, the narrative around the performance is part of the character that emerges from listening.

I don’t want to just cut and paste the story from their Bandcamp, but the summary is that, as documented elsewhere, they were somewhat winging the tour as they got settled in with Daan Wopereis taking over on drums for Egon Loosveldt, playing different material. It started to rain before they went on. Between songs on the recording, you can hear Duijnhouwer say to the crowd, “Amazing view from here — you guys look good in plastic.” If you had no idea what was going on at the time — if you didn’t know that the audience had either put on ponchos or otherwise tried to cover themselves to keep the water off so they could enjoy the show — you could be forgiven for being confused. Is he on acid? Is he a serial killer? “You look good in plastic?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? It’s ponchos. Chill out.

By then, de Groot has already professed to being on the verge of tears and called the crowd “fucking beautiful, all of you,” before singing out “Take me to the place I have always been” aheadtemple fang live at krach am bach of “Gemini” (21:46) moving into its final phase in the last third, a build that starts with mellow bass, drums and guitar and resolves its extended flow with a striking and memorable chorus, de GrootDuijnhouwer and maybe van der Veer sharing vocals. Both “Gemini” and “Not the Skull” (32:22) featured on 2020’s Live at Merleyn and the recorded-in-2019/released-in-2022 Live at Ocii and Live at Vera, but in different forms with “Silky Servants” included in “Gemini” and “The Radiant” between the other two pieces in the non-festival setting. If your eyebrow went up at Live at Krach Am Bach being the third offering from a single tour, I’ll note that the sets from Live at Schlachthuis and Live at Freak Valley were each comprised of one track only, “Grace,” which to the best of my knowledge, like “Gemini,” has yet to feature on a studio recording.

In addition, both “Gemini” and “Not the Skull” have evolved since those earlier 2019 recordings. That turn back to the chorus of “Gemini” in the back end doesn’t happen with “Gemini/Silky Servants” on Live at Occii, and “Not the Skull” at Krach Am Bach was 11 minutes longer than the studio version that appeared on Fang Temple. What one can glean from this is an ethic of openness to the moment. Standing on stage, the members of Temple Fang are in conversation with each other musically — not just with the “Yeah” at 29:33 into “Not the Skull” to mark the change as the band aligns around Duijnhouwer‘s boogie-shove bassline for a finish likewise raucous and rocking — and the amorphous character of the material that’s been revealed over time comes across as purposefully not definitive. This is what these songs were this day, in the rain, in Germany. The next day it might have been a completely different experience.

The underlying message might be that we limit our reach when we impose rules and definitions on ourselves, of style or substance. If Temple Fang went out and delivered the same set every night in the same way, well, they’d probably still be pretty cool because they play well individually and as a group, but the personality would be different, and by not limiting themselves, they are inspiring on a level that goes beyond the meditative aspects of their exploratory psych or the outright soul with which de Groot tears into a given solo. The songs aren’t completely shapeless by any means — as noted, “Gemini” lands a hook, and “Not the Skull” is all the more encompassing for its plotted movement toward that ending — but on Live at Krach Am Bach, it’s clear they’ve been allowed to breathe and become what they will. Along with the basic audio of the thing, that’s also part of what’s being preserved here. They capture it vividly, and it is an idea worthy of the reminder.

Which I guess is how you get to six live records in a two-year span.

They’re doing a weekender now and have another booked for later in April, two German and one Dutch show for each, and have been confirmed for Sound of Liberation‘s Lazy Bones Festival 2024 this October in Hamburg. I wouldn’t be surprised if more dates surface around that, or if they have another offering or two to make before they next hit the road, reveling as they do in the universe of infinite possibility.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

My sister called a few minutes ago. My mother fell. She’s 77, needs new knees, is figuratively and literally crippled by fear at the prospect of surgery. No serious injury — this time — but it’s a stirring reminder of her advancing age and of course of my own. My father is dead and they didn’t live together, and my sister, who lives in the same house with her own husband and two kids, is primary. I’m of course glad she didn’t get hurt. Takes the day down a peg.

But the whole week was a mess, really. The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I started out Sunday on a four-plus-hours trip to somewhere in New York’s Finger Lakes — which it turns out are gorgeous; go figure — to see Monday’s eclipse in totality. We stayed somewhere in Pennsylvania on Sunday night, and one skinned Pecan knee from running by the motel pool later, continued the ride north Monday to meet up with family friends and their kids who had likewise made the trip from their home in Brooklyn.

Did we see the eclipse? Nope. Cloudy. It got dark, then it got light. It was weird, nowhere near as cool as we all tried to sell it to the children as being, and if the question is whether or not it was worth the five-hour drive home (The Patient Mrs. did the outbound trip; credit where it’s due) listening to The Pecan whining about not being able to play mahjongg on The Patient Mrs.’ phone, let alone the money for gas, food and lodging, my answer is a resounding no. Some you win, some you lose.

Tuesday I wrote all day. Following on from Spring Break all last week, this Wednesday was another day off from school for The Pecan. Most of the day was rainy and I chose to forego her ritalin since it was just the two of us and the dog, and I firmly believe that made her morning, afternoon and evening harder. She was a mess all day, and even after The Patient Mrs. came home from work to take her to her afternoon ice skating lesson while I did my remote-learning Hungarian language class upstairs, I could hear screaming from the ground floor. Something or other. Nothing that mattered for more than an intense four seconds, certainly.

I had gotten less than half of the Heavy Temple review that went up yesterday written in the morning before The Pecan woke up, and since I had homework to do before class, that was the sum total of my writing time for the entire day. It’s never enough, I know, but Wednesday was particularly spare. More so than I’d prefer, whatever the surrounding circumstances.

I’m still behind from that. I have the Horseburner album announcement — which was in my notes as DONE and which I’ve already fucking referenced in a post as a past event — waiting to be finished so it can go up. WyndRider got signed to Electric Valley for their second LP. That’ll be up Monday too I guess. I know this entire endeavor is small stakes, that nobody really cares about these things except me, and that I’m doing my best, but it is frustrating to put everything you can into a thing and come up short of where you want to be. That’s all.

So maybe Temple Fang closing the week is my way of telling myself to be less rigid. Or maybe they’re on my mind because next week is Roadburn and I’m actually going to be there for the first time in five years. That’s where I first saw Temple Fang, as well as Death Alley, of which Dennis Duijnhouwer was a founding member, and his prior band with Jevin de Groot, the cosmic-doom proposition Mühr, whose performance remains among the best live music experiences I’ve ever had.

I’m nervous to be back in Tilburg. I’m older. I’m worn down. I’m out of shape physically and mentally in ways that I just wasn’t in 2019. I’m tired all the time. Running in circles around my brain is the mantra that when the music starts it’ll all be okay.

Have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, watch your head, hydrate, all that stuff. See you back here Monday for a Darsombra video premiere and all the rest of it. For now I think I might head up the hill and check on my mom.


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Carnwennan Set May 31 Release for Debut LP Lotus; Teaser Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


To be perfectly honest, I know nothing about this band beyond what I read — because yes, sometimes I do actually skim over the various press releases posted in this space — and what I’ve heard in the 30-second teaser posted below. Nada. Haven’t heard the record, didn’t catch their 2023 demo, Dusk, that’s now gone from their Bandcamp. None of it. Still, as I found myself the other day racking my brain to think of exciting new bands in the sphere of sludge/sludge metal separate from the over-the-top shenanigans and naked tone worship of what’s been called ‘bong metal’ here and elsewhere (elsewhere first, I’m sure), word of Carnwennan‘s debut album, Lotus, showed up in my email as if on cue. And you don’t get much in the teaser, but you do get a strong hint dropped of nastiness set to unfold.

Set to deliver May 31 — the Bandcamp page set up through Darkest Records (also home to NJ’s Oldest Sea) has it as June 1, a day later; I’m listing the earlier date because, well, better sooner than later — there’s more catharsis in the single riff currently streaming from the four-part single-song work, but almost certainly plenty of space in not-that-half-minute for such things. And if it turns out that extremity rules the day, fine. I wouldn’t say I’m tired of all the psychedelic bliss and harmonies and this and that of the modern heavy underground, but sometimes you just want to hear something that hurts too.

Heads up on this, and the live shows around release time, and the video to come:

Carnwennan Lotus

CARNWENNAN: Albany, New York-Based Meditative Sludge/Doom Metal Band To Release Debut LP, Lotus, On Darkest Records May 31st; Album Art, Teaser, And Preorders Posted

Albany, New York-based sludge/doom metal quartet CARNWENNAN arrives with their debut LP, Lotus, confirmed for late May release through Darkest Records, the label formed by members of fellow Hudson Valley sludge stalwarts Hush.

Born out of sorrowful introspection, CARNWENNAN seeks to put forth a relentless dirge of misery by combining their wall of sound with projected images of woe and suffering. Formed in 2020 as a means of escape for its members, CARNWENNAN’s droning despair coagulated into a four-piece act of meditative penance by pulling together members of the local hardcore and metal scenes influenced by bands like Earth, Sunn O))), Primitive Man, and Sleep.

CARNWENNAN’s forthcoming debut album, Lotus plays as one continuous track subdivided into four movements, an album created with great restraint and tension, resulting in a slow-motion, seamless evolution. The wooded surroundings of the band’s upstate surroundings indisputably influence the lush, organic sounds of growth and decay, life and demise, themes which are exemplified in the lyrical and visual delivery of the album.

Lotus was recorded by Ryan Slowey at the Darkest Records headquarters outside of Hudson, New York, and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Locrian, Iron Monkey, Mournful Congregation). CARNWENNAN’s bassist, Alex Waters, is an acclaimed painter and created the album’s cover art. Vocalist/guitarist, Jack Jackal, also does design work for many underground artists and curates Castle Jackal Magazine, contributed artwork to the album layout. Amps and pedals used on the album were conceived and built by lead guitarist Alexandria Ashpond. Since recording the album, the band’s original drummer James Leshkevich has left and been replaced by former drummer of The Acacia Strain, Kevin Boutot. An official video directed by Cam Damage has been filmed for one of the tracks, from which the teaser from the album has been sampled.

Darkest Records will release Lotus on LP and digital formats on May 31st. Preorders have been posted at Bandcamp HERE:

Watch for an official video and additional content from Lotus to drop over the weeks ahead. Fans of Earth, Khanate, Hush, Om, Bell Witch, Primitive Man, Conan, and Old Man Gloom should not ignore CARNWENNAN’s Lotus.

Lotus Track Listing:
1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV

CARNWENNAN is booking shows throughout the Northeast surrounding the release of Lotus, with more widespread touring in the works for later in the year. See all currently confirmed shows below and watch for updates to post throughout the coming months, including a release show for the LP.

5/04/2024 Culture Club – New Milford, CT w/ Afghan Haze, Cadmium, Bajzelle
6/09/2024 Collar City Mushrooms – Troy, NY w/ Radiation Blackbody, Compress
6/08/2024 No Fun – Troy, NY w/ Horse Grave, Flatwounds, King Mob

Recorded by Ryan Slowey at Darkest Records in Hudson, NY.
Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege.
Artwork by Alex Waters and Jack Jackal.

Alexandria Ashpond – lead guitar
Alex Waters – bass
Jack Jackal – guitar, vocals
Kevin Boutot – drums

Carnwennan, Lotus album teaser

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

Posted in Questionnaire on April 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions inteded to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

Make sounds with the intention of accentuating, enhancing, or supporting other sounds around me. It all happened very organically. In high school I played guitar… a lot. Then I became very interested in drumming and started jamming on drums about 5 years later. It was a very organic transition from drumming by myself, to free-form jamming (mostly with Matt LeGrow and our brothers), then those free-form jams evolved into Admiral Browning.

About nine years ago I got back into guitar big time. Revisiting old riffs I had, learning new stuff. Exploring tones, pedals, amps, different pickups and stuff like that. Started jamming on guitar with a neighbor who drummed, shortly Paul joined us on Wednesday nights to jam. It was also very organic, we never “constructed” a song as much as we honed free-form jams into songs.

Describe your first musical memory.

My zeroth musical memory is piano lessons as a young kid, I remember not liking my piano teacher at all. Hahah! Beyond that, mom and dad played guitar, bass, banjo, piano and sang at church, so I had early access to instruments, PA systems and microphones. I have several memories of playing with this stuff, learning about it, and singing in musicals as a young person in church. However my favorite thing to do in those days was to hear Rick Dees weekly top forty. I would rush to the radio on Sunday nights when it
aired. It was the highlight of my week as a young kid. Not only tracking where my favorite artists were on the charts (Duran Duran) but I was equally fascinated by some of the side stories Rick would share when introducing a song or band.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is a recent one! Our latest High Noon Kahuna recording with Kevin Bernstein at Developing Nations! We went in with about 80% of the songs fully-baked, done, and dusted. We had sketches and rough drafts of the other 20 percent with enough time booked to fully explore and experiment in the studio. It was liberating and wonderful! Out of this freedom we created what I think is one of the coolest tracks on the new album, “Tumbleweed Nightmare.”

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Drumming showed me my limits were mental. When I was at my physical limit, the riffs and music drove me to push past those limits. I can run or workout with weights or kickbox or kayak or ride uphill on a bike, but nothing on earth pushes me to my limit and enables me to break past my limits like drumming and more importantly, being a collaborator in the musical sounds of the band.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Betterment! With any form of art, it starts small, and sometimes it starts bad. As we learn and grow while practicing, our art becomes better. Every time we practice our art is a chance to improve.

How do you define success?

Success, to me, is being happy with yourself, your surroundings, the people in your life, and your work. Society always dangles the carrot in front of us, there will always be something we don’t have. Being motivated and driven enough to keep working hard every single day and on days when the motivation isn’t there, having resiliency to push through the items that need doing, that’s how I’m able to feel successful at the end of the day.

As far as a band setting goes, there are thousands of micro-to-macro successes. Celebrating each one of those can manifest more. Things like, inventing a new part for a song, having a good practice jam, playing a fun show, a successful recording session. Each of these are rewarding and should be seen as successes.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

The bathroom at the Springwater Supper Club & Lounge in Nashville Tennessee. Love that place, many of my good friends have worked there and booked shows there. Have played several amazing shows there and attended some awesome parties and shows there. But, wow that bathroom was bad! All the things you’d expect from a punk-rock bathroom. Few rival it, however the bathroom at the Meatlocker in Montclair New Jersey and the bathroom at the Milestone in Charlotte North Carolina were contenders.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I think everyone who is a true music fan/nerd has developing tastes. I’m thankful that I’ve never reached the end of my musical journey as a fan of music. I’m also thankful for my friends over the years who have showed me new music. As my tastes and preferences evolve I’m thankful that new ideas emerge regularly that challenge my own musical abilities and push me beyond my limits.

As far as non-musical creations, I’ve been getting back into drawing, lettering and calligraphy. There are a few ideas here that I’m working on creating.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

Expression. Art allows us to convey our attitudes and emotions on different levels. Art can be beautiful, art can be brutal, art can be beautifully brutal or brutally beautiful. I’m thankful for the ability to express these emotions in ways that resonate in ways beyond just talking about them.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I’ve been watching every werewolf movie I can find since last Halloween, there are roughly 70 on my list. I look forward to seeing them all. (Suggestions and recommendations welcome!) Some upcoming tattoo work I’m getting. Spending some fun summer time with my wife, hounds, and mother nature.

High Noon Kahuna, This Place is Haunted (2024)

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Planet Desert Rock Weekend V Adds Fireball Ministry, Valley of the Sun, MR.BISON and Sons of Arrakis

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

planet desert rock weekend v banner

After a compelling first announcement two weeks ago that put Washington heavy rock institution Mos Generator atop a bill with six other outfits curated from among Europe and the UK’s ever-crowded underground — JIRMSamavayo, Sergeant ThunderhoofOmega Sun, and Fire Down Below — the Las Vegas-based festival Planet Desert Rock Weekend V offers four new names today with a similarly curated feel. California’s Fireball Ministry, Ohio’s Valley of the Sun (returning), Canadian upstarts Sons of Arrakis and Italian cosmic rockers MR.BISON (also returning) are the new additions to the lineup, and each brings something specific of their own to the mix for the three-dayer set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2025.

And yeah, that’s a ways off, but if you, like me, don’t actually live in Vegas, it’s an opportunity to make your travel plans early. As the city has never been a ‘scene’ hotbed for heavy fare — of course there are good bands who’ve come from there; that’s true of most of the planet — there’s no question Planet Desert Rock Weekend is positioning itself as a destination festival, and letting you book a flight before they’re even more outlandish than they are now is part of that. Not that I was just looking at airfare prices or anything, mind you. Because I absolutely was.

There were eight bands left after the first reveal, and this, as noted, adds four, so I count four more names to come, give or take, sometime between now and next January. I’m not sure how much more one could reasonably ask beyond what’s already being served here, but golly it’s fun to daydream.

From fest director John Gist, via the PR wire:

planet desert rock weekend v second announce poster

Planet Desert Rock Weekend V — Jan. 30 – Feb. 1


FB event:

Vegas Rock Revolution and Planet Desert Rock Weekend are proud to announce the next 4 bands for PDRW V.  We bring back two alumni bands in Valley of the Sun and Mr. Bison, a longtime legacy band Fireball Ministry and rising star with Sons of Arrakis coming to Vegas for a fun filled weekend of heavy rock, friends and a cool environment that is comfortable. PDRW is designed to give you your mornings and afternoons to enjoy Vegas!

Fireball Ministry/ Los Angeles

Rising from quietly smoldering for a number of years we are honored to have Fireball Ministry be a part of PDRW.  This is a pure legacy band that has been rocking the scene since 1999 and have shared the stage with the likes of Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest,  Slayer, Danzig, Anthrax, Motörhead and many others.  Recently it was announced Ripple Music will be reissuing their catalog.

Valley of the Sun/ Cincinnati

Super pumped to have Valley of the Sun return to Planet Desert Rock Weekend after performing at the inaugural one. Led by frontman Ryan Ferrier they deliver straight heavy rocking desert rock tinged stuff that sticks in your head. Their recently released album on Ripple Music landed close to the top of Vegas Rock Revolution’s top albums of the year.

Mr. Bison/ Italy

Mr. Bison has been one busy band since appearing at Planet Desert Rock Weekend II. Their latest album “Echoes of the Universe” has made an amazing splash in 2024 including landing #2 on the Doom Charts for February. Mr. Bison have continued to evolve and challenge themselves including adding a new member who is a multi instrumentalist. We can’t wait to have them back and hear the new stuff live! Mr. Bison is part of the Heavy Psych Sounds label.

Sons of Arrakis/ Montreal

Early on Vegas Rock Revolution has been touting and working with Sons of Arrakis and after hoping to have them as part of PDRW IV, we are excited to have them for 2025!  Their sound is an outstanding blend of heavy rock/ heavy psych/ progressive/ stoner with a backdrop of being a Dune themed band. Their debut album ended #2 for 2022 on the VRR end of the year list right behind PDRW alumni Freedom Hawk (2). Their album landed #1 on Doom Charts for July 2022 and #8 overall for the year.  SOA is currently finishing up their 2nd album which will be released on Black Throne Productions.

Planet Desert Rock Weekend V preview playlist

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Album Review: Heavy Temple, Garden of Heathens

Posted in Reviews on April 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Heavy Temple Garden of Heathens

Absolute ripper. You wouldn’t have called Heavy Temple timid as a band on their 2021 debut, Lupi Amoris (review here), but Garden of Heathens is confident in its stride from the first clarion riff in leadoff “Extreme Indifference to Life” and throw-elbows brash through the head-spinning, double-kick-propelled instrumental thrash finish in “Psychomanteum”; less about playing to style than doing what feels right in the songs, dynamic, heavy, and charged. Now more than a decade on from their start, the Philadelphia trio led by bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk with Baron Lycan on drums and, here, Lord Paisley making his final appearance on guitar — Christian Lopez (also Sun Voyager) has stepped into the role — present a clear vision of who they are across eight songs and 45 minutes brimming with attitude, righteous intent, groove and swagger as they bounce back and forth between longer and shorter cuts, building momentum fast and never quite letting it go even in the later reaches of the near-nine-minute “Snake Oil (And Other Remedies)” with its abundant layers of shred, emphatic physical push and willfully noisy apex.

Maybe you’ve seen them on stage in the last couple years. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, that’s the likely origin point of the urgency they offer to underpin whatever a given piece might be doing, as with “Hiraeth” following the declarative hook and roll (actually there’s some double-kick there too, and elsewhere; don’t be scared) of the opener with an internalized worship that brings together Queens of the Stone Age and Slayer, or the tension wrought in the three minutes comprising the ambient, hypnotic “In the Garden of Heathens,” marked by cymbal wash and guest cello from John Forrestal, who also produced at The Animal Farm in the idyllic countryside of Flemington, New Jersey. That semi-title-track is the only real comedown provided, and the breather is all the more appreciated in complementing “Snake Oil (And Other Remedies)” as the band make ready to topple the gatekept walls of metal in the penultimate “Jesus Wept,” hitting hard with a heroic dose of lead guitar and a scorch that by that point in Garden of Heathens has already left no shortage of blisters.

But if ‘over the top’ is where it’s at — and no, you’re not wrong if you’re picturing Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling in the 1987 movie of the same name — then Heavy Temple are at home in the excess, and what most brings the material on Garden of Heathens together is the fuckall fury and tightness of their execution. The proverbial band on fire, as demonstrated through the seven minutes of “Divine Indiscretion” as it courses fluidly through a twisting verse and a chorus that only grows more melodic with the additional vocal layer the second time through. Nighthawk‘s increased command-of-instrument as a singer is given due punctuation by the stomping, headbang-worthy riff and solo from Paisley that follow said verse/chorus as they gallop into the song’s midsection, toy with a flash of ’70s Motörheadular shuffle and stop to give the crowd — whatever, wherever, whoever — a chance to shout back in response before the noise wash circa 4:30 brings it to a standalone, maybe-part-improv Hendrix meander backed by a layer of effects that soon enough rises to earth-consuming proportion before the shred goes full-Iommi and they turn back to the central riff for a fast, loud, big, big, big crash to end.

Heavy Temple photo by Crystal Engel Mama Moon

Movement, a heavy immediacy in the songwriting, has been wheelhouse for Heavy Temple since their 2014 self-titled EP (review here) and has carried them through multiple lineup changes, but with Garden of Heathens, they are sharper and more focused than they’ve yet been on record. While the strut is still there in “Hiraeth” and the not-actually-slow-but-still-a-nod “House of Warship,” some of the funk that rested beneath the fuzzy surface of their earlier work has been traded out in favor of more direct intensity. Given the unenviable positioning between “Divine Indiscretion” and “Snake Oil (And Other Remedies),” “House of Warship” announces itself with a standalone harmonized vocal sweep joined shortly by creeper guitar, and gets bombastic as Lycan‘s drums give pulse to the dug-in riff, while Nighthawk gets theatrical in the multi-layered hook and pushes to higher notes in the song’s consuming midsection. Ready to noiseblast at a moment’s notice, they make “House of Warship” a highlight, touching on doom and toying with goth and metal in ways that make the careful balances in their approach sound as organic as they likely are. To me, it most sounds like Heavy Temple stepping forward creatively and bending genre to their increasingly individualized purposes.

Because it’s loud regardless of actual volume, because it varies tempos, departs and returns, shoves, swings, bobs and weaves, and ultimately because it has so much energy behind its delivery, Garden of Heathens reveals more of its complexities on repeat listens, whether that’s the okay-here-we-go transition into the shredding finish of “Extreme Indifference to Life” or the High on Fire-informed push in “Jesus Wept.” The finer details are worth it, to put it mildly, as is the raw force with which the tracks land, each contributing something of its own to the broadened scope of the entirety. That they choose to end with “Psychomanteum,” the fastest and most brazen attack, teasing a slowdown but finishing with a suitable defiance of expectation both in style and lack of vocals, sends the message (expedited) that Heavy Temple aren’t done. It may or may not hint at future dives into thrash and other more aggressive styles to be melded with their weighted tones, but at a certain point it’s moot to speculate since, aside from whatever progression or whims may manifest, their next release will invariably present some shift in dynamic as a result of the personnel change.

That too is part of the story of Heavy Temple and Garden of Heathens, but the bloodlust in these songs isn’t out of the blue, and one can only hope remains as much a piece of who they will become as it is of who they are today. Few and far between on this wretched earth are bands who can inhabit both the wrecking ball and the afterparty dancing atop the rubble. Now mosh, ye pagans.

Heavy Temple, Garden of Heathens (2024)

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Crypt Sermon: New LP The Stygian Rose Out June 14; Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

crypt sermon (Photo by Scott Kinkade)

Crypt Sermon dance all over the border between classic doom and trad metal, and accordingly there are times where I feel like they’re more of a fit here than others, but listening to the push of melody in their new single “Heavy is the Crown of Bone” and the tonal density of the groove alongside Brooks Wilson‘s gutted-out vocals, I’m less concerned with the lines betwixt microgenres than I am the realized nature of what the Philadelphia troupe are doing in the song itself.

Their new album is called The Stygian Rose, was produced by Arthur Rizk, who also engineered and did most of the mixing for 2019’s The Ruins of Fading Light (review here), will be out June 14 through Dark Descent Records, and is being heralded alongside some bona fide landmarks in the PR wire announcement below, but if you’d see the names dropped and bristle at the hyperbole, I’ll point out that I think they’re less talking about hit records than moments where the bands in question figured out who they were and what they wanted to be. If that’s what’s unfolding in “Heavy is the Crown of Bone” — and I have no reason to think it isn’t after listening — then the arrival of their third long-player is all the more something to look forward to.

No shortage of blue text below, and here I’ll reiterate my general philosophy that learning what artists and those promoting them are saying about their own work is crucial to creating an understanding of it — it’s why I cut and paste press releases in a different color rather than try to fool you into believing those are my ideas via paraphrase — but I’ll advise you head down to the bottom first and hit play on the “Heavy Lies the Crown of Bone” video for accompaniment to your perusal, as well as motivating to dive deeper into where they’re coming from.

Off you go, then:

crypt sermon the stygian rose

Crypt Sermon Unveil Details for New Album, The Stygian Rose

Out June 14 on Dark Descent Records. // Watch the stunning music video for first single “Heavy is the Crown of Bone.”

Pre-order here:

Black Sabbath changed the world we know and love with Paranoid. Candlemass defined their career with Ancient Dreams. Pantera were four albums in before they heavily shifted paradigms on Cowboys from Hell. And Mayhem weren’t even a band when De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas slithered into metaldom’s cellar. Now, Crypt Sermon stand at their crossroads with The Stygian Rose, out June 14 on Dark Descent. It’s their time—the culmination of their journey.

Featuring guitarist Steve Jansson (Daeva, Unrest), vocalist Brooks Wilson (Unrest), drummer Enrique Sagarnaga (Daeva, The Silver), guitarist Frank Chin (Daeva), bassist Matt Knox (Horrendous, The Silver), and keyboardist Tanner Anderson (Obsequiae, Majesties), the Philadelphia-based sextet parlayed their time away into a grander, more mysterious Crypt Sermon. The interflow of doom and heavy metals underpins The Stygian Rose, but these boundaries are effortlessly transcended. “We feel unrestrained now,” Wilson says. “We thought, if the word ‘epic’ in doom metal means anything, it’s without constraint. What’s more vast than being unconstrained?” Sagarnaga continues, “There’s a lot of variety on the album, and I think that’s not just because we get bored easily—which we do, actually—but rather this is who we are.”

From the commanding rhythm of “Heavy is the Crown of Bone”— which premieres today alongside a ravishing music video by The C.O.I.N..— Crypt Sermon brandish their musical and conceptual prowess. The song thunders in on cloven hoof before giving way to Crypt Sermon’s muscular doom and stomp.

Singer Brooks Wilson shares, “This song follows our unnamed protagonist summon an entity from ‘The Ars Goetia’ as he seeks sacred consummation with the Divine Feminine. We were happy to work with The C.O.I.N. in achieving our concept, adding a visual element to our music that incorporates much of the esoteric symbolism embedded in ‘The Stygian Rose.'”

The songwriting for The Stygian Rose started in late 2022. Sagarnaga says, “This is the most prepared our band has been, especially going into the studio. It’s about respect for each other’s time. We were more patient with one another regarding how we expressed musical ideas. We committed to practicing on a regular schedule—that was important. And as we get older, we hopefully have become better musicians. ‘The Stygian Rose’ is also the longest time we’ve had with Arthur Rizk in the studio. Every little detail you hear in the final result of the record is very deliberate.”

The Stygian Rose tracklist:
1. Glimmers in the Underworld
2. Thunder (Perfect Mind)
3. Down in the Hollow
4. Heavy is the Crown of Bone
5. Scrying Orb
6. The Stygian Rose

Crypt Sermon tracked The Stygian Rose at Redwoods in Philadelphia. Arthur Rizk produced, mixed, and mastered, and Aidan Elias (Blood Incantation, Wayfarer) engineered. Since the band and Rizk had previous history, they dialed in sounds quickly and got to work. In contrast to the sporadic two-month process of their last album, The Ruins of Fading Light, Crypt Sermon had just over a week to capture their The Stygian Rose. “We knew we wanted an aggressive sound,” says Wilson. “‘The Stygian Rose’ has way more depth than anything we’ve done before.”

The Stygian Rose follows a character inspired by Paschal Beverly Randolf, an early American spiritualist and sex magician. In The Stygian Rose, the unnamed character seeks to reconnect with his now maybe dead, definitely lost (though intentionally left vague) idealized female, embodying the Sophia/Shakti/Persephone divine wisdom/feminine concept. This lost love is believed to be waiting for him, calling for him from ‘the hollow.’ Conceived by Wilson, the protagonist’s harrowing jaunt starts with album opener “Glimmers in the Underworld” and ends naturally with the title track. The story, as unfurled in the lyrics, is directly connected to the album’s artwork and booklet, painstakingly painted and illustrated by Wilson. Clearly, The Stygian Rose and its lyrical and artistic regalia were thought through from the onset.

“I didn’t want to feel burdened by heavy metal tropes,” reveals Wilson. “I wanted to be able to use them but not be bound by them.” Jansson continues, “We wanted The Stygian Rose to scratch a lot of itches that aren’t being scratched. That’s my goal when I make music. I want to make things that I don’t hear other people doing or at least don’t hear others doing all in one package. I agree, it also has to have staying power and replay value. That addictive feeling you had when you listened to records as a teenager.”

The Stygian Rose showcases Crypt Sermon’s mastery of dark and heavy metal— dive in and experience its rich rewards. Pre-order here:

Crypt Sermon, record release shows:
June 14 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
June 15 Washington, DC @ Pie Shop

Produced, mixed, and mastered by Arthur Rizk at Redwoods Studio in Philadelphia, PA
Engineered by Aidan Elias
Photos by Scott Kinkade
Art by Brooks Wilson

Brooks Wilson (Vocals)
Steve Jannson (Lead Guitar)
Frank Chin (Rhythm Guitar)
Matt Knox (Bass Guitar)
Tanner Anderson (Synths)
Enrique Sagarnaga (Drums)

Crypt Sermon, The Stygian Rose (2024)

Crypt Sermon, “Heavy is the Crown of Bone” official video

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Worshipper Sign to Magnetic Eye Records; New Album One Way Trip Out Later This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kudos to Boston heavy psych rockers Worshipper on joining the powerhouse roster of Magnetic Eye Records. Following two full-lengths on Tee Pee Records in 2019’s Light in the Wire (review here) and their 2016 debut, Shadow Hymns (review here), as well as sundry shorter offerings and appearances here and there, the melody-minded outfit will make offer their awaited third in the months to come with One Way Trip, marking their first release through their new label, also home to the likes of GreenleafHigh Desert QueenBrumeAbrams and Heavy Temple — and that’s just the list of others with forthcoming releases.

It’s not the first time Worshipper and Magnetic Eye have crossed paths. While the band released their own collection of covers in 2018’s Mirage Daze EP, they’ve taken part in Magnetic Eye‘s ongoing ‘Redux’ series of various-artist album/band tributes, and while it’s been four years since their latest original single, 2020’s “Lonesome Boredom Overdrive,” you can hear for yourself at the bottom of this post that that song still kicks ass. They’ll fit well keeping the company they are.

More to come (I hope) as details and such for One Way Trip are revealed. For now, the signing announcement from the PR wire:


WORSHIPPER sign with Magnetic Eye Records

WORSHIPPER have penned a multi-album deal with Magnetic Eye Records. The psychedelic hard rockers from Boston, New England will release their third album via the label in 2024.

WORSHIPPER comment: “We’re excited to sign with Magnetic Eye Records and to have a new partner in getting our music out to the world,” vocalist and guitarist John Brookhouse writes on behalf of the band. “We’ve been together for 10 years, but in the time since our last release in 2019, we’ve become a new band in many ways. Magnetic Eye really seemed to understand our intent both musically and professionally, so it feels good to be working together in this new phase of our career. It’s a comfortable fit, as we were part of ‘The Wall Redux’ project back in the day and have done some touring with Summoner – in the case of our drummer Dave Jarvis, he actually was in that band for a while – so we already had a bit of a kinship. To the future!”

Jadd Shickler extends his welcome: “Worshipper have been on my radar since they turned in an incredible rendition of ‘One of My Turns’ for ‘The Wall Redux’, taking a pretty deep cut from the original Floyd album and turning it into one of the most listenable tracks on our release”, the Magnetic Eye director reveals. “I love their classic rockin’ sensibility that pushes into heavier territory, a perfect throughline from 70s and 90s radio hard rock to today, but with an actual soul and legitimate authenticity.. and I mean the radio part as a compliment! As much as I like aggressive and extreme stuff at times, I LOVE anthems if they sound like the band means it. When Worshipper write anthems, they absolutely mean it! I can hardly express how stoked I am to welcome them to the Magnetic Eye roster. These guys bring a musical vigor that is gonna blow the roof open when folks hear what they’ve got coming. Welcome to Worshipper, the latest kickass heavy rock band from Boston to join Magnetic Eye!”

New England is not just the epicentre of dark tales from grandmasters of horror H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, and Boston is much more than the rebellious Tea Party spark that set the United States’ revolution for independence aflame, as both the city and region are sizzling hotspots of the East Coast rock scene.

To stand apart from a high concentration of like-minded peers, it takes an extra portion of originality and talent. When WORSHIPPER were founded in 2014 by singer and guitarist John Brookhouse, drummer Dave Jarvis, bass player and backing vocalist Bob Maloney, and guitarist Alejandro Necochea, their mission statement was clear: bring something that was missing to the table and deliver a fresh, new flavour to the scene. From the moment of inception till today, the intact original line-up has cranked out impeccable heady and heavy stuff with an emphatic focus on real songs with hooky melodies, creepy vocal harmonies, and twin guitar heroics.

Their gift for catchy epic songwriting did not go unnoticed, and soon a record deal established WORSHIPPER globally with the albums “Shadow Hymns” (2016) and “Light in the Wire” (2019) garnering much praise from critics and fans alike. It also opened doors for heading out on the road, and WORSHIPPER gladly accepted offers to tour with WEEDEATER in the US and THE SKULL in Europe as well as sharing stages with kindred spirits and heroes such as ELDER, LUCIFER, ACE FREHLEY, and MONSTER MAGNET among many others.

WORSHIPPER are set to release their third heavy psychedelic full-length “One Way Trip” via Magnetic Eye Records this year.

John Brookhouse – vocals, guitar, synth
Dave Jarvis – drums
Bob Maloney – bass, backing vocals
Alejandro Necochea – guitar, synth

Worshipper, “Lonesome Boredom Overdrive”

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