The Obelisk Questionnaire: Adrian Zambrano of Brujas del Sol

Posted in Questionnaire on November 24th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Adrian Zambrano of Brujas del Sol

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended 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: Adrian Zambrano of Brujas del Sol

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

I guess I’d just simply say I’m a guitarist. It’s been something I’ve been in love with since I was a kid. My dad is a huge rock and roll guy. Like most of my peers, I’m sure, I was raised on Floyd, Zeppelin, The Doors, ZZ Top. I suppose it just always looked cool to me. (Insert photo of Zeppelin in front of their plane)… How could that not be cool?

Describe your first musical memory.

I’ve always had a love for Guns ‘n’ Roses. I used to wear my dad’s cut off G’N’R shirt around the house as a little kid singing and air guitaring.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

My time in Lo-pan, forcibly short as it was due to family health issues, was so incredible. When Brujas del Sol started, we looked up to them so so much… We still do. Best dudes. Best band.

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

Oh man, one half of my family is from Mexico. Where do I start?

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully a path of happiness… fulfillment. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people.

For me personally, it’s knowing my bandmates feel challenged, open to express themselves.

How do you define success?

People feeling eager to listen to our music or come see a show is enough for me.

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

Halloween Resurrection.

Fuck… maybe I’m lying. Busta Rhymes yelling “Trick or treat, mother fucker” is pretty mint.

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

An all synthesized record. Something I’ve been messing with for a few years now.

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

This is probably a boring answer… but, for me, to get people to think.

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

Hmmm. I’ve gone out on my own professionally and started a finish carpentry company in North Carolina. So, between that and three bands, I reckon I’ve got my hands full.

Brujas del Sol, Deculter (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Pretty Lightning, Wizzerd, Desert 9, Gagulta, Obiat, Maunra, Brujas del Sol, Sergeant Thunderhoof

Posted in Reviews on September 22nd, 2022 by JJ Koczan


On occasion, throughout the last eight years or so that I’ve been doing this kind of Quarterly Review roundup thing, I’ve been asked how I do it. The answer is appallingly straightforward. I do it one record at a time, listening to as much music as possible and writing as much as I can. If you were curious, there you go.

If, more likely, you weren’t curious, now you know anyway. Shall we?

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Gnosis

russian circles gnosis

You wanna know how big a deal Russian Circles are? I didn’t even get a promo of this record. Granted, I’m nobody, but still. So anyway, here I am like a fucking sucker, about to tell you Gnosis is the heaviest and most intense thing Russian Circles — with whose catalog I’m just going to assume you’re familiar because they’re that big a deal and you’re pretty hip; bet you got a download to review, or at least an early stream — have ever done and it means literally nothing. Just makes me feel stupid and lame. I really want to like this album. That chug in “Conduit?” Fuck yeah. That wash in “Betrayal?” Even that little minimalist stretch of “Ó Braonáin.” The way “Tupilak” rumbles to life at the outset. That’s my shit right there. Chug chug crush crush, pretty part. So anyway, instead of sweating it forever, I’ll probably shut Gnosis off when I’m done here and never listen to it again. Thanks. Who gives a shit? Exactly. Means nothing to anyone. Tell me why I do this? Why even give it the space? Because they’re that big a deal and I’m the nerdy fat kid forever. Total fucking stooge. Fuck it and fuck you too.

Russian Circles on Facebook

Sargent House store


Church of the Cosmic Skull, There is No Time

church of the cosmic skull there is no time

Are not all gods mere substitutes for the power of human voices united in song? And why not tonight for finding the grace within us? As Brother Bill, Sister Caroline and their all-colours Septaphonic congregation of siblings tell us, we’re only one step away. I know you’ve been dragged down, wrung out, you’ve seen the valleys and hills, but now’s the time. Church of the Cosmic Skull come forward again with the message of galactic inner peace and confronting the unreality of reality through choral harmonies and progressive heavy rock and roll, and even the Cosmic Mother herself must give ear. Come, let us bask in the light of pure illumination and revolutionary suicide. Let us find what we lost somewhere. All gods die, but you and I can live forever and spread ourselves across the universe like so much dust from the Big Bang. We’ll feel the texture of the paper. We’ll be part of the team. Oh, fellow goers into the great Far Out, there’s reverence being sung from the hills with such spirit behind it. Can you hear? Will you? There’s nothing to fear here, nothing sinister. Nothing to be lost except that which has held you back all along. Let it all move, and go. Open your eyes to feel all seven rays, and stand peeled like an onion, naked, before the truth being told. Do this. Today.

Church of the Cosmic Skull on Facebook

Church of the Cosmic Skull store


Pretty Lightning, Dust Moves

Pretty Lightning Dust Moves

Saarbrücken duo Pretty Lightning follow 2020’s stellar Jangle Bowls (review here) with a collection of 14 instrumental passages that, for all their willful meandering, never find themselves lost. Heady, Dead Meadowy vibes persist on ramblers like “Sediment Swing” and “Splinter Bowl,” but through spacious drone and the set-the-mood-for-whatever “Glide Gently (Into the Chasm),” which is both opener and the longest track (immediate points) at just over five minutes, the clear focus is on ambience. I wouldn’t be the first to liken some of Dust Moves to Morricone, and sure, “Powdermill” has some of that Dollars-style reverb and “The Secret is Locked Inside” lays out a subtle nighttime threat in its rattlesnake shaker, but these ideas are bent and shaped to Pretty Lightning‘s overarching purpose, and even with 14 songs, the fact that the album only runs 43 minutes should tell you that even as they seem to head right into the great unknown wilderness of intent, they never dwell in any single position for too long, and are in no danger of overstaying their welcome. Extra kudos for the weirdness of “Crystal Waltz” tucked right into the middle of the album next to “The Slow Grinder.” Sometimes experiments work.

Pretty Lightning on Facebook

Fuzz Club Records store


Wizzerd, Space‽: Issue No. 001

wizzerd space issue no 001

Combining burly modern heavy riffage, progressive flourish and a liberal dose of chicanery, Montana’s Wizzerd end up in the realm of Howling Giant and a more structurally-straightforward Elder without sounding directly like either of them. Their Fuzzorama Records label debut, the quizzically punctuated Space‽: Issue No. 001 echoes its title’s obvious nods to comic book culture with a rush of energy in songs like “Super Nova” and “Attack of the Gargantuan Moon Spiders,” the swinging “Don’t Zorp ‘n’ Warp” space-progging out in its second half as though to emphasize the sheer delight on the part of the band doing something unexpected. So much the better if they’re having fun too. The back half of the outing after the duly careening “Space Chase” is blocked off by the noisy “Transmission” and the bleep-bloop “End Transmission” — which, if we’re being honest is a little long at just under five minutes — but finds the band establishing a firm presence of purpose in “Doom Machine Smoke Break” and the building “Diosa del Sol” ahead of the record’s true finishing moment, “Final Departure Part 1: The Intergalactic Keep of the Illustrious Cosmic Woman,” which is both an adventure in outer space and a melodic highlight. This one’s a party and you’re invited.

Wizzerd on Facebook

Fuzzorama Records store


Desert 9, Explora II

Desert 9 Explora II

Desert 9 is one of several projects founded by synthesist Peter Bell through a collective/studio called Mutaform in the Brindisi region of Southern Italy (heel of the boot), and the seven-song/63-minute Explora II follows quickly behind June’s Explora I and works on a similar theme of songs named for different deserts around the world, be it “Dasht-e Margo,” “Mojave,” “Gobi” or “Arctic.” What unfolds in these pieces is mostly long-ish-form instrumental krautrock and psychedelic exploration — “Arctic” is an exception at a somewhat ironically scorching three and a half minutes; opener “Namib” is shorter, and jazzier, as well — likewise immersive and far-outbound, with Bell‘s own synth accompanied on its journeys by guitar, bass and drums, the former two with effects to spare. I won’t take away from the sunburn of “Sonoran” at the finish, but the clazzic-cool swing of “Chihuahuan” is a welcome respite from some of the more thrust-minded fare, at least until the next solo starts and eats the second half of the release. The mix is raw, but I think that’s part of the idea here, and however much of Explora II was improvised and/or recorded live, it sounds like the four-piece just rolled up, hit record and went for it. Not revolutionary in aesthetic terms, but inarguable in vitality.

Mutaform on Facebook

Mutaform on Bandcamp


Gagulta, Gagulta

Gagulta Gagulta

Originally pressed to tape in 2019 through Fuzz Ink and brought to vinyl through Sound Effect Records, Greek sludgers Gagulta begin their self-titled debut with an evocation of the Old Ones before unfurling the 13-minute assault of “Dead Fiend/Devil’s Lettuce,” the second part of which is even slower than the first. Nods and screams, screams and nods, riffs and kicks and scratches. “Late Beer Cult” is no less brash or disaffected, the Galatsi-based trio of ‘vokillist’ Johny Oldboy, baritone bassist Xen and drummer Jason — no need for last names; we’re all friends here — likewise scathing and covered in crust. Side B wraps with the 10-minute eponymous “Gagulta” — circle pit into slowdown into even noisier fuckall — but not before “Long Live the Undead” has dirty-steamrolled through its four minutes and the penultimate “War” blasts off from its snare count-in on a punk-roots-revealing surge that plays back and forth with tortured, scream-topped slow-riff madness. I don’t know if the Old Ones would be pleased, but if at any point you see a Gagulta backpatch out in the wild, that person isn’t fucking around and neither is this band. Two years after its first release, it remains monstrous.

Gagulta on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Fuzz Ink Records store


Obiat, Indian Ocean

obiat indian ocean

Some 20 years removed from their debut album, Accidentally Making Enemies, and 13 past their most recent, 2009’s Eye Tree Pi (review here), London’s Obiat return at the behest of guitarist/keyboardist Raf Reutt and drummer Neil Dawson with the duly massive Indian Ocean, an eight-song collection spanning an hour’s listening time that brings together metallic chug and heavy post-rock atmospherics, largesse of tone and melody central to the proceedings from opener “Ulysses” onward. Like its long-ago predecessor, Alex Nervo‘s bass (he also adds keys and guitar) is a major presence, and in addition to vocalist Sean Cooper, who shines emotively and in the force of his delivery throughout, there are an assortment of guests on “Eyes and Soul,” “Nothing Above,” “Sea Burial” and subdued closer “Lightness of Existence,” adding horns, vocals, flute, and so on to the wash of volume from the guitar, bass, drums, keys, and though parts were recorded in Wales, England, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Hungary, Indian Ocean is a cohesive, consuming totality of a record that does justice to the long wait for its arrival while also earning as much volume as you can give it through its immersive atmospherics and sheer aural heft that leads to the ambient finish. It is not a minor undertaking, but it walks the line between metal and post-metal and has a current of heavy rock beneath it in a way that is very much Obiat‘s, and if they’re really back to being a band again — that is, if it’s not another 13 years before their next record — watch out.

Obiat on Facebook

Obiat on Bandcamp


Maunra, Monarch

Maunra Monarch

Vienna five-piece Maunra enter the fray of the harsher side of post-metal with Monarch, their self-released-for-now debut full-length. With throaty growling vocals at the forefront atop subtly nuanced double-guitars and bouts of all-out chugga-breakdown riffing like that in “Wuthering Seas,” they’re managing to dare to bring a bit of life and energy to the generally hyper-cerebral style, and that rule-breaking continues to suit them in the careening “Embers” and the lumbering stomp-mosh of the title-track such that even when the penultimate “Lightbreather” shifts into its whispery/wispy midsection — toms still thudding behind — there’s never any doubt of their bringing the shove back around. I haven’t seen a lyric sheet, so can’t say definitively whether or not opener “Between the Realms” is autobiographical in terms of the band describing their own aesthetic, but their blend of progressivism and raw impact is striking in that song and onward, and it’s interesting to hear an early ’00s metal influence creep into the interplay of lead and rhythm guitar on that opener and elsewhere. At seven tracks/41 minutes, Monarch proffers tonal weight and rhythmic force, hints toward more melodic development to come, and underscores its focus on movement by capping with the especially rousing “Windborne.” Reportedly the album was five years in the making. Time not wasted.

Maunra on Facebook

Maunra on Bandcamp


Brujas del Sol, Deculter

Brujas del Sol Deculter

Still mostly instrumental, formerly just-Ohio-based progressive heavy rockers Brujas del Sol answer the steps they took in a vocalized direction on 2019’s II (review here) with the voice-as-part-of-the-atmosphere verses of “To Die on Planet Earth” and “Myrrors” on their third album, Deculter, but more importantly to the actual listening experience of the record is the fact that they’ve never sounded quite this heavy. Sure, guitarist Adrian Zambrano (also vocals) and bassist Derrick White still provide plenty of synth to fill out those instrumentalist spaces and up the general proggitude, and that’s a signal sent clearly with the outset “Intro,” but Joshua Oswald (drums/vocals) pounds his snare as “To Live and Die on Planet Earth” moves toward its midsection, and the aggression wrought there is answered in both the guitar and bass tones as 12-minute finishing move “Arcadia” stretches into its crescendo, more about impact than the rush of “Divided Divinity” earlier on, rawer emotionally than the keyboardier reaches of “Lenticular,” but no less thoughtful in its construction. Each piece (even that intro) has an identity of its own, and each one makes Deculter a stronger offering.

Brujas del Sol on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz website


Sergeant Thunderhoof, This Sceptred Veil

Sergeant Thunderhoof This Sceptred Veil

A definite 2LP at nine songs and 68 minutes, Sergeant Thunderhoof‘s fifth full-length, This Sceptred Veil, is indeed two albums’ worth of album, and the songs bear that out in their complexity and sense of purpose as well. Not to harp, but even the concluding two-parter “Avon/Avalon” is a lot to take in after what’s come before it, but what Bath, UK, troupe vary their songwriting and bring a genuine sense of presence to the material that even goes beyond the soaring vocals to the depth of the mix more generally. There’s heavy rock grit to “Devil’s Daughter” (lil eyeroll there) and progressive reach to the subsequent “Foreigner,” a lushness to “King Beyond the Gates” and twisting riffs that should earn pleased nods from anyone who’s been swept up in Green Lung‘s hooky pageantry, and opener “You’ve Stolen the Words” sets an expectation for atmosphere and a standard for directness of craft — as well as stellar production — that This Sceptred Veil seems only too happy to meet. A given listener’s reaction to the ’80s metal goofery of “Show Don’t Tell” will depend on said listener’s general tolerance for fun, but don’t let me spoil that for them or you. Yeah, it’s a substantial undertaking. Five records in, Sergeant Thunderhoof knew that when they made it, and if you’ve got the time, they’ve got the tunes. Album rocks front to back.

Sergeant Thunderhoof on Facebook

Pale Wizard Records store


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Brujas del Sol to Release Deculter July 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Nearly four years since their last album, II (review here), came out in 2018, Ohio progressive heavy rockers Brujas del Sol will issue Deculter on July 22 in continued collaboration with Kozmik Artifactz. The record is sitting on my desktop, which would be awesome and I’d probably be going on right now about how rad it is but for the fact that my laptop crashed and I’m writing this on my phone, meanwhile feeling like a garbage fire because either of resurgent covid or allergies, one of which has also infected my son. His covid test was negative but he’s also extra miserable so who the royal fuck knows anything anymore.

So anyhow, I’ll get to listening at some point when my head doesn’t feel like it’s baking bread with too much yeast and then I’ve no doubt of the evening radness in the Middle West. One of these days. Looks like the album’s been done for a while though, which makes me wondering about the vinyl pressing delays. It’s a thing I’m glad exists either way. Let me say that for now.

Can’t fucking breathe through my nose.

PR wire:

Brujas del Sol Deculter 1

Brujas Del Sol Return with Brand New Album “Deculter”


“Deculter is the quintessential record of the Brujas sound. Though several songs were written over a year before we recorded this album in the summer of 2020, that turbulent time only made us strive harder to capture our musical catharsis.

Alongside the rest of the world, our personal lives have changed quite a bit since we last released music. Adrian moved to Asheville, NC from our hometown of Columbus, Ohio; he and Derrick are now brother-in-laws, and Josh has become a father. Also, for the first time since forming this band 10 years ago, we wrote, recorded, and toured as a trio.

There was a sense of urgency, stronger than we’ve ever felt before, to get this album done and do it right – to prove to ourselves that making music was not only still possible, but necessary after everything we’ve been through together.

The heavy riffs, ethereal melodies, propulsive drums, and pulsating synths that are our trademarks have been refined on Deculter to something more than the sum of its parts. We hope this album is for you what it is for us: raw, progressive, and uncompromising.”

Deculter will be released 22nd July on Kozmik Artifactz, available on heavyweight gatefold vinyl from Kozmik Artifactz, as well as on Bandcamp and all major digital streaming platforms.

Available as Limited Edition Vinyl

Release Date: 22nd July 2022

– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited & coloured vinyl
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

1. Intro
2. Divided Divinity
3. Lenticular
4. To Die on Planet Earth
5. Myrrors
6. Arcadia

Brujas del Sol, II (2018)

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GoFundMe Campaign Launched for Lo-Pan Drummer Jesse Bartz

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Lo-Pan (photo by JJ Koczan)

Lo-Pan vocalist and my-favorite-person-on-social-media-to-whom-I’m-not-married Jeff Martin dropped me a line last night with the GoFundMe link above. The headline says it all. The band’s drummer, Jesse Bartz, whose kickdrum I’ve had the pleasure of having my ears blasted by on many, many occasions and always gratefully, has been diagnosed with cancer.

You know the deal here. This is community outreach. For over 15 years, Bartz has been an integral facet — essential personnel, in the parlance of our times — for Lo-Pan’s heavy groove, and I don’t care how many t-shirts you bought along the way, it’s time to step up and help out. I won’t sell you on it and I won’t keep you with some flowery description of Lo-Pan’s influence on heavy underground rock, their years of road-dog touring, or the quality of Bartz’s work.

Frankly, I shouldn’t have to. All of those things are great, but what matters here is that Bartz is a human being and this is an opportunity to help.

On behalf of myself and this site, I wish Bartz strength and a quick recovery. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll beat it and be back to doing likewise to his kit on stage with all good speed.

Here’s the link to share:

Spread that around as you will, but the point here is to donate. Now’s a good time.

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Friday Full-Length: Lo-Pan, In Tensions

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 14th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


It was five years ago this week that Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers Lo-Pan released their In Tensions EP (review here) through Aqualamb Records. It was the first collaboration between the band and the label, as Lo-Pan had reissued their 2007 sophomore full-length, Sasquanaut (review here), and their third album, 2011’s Salvador (review here), on Small Stone Records, with years of hard touring in between. In Tensions also marked the band’s first offering to feature vocalist Jeff Martin, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz without guitarist Brian Fristoe, who’d been in the band since their self-titled debut in 2006 and whose last release with them was 2014’s Colossus (review here), which found them moving beyond their mid-tempo fuzz beginnings on songs like “N.P.D.” and “Relo,” adopting a more straight-ahead, all-out, harder-edged approach that In Tensions would in part continue.

Their progression isn’t to be understated across those outings. Martin made his debut with the band on Sasquanaut and they toured extensively in the US across the years between 2007 and 2014, with their earned growth evident in their craft and performance across Salvador — one of the best heavy rock albums of the 2010s — and Colossus alike. More and more, they became the band they wanted to be, refused to be anything else, and if you didn’t like it, they were happy enough to steamroll your ass on the way to the next set of ears. Like others of the late-’00s/early-’10s Small Stone set — see also Wo FatFreedom HawkGozu, and so on — Lo-Pan helped define American heavy rock for a new generation of listeners, and they did it resolutely on their own terms. In Tensions brought marked changes to their approach.

As I recall it was supposed to be an album, but its five songs and 22 minutes offer plenty of depth even as an EP, whether in the layered vocal harmonies from Martin, the thing-to-be-cherished grooves from Thompson and Bartz or the guitar work of Brujas del Sol‘s Adrian Lee Zambrano. The latter was announced as the band’s new guitarist in Nov. 2014 and would tour Europe with the band the next Spring — I was fortunate enough to catch their set at Roadburn 2015 in the Netherlands, which I still wish had been released as a live album and might’ve been had this lineup worked out — but was out of the band by the time In Tensions surfaced in Aqualamb‘s established art-book/DL and vinyl pressing modus. Thus, In Tensions was both ‘intensions’ and tense. Personality conflicts in Lo-Pan were nothing new. Even watching them on stage, they’ve always struck me as a band ready to put any and everyone in their place, includinglo-pan-in-tensions each other. That’s not a dig on Zambrano, just noting that Lo-Pan might require a particularly thick skin.

But these songs. God damn. From the opener “Go West” careening through “Sink or Swim” and “Long Live the King” into the emotive urgency of “Alexis” and into the six-and-a-half-minute “Pathfinder,” which half a decade later stands up as some of the best work the band have ever done, there was nothing but potential here. Zambrano not only held his own in place of Fristoe, but brought nuance and attitude to his style of play on “Long Live the King” to match Bartz‘s rolling crash, captured with due breadth by Joe Viers‘ recording job and the mixing by Jonathan Nuñez of Torche, who did the first three songs while Ryan Haft (Psychic Mirrors, etc.) mixed the latter two. That shift too is somewhat discernible, if not immediately palpable, between “Long Live the King” and “Alexis,” and I don’t know why the mix was divided between Nuñez and Haft, but they’re different songs with different atmospheres as well. Just “Sink or Swim” sets its terms quickly and in thudding but still melodic fashion, “Alexis” begins with a quieter stretch of guitar and Martin‘s vocals far back in the mix before the bass and drums enter about 30 seconds into the song. 

And “Pathfinder,” frankly, is a beast unto itself. I’ve long been a sucker for Lo-Pan‘s slowdowns — see also “Bird of Prey” from Salvador or “Eastern Seas” from Colossus — but if you were going to distill the potential of this lineup of Lo-Pan into a single song, it would be “Pathfinder,” beginning patient with hints of progressivism behind the verse and then sweeping into a build, the bass warm, the drums propulsive, the guitar precise but no less able to swing and the vocals heartfelt and melodically sure. A tempo shift at three minutes in leads to a break of toms and a fuzz-toned solo — nearly psychedelic but not so willing to relinquish control — before, at 4:55, the song quickly switches gears into its crescendo, gorgeously executed by the band as a whole, from Bartz‘s perfect, absolutely-nailed-it switch to half-time to Martin‘s call-and-response layering, Thompson‘s flourish in kind with Zambrano‘s guitar. When people talk about a band “clicking” or “all-cylinders” or some such, they’re talking about moments like the ending of “Pathfinder.”

Some groups — most, maybe — go an entire career without pulling off something like that. Lo-Pan have done it a few times over. With an almost siren affect in the last few measures, they cap “Pathfinder” and In Tensions with no loss of intensity, willfully setting heads spinning before they end sharp and sudden, like closing a show. Even as a short set, In Tensions stuns with its force and with the sheer ability of the band to make their songs what they want them to be. As noted, by the time it came out, Zambrano was already out of the band, and with his replacement, Chris Thompson (no relation), they would offer the full-length Subtle (review here) in 2019 and return to the road to support it, leaving one with the feeling that, after half a decade since parting ways with Fristoe, they had hit a point of new beginning, sounding refreshed but still the beneficiaries of the work put in developing their chemistry over their years together. I saw them support that record a few times. They killed in a way that wasn’t a surprise, but damn sure was satisfying.

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

So, I put up an Author & Punisher review this morning and sent it to the publicist only to learn that there was an embargo on writing about the record until Feb. 1. Damnit. I knew I was early for a digital review ahead of a Feb. 11 release, but didn’t see there was a prescribed day it was cool to post. I offered to take it down and as of me writing right this second, I’m waiting to hear back on whether or not I should. I feel like an ass either way.

Small stakes, I know, right? Dude has a massive following and very, very few people (all appreciated) see anything I post, but still, I’m not out to break rules like that or anything. If someone trusts you to get a release early, they should be able to depend on you not to fuck up their promotional plans. Yeah, I think I just talked myself into taking it down. Hang on…

Yeah, it’s down. I’ll post when I’m supposed to post. I just got stoked on it, which if you saw the review in the approximately 45 minutes that it was live, you already know.

That’s life. It was the best thing I’d written since I did that in-studio a few weeks ago. Can’t post that yet either. February’s gonna kick some ass around here, I guess.

Next week, meanwhile, is the continuation of the Quarterly Review from December. Another 50 records, 10 per day. I might’ve done the two weeks right in a row last month, but the truth is there was too much coming out and I needed to get the year-end stuff done and, as you’re aware, there are only so many days on the calendar. Like the A&P thing, I sincerely doubt it matters to anyone other than me.

But, yeah.

I’ve got a mountain of email to answer and a Quarterly Review to continue setting up, so you’ll pardon me if I check out. Tomorrow I’ll be traveling to the great unknown land that is Southern New Jersey along with Kings Destroy’s Steve Murphy to record some guest vocals on the next Clamfight record, and I expect that will be a great refreshing brodown/love-fest, that will completely rejuvenate my spirit and wash away all my burnout with a spirit of gratitude and contentment.

I figure as long as I don’t hang too much on it in terms of expectations I’ll be fine. Really though, it’ll be fun and I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, even if it means I need to work on the Quarterly Review today after I finish this post instead of spreading it over Saturday and Sunday as I otherwise might.

Great and safe weekend. Have fun, wear your mask — who are these people not wearing masks? why is that a thing? — and don’t forget to hydrate. I hope you find something you dig in the Quarterly Review.


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Sasquatch and Lo-Pan Announce Northeastern Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

sasquatch photo by Banana


Los Angeles trio Sasquatch and Columbus, Ohio four-piece Lo-Pan will team up for a handful of tour dates making a long weekender of their respective appearances at Maryland Doom Fest in Frederick, MD, on Oct. 29. Sasquatch will be supporting 2017’s Maneuvers (review here) as well as heralding their next release, yet unannounced, while Lo-Pan, who were last seen on the road with Crowbar and C.O.C. in 2019, will support Subtle (review here), issued that same year through Aqualamb.

Though obviously this four-date Northeastern stint marks a return to the road in the most significant manner both acts will have performed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, considering travel and all, Lo-Pan and Sasquatch both have shows booked for before they set out for Philadelphia to begin the run. Lo-Pan join Valley of the Sun for a weekend of shows in Ohio on Sept. 3-5, and are slated to play the annual Blackout Cookout in Youngstown on Oct. 23 alongside Rebreather, Midnight and a host of others.

Sasquatch, meanwhile, will make their way to San Diego on Aug. 25 to join headliners The Sword, as well as ASG and Deathchant for a show presented by Psycho Las Vegas.

As to what either act might have planned for after this Fall, either in terms of writing/recording or releasing new material, returning to longer touring schedules, and so on, your guess is as good as mine. Probably better. But both are veteran acts at this point and any sense that they’re getting back to some semblance of being able to play live again — that’s not to say “normalcy” — is obviously welcome.

Dates follow:

sasquatch lo-pan poster

SASQUATCH & LO-PAN tour dates:

10.28 Philadelphia PA Kung-Fu Necktie

10.29 Frederick MD Cafe 611 *Maryland Doom Festival*

10.30 Brooklyn NY Saint Vitus

10.31 Cambridge MA Middle East Upstairs

Jason Casanova – bass
Keith Gibbs – guitar/vocals
Craig Riggs – drums

LO-PAN is:
Jeff Martin – vocals
Skot Thompson – bass
Jesse Bartz – drums
Chris Thompson – guitar

Sasquatch, Maneuvers (2017)

Lo-Pan, Subtle (2019)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Miller of Pale Grey Lore

Posted in Questionnaire on March 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

michael miller pale grey lore

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended 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: Michael Miller of Pale Grey Lore

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

I sing, play guitar, and write songs in a band called Pale Grey Lore. My brother Adam (drums) and I are the founding members, and we have always been on a shared wavelength musically. After jamming with some people who didn’t quite click, we were very fortunate to find Donovan (bass) and Xander (guitar). They turned out to not only be a great fit for the project, but excellent human beings and great friends as well.

Describe your first musical memory.

In 6th grade, I wanted to be in the school band and I thought Jethro Tull was badass, so I picked the flute for my instrument. I wasn’t great at it, so I asked my parents for a guitar the next year. By high school, I had discovered punk and metal, learned some power chords, and started forming bands with my skater friends. It began with Bad Religion and Black Sabbath covers at the high school talent show, but before long my friends and I were writing our own original songs and playing house shows, skate parks, and VFW halls.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’ll never forget when we got a test pressing of our music from the label and listened to it on vinyl for the first time. It’s just one of those essential milestones for any rock band and there is really nothing else like it.

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

For a very long time I thought I would never be a fan of country music. I had no exposure to the classic stuff growing up because my parents didn’t listen to it, so the only country I was aware of was the awful tripe that was played on commercial radio in the ’90s and ’00s. Recently, however, I’ve been getting into oldschool country from the ’70s and earlier and now I absolutely adore it. Turns out I didn’t actually hate the genre, I just hated what the genre had become.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I guess I feel like artistic progression is more of an endpoint rather a thing that leads to something else. Obviously you can get better at your craft by practicing a ton and honing your technical chops. That’s always good to do, whether you’re playing in a bar band that only does covers or trying to do something original. But to go beyond craft and progress artistically I think you also have to cultivate your aesthetic sensibilities and establish your own authentic voice while participating in a shared musical culture. That means engaging with the work of a wide variety of other artists, tracing their influences, appreciating their innovations and shortcomings, and being a critical listener.

How do you define success?

Every time we get a message from a fan telling us that something we created resonates with them, that’s success. Every time we see people in the audience rocking out to our live set (in the before-times when live shows were still a thing), that’s success. Every time we stumble upon something awesome while jamming that gives us that spine-tingling eureka sensation, that’s success.

How you define success is entirely dependent on what your goals are. Our primary goal as a band has always been to make the sort of music we would like to hear — music that reflects our influences, tastes, and musical sensibilities — and share it with others. Everything else is just gravy.

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

Over the course of this pandemic, I have seen way too many people wearing masks down below their noses or just not bothering to wear them at all, and I really wish I didn’t have to see that all the time.

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

I would love to finish writing the next Pale Grey Lore album and record it, but the pandemic has put a damper on things. Some bands are able to write by sending files back and forth, but that method hasn’t really worked for us. Although I’m the main songwriter, one thing I’ve learned about this band is that we work best collaboratively. Most of our best stuff comes to fruition when we’re jamming live with everyone in the same room, which allows us to work out parts and bounce ideas off of each other in real time.

Rather than try to force it, we’ve decided to just wait until we’re able to write in the way that best suits us and produces the best results. We’re sitting on a bunch of killer material though, and I have no doubt that we’ll be wildly productive as soon as we are able to jam together in the same room again.

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

At its best, art-making is a mode of authentic self-expression that resonates in the right sorts of ways with an audience. It can help human beings cope with the cruelty and absurdity of existence and it’s one of the few ways we have left to generate shared meaning in late capitalist post-modernity. To paraphrase my dude Friedrich Nietzsche: God might be dead, but the profound feeling of life-affirming transcendence that accompanies aesthetic experience is very real and truly does make life worth living.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees things my way. For many, art is just another form of monetized content to be churned out at regular intervals and disseminated via algorithm to the broadest possible audience (or to some niche fandom with disposable income, whatever’s more profitable). You are told that to succeed, you need to become a content farm, constantly out there hustling and selling shit. Everything is a brand (including you) and the goal of “building your brand” should be guiding your every artistic decision.

If you’re not constantly posting gimmicky bullshit on social media, you don’t exist. There’s this perverse pressure on artists to view everything they do through the lens of a crass and all-encompassing entrepreneurial rationality. I think it’s really a shame and has been incredibly detrimental to culture as a whole.

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

My wife and I love to travel, which the pandemic has obviously made impossible to do safely. I hope all the folks who have qualifying health conditions are able to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and then younger healthier people like me can start getting it. I absolutely cannot wait until it’s safe to fly on a plane, visit a museum, or get a good meal at a nice restaurant again!

Pale Grey Lore, Eschatology (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Sergio Ch., Dool, Return to Worm Mountain, Dopelord, Ancestro, Hellhookah, Daisychain, The Burning Brain Band, Slump, Canyon

Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan


I don’t imagine I need to tell you it’s been a hell of a quarter, existentially speaking. It’s like the world decided to play ’52 card pickup’ but with tragedy. Still, music marches on, and so the Quarterly Review marches on. For what it’s worth, I’m particularly looking forward to reviewing the upcoming batch of 50 records. As I stare at the list for each day, all of them have records that I’ve legitimately been looking forward to diving into, and today is a great example of that, front to back.

Will I still feel the same way on Friday? Maybe, maybe not. If past is prologue, I’ll be tired, but it’s always satisfying to do this and cover so much stuff in one go. Accordingly, let’s not delay any further. I hope you enjoy the week’s worth of writeups.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Sergio Ch., From Skulls Born Beyond

Sergio Ch From Skulls Born Beyond

Intertwining by sharing a few songs with the debut album from his trio Soldati, Doom Nacional (review here), the latest solo endeavor from former Los Natas/Ararat frontman Sergio Ch. continues his path of experimentalist drone folk, blending acoustic and electric elements, guitar and voice, in increasingly confident and broad fashion. The heart of a piece like “Sombra Keda” near the middle of the album is still the strum of the acoustic guitar, but the arrangement of electric and effects/synth surrounding, as well as the vocal echo, give a sense of space to the entirety of From Skulls Born Beyond that demonstrates to the listener just how much range Sergio Ch.‘s work has come to encompass. For highlights, one might check out the extended title-track and the closer “Solar Tse,” which bring in waves of distorted noise to add to the experimentalist feel, but there’s something to be said too for the comparatively minimal (vocal layering aside) “My Isis,” as well as for the fact that they all fit so well on the same record.

Sergio Ch. on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp


DOOL, Summerland

Dool Summerland

The follow-up to DOOL‘s 2017 debut, Here Now There Then (review here), does no less than to see the Netherlands-based outfit led by singer Ryanne van Dorst answer the potential of that album while pushing forward the particular vision of Dutch heavy progressive rock that emerged in the wake of The Devil’s Blood, acknowledging that past — Farida Lemouchi (now of Molassess) stops by for a guest spot — while presenting an immersive and richly arranged 54-minute sprawl of highly individualized craft. Issued through Prophecy Productions, it brings cuts like the memorable opener “Sulphur and Starlight” and the dynamic “A Glass Forest” as well as the classic metal chug of “Be Your Sins” and the reaches of its title-cut and acoustic-inclusive finale “Dust and Shadow.” DOOL are a band brazen enough to directly refuse genre, and it is to their benefit and the audience’s that they pull off doing so with such bravado and quality of output. For however long they go, they will not stop progressing. You can hear it.

DOOL on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website


Return to Worm Mountain, Therianthropy

return to worm mountain Therianthropy

By the time Durban, South Africa’s Return to Worm Mountain are done with 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Gh?l” from their second album, Therianthropy, the multi-instrumentalist duo of Duncan Park (vocal, guitar, bass, banjo, jaw harp) and Cam Lofstrand (vocals, drums, synth, guitar, bass, percussion) have gone from High on Fire-meets-Entombed crunch to psychedelic Americana to bare-essential acoustic guitar, and unsurprisingly, the scope doesn’t stop there. “Mothman’s Lament” is folksy sweetness and it leads right into the semi-industrial grind of “Mongolian Death Worm” before “Olgoi-Khorkoi” sludge-lumbers into Echoplex oblivion — or at very least the unrepentantly pretty plucked strings of “Tatzelwurm.” The title refers to a human ability to become an animal — think werewolf — and if that’s a metaphor for the controlled chaos Return to Worm Mountain are letting loose here, one can hardly argue it doesn’t fit. Too strange to be anything but progressive, Therianthropy‘s avant garde feel will alienate as many as it delights, and that’s surely the point of the entire endeavor.

Return to Worm Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Return to Worm Mountain on Bandcamp


Dopelord, Sign of the Devil

dopelord sign of the devil

Primo weedian stoner sludge doom of precisely the proportion-of-riff one would expect from Polish bashers Dopelord, which is to say plenty huge and plenty grooving. “The Witching Hour Bell” sets the tone on Sign of the Devil, which is the fourth full-length from the Warsaw-based four-piece. They lumber, they plod, they crash, and yes, yes, yes, they riff, putting it all on the line with “Hail Satan” with synth flourish at the end before “Heathen” and the ultimately-more-aggro “Doom Bastards” reinforce the mission statement. You might know what you’re getting going into it, but that doesn’t make the delivery any less satisfying as Dopelord plod into “World Beneath Us” like a cross between Electric Wizard and Slomatics and of course stick-click in on a quick four-count for the 94-second punk blaster “Headless Decapitator” to cap the 36-minute vinyl-ready run. How could they not? Sure, Sign of the Devil preaches to the choir, but hell’s bells it makes one happy to have joined the choir in the first place.

Dopelord on Thee Facebooks

Dopelord on Bandcamp


Ancestro, Ancestro

ancestro self titled

Numbered instrumental progressions comprise this third and self-titled offering from Peruvian trio Ancestro (issued through Necio Records and Forbidden Place Records), and the effect of the album being arranged in such a fashion is that it plays through as one long piece, the cascading volume changes of “II” feeding back into the outset count-in of the speedier “III” and so on. Each piece of the whole has its own intention, and it seems plain enough that the band composed the sections individually, but they’ve been placed so as to highlight the full-album flow, and as Ancestro move from “IV” into “V” and “VI,” with songs getting longer as they go en route to that engrossing and proggy 13-minute closer, their success draws from their ability to harness the precision and maybe even a little of the aggression of heavy metal and incorporate it as part of an execution both thoughtful and no less able to be patient when called for by a given piece. Hard-hitting psychedelia is tough to pull off, but Ancestro‘s Ancestro is no less spacious than terrestrial.

Ancestro on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp


Hellhookah, The Curse

hellhookah the curse

In 2016, Lithuanian two-piece Hellhookah made it no challenge whatsoever to get into the traditionalist doom of their debut album, Endless Serpents (review here), and the seven songs of The Curse make for a welcome follow-up, with an uptick in production value and the fullness of the mix and a decided affinity for underground ’80s metal in cuts like “Supremacy” and “Dreams and Passions” to coincide with the Dio-era-Sabbath vibes of centerpiece “Flashes” and the nodding finisher “Greed and Power,” which follows and contrasts “Dreams and Passions” in a manner that feels multi-tiered in its purpose. Departing from some of the Vitus-ness of the first full-length, The Curse adopts a more complex tack across its 38 minutes, but its heart and its loyalties are still of doom, by doom, and for the doomed, and that suits them just fine. Crucially, their lack of pretense carries over, and their love of all things doomed translates into every riff and every stretch on offer. If you’d ask more than that of them, well, why?

Hellhookah on Thee Facebooks

Hellhookah on Bandcamp


Daisychain, Daisychain EP

Daisychain Daisychain EP

Bluesy in opener “Demons,” grunge-tinged in “Lily” and fuzz-folk-into-’70s-soul-rock on “How Can I Love You,” Daisychain‘s self-titled debut EP wants little for ambition from the start, but the Chicago-based four-piece bring a confidence to their dually-vocalized approach that unites the material across whatever stylistic lines it treads, be it in the harmonies of the midtempo rocker “Are You Satisfied” or the righteously languid “Fake Flowers,” which follows. With six songs and 21 minutes, the self-released outing is but a quick glimpse at what Daisychain might have in store going forward, but the potential is writ large from the classic feel of “Demons” to the barroom spirit of closer “The Wrong Thing,” which reminds that rock and roll doesn’t have to sacrifice efficiency in order to make a statement of its own force. There’s plenty of attitude to be found in these songs, but beneath that — or maybe alongside it — there’s a sense of an emergent songwriting process that is only going to continue to flourish. What they do with the momentum they build here will be interesting to see/hear, but more than that, they’re developing a perspective and persona of their own, and that speaks to a longer term ideal. To put another way, they don’t sound like they’re half-assing it.

Daisychain on Thee Facebooks

Daisychain on Bandcamp


The Burning Brain Band, The Burning Brain Band

The Burning Brain Band The Burning Brain Band

Capping with a slide-tinged take on the traditional “Parchman Farm” (see also: Blue Cheer, Cactus, etc.), Ohio’s The Burning Brain Band‘s self-titled debut casts a wide net in terms of influences, centering the penultimate “The Dreamer” around 12-string acoustic guitar on an eight-minute run that’s neither hurried nor staid, but all the more surprising after the electronica-minded “Interlude (Still Running),” which, at four minutes is of greater substance than one might expect of an interlude just as the seven-and-a-half-minute warm-up “Launch Sequence” is considerably broader than one generally considers an intro to an album. There isn’t necessarily a foundational basis from which the material emanates — though “Brain Food” is an effective desert-ish rocker, it moves into the decidedly proggier “Bolero/Floating Away” — but “Launch Sequence” is immersive and the four-piece bring a performance cohesion and a clarity of mindset to the proceedings of this debut that may not unite the songs, but carries the listener through with a sure hand just the same. Who ever said everything on a record had to sound alike? For sure not The Burning Brain Band, who translate the mania of their moniker into effective sonic variety.

The Burning Brain Band on Thee Facebooks

The Burning Brain Band on Bandcamp


Slump, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country

Slump Flashbacks from Black Dust Country

Count Slump in a freakout psych renaissance, all punk-out-the-airlock and ’90s-noise thisandthat. Delivered through Feel It Records, the Richmond, Virginia, outfit’s debut, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country indeed touches ground every now and again, as on “Desire Death Drifter,” but even there, the vocals are so soaked wet with echo that I’m pretty sure they fucked up my speakers, and as much as “Tension Trance” tries, it almost can’t help but be acid grunge. In an age of nihilism, Slump aren’t so much unbridled as they are a reminder of the artistry behind the slacker lean, and in the thrust of “(Do The) Sonic Sprawl” and the far-out twist of “Throbbing Reverberation,” they affirm that only those with expanded minds will survive to see the new age and all the many spectral horrors it might unfurl. Can it be a coincidence that the album starts “No Utopia?” Hardly. I’m not ready to call these cats prophets, but they’ve got their collective ear to the ground and their boogie is molten-core accordingly. Tell two friends and tell them to tell two friends.

Feel It Records on Thee Facebooks

Feel It Records on Bandcamp


Canyon, EP III

canyon ep iii

It’s a ripper, inciting Larry David-style “prettay good” nods and all that sort of approval whatnot. If you want to think of Canyon as Philly’s answer to Memphis’ Dirty Streets, go ahead — and yes, by that I mean they’re dirtier. EP III boasts just three tracks in “No Home,” “Tent Preacher” and “Mountain Haze,” but with it the classic-style trio backs up the power they showed on 2018’s Mk II (review here), tapping ’70s blues rock swagger for the first two tracks and then blowing it out in a dreamy Zeppelin/Rainbow jam that’s trippy and righteous and right on and just plain right. Maybe even right-handed, I don’t know. What I do know is that these guys should’ve been picked up by some duly salivating label like last week already and they should be putting together a full-length on the quick. They’ve followed-up EP III with a stonerly take on The Beatles‘ “Day Tripper,” and that’s fun, but really, it’s time for this band to make an album.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp


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