Elephant Tree Announce Handful of Ten Compilation and 10th Anniversary Reissues

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

Elephant Tree

There’s a lot of information below, but what it works out to is Elephant Tree are reissuing 2014’s Theia (review here) and 2020’s Habits (review here), and releasing a new B-sides/rarities compilation, Handful of Ten, in celebration of their 10th anniversary. It’s all out Sept. 6 through Magnetic Eye Records, to which the band returns following the dissolution of Holy Roar Records, and there’s a video up for the previously unreleased “Try” now.

The pitch is easy: the advent and emergence of Elephant Tree from London’s e’er-saturated underground is one of the best things to happen to heavy rock in the last 10 years. Their 2016 self-titled (review here, discussed here) — which I generally count as their debut, with Theia as an EP prior — remains a landmark, and I’m pretty sure the only reason it’s not included in the reissue batch is because it hasn’t been allowed to go out of print. Nor should it. But there is some new-to-listeners music included with Handful of Ten, including “Try” with the video at the bottom of this post.

Oh yeah, and I did liner notes for the Theia release.

I think that’s the basics. The PR wire has a deeper dive on all of it, plus live shows:

Elephant Tree Handful of Ten

ELEPHANT TREE drop video single ‘Try’ & celebrate anniversary with 3 releases

ELEPHANT TREE are having a party and they’re inviting everyone to hitch a ride and join in! September 2024 marks ten years since Magnetic Eye’s release of the beloved British stoner doom quartet’s first album “Theia” (2014), and in observance of that milestone, the label is proud to showcase three releases celebrating one of the label’s landmark bands:

“Theia” (Anniversary Edition) and “Habits” (2020) are presented as reissues without additional audio content, but in new physical formats. The former comes packaged with updated artwork and significantly expanded background content (see below for more details).

The third release entitled “Handful of Ten” is a new full-length containing brand-new tracks, demos, and b-sides, and includes two of the first new ELEPHANT TREE tracks in numerous years, recorded specifically for this compilation. All three albums have been scheduled for release on September 6, 2024. Pre-orders are available via http://lnk.spkr.media/elephant-tree-ten

As a first delicious taste from “Handful of Ten”, the Londoners release the video single ‘Try’.

“This was really a cathartic exercise in playing something a little different, written with an initial cast-away attitude after a few pints on a sweltering summer’s day”, guitarist and singer Jack Townley writes on behalf of the band. “We don’t play faster songs often, let alone get space to add them to records. The subject matter is about someone conforming to try be a model citizen, not wanting to step out of line in fear of the repercussions. He tries his hardest to not express his alternate views while others around him conform and in the end it all boils over, leaving him feeling ‘forever lost’.”

1. Attack of the Altaica (2013 Demo)
2. Visions (The Planet of Doom)
3. Try
4. Bird (2017 Demo)
5. Faceless (2017 Hurin Version)
6. Sunday

The seed for ELEPHANT TREE was planted in a rehearsal space somewhere in the smelly back alleys of England’s sleepless capital of London in 2013. There, the first notes of what would become ‘Attack of the Altaica’ sprang from the bass of Jack Townley and Sam Hart’s drums. Thus, it is fitting that this earliest demo became the opening track of the band’s new rarities collection “Handful of Ten”.

Soon the duo became a trio with the addition of bassist and vocalist Peter Holland, who had already established himself in the London scene with TRIPPY WICKED & THE COSMIC CHILDREN OF THE KNIGHT, allowing Townley to pick up the guitar again. With the addition of Canadian sitar player Riley MacIntyre, who also stepped in as a third singer, the band’s classic first line-up was completed.

From there, things fell into place quickly. The infectious blend of warm, syrupy fuzz and soaring vocal harmonies on the demo ‘Attack of the Altaica’ captured the ears of Magnetic Eye Records. Soon a contract was signed and the debut full-length “Theia” was released in September 2014. ELEPHANT TREE had a lightning start and the debut album achieved an excellent reception by critics and fans alike. Now reissued as “Theia” (Anniversary Edition), the music of this milestone release is untouched, but the artwork has been given a refreshing inversion, and a wealth of rare photos, liner notes and lyrics have been added to provide a thorough look at the band’s first decade since the original release.

These hardworking Englishmen did not rest on their laurels, and in 2015 followed up with the self-titled sophomore full-length “Elephant Tree”. While “Theia” had opened the European continent for touring, their second album carried ELEPHANT TREE across the Atlantic to perform at the tastemaker Psycho Las Vegas.

In the meantime, John Slattery, who initially was added to give support as second guitarist and synth player for the band’s live shows, joined ELEPHANT TREE as a permanent member. About the same time, Riley MacIntyre decided to draw back from the band to focus on production. ELEPHANT TREE also decided to try a label closer to home, a choice which ultimately did not work out as the new label ran into trouble and left the band’s third and latest album “Habits” (2020) without the ongoing support it deserved.

During the turmoil of the global pandemic years, ELEPHANT TREE were affected and set back like everyone else. Jack Townley suffered a serious accident in early 2023, and the time needed for his recovery delayed the band again. Yet despite all of this, they put plans into motion for a return both to the stages and studio. Taking matters into their own hands, the band initiated a plan to self-release some of their material – with a little help from old friends. At long last, ELEPHANT TREE are reissuing the acclaimed “Habits” via Magnetic Eye to make it widely available once more and satisfy the continued demand.

Looking back at ten most exciting years, ELEPHANT TREE enthusiastically present ‘Handful of Ten’ containing great tunes pulled from their archive alongside the brash and blistering new tracks, ready to delight longtime followers and win over new friends to their unique brand of melodic doom: all thriller, no filler!

Mastering of all tracks by Karl Daniel Lidén
Artwork & layout by Ieva Misiukonytė

Available formats “Handful of Ten”

“Handful of Ten” is available as digisleeve CD, as a solid white vinyl LP, and as a marbled black & violet vinyl LP.

Available format “Theia”
“Theia” (Anniversary Edition) is available as 36-page hardcover CD-Artbook, and as a gatefold LP on marbled clear, white & transparent green vinyl.

Available formats “Habits”
“Habits” is available as digisleeve CD, and as a marbled orange & white vinyl LP.

13 SEP 2024 Sheffield (UK) The Corporation
14 SEP 2024 Southampton (UK) Abyssal Festival
15 SEP 2024 Bristol (UK) The Exchange
29 SEP 2024 Manchester (UK) Riffolution Festival
19 DEC 2024 London (UK) The Black Heart
20 DEC 2024 London (UK) The Black Heart

Current line-up:
Jack Townley – guitar, vocals, synths
Peter Holland – bass, vocals
John Slattery – guitar, synths, vocals
Sam Hart – percussion



Elephant Tree, “Try” official video

Elephant Tree, Habits (2019)

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Elephant Tree Announce Fall Shows Including Riffolution Festival

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

While by no means the longest stretch of touring London’s Elephant Tree have ever done, it is noteworthy in the context of the “return to the stage” mentioned below. That return, which took place at Masters of the Riff III in London in early March, follows a mostly quiet stretch as guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley has been embroiled in an ongoing, months-if-not-years-long recovery from a cycling accident that nearly ended his life. Seriously. I’ve heard the list of bones broken and innards damaged. It is extensive.

So while you’d look at a weekender in September, a stop at Riffolution Festival in Manchester and two nights at London’s famed The Black Heart from a lot of acts and think it’s not the hugest amount of activity ever, that Elephant Tree are “getting back” at all is a reason to rejoice.

They have releases upcoming as well, which I know because I have two ongoing liner-notes projects for the band. One is the split LP with Lowrider that will be out as part of Blues Funeral Recordings‘ PostWax series. The other one I haven’t seen announced as yet — if you’re thinking it might be album-three, it’s not — so I will hold off talking about to be on the safe side, but suffice it to say I’ve been digging back into their catalog of late and as they’re on my mind anyhow, I’m happy to see something like this take shape and the fact that they’ve got a booking agency again speaks of more to come, if not this Fall, then after. I hope that’s how it pans out.

From socials:

elephant tree fall shows

Following on from our surprisingly smooth return to the stage earlier this year, we thought we’d team up with Atonal once again to go on a little jolly this September and December. It gets awful stuffy in them recording rooms and we need a rest from reviewing artwork…

Catch us live at:
13.09.2024 – The Corporation, Sheffield
14.09.2024 – Abyssal Festival, Southampton
15.09.2024 – The Exchange, Bristol
29.09.2024 – Riffolution Festival, Manchester
19.12.2024 – The Black Heart, London
20.12.2024 – The Black Heart, London

Tickets on sale now: https://www.atonal.agency/tickets

Elephant Tree are:
Jack Townley – guitar/vocals
Peter Holland – bass/vocals
Sam Hart – drums
John Slattery – guitar/keys


Elephant Tree, Habits (2019)

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Masters of the Riff III Makes Second Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

This is a good bill, and it just got better with these 11 acts added, but I’ll note I’m particularly glad to see Elephant Tree playing, never mind headlining, after the London-based melodic heavy rockers had to cancel their show plans for this Fall owing to frontman Jack Townley‘s ongoing medical complications from an accident earlier this year. Warms the heart and makes me hope they can keep momentum on their side; they’re about due for a new record and I get a little sad thinking it might be 2025 before one arrives, though certainly extenuating circumstances apply.

Gurt, always mad. Dunes, making a new record. Dead Witches, nasty. Margarita Witch Cult, put out a strong record this year, seem to be turning heads. Dystopian Future Movies, no, I’m still not over War of the Ether (review here) from late last year, and if the worst thing that happens is you see this list of bands and check any of them or any of the others below out — Hang the Bastard, Bodach, Black Orchids, Godless Suns — then that’s a win in my mind. A rigorous and often applied standard, that.

Info for the three-dayer follows here. I don’t know if you’ll be able to make it or not, but if you wanted a hard-immersion in the UK underground, well, here’s the poster:

masters of the riff iii poster sq

Masters of the Riff festival is back for its third year, running from Friday 1st March to Sunday 3rd March.

Taking place at Oslo, Hackney, Masters of the Riff III is a celebration of some of the finest riff merchants from the Doom, Stoner and Sludge scene.

This year’s event is set to be even more exciting than ever as we welcome the magnificent ELEPHANT TREE as one of the three headline acts set to grace the Oslo stage. With a supporting cast featuring DEAD WITCHES, HANG THE BASTARD, GRAVE LINES, DYSTOPIAN FUTURE MOVIES, GURT, DUNES, MARGARITA WITCH CULT, BODACH, BLACK ORCHIDS and GODLESS SUNS, plus more to be announced across the weekend.

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/256478197224605

TICKETS from £55

Very limited EARLY BIRD tickets available from

SKIDDLE: https://skiddle.com/e/36450206

DICE: https://link.dice.fm/U8cb45f798a5


Elephant Tree, “Bird” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 28th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

I guess the thing about this record is it’s still so relevant in my head that I somehow don’t think it’s ready for a revisit. Yeah, Elephant Tree have put out another album since this one — this one being their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) and the follow-up being 2020’s Habits (review here) — and I’ll admit I hadn’t put the album on in a while, but seven years after its release, I still kind of feel like I’m getting to know it.

Released through Magnetic Eye, the eight-song self-titled landed with a declarative thud, and not just in Sam Hart‘s drumming. It followed the London-based then-trio’s debut EP, 2014’s Theia (review here), with a remarkable forward step in terms of melodies, harmonies, riffs, songwriting, atmosphere, emotion, identity, production and reach. And I’m not knocking Theia at all — it was on my list of the best debut albums of 2014; at 28 minutes, it’s always been back and forth on whether it’s an EP or LP; for our purposes here, let’s hindsight it as an EP — but where that release had a thread of screamy sludge, the self-titled replaced that with lush heavy psychedelic rock, lightly progressive in a way Habits would build on, and marked a beginning for Elephant Tree in transitioning sitarist/vocalist Riley MacIntyre (whom I met in NYC in 2019 and was lovely) to the role of producer/collaborator and honing in on the dual vocals of guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked, ex-Stubb) as key to the persona of the band.

The trade was aggression for melodic uplift, and with songs like “Wither” picking up after the settle-down-and-catch-your-breath-before-we-get-going intro “Spore” with such an immediate pull-in of a nod, “Echoes” with its bassy swing verse and fuzzwall hook, or closer “Surma,” all melodic reaffirmation becoming an outward drifting fade and poignant standalone guitar ending, if Elephant Tree was their first full-length, it was among the best debuts of the 2010s. There’s precious little secret to why or how it works, and that’s part of the appeal too: tonal largesse set to choice rolling grooves, thoughtfully arranged harmonies and songwriting unshakable even in its heaviest parts. Elephant Tree weren’t trying to be cagey in style or cloying as they played to genre. They made a record that was theirs and made the case for what they could bring to heavy rock. Obviously their arguments were persuasive, or I probably wouldn’t be sitting here wondering when their next album is going to happen (will probably be a bit; more on why below).

“Circles,” led by acoustic guitar with a soft, emotive delivery and a hook that follows the pattern of songs like “Echoes” and the first half of “Aphotic Blues” is the shortest piece at a little over three minutes, but its effect on the ambience of the whole LP shouldn’t be elephant tree elephant tree-700discounted, and neither its interplay with “Dawn” before or “Aphotic Blues” just after, the key/drone-backed strum going gently to silence as the listener rounds a corner and discovers the minotaur of a riff that launches “Aphotic Blues.” A that riff kind of riff, and not the only one in the song, which if it needs to be said is a highlight. The verse, particularly luxuriant and blossomed further in the second than the first — as it should be given the build unfolding — and chorus open at 2:43 to the confessional lyrics, “I need a way to escape my head/I need a way to get by/I need somebody to rescue me/I need a word or a sign,” feeling that much more honest for their plain language.

But they’re still moving slowly, patiently. Not forcing it. Not doing too much or too little. At 3:23, they break to crackling and humming amps as they gather themselves for the instrumental two and a half minutes to come, which are a cathartic celebration of hair-raising riffs and an invitation to let oneself go and be carried by the rhythm. Seven years after the fact, I still heartily recommend doing so. And seven years after the fact, I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated the contrast between “Dawn,” otherwise known as the coming of light, and “Aphotic Blues,” the title of which refers to an absence of light. Couple that with a renewed affection for the watery flourish in the jammy stretch of “Echoes” and the bass hitting early in “Dawn” and just that line in the chorus of “Circles” that goes “The sky just the same as the ocean/The space between me and my home,” and Elephant Tree‘s Elephant Tree still sounds fresh to my ears.

And I’ll say as well, I had just about entirely forgotten the penultimate “Fracture,” which is a little rawer in sound, with a distorted vocal and a massive riff at its finish that dirties up some of the nicer, cleaner, friendlier aspects of the record. I don’t know if it was written earlier than some of the other material, or later, but it comes across now as somewhat set apart for its more introverted feel on a release that’s so much about reaching out. Rather than interrupting the oh-so-vital flow, it adds dynamic to the spaciousness; changing it up without sacrificing momentum. I’ll note that “Circles,” as second to last on side A, was also a point of departure, so a bit of vinyl-minded mirroring there, if manifest differently.

Earlier this year, Elephant Tree let it be known that Townley had suffered a bad accident and been in the hospital for weeks. That led to cancelations for spring appearances and whatever plans might’ve been in the works for earlier this summer, but the band will return to the stage at Krach am Bach in Germany on Aug. 4 and they’re booked for a return appearance at Høstsabbat in Oslo this October, where I hope I’ll get to see them again. As for the aforementioned next record, expectations are high after Habits, which deserved much more of a touring cycle than it got, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for 2024, but of course I know nothing, basically ever, so there you go. I’ll gladly take it whenever it may arrive.

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

It’s 5:18AM as I finish the above. I’m on the couch as usual with the laptop, but instead of the regular room lamp I’ve got my phone flashlight set under a less-than-half-full gallon jug to make a dim water light in hopes that The Pecan can stay asleep longer. When her air conditioning is on — which it is because the Northeast is getting the heatwave that caused so much misery in the South last week — the air pressure in her room changes, and her door, like the majority of doors in this house, is broken. It doesn’t have the part that keeps the door closed in the jamb. So the change in air pressure as a result of the air conditioner blowing pulls the door open. The nub that retracts and pops out. This lets more light in from downstairs when I’m awake and writing and my sense is that pretty much the first time she rolls over and semiconsciously processes that there’s light on downstairs, she comes down. The water light experiment is to see if a dimmer light will be less noticeable through her pain in the ass door. That she was up yesterday at 5:03 and that it’s 5:23 now gives me a ‘maybe’ to work from.

She was at zoo camp this week. Yeah, I know zoos are immoral as fuck. They are. You should not capture wild, undomesticated animals and put them in cages. But I’m sorry, I don’t have the money to fly to Australia to show my kid what a kangaroo is or why she should give a crap about whether or not they go extinct, so a zoo provides a worthy function in my mind. The Turtle Back Zoo is a regular spot for us; it’s close by, a good walk, has a train and carousel in addition to the animals, touch tank with stingrays, the whole bit. She’s had a great time at camp by all accounts, and after last week getting kicked out of the last camp with one day left — which still feels like a kick in the balls; one fucking day! so close! — even though there have been a few bumps and the counselor has talked to The Patient Mrs. and I at pickup every day about what she’s doing, that she’s getting through is an improvement. But we’ve been at the house all week anxiously looking at the phone hoping it doesn’t ring.

No one tells you when you have a kid just how much of your life is going to be spent in absolute terror. That’s probably a good thing for the continuation of the species.

Next week is farm camp — as I’ve noted before, The Patient Mrs. (through whom all things are possible) lined up this whole amazing summer for her — and that’s a half-day, so less stress on the parental end and maybe a break for the kid as well. But we proceed.

I guess SonicBlast is in like a week and a half. I’m not ready. I’ve never been there before. I’m nervous. I felt the same way before Freak Valley though and lived to tell the tale, so yeah. I need to see if I have a ride from the airport to, uh, wherever the hell I’m going once I land in Portugal.

Next week is first though. My notes feel like a mess but they’re actually not and I’ve got stuff slated into November at this point (not everything through then is full, mind you), with premieres next week for Earthbong, Coltaine and The World at a Glance, hopefully a review of the new Ararat, and whatever else I can fit in. Thanks if you check any of it out. Thanks if you at all dug into the Quarterly Review that ended earlier this week. Again, every time, thanks for reading.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun if you can, hydrate, watch your head, take deep breaths. We’re going to swim at my sister’s husband’s family’s house (like my family, they’re also just up the road in the neighborhood) and will probably blast far too much air conditioning as we play Zelda. Whatever you’re up to, hope you enjoy, and thanks one more time for reading.


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Høstsabbat 2023 Adds Elephant Tree to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Oh what fun this will be. I was fortunate enough to be in Oslo when London melodic heavy rockers Elephant Tree played Høstsabbat in 2018 (review here), and in addition to being the proverbial ‘buncha nice guys,’ they absolutely brought the house down starting off a day on the main altar stage of the Kulturkirken Jacob that also included Electric Moon and Asteroid before culminating with Amenra. Their being added to the 2023 edition of the festival, alongside Spaceslug and Black RainbowsBongripper and The Chronicles of Father Robin, reveals more of the character of the 10th anniversary edition of Høstsabbat, and as Elephant Tree are heading toward the release of a split with Lowrider as part of Blues Funeral Recordings‘ PostWax subscription series — for which, full disclosure, I do the liner notes; no, I haven’t heard the split yet and I’m not even sure it’s recorded — it’s all the more exciting to see them return here and imagine them back on that stage filling the tall cathedral ceiling with their particular take on laid back, increasingly progressive heavy. As Bender tells us: “it’s gonna be fun on a bun.”

That Elephant Tree have emerged as one of the foremost purveyors in one of the foremost regional heavy undergrounds in the world (i.e. the UK) is nice too, but I look forward to seeing them in-person, hope to get the chance to catch up and have a couple laughs like actual human beings as well before being subsumed in their breadth and fuzz. Høstsabbat doesn’t owe me any favors — I feel perpetually indebted, actually — but I kind of feel like I’ve just been done one all the same.

The fest posted the following on socials a bit ago, as is their Friday wont:

Hostsabbat 2023 Elephent Tree


Finally Friday!

The best day of the week. Announcement day!

As our anniversary approaches, you will notice some familiar names on the lineup. The occasion itself gives us the opportunity to reminisce in some of the moments we think stood out the most over the years. What a joy!

The first flashback comes from the British shores. If anyone recalls the marvelous appearance from Elephant Tree back in 2018, we surely hope you agree with us, in inviting the lads back.

They gave us something special: a strong feeling of unity in riffs, rhythms and goosebumps. They blew us away basically.

Elephant Tree operates in galaxy far far away from the average stoner/doom band. They have a special way around their arrangements.

Their shimmering yet laidback output is both intriguing and soothing at the same time. Their subtle heaviness combined with their beautiful harmonies might draw comparison to the grunge legends in Alice in Chains even.

We are already counting the days.

Please welcome Elephant Tree to Høstsabbat 2023.





Høstsabbat Spotify Playlist

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Hoflärm 2023 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Based in Seelbach, Germany, the Hoflärm Festival will host its fifth edition this August, as seemingly every weekend of Europe’s Spring and Summer fest season seems to increasingly have something going on somewhere at sometime. A glut of cool events is nothing to complain about for anyone who remembers a couple years back when there was nothing — which, as much as one tries to repress those particular memories, I still do — and the lineup here is right on in terms of vibe with Acid King, Mars Red Sky, Messa and Elephant Tree so far at the top of the bill with RotorSwan Valley Heights, Mondo Generator, Grin, Black Lung, Eremit, Madmess, Old Horn Tooth and Kvinna rounding out and a few black boxes on the poster like the rest of the lineup has been redacted for the purposes of protecting classified information.

And I won’t argue with Hoflärm adding another six or seven bands, but, I mean, this is already pretty killer on first blush. You’ll note this takes place over three days, so spreading the 20 bands out over that long, it seems like a pretty laid back kind of deal — at least until Mondo Generator starts ripping into Kyuss tunes, but that’s fun too — and not necessarily as overwhelming as some multi-stage fests in Europe and elsewhere. This is the five-year anniversary of the fest, and to see Acid King and Mars Red Sky alone, it’s already got me daydreaming, so I take that as a win.

Details follow as per Hoflärm‘s socials:

Hoflärm – 5th Anniversary – GO FOR THE RIDE

Join us this year for the 5th stony ride to Hoflärm 2023! We are very happy to announce the first bands of the line-up today! We also announce the start of the presale for 05.02.2023 at 5 pm!


Started in 1993, we are more than proud to welcome Acid King! The band around Lori S. looks back on 30 years of band history and will bring their new Album to Marienthal in August.

Mars Red Sky and Elephant Tree will drive you into the sunset with their all time classics like Strong Reflection or Wither! We’re already feeling the vibe around the yard!

A very special highlight we are looking forward to is Messa. The Italian doom band combines the raw and rough sides of doom with the warm summer evenings of the Hoflärm.

Just last year, stoner legend Nick Oliveri visited us with his band Stöner. Nick liked it and had reason enough to come knocking on our door again in 2023. We are looking forward to Mondo Generator, Mr. Oliveri!

We also have visitors from Berlin again, on the one hand we are happy to welcome Rotor, our tractors are running at Vollast! But on the other hand also Grin! We can’t imagine a Hoflärm without Jan, Sabine and Andre! In 2021 the three played with Earth Ship, in 2022 with Slowshine. This year, however, only Sabine and Jan will be on stage, Andre will mingle with the audience while Grin plays their crushing riffs.

Black Lung and Madmess will bring you through our hot afternoons with their heavy psych rock!

Doom over Marienthal: Eremit and Old Horn Tooth will be blasting the darkest riffs into your ears! Live Slow Die Old!

Last but not least, we are happy to welcome 2 bands that have played at the Hof in the past! Swan Valley Heights and Kvinna! Kvinna was the band that opened the first Hoflärm, who of you was there and can remember?

Stay tuned for even more announcements! We have more Bands, as well another Headliner & Co Headliner to announce!

Event page: https://facebook.com/events/s/hoflarm-2023-5th-anniversary/583432620099196/


Mars Red Sky, “Strong Reflection” official video

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Quarterly Review: Hazemaze, Elephant Tree, Mirror Queen, Faetooth, Behold! The Monolith, The Swell Fellas, Stockhausen & the Amplified Riot, Nothing is Real, Red Lama, Echolot

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Guess this is it, huh? Always bittersweet, the end of a Quarterly Review. Bitter, because there’s still a ton of albums waiting on my desktop to be reviewed, and certainly more that have come along over the course of the last two weeks looking for coverage. Sweet because when I finish here I’ll have written about 100 albums, added a bunch of stuff to my year-end lists, and managed to keep the remaining vestiges of my sanity. If you’ve kept up, I hope you’ve enjoyed doing so. And if you haven’t, all 10 of the posts are here.

Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Hazemaze, Blinded by the Wicked

Hazemaze Blinded by the Wicked

This is one of 2022’s best records cast in dark-riffed, heavy garage-style doom rock. I admit I’m late to the party for Hazemaze‘s third album and Heavy Psych Sounds label debut, Blinded by the Wicked, but what a party it is. The Swedish three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ludvig Andersson, bassist Estefan Carrillo and drummer Nils Eineus position themselves as a lumbering forerunner of modern cultist heavy, presenting the post-“In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” lumber of “In the Night of the Light, for the Dark” and “Ethereal Disillusion” (bassline in the latter) with a clarity of purpose and sureness that builds even on what the trio accomplished with 2019’s Hymns for the Damned (review here), opening with the longest track (immediate points) “Malevolent Inveigler” and setting up a devil-as-metaphor-for-now lyrical bent alongside the roll of “In the Night of the Light, for the Dark” and the chugging-through-mud “Devil’s Spawn.” Separated by the “Planet Caravan”-y instrumental “Sectatores et Principes,” the final three tracks are relatively shorter than the first four, but there’s still space for a bass-backed organ solo in “Ceremonial Aspersion,” and the particularly Electric Wizardian “Divine Harlotry” leads effectively into the closer “Lucifierian Rite,” which caps with surprising bounce in its apex and underscores the level of songwriting throughout. Just a band nailing their sound, that’s all. Seems like maybe the kind of party you’d want to be on time for.

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Elephant Tree, Track by Track

Elephant Tree Track by Track

Released as a name-your-price benefit EP in July to help raise funds for the Ukrainian war effort, Track by Track is two songs London’s Elephant Tree recorded at the Netherlands’ Sonic Whip Festival in May of this year, “Sails” and “The Fall Chorus” — here just “Fall Chorus” — from 2020’s Habits (review here), on which the four-piece is joined by cellist Joe Butler and violinst Charlie Davis, fleshing out especially the quieter “Fall Chorus,” but definitely making their presence felt on “Sails” as well in accompanying what was one of Habits‘ strongest hooks. And the strings are all well and good, but the live harmonies on “Sails” between guitarist Jack Townley, bassist Peter Holland and guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery — arriving atop the e’er-reliable fluidity of Sam Hart‘s drumming — are perhaps even more of a highlight. Was the whole set recorded? If so, where’s that? “Fall Chorus” is more subdued and atmospheric, but likewise gorgeous, the cello and violin lending an almost Americana feel to the now-lush second-half bridge of the acoustic track. Special band, moment worth capturing, cause worth supporting. The classic no-brainer purchase.

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Mirror Queen, Inviolate

Mirror Queen Inviolate

Between Telekinetic Yeti, Mythic Sunship and Limousine Beach (not to mention Comet Control last year), Tee Pee Records has continued to offer distinct and righteous incarnations of heavy rock, and Mirror Queen‘s classic-prog-influenced strutter riffs on Inviolate fit right in. The long-running project led by guitarist/vocalist Kenny Kreisor (also the head of Tee Pee) and drummer Jeremy O’Brien is bolstered through the lead guitar work of Morgan McDaniel (ex-The Golden Grass) and the smooth low end of bassist James Corallo, and five years after 2017’s Verdigris (review here), their flowing heavy progressive rock nudges into the occult on “The Devil Seeks Control” while maintaining its ’70s-rock-meets-’80s-metal gallop, and hard-boogies in the duly shredded “A Rider on the Rain,” where experiments both in vocal effects and Mellotron sounds work well next to proto-thrash urgency. Proggers like “Inside an Icy Light,” “Sea of Tranquility” and the penultimate “Coming Round with Second Sight” show the band in top form, comfortable in tempo but still exploring, and they finish with the title-track’s highlight chorus and a well-layered, deceptively immersive wash of melody. Can’t and wouldn’t ask for more than they give here; Inviolate is a tour de force for Mirror Queen, demonstrating plainly what NYC club shows have known since the days when Aytobach Kreisor roamed the earth two decades ago.

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Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel

Faetooth Remnants of the Vessel

Los Angeles-based four-piece Faetooth — guitarist/vocalist Ashla Chavez Razzano, bassist/vocalist Jenna Garcia, guitarist/vocalist Ari May, drummer Rah Kanan — make their full-length debut through Dune Altar with the atmospheric sludge doom of Remnants of the Vessel, meeting post-apocalyptic vibes as intro “(i) Naissance” leads into initial single “Echolalia,” the more spaced-out “La Sorcie|Cre” (or something like that; I think my filename got messed up) and the yet-harsher doom of “She Cast a Shadow” before the feedback-soaked interlude “(ii) Limbo” unfurls its tortured course. Blending clean croons and more biting screams assures a lack of predictability as they roll through “Remains,” the black metal-style cave echo there adding to the extremity in a way that the subsequent “Discarnate” pushes even further ahead of the nodding, you’re-still-doomed heavy-gaze of “Strange Ways.” They save the epic for last, however, with “(iii) Moribund” a minute-long organ piece leading directly into “Saturn Devouring His Son,” a nine-and-a-half-minute willful lurch toward an apex that has the majesty of death-doom and a crux of melody that doesn’t just shout out Faetooth‘s forward potential but also points to what they’ve already accomplished on Remnants of the Vessel. If this band tours, look out.

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Dune Altar on Bandcamp


Behold! The Monolith, From the Fathomless Deep

behold the monolith from the fathomless deep

Ferocious and weighted in kind, Behold! The Monolith‘s fourth full-length and first for Ripple Music, From the Fathomless Deep finds the Los Angeles trio taking cues from progressive death metal and riff-based sludge in with a modern severity of purpose that is unmistakably heavy. Bookended by opener “Crown/The Immeasurable Void” (9:31) and closer “Stormbreaker Suite” (11:35), the six-track/45-minute offering — the band’s first since 2015’s Architects of the Void (review here) — brims with extremity and is no less intense in the crawling “Psychlopean Dread” than on the subsequent ripper “Spirit Taker” or its deathsludge-rocking companion “This Wailing Blade,” calling to mind some of what Yatra have been pushing on the opposite coast until the solo hits. The trades between onslaughts and acoustic parts are there but neither overdone nor overly telegraphed, and “The Seams of Pangea” (8:56) pairs evocative ambience with crushing volume and comes out sounding neither hackneyed nor overly poised. Extreme times call for extreme riffs? Maybe, but the bludgeoning on offer in From the Fathomless Deep speaks to a push into darkness that’s been going on over a longer term. Consuming.

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Ripple Music website


The Swell Fellas, Novaturia

The Swell Fellas Novaturia

The second album from Nashville’s The Swell Fellas — who I’m sure are great guys — the five-song/32-minute Novaturia encapsulates an otherworldly atmosphere laced with patient effects soundscapes, echo and moody presence, but is undeniably heavy, the opener “Something’s There…” drawing the listener deeper into “High Lightsolate,” the eight-plus minutes of which roll out with technical intricacy bent toward an outward impression of depth, a solo in the midsection carrying enough scorch for the LP as a whole but still just part of the song’s greater procession, which ends with percussive nuance and vocal melody before giving way to the acoustic interlude “Caesura,” a direct lead-in for the noisy arrival of the okay-now-we-riff “Wet Cement.” The single-ready penultimate cut is a purposeful banger, going big at its finish only after topping its immediate rhythmic momentum with ethereal vocals for a progressive effect, and as elliptically-bookending finisher “…Another Realm” nears 11 minutes, its course is its own in manifesting prior shadows of progressive and atmospheric heavy rock into concrete, crafted realizations. There’s even some more shred for good measure, brought to bear with due spaciousness through Mikey Allred‘s production. It’s a quick offering, but offers substance and reach beyond its actual runtime. They’re onto something, and I think they know it, too.

The Swell Fellas on Facebook

The Swell Fellas on Bandcamp


Stockhausen & the Amplified Riot, Era of the Inauthentic

stockhausen and the amplified riot era of the inauthentic

For years, it has seemed Houston-based guitarist/songwriter Paul Chavez (Funeral Horse, Cactus Flowers, Baby Birds, Art Institute) has searched for a project able to contain his weirdo impulses. Stockhausen & the Amplified Riot — begun with Era of the Inauthentic as a solo-project plus — is the latest incarnation of this effort, and its krautrock-meets-hooky-proto-punk vibe indeed wants nothing for weird. “Adolescent Lightning” and “Hunky Punk” are a catchy opening salvo, and “What if it Never Ends” provokes a smile by garage-rock riffing over a ’90s dance beat to a howling finish, while the 11-minute “Tilde Mae” turns early-aughts indie jangle into a maddeningly repetitive mindfuck for its first nine minutes, mercifully shifting into a less stomach-clenching groove for the remainder before closer “Intubation Blues” melds more dance beats with harmonica and last sweep. Will the band, such as it is, at last be a home for Chavez over the longer term, or is it merely another stop on the way? I don’t know. But there’s no one else doing what he does here, and since the goal seems to be individualism and experimentalism, both those ideals are upheld to an oddly charming degree. Approach without expectations.

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Artificial Head Records on Bandcamp


Nothing is Real, The End is Near

Nothing is Real The End is Near

Nothing is Real stand ready to turn mundane miseries into darkly ethereal noise, drawing from sludge and an indefinable litany of extreme metals. The End is Near is both the Los Angeles unit’s most cohesive work to-date and its most accomplished, building on the ambient mire of earlier offerings with a down-into-the-ground churn on lead single “THE (Pt. 2).” All of the songs, incidentally, comprise the title of the album, with four of “THE” followed by two “END” pieces, two “IS”es and three “NEAR”s to close. An maybe-unhealthy dose of sample-laced interlude-type works — each section has an intro, and so on — assure that Nothing is Real‘s penchant for atmospheric crush isn’t misplaced, and the band’s uptick in production value means that the vastness and blackened psychedelia of 10-minute centerpiece “END” shows the abyssal depths being plunged in their starkest light. Capping with “NEAR (Pt. 1),” jazzy metal into freneticism, back to jazzy metal, and “NEAR (Pt. 2),” epic shred emerging from hypnotic ambience, like Jeff Hanneman ripping open YOB, The End is Near resonates with a sickened intensity that, again, it shares in common with the band’s past work, but is operating at a new level of complexity across its intentionally unmanageable 63 minutes. Nothing is Real is on their own wavelength and it is a place of horror.

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Nothing is Real on Bandcamp


Red Lama, Memory Terrain

RED LAMA Memory Terrain Artwork LO Marius Havemann Kissov Linnet

Copenhagen heavy psych collective Red Lama — and I’m sorry, but if you’ve got more than five people in your band, you’re a collective — brim with pastoral escapism throughout Memory Terrain, their third album and the follow-up to 2018’s Motions (discussed here) and its companion EP, Dogma (review here). Progressive in texture but with an open sensibility at their core, pieces like the title-track unfold long-song breadth in accessible spans, the earlier “Airborne” moving from the jazzy beginning of “Gentleman” into a more tripped-out All Them Witches vein. Elsewhere, “Someone” explores krautrock intricacies before synthing toward its last lines, and “Paint a Picture” exudes pop urgency before washing it away on a repeating, sweeping tide. Range and dynamic aren’t new for Red Lama, but I’m hard-pressed to think of as dramatic a one-two turn as the psych-wash-into-electro-informed-dance-brood that takes place between “Shaking My Bones” and “Chaos is the Plan” — lest one neglect the urbane shuffle of “Justified” prior — though by that point Red Lama have made it apparent they’re ready to lead the listener wherever whims may dictate. That’s a significant amount of ground to cover, but they do it.

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Red Lama on Bandcamp


Echolot, Curatio

Echolot Curatio

Existing in multiple avenues of progressive heavy rock and extreme metal, Echolot‘s Curatio only has four tracks, but each of those tracks has more range than the career arcs of most bands. Beginning with two 10-minute tracks in “Burden of Sorrows” (video premiered here) and “Countess of Ice,” they set a pattern of moving between melancholic heavy prog and black metal, the latter piece clearer in telegraphing its intentions after the opener, and introducing its “heavy part” to come with clean vocals overtop in the middle of the song, dramatic and fiery as it is. “Resilience of Floating Forms” (a mere 8:55) begins quiet and works into a post-black metal wash of melody before the double-kick and screams take hold, announcing a coming attack that — wait for it — doesn’t actually come, the band instead moving into falsetto and a more weighted but still clean verse before peeling back the curtain on the death growls and throatrippers, cymbals threatening to engulf all but still letting everything else cut through. Also eight minutes, “Wildfire” closes by flipping the structure of the opening salvo, putting the nastiness at the fore while progging out later, in this case closing Curatio with a winding movement of keys and an overarching groove that is only punishing for the fact that it’s the end. If you ever read a Quarterly Review around here, you know I like to do myself favors on the last day in choosing what to cover. It is no coincidence that Curatio is included. Not every record could be #100 and still make you excited to hear it.

Echolot on Facebook

Sixteentimes Music store


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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 92

Posted in Radio on September 2nd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Two weeks ago I was at Psycho Las Vegas, and so didn’t get to post the playlist for episode 91. For posterity’s sake and because I plainly love looking at lists of band names, it’s below along with the playlist for the episode airing today, which is #92. The march to 100 continues.

The esteemed Dean Rispler (who also plays in Mighty High and a bunch of other bands) is in charge of putting the shows together on a practical level from the lists I send, and to him I extend my deepest appreciation. I’m constantly late. I suck at this in general, and worse, I know it. So yeah. Dean does a bit of hand-holding and I am thankful. He emailed me this week and asked if I was thinking yet about episode 100 and would I be doing anything special?

Well… yes. I have been. And I’d like to make it a blowout or some such, but you know what the truth is? I’m more about the work. When it comes to something like that, the most honest thing I feel like I can do is keep my head down, do another episode and then do one after that two weeks later. I’d rather feel good about a thing in myself and move on. I’m not sure I can get away with that. So maybe I’ll hit up Tommi Dozer and see if he wants to chat sometime in the next few weeks.

Thanks if you listen and thanks for reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.02.22 (VT = voice track)

Elephant Tree Aphotic Blues Elephant Tree
Might Abysses Abyss
Author & Punisher Misery Kruller
Lord Elephant Hunters of the Moon Cosmic Awakening
Swarm of the Lotus Snowbeast The Sirens of Silence
Big Business Heal the Weak The Beast You Are
The Otolith Sing No Coda Folium Limina
Elder Halcyon Omens
Gaerea Mantle Mirage
London Odense Ensemble Sojourner Jaiyede Sesssions Vol. 1
Northless What Must Be Done A Path Beyond Grief
Conan A Cleaved Head No Longer Plots Evidence of Immortality
Forlesen Strega Black Terrain

And #91, which was a pretty damn good show:

Dozer The Flood Beyond Colossal
Orange Goblin Blue Snow Time Travelling Blues
Monster Magnet King of Mars Dopes to Infinity
Red Fang Fonzi Scheme Arrows
Slift Citadel on a Satellite Ummon
Russian Circles Gnosis Gnosis
Faetooth Echolalia Remnants of the Vessel
Caustic Casanova Lodestar Glass Enclosed Nerve Center
Brant Bjork Trip on the Wine Bougainvillea Suite
Josiah Saltwater We Lay on Cold Stone
Blue Tree Monitor Sasquatch Cryptids
Torche Tarpit Carnivore In Return
Telekinetic Yeti Rogue Planet Primordial
Mezzoa Dunes of Mars Dunes of Mars
Thunderbird Divine Boote’s Void The Hand of Man
Omen Stones Burn Alive Omen Stones
1000mods Vidage Super Van Vacation
Truckfighters Con of Man Mania

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Sept. 16 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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