Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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Up in Smoke 2024 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

With Pentagram at the top of its thus-far bill playing what will reportedly be their final Swiss show ever on a retirement tour that will also stop through Desertfest Berlin 2024 this Spring, the Sound of Liberation-associated Up in Smoke Festival has made the first lineup announcement for its 10th anniversary edition. Set for Oct. 4-6, it is at the spearhead of what will almost certainly be a busy month on the European underground touring circuit. And as one expects news to follow shortly from other October festivals throughout Western Europe — Keep it Low in Munich, Desertfest Belgium in Antwerp, Høstsabbat in Norway that I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a couple times, and so on — knowing that the likes of TruckfightersMonolord, LowriderGreenleaf and Slomosa will be out on the road, at least the latter two of them behind new records, warms the heart in February’s drear. Will I be there? Probably not, barring a miracle or some kind of grant that doesn’t exist, but someone will be, and that’s rad enough of a thought to get me through the end of this sentence, so I’ll take it.

Wonder if we’ll see new stuff from Gnome this year, and I think Messa were beginning the process this winter of their next LP. October is far enough away that just about anything can happen between now and then, and I guess that’s part of the fun in posting these things in the first place. Thanks for talking that one through with me.

And while we’re here, happy 10th anniversary to Up in Smoke, and many happy returns.

Here’s the latest:

Up in Smoke 2024 first announce


Hey Smokers,

Today, we are thrilled to announce the first bunch of amazing bands for the 10th-anniversary of our beloved Up In Smoke Festival!🖤

None other than Bobby Liebling and his crew in Pentagram will be joining us to celebrate their last show in Switzerland ever! 🔥

So great to see our Scandinavian friends Truckfighters, Monolord, Slomosa, Greenleaf and Lowrider joining the madness with exclusive Switzerland shows.

In addition to this, we are introducing the dark, haunting sounds of the female-fronted doom outfits Messa and Wolvennest, along with the experimental rockers Djinn, Belgium’s one and only Gnome, and the UK riffmasters Psychlona.

Up in Smoke takes place near Basel and Switzerland offers some excellent bands as well! Check out Tar Pond, Preamp Disaster, Norna, No Mute and Glue.🇨🇭

Make no mistake, this was just the beginning!👀

Up in Smoke 2024 will be a massive heavy rockin’ birthday bash and the stoner party of the year!🪩

Line Up:

Pentagram *last Swiss show ever*
Tar Pond
Preamp Disaster
No Mute
& many more

🎫Online-Tickets: www.sol-tickets.com
(link in bio)
& www.z-7.ch

🎫Hardtickets: www.sol-records.com

🌐Website: www.upinsmoke.de

Up In Smoke Festival
10th Anniversary
🗓️04. – 06. October 2024
📍Z7 Konzertfabrik
Pratteln, Switzerland

Your UIS-Crew



Lowrider, Live at Hellfest 2022

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Keep it Low 2024 Puts Tickets on Sale; Announces Fu Manchu, Truckfighters, Monolord, Greenleaf & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 29th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

If you’re the type who likes to take care of things early, well, you’re apparently in good company with the Munich-based Keep it Low Festival. The two-dayer fest, which is one of many under the umbrella of Sound of Liberation booking, is held annually in October, and that’s when it’s set to take place in 2024 as well, at Backstage in Munich on Oct. 11-12. Tickets, however, are on sale almost 10 full months early.

Why? I’m not sure, but I have a definite answer in “why the hell not?,” and I find that when I try to answer that question, I come up blank. So yeah, it seems like that’s really early, but on the other hand, why not put tickets for next year on sale while people are at the fest this year? It’s different, I don’t know if it’s been done before, but doesn’t that just make it a new idea, and is that something so terrible to be chasing down in a climate where live music is trying to draw people out of the entertainment hotbeds we’ve built in our homes?

I’ve gotten sidetracked from this lineup announcement, which came out the other day from Sound of Liberation and hints toward Fall 2024 European tours for at least Fu Manchu, Monolord, Truckfighters, Greenleaf, Messa and Psychlona, but I like to keep an eye for how things evolve from year to year and for all I know, Keep it Low has been doing this every year for the last decade (happy 10th anniversary, by the way) and I’m just picking up on it now because, well, I’m kinda slow sometimes, but it stood out to me as something you might not see all the time. And maybe you like to make early travel arrangements. I know I do.

From social media:

keep it low 2024 first announcement


Hey Keepers,

we are super excited to present you the first bands for next year’s edition of the Keep It Low festival!🔥

Please welcome:


🎫Weekend tickets are available in our shop.

Keep It Low Festival
10th anniversary
🗓️11 & 12 October 2024
📍Backstage Munich

Artwork by Sebastian Jerke

Your Keep It Low Crew


Greenleaf, Live at Desertfest Berlin 2023

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Djiin Announce Spring Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Djinn (Photo by Maureen Piercy)

Having been fortunate enough to see French heavy psychedelic rockers Djiin at last year’s Freak Valley Festival (review here) in Germany as they took to the stage in support of their 2021 album, Meandering Soul (review here), I’ll tell you first-hand that they put on a hell of a show. Yes, part of that is the distinguishing visual presence of a harp up there with them — never mind the corresponding aural distinction when vocalist Chloé Panhaleux actually starts to play the thing — but by no means all of it. Their sound is particularly rich, classic in an of-genre kind of way and fluid even at its heaviest moments. They are a full-range band, the quiet and loud stretches of their work are pulled together by the chemistry of the players and the overarching flow of their grooves.

In other words, cool band, worth catching if you can. They’ll be on the road in France, Germany and Belgium this April, with some slots still open, joined by Decasia in the going. There are some ticket links below — probably more available by now, honestly; the tour was announced a few days ago — and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re playing some new material on the run, which if you’re looking for added incentive to get out of the house, well, there you go.

Info follows from the old-style social media:

Djinn tour


We’re excited to reveal the dates of our next tour! Looking forward to getting back on the road alongside our friends at DECASIA with whom we’ll be sharing most of the shows (#129304#)

Big thanks to More Fuzz Booking ❤

(#127912#) Artwork by Lise Goujon

05/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) at Ty Anna, Rennes
06/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) at le lezard bar , Le Mans
07/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) at L’INTERNATIONAL, Paris https://fb.me/e/2FDOuJtW8
08/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) at La Taverne Elektrik, Amiens
09/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) TBA, Lille
11/04 (#127463#)(#127466#) at Maboel in ‘t Gildenhuis , Zottegem
12/04 (#127463#)(#127466#) at Local Autogéré du Borinage – LAB , Mons https://fb.me/e/2C1enDNrc
13/04 (#127463#)(#127466#) at Café Central, Bruxelles
14/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at FZW, Dortmünd https://fb.me/e/5XVgVUrBm
15/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at Oetinger Villa, Darmstadt
16/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at Zollkantine, Bremen https://wanderlust.ticket.io/4ttnehy4/
17/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at Bar 227, Hamburg https://fb.me/e/3eb2Uhv3F
18/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at Loophole Berlin, Berlin https://fb.me/e/2FJFc2j4z
20/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at Vinyl-Reservat, Göttingen
21/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) OPEN SLOT !
22/04 (#127465#)(#127466#) at P8, Karlsruhe !
23/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) TBA
24/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) TBA
28/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) TBA
29/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) at Salem Bar, Bordeaux
30/04 (#127467#)(#127479#) at Barberousse Nantes, Nantes

Djiin are:
Chloé PANHALEUX – Singer / Electric Harp
Allan GUYOMARD – Drums / Backing vocals
Tom PENAGUIN – Guitar / Backing vocals
Charlélie PAILHES – Bass / Backing vocals



Djiin, Meandering Soul (2021)

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Notes From Freak Valley 2022 – Day 3

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 18th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Freak Valley Festival 2022 – Day 3

06.17.22 – Fri. – 12:51 – Picnic table, side of lawn

Would you like to squeeze the wobbocado? And no, that’s not the worst innuendo of all time. It wobbles, and it’s an avocado stress ball with a smiley face on it. I’ve just about worn it out, but I have a spare if I need it. You deal your way and I’ll deal mine.

It’s going to be hotter today than yesterday, so I’m told. So be it. The production crew is setting things up. On the stage, Revvnant are soundchecking drums, placing synth and keys centerstage as if to offer a clear signal that something different is coming. The beer truck seems to be cleaning its lines — respect — and shade is at a premium.

In the pre-fest narrative of my expectation for coming to Freak Valley for the first time, this was the day I figured on being most exhausted, and at least so far, that’s how it’s panned out. So it goes. You sit when you can sit, drink water. The eggs I think helped, and I haven’t quite given myself an ulcer yet with coffee, so clearly there’s work to be done there. But I’ve got time. Doors open in about two minutes. Again, the calm.

Like My Sleeping Karma before them — and with two shared members — The Great Escape have bowed out of their anticipated reunion set, with Glasgow Coma Scale stepping in. Bummed, since I remember playing The Great Escape on the radio in college and digging those records, but seeing another band I’ve never seen before and wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see is not a hardship.

Someone mentioned yesterday that a few years ago it rained and was kind of a wet mess, and you can see where it would be for sure. Something has bloomed here — the same thing as at home, whatever it is — and I can’t breathe for the allergies, but that’s a small price to pay for the outdoors and the experience. I haven’t seen the campsite yet and I may or may not get up the hill to it but there are tents down by the road as well and walking past those last night in the foresty dark felt intrusive enough. You have to balance these things.

First band, 2PM and on from there. Going to be a busy one, but standing on the edge, I’m looking forward to diving in again. And I did dunk my head in the kiddie pool yesterday and will likely do so again.

Here’s the blow-by-blow of the day. Thanks if you check it out.


Revvnant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

And now for something completely different. True to Elias Mays Schutzman’s roots as a drummer, there is neither guitar nor bass, but two keyboard and synth setups and drums and, during the first song, ukulele. The uptempo “The Revvnant” (posted here) had the still-assembling crowd dancing a bit and “Death Cult” worked in a bit of space rock, at least beefier the heavy roll and piano finish, and though I’ve written about the project before and about Schutzman’s other bands — Black Lung and The Flying Eyes, the latter of whom played their last show here a few years ago — I was intrigued to see how the band would take shape and how the songs would come across like. The answer is that among the 15 other bands who have played Freak Valley so far, Revvnant are on their own wavelength, and if you’re going to start someplace, that’s where you want to be. Bonus points to them for saving the real dance song until the end. The trick will be getting the right scope of production, but this stuff on record could be mind-altering. Nothing but potential.


Djiin (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Djiin are more than just a great harp. But they also have that, so, bonus. Their second LP, Meandering Soul (review here), came out last year on Klonosphere, and they were true to its heavy bluesy foundation, and they certainly capped their set in driving fashion, but on stage they brought psychedelic expanse and classic heavy to bear as well, a cacophony emerging gradually that grew fiercer as they moved toward the finish. I knew I wanted to see them, but I didn’t know how much until they really got going, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many labels are trying to poach them as we speak, because they’re young, they dress the part, they play well, they sell it on stage well — they’re not just standing there — and they have cool, varied songs. Shit, if I had a label I’d be chasing them up too. They have a firm idea of who they are and seem right on the cusp of further realization. I had a good feeling when they started all minimal and quiet, and it was a pleasure to follow the path of that winding, dynamic build.

Swedish Death Candy

Swedish Death Candy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Now that’s a name. They’re from the UK — which, for however long they end up being a band, may just always need to be said, so they might want to get used to it — and they didn’t kill anyone except maybe their own riffs, and the candy thing, nope. But you know, Swedish Death Candy’s weighty moniker is also kind of a description of their sound. Psychedelic, grunge toned, intermittently dreamy like post-rock or all out heavy, they seemed to change up their sound while creating a palpable atmosphere. Near the end, the guitarist seemed to have some trouble with his guitar and so wound up plugging into a keyboard across the stage and just mashing away madly — it was noisy and exciting — and they came back around from that to a multi-tiered heavy psychedelic build that took my head to Colour Haze, and that’s never a thing I’m going to complain about. When they wanted to they could really ride a groove, and they did but they’re clearly not interested in doing any one single thing. Their last album, Are You Nervous? (yes, perpetually; I take pills for it) came out on 2019, and I missed it, as I will, but I’ll think of their set as a learning experience.

Glasgow Coma Scale

Glasgow Coma Scale (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Yes, that will do nicely, thank you. Stepping in for The Great Escape, whose Matte Vandeven took ill, Glasgow Coma Scale came from Frankfurt — hey, me too! except presumably they live there — and made an offering of mellowed-out, warm-toned instrumental heavy psych-prog, which if that sounds like a lot, well, it is, but they make it flow easily with a range of effects and languid grooves. One of the best bass tones I’ve heard this weekend, and I’ve heard a few by now, and they were kind of in league with Toundra aesthetically, if more subdued on stage. Again, I was reminded of My Sleeping Karma, with the floaty noodling guitar and solid drums behind holding it together, but especially in light of the circumstance, the fact that they were able to fill in on such short notice. One might think they’d feel rushed playing or something like that, but not from what I can see and hear in the sundry peaks and valleys of their material. They’re well suited to this fest, the spirit of the thing and the fact that I’ve been here three days now and not run into one asshole. Of how many places on earth could you possibly say that right now?

Daily Thompson

Daily Thompson (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Dortmunder trio Daily Thompson exude an obvious love for what they do. It’s amazing how much smiling is taking place on stage. The whole time but right now as well. And all the while, they draw a line between happy grunge, heavy psych and a jammy take, with all three of them contributing vocals. Another band I never really thought I’d see, they’ve got stoners doing handstands in the crowd, and no I’m not speaking figuratively. There’s at least one O see over there. And whatever the band are doing, they make it swing, and that’s a thing to love. I’ve dug their records, last year’s God of Spinoza (review here) was a good time and then some, but of course there’s more character and depth to the sound live, though they also have a good amount of variety in the set. The sprinkler kicked on while I was taking pictures and I got surprise-sprayed, but it’s so hot in the sun I didn’t even care. Camera was fine — by which I mean it’s still broken — and beyond that, I was only glad for the wetdown. I’ve been in and out of water all day. There’s a shower in the building backstage. I put that shit as cold as it could go earlier and didn’t even take my shoes off when I got in. Zero, zero regrets. Glad to have refreshed before seeing this band for the first time, especially with that last jam.

Green Lung

Green Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ayo, Green Lung are the real deal. I wouldn’t lie to you. I was expecting professionalism, and that’s what was delivered. They do justice to their records — last year’s Black Harvest (review here) was one of 2021’s best LPs, no question — and then some, and with the organ, the shred solos, the push of the drums, Tom Templar’s presence as a frontman bringing an edge of metal to the proceedings, they’ve got everything working for them. Their songs are memorable, their performance suited to a stage this big, and they got on, hit it, and there was no question. They owned the moment. Rest easy, Freak Valley, you’re in good hands. “Reaper’s Scythe,” “The Ritual Tree,” “Leaders of the Blind,” “Woodland Rites” and damn near everything else they played was a highlight, and their energy was electric. Nuclear. Time to go on tour forever, gentlemen. And in the name of all that is cultish and/or unholy, put out a fucking live album. People need to know. I’ll hope to be here next time they play and they’re headlining, and in the meantime, “Graveyard Sun” is my favorite song off Black Harvest — those keys are even more Type O Negative live — and I get to say I saw it happen on stage. No bullshit: Where this band is playing is where you want to be. They ran a little long and got cut off, but still. What a show.


Leech (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Heavy, instrumental psych, but more on the post-rock side of things from Switzerland’s Leech, who’ve been at it more than two decades and who featured the first ‘xylosynth’ I’ve ever seen or heard. They also have regular synth, so they’re covered either way, and for an act I knew next to nothing about before coming here today, they were engaging while staying true to the atmosphere of the music, which of course is heavily atmospheric. If you’re wondering, the bubbles have started up again but they’re filled with smoke now, which suits where we’re at in the evening. It’s starting to cool off after being hotter than [fill in your own hyperbole for a very warm day here], and Leech are immersive in a way that live music doesn’t always get to be. And they started a couple minutes late but it didn’t matter once they got into it. It’s the right kind of thing for when you can start to see the colored lights on the trees that they have at night here, and the crowd, smoke bubbles and all, is totally along for the ride. Hell, I’ll go too and see where it ends up. Just as soon as I grab another coffee. Or maybe I’ll just stay right here. The finale was even prettier, it turned out.


Reignwolf (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The factoid that Seattle’s Reignwolf played Lollapalooza six years before releasing their debut album on 2019, and that they toured with Black Sabbath on 2014 tells me there is significant management behind them. I don’t have a clue who that might be, but kudos to them on placement. To be fair, vocalist/guitarist Jordan Cook is very obviously insanely talented. Playing as a duo, Reignwolf brought a riotous, classic shred amid heavy blues vibes with way blown out vocals. He had a kick drum at the front of the stage, jumped off our during the first song, then the drummer left the stage and Cook ended up behind the kit playing guitar and drums at the same time, singing into his pickups. Then they moved part of the drum kit to the front of the stage and continued to deliver a rock show like some idealized version of your dad used to make. “Reignwolf loves you, Germany,” said Cook before leaving the stage 20 minutes early and thereby telegraphing the encore to come. They’ll play another festival tomorrow, and another the day after that. Respect the hustle, even if it’s not really hitting home for me. I give points like mad though for a white dude playing boogie blues rock without trying to sound like he’s Chester Frickin’ Burnett. Shouldn’t be that hard, but it’s rarer than you’d think. Reignwolf made it sound easy. Pro band, pro show, even if what they were being pro at was raw in form.

Red Fang

Red Fang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I still have Red Fang songs stuck in my head from seeing them in New York a few weeks ago (review here), but I’ve never seen them that they sounded as huge as coming from that stage, and goodness gracious it works for them. The band seemed genuinely happy to be here, and their set was a shove in the direction of awesome. I’m not sure I understand why they don’t just record all their albums on stage, since they’re no less tight than they are on record, and they absolutely crush. They’ve always been a live band, and one expects they always will be, but with, again, having recently seen them in a headlining role, they made this one feel special and I think the crowd could feel it. I could. Smiles on stage, and Aaron Beam asked if everyone was allergy after the long day in the sun. In fact, I did see one young woman being walked out through the backstage area to a waiting ambulance. And folks were swaying this way and that. Over by the merch where I stood I could see some beginning to make their way back to the campsite — fair enough; that’s a decent-sized hill — but I’m dead serious when I tell you I’ve been hearing Red Fang songs on the ol’ mental jukebox for the better part of the last month, and I guess that’s not going to stop anytime soon. I call that a win. They don’t just make heavy fun, they make it heavy. A lesson in the benefits of touring forever and a welcome finish to day — wait, what day is it? — three of Freak Valley Festival. Have I mentioned how stupid lucky I am to be here? I’ll say it again, just to be sure. I am stupid lucky to be here.

06.18.22 – Sat. – 10:29AM – Hotel

I’m not sure how to properly express the relief I felt last night when I came into the hotel room and took off my socks. True liberation. Of toes.

Breakfast did me so much good yesterday I just now repeated the same course of eggs and cheese. Shower in a bit. I stink. Long, hot day yesterday. And the day before. That shower in the AWO International building was a godsend yesterday afternoon. Zero qualms about walking around with my head soaking wet dripping all over myself. And I’ll always remember the time I got surprise-sprayed by the sprinkler. Gave the people up front a laugh, anyhow.

Today will be hot too, I think. The sky has that summer haze that I recognize from home, settled over everything but still letting the sun through to burn your ass. Or at least your face. Buying a silly hat was the right choice. Utility. Survival. Shower. Now.

Thank you for reading. More pics after the jump.

Read more »

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 86

Posted in Radio on June 10th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Today’s episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal is a tribute to and a look at the lineup for this year’s Freak Valley Festival, taking place next week in Siegen, Germany. Freak Valley has been hosting bands for over a decade and I’m proud to say that this will be my first year attending after many, many more wanting to do so, doing writing for the festival, etc.

Should probably point out even if I d don’t necessarily need to that this isn’t the full lineup of the festival, just as much as I could effectively pack into two hours while also managing to play a 20-minute Endless Boogie track. Could I have hunted out shorter cuts and maybe been able to fit another band or two? Probably, but it doesn’t feel like The Obelisk Show in my brain if it doesn’t end with a jam, so it is what it needs to be.

I should be in the chat this time if you want to say hi. I was doing live factoids about the bands for a while because the Gimme Bot doesn’t always know this stuff if it’s new, or weird, or not at all metal, and so on, but it just kind of got sad after a while so I stopped. Lesson learned.

Thanks if you listen, thanks if you’re reading. Thanks in general.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at: http://gimmemetal.com.

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 06.10.22

Psychlona Blast Off Venus Skytrip
Fu Manchu Strange Plan Fu30 Pt. 2
Duel Wave of Your Hand In Carne Persona
Green Lung Leaders of the Blind Black Harvest
Red Fang Wires Murder the Mountains
The Midnight Ghost Train Foxhole Buffalo
Villagers of Ioannina City Part V Age of Aquarius
Pelican Arteries of Blacktop Nighttime Stories
Djiin Warmth of Death Meandering Soul
Toundra Danubio II
Geezer Atomic Moronic Stoned Blues Machine
Slomatics Cosmic Guilt Canyons
IAH Naga Omines
Kosmodome Hypersonic Kosmodome
Madmess Rebirth Rebirth
Endless Boogie Jim Tully Admonitions

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is June 25 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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Down the Hill 2022: Full Lineup Announced; Tickets Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

down the hill 2022 banner

Why yes, I am ready for the coziest heavy psych outdoor festival in Belgium. Or anywhere, really. But sure, Belgium specifically works, although I have to admit I’m not the most comfortable in the world when it comes to interpersonal contact, so despite the nerve currently pinched in my shoulder and the rampaging plantar fasciitis in my right foot, I’ll probably take a pass on that whole “cosmic masseur” thing. Unless of course that means there’s someone at Down the Hill 2022 performing mystical rites to sooth the very universe itself. In which case, by all means, cosmic massage on. Or it’s a DJ. Which it is.

There’s plenty to dig aside from that, though, between an on-site record store, the requisite merch shopping — I don’t currently own an Elephant Tree shirt, which feels like an error on my part — food trucks if you like eating, a fire in the evening if you like keeping warm, and so on. And that’s before you get to the bands, the list of which is topped by the aforementioned Elephant Tree, though I’d also like to point out Tia Carrera, who are rarely seen outside their native Texas, will play. Bad. Ass. Note Karkara and Djiin making the trip from France, El Perro on tour from the States, Sleepwulf and Second Oracle coming down from Sweden, and a host of Belgian natives, including Wolvennest right out front headlining. A righteous assembly.

Two-dayer tickets are on sale, as the poster and PR wire info below informs:

down the hill 2022 big poster

DOWN THE HILL 2022 – AUGUST 26 & 27

Ready for the most cozy heavy psychedelic outdoor rock festival in Belgium?


+ DJ’s between the bands.
+ Afterparty(‘s)

COZY (BIG) FIRE PLACE in the evening.
RECORD STORE during the day
FOOD TRUCKS all day long!
FESTIVAL MERCH also online!


Get your tickets at www.downthehill.be

If you stay at the camping ground, you can already order your breakfast.
1 Ticket/Breakfast/Person

€5 / Car


Elephant Tree, “The Fall Chorus” official video

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Freak Valley 2022 Adds The Atomic Bitchwax, Endless Boogie, DVNE & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

My flight is booked and I’m beyond excited to say that after years of longing to do so even before the covid-19 pandemic, I’ll be attending Freak Valley Festival for the first time in June. I’m not sure yet where I’m staying or how I’m getting to the actual event from the airport, let alone back afterward, but you know, a flight isn’t nothing and I’m honored to have that like I’m honored to see a logo for The Obelisk on the poster. I wrote the announcement below — composed it in the back end of this very post, as it happens — and I’ll drop a hint and say that I know who the special guest is if you can make a fantastic getaway to get to see them. Actually that’s way too vague a hint. Sorry, I can’t think of anything else. If you have your head keyed into early aughts Nasoni Records releases, maybe you’ll come up with it. If not, sorry.

In any case, to say I’m looking forward to this — seeing Geezer and The Atomic Bitchwax on foreign soil, seeing friends in and out of bands, seeing IAH and Temple Fang and Villagers of Ioannina City and Duel and Supersonic Blues and The Midnight Ghost Train‘s reunion and Planet of Zeus and Pelican — well, hot shit, to say I’m looking forward to it borders on laughable. In my head, I’m already there.

Here’s that announcement:

freak valley 2022 poster square


Spring has come to Freak Valley, and somehow the universal image of the season meaning new life manifests for us in an especially killer lot of band announcements. Hey, we don’t judge. Don’t you either.


Good. Here they are:


More than 20 years on from their legendary debut album, The Atomic Bitchwax are the train of riffs that wouldn’t stop anyway if it could. They are nothing less than stoner rock royalty and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our lineup. Top frickin’ shelf rock and roll.


The New York City jammers are nothing if not aptly named. If you’re not familiar, check out last year’s ‘Admonitions’ LP and we know you’ll find it stunningly easy to get on board. When these guys play they’re in their own world. We look forward to getting a glimpse of that.


We’re just going to assume that, yes, you heard ‘Etemen Ænka’ when DVNE released it and so you don’t need us to tell you how excited we are to welcome these progressive metallers to the Freak Valley stage. Duh, right? We thought so. Years from now you’ll brag about seeing this band.


Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown’s 2020 album, ‘Pressure,’ was a high point of a shit year, and we knew immediately we had to have this Nashville-born blues rocking outfit to our stage. They’ve toured with the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses and AC/DC, and their swagger is backed up by chops. You will not regret being here for this one.


Hell yes. That fuzz. That drift. That vibe. For a good time, call Madmess’ 2021 LP, ‘Rebirth.’ These Portuguese heavy psychedelic expansionists cast a warmth that’s cosmic and earthy in kind. Their jams are memorable and organic, and they deliver with an energy that’s raw power. Oh it’s gonna be so good. You don’t even know.


That’s not a typo. These French heavy proggers put out their ‘Meandering Soul’ album last year, and we’re still tripping on it. Ambitious landscapes of sound and scope meld fluidly with thoughtful songcraft and gorgeous vocal melodicism. They’re retro enough to be from the future, so it must be the sound of right now. We stoked to meet it in-person.


Luckily we will also be able to sell some returned full festival tickets soon.

Also Wednesday Tickets for those who already own 3 Day tickets are still available.

Please buy them now!

Rock on – your Rock Freaks

Freak Valley Festival // No Fillers – Just Killers

Freak Valley Festival.

June 15-18 2022


The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio (2019)

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