Polymoon Sign to Robotor Records; Playing Label Fest in Berlin

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan


First, good for Polymoon. The Tampere heavy psych outfit brought a bit of sunshine to the outright shit year that was 2020 with their Svart-delivered debut, Caterpillars of Creation (review here), and though they’ve hardly been able to get out to do shows to support it, they’ve already gotten some momentum on their side thanks to word of mouth, taking part in Roadburn Redux, and so on. Their aligning with Kadavar‘s Robotor Records label is a cool next step.

Second, on the label’s side, it shows the imprint is forward thinking, by which I mean clearly envisioning growing a roster over time of adventurous bands looking to make an impact on the international underground. The first signing, Splinter, gave a similar message, but Kadavar and Death Alley (from whence Splinter in part come) also toured together, so there was a prior relationship to build from. This feels more like a label snagging a band on a business level. And it’s good business, because that Polymoon record was killer.

All things Robotor will be celebrated early September in Berlin as Kadavar, Splinter and Polymoon get together for a two-night showcase/fest that, well, sounds like a good old time. Details and ticket preorders came through the PR wire along with the Polymoon announcement:

robotor records fest

POLYMOON sign on Robotor // Robotor Label Fest

We are absolutely thrilled to welcome POLYMOON to Robotor Records. Their debut album surprised us with it’s unique formula of zeitgeisty psychedelia and didn’t only land on many top lists in 2020, but also has been among our personal favorites. We’re excited for what’s next in Polymoon’s musical journey and you should be as well!

We are excited to announce our first label festival this summer in Berlin! On September 3-4 we will celebrate live music and DJ sets outside at Zukunft am Ostkreuz with our bands Kadavar, Splinter and Polymoon and DJs Robin Banks and Psycho Jones! Polymoon will head over all the way from Tampere for their first ever central European show to present their highly acclaimed debut „Caterpillars Of Creation” and Splinter (former members of Death Alley, Birth Of Joy) will celebrate the release of their debut album „Filthy Pleasures”. Your local heroes of Kadavar will accompany their label mates both nights. Due to common corona restrictions, tickets will be very limited. Don’t miss this early opportunity to get your well deserved and long awaited dose of live music!!!

Pre-sale: this Friday, 12:00 on: www.robotorrecords.com

Tuomas Heikura / Drums
Jesse Jaksola / Guitar
Otto Kontio / Guitar
Kalle-Erik Kosonen / Vocals, Synthesizer
Juuso Valli / Bass


Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation (2020)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Sami Mustonen of Velvets

Posted in Questionnaire on July 16th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Sami Mustonen of Velvets

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

Velvets is an individual take on classic rock. We mixed together a lot of elements from blues, schlager, pop, funk and many different styles of rock’n’roll to get the sound right. The band started in January ’21 when me (Sami) and Sakke had some spare time on our hands while our other band Rokets couldn’t rehearse since our drummer got injured. The first idea for Velvets was to do love songs and along the way we added a bit more ingredients to it.

Describe your first musical memory.

As a kid I didn’t really listen to music that much. My parents didn’t listen to records, so everything I heard was on the radio, TV and movies. My first significant musical memory was when my older brother had just returned from a holiday in the US. I was 10 years old and he brought me a CD as a gift. The album was Cypress Hill’s “Black Sunday”. He had a CD player and we started listening to it. I was hooked. From then on I started exploring music and have been on that journey ever since. I never played any instruments, I just loved to sing, but it wasn’t something I was planning on doing in a band. It just happened when my best friends started a heavy metal band called United Seafood and needed a singer, so they asked me to try it out. Happy that they did!

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I don’t think I have a single best musical memory, but the best ones are from any packed shows we played with Rokets or Seafood. Doesn’t get much better than that. Looking forward to getting on stage with Velvets too, we have a boogie woogie band we really want you to hear and see!

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

I grew up in a suburb that was a relatively safe place. As a kid the world didn’t seem that big and scary when it feels like your surroundings are constantly giving you hugs and kisses. When I started skateboarding and exploring other cities, it really showed me the world for what it could actually be like. People, places, music, culture, food – of all of these I learned through skateboarding while making a lot of friends doing it. It really opened up the world to me and I couldn’t be more grateful for it!

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Towards better outcomes. Starting off with an idea of how you should do something and then learning different approaches, new ideas and techniques along the way to get the best out of you.

How do you define success?

Being happy with yourself and what you do. Feeling proud of and standing behind something that you have created. Sharing your life with someone you love and appreciate.

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

David Cronenberg’s The Fly at age nine. Couple of nightmares was had after that. Learned to appreciate the film a bit older though. Gotta love the genius of Cronenberg!

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

I’m studying cultural management and have a dream of running my own venue here in Helsinki. Would love to offer a space for up-and-coming bands as well as bigger names and to create an atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

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

For me it’s the freedom to create. It also works as a therapy of some sort. For the explorers of art, I think its purpose is to bring joy and understanding to people’s lives.

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

Getting married in a couple of weeks! Love you Siri!


Velvets, Velvets (2021)

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Quarterly Review: Papir, Kosmodemonic, Steve Von Till, Sex Blender, Déhà, Thunder Horse, Rebreather, Melmak, Astral Magic, Crypt Monarch

Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Day two already, huh? It’s a holiday week here in the States, which means people are on vacation or have at least enjoyed a long weekend hopefully without blowing any body parts off with fireworks or whatnot. For me, I prefer the day on rather than the day off, so we proceeded as normal yesterday in beginning the Quarterly Review. “We now return to our regularly scheduled,” and so on.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, as one would hope, and since we’re still basically at the start of this doublewide edition of the Quarterly Review — 10 down, 90 to go — I won’t delay further. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Papir, Jams

papir jams

Two sessions, three days apart, three pieces from each, resulting in six tracks running just about 80 minutes that Papir are only within their rights to have titled simply as Jams. With this outing, the Copenhagen-based psychedelic trio present their process at its most nakedly exploratory. I don’t know if they had any parts pre-planned when they went into the studio, but the record brims with spontaneity, drums jazzing out behind shimmering guitar and steadily grooving basslines. Effects are prevalent and add to the spaciousness, and the sessions from whence these songs came, whether it’s the key-led four-minute “20.01.2020 #2” or the 20-minute opener “17.01.2020 #1” — all tracks sharing the same date-and-number format as regards titles — feel vibrant and fluid in a way that goes beyond even the hazy hypnotics of “20.01.2020 #3.” Papir‘s instrumental dynamic is of course a huge part of what they do anyway, but to hear their chemistry come through in freer fashion as it does here can only be refreshing. I hope they do more like this.

Papir on Facebook

Stickman Records website


Kosmodemonic, Liminal Light

Kosmodemonic Liminal Light

Brooklyn outfit Kosmodemonic exist almost exclusively within genre border regions. Their second album, Liminal Light, fosters an approach that’s too considered not to be called progressive, but that owes as much to the cosmic doom of YOB as to black metal as to noise rock as to Voivod as to any number of other various ores in the metallic sphere. In their sprinting moments or in the consuming dark grandeur of centerpiece “Ipomoea,” they are pointedly individual, and cuts like “Drown in Drone” and the later slammer “Brown Crown” owe much to sheer impact as to the cerebral underpinnings of their angularity. Liminal Light is vicious but methodical, and feels executed with a firm desire to catch the audience sleeping and then blindside them with a change, be it in moving from one song to another or within one song itself, like when the penultimate “Chains of Goddess Grove” rears back from its lurching movement and spews thrashier fire in its final minute. Put these moments together and you get a record that challenges on multiple levels and is unflinchingly worth the effort of close engagement.

Kosmodemonic on Facebook

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp


Steve Von Till, A Deep Voiceless Wilderness

Steve Von Till A Deep Voiceless Wilderness

The sixth solo offering from Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till is a first for being completely instrumental. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — goes that Von Till wrote the music for 2020’s No Wilderness Deep Enough (review here) late during jetlagged nights alone on his wife’s family’s property in Germany, where her family has lived for 500 years, only to later be convinced by producer Randall Dunn to write lyrics and record vocals for the songs. A Deep Voiceless Wilderness, as the title hints, pulls those vocals back out of these re-named pieces, allowing elements like the quiet textures of keyboard and piano, horns and mellotrons to shine through in atmospheric fashion, layers of drone intertwining in mostly peaceful fashion. It is the least guitar-based record Von Till has ever done, and allows for a new kind of minimalism to surface along with an immersive melodic hum. Subdued, meditative, exploratory, kind of wonderful.

Steve Von Till website

Neurot Recordings store


Sex Blender, Studio Session I

Sex Blender Studio Session I

Based in Lviv, Ukraine, instrumentalist krautrock bizarros Sex Blender have two full-lengths behind them, and Studio Session I takes the consumingly fuzzed “Diver” from 2018’s Hormonizer and three cuts from 2020’s The Second Coming and turns them into a stirring 44-minute set captured on video for a livestream. Reportedly some of the arrangements are different, as will certainly happen, but as someone being introduced to the band through this material, it’s easy to be struck by the palpable sense of glee with which Sex Blender present their songs. “Crimson Master” is the shortest of the bunch at just over six minutes — it’s the only one under 11 — but even there, the manipulated keyboard sounds, drum fluidity and undercurrent of rumbling distortion push Sex Blender into a place that’s neither doom nor prog but draws from both, crawling where the subsequent “Rave Spritz” can’t help but bounce with its motorik drums and intertwined synth lines. May just be a live session, but they shine all the same.

Sex Blender on Facebook

Drone Rock Records website


Déhà, Cruel Words

Déhà Cruel Words

Déhà‘s third long-player Cruel Words was originally issued in 2019 and is seeing a first vinyl pressing on Burning World Records. The Brussels solo outfit has released no fewer than 17 other full-length outings — possibly more, depending on what counts as what — in the two years since these songs initially surfaced, but, well, one has to start someplace. The 2LP runs 75 minutes and includes bonus tracks — an acoustic version of opener “I Am Mine to Break,” a cover of The Gathering‘s “Saturnine” and the piano-into-post-metal “Comfort Me II” — but the highlights are on the album itself, such as the make-Amenra-blush 12-minute crux of “Dead Butterflies,” wherein a lung-crushing weight is given patient drama through its prominent keyboard layers, or the goth early going of “Pain is a Wasteland,” which seems to brood until it finally can’t take it anymore and bashes its head (and yours) into the wall. Surprisingly methodical for the manic pace at which Déhà (né Olmo Lipani) works, it makes artistry of its arrangement as well as performance and is willfully overwhelming, but engaging in that.

Déhà on Facebook

Burning World Records website


Thunder Horse, Chosen One

Thunder Horse Chosen One

Big riffs, big grooves, big hooks, Thunder Horse‘s second long-player, Chosen One, sees the San Antonio, Texas, outfit inherit some aspects from the members’ past outfits, whether it’s the semi-industrial vocal style of Stephen Bishop on “Among the Dead” or the classically shredding solo work of Todd Connally. With Dave Crow on bass and Jason “Shakes” West on drums, Thunder Horse elbow their way into a nod quickly on Chosen One and hold their ground decisively, with Dehumanizer-esque tones and flourish of keys throughout that closes in lead position on the outro “Remembrance” in complement to the strumming, whistling “Texas” a short while earlier. Even when they shuffle, as on the second half of “Song for the Ferryman,” Thunder Horse do it heavy, and as they did with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), they make it hard to argue, either with the atmosphere or the sheer lumber of their output. An easy record to dig for the converted.

Thunder Horse on Facebook

Ripple Music website


Rebreather, Pets / Orange Crush

Rebreather Pets Orange Crush

Heads up children of — or children of children of — the 1990s, as Youngstown, Ohio’s Rebreather effectively reinterpret and heavy up two of that decade’s catchiest hooks in Porno for Pyros‘ “Pets” and R.E.M.‘s “Orange Crush.” Taking songs that, if they ever left your head from rock radio, will certainly be right back in there now, and trying to put their own spin on them is ambitious, but Rebreather have no trouble slowing down the already kinda languid “Pets” or emphasizing the repetitive urgency of “Orange Crush,” and the tonal weight they bring to both honors the original versions as well as who Rebreather are as a band, while showcasing the band’s heretofore undervalued melodies, with call and response vocal lines in both cuts nodding to their sludge/noise rock roots while moving forward from there. They chose the songs well, if nothing else, and though it’s only about 10 minutes between the two cuts, as the first new Rebeather material since their 2018 self-titled EP (discussed here), I’ll take the two covers happily.

Rebreather on Facebook

Aqualamb Records website


Melmak, Down the Underground

Melmak Down the Underground

Spanish duo Melmak — guitarist/vocalist Jonan Etxebarria and drummer/vocalist Igor Etxebarria — offer an awaited follow-up to their 2016 long-player Prehistorical (review here) and demonstrate immediately that five years has not dulled their aggressive tendencies. Opener “Black Room” is a minute-long grindfest, and though “Scum” finds its way into a sludgy groove, it’s not far behind. “Poser” starts out as a piano ballad but turns to its own crushing roll, while “The Scene” rumbles out its lurch, “You Really Don’t Care” samples a crying baby over a sad piano line and “Ass Kisser” offers knee-to-the-face bruiser riffing topped with echoing gutturalism that carries the intensity into the seven-minute, more spacious “Jaundiced,” which gives itself over to extremity in its second half as well, and the closing noise wash of “The Crew.” What we learn from all this is it would seem Melmak find the heavy underground wanting in violent terms. They answer that call in bludgeoning fashion.

Melmak on Facebook

Melmak on Bandcamp


Astral Magic, Visions of Infinity

Astral Magic Visions of Infinity

Ostensibly a solo-project from Dark Sun bassist Santtu Laakso, Astral Magic‘s debut LP, Visions of Infinity, features contributions from guitarist Martin Weaver (Wicked Lady, Doctors of Space) and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (Doctors of Space, Øresund Space Collective), as well as Samuli Sailo on ukulele, and has been mixed and mastered and released by Heller, so perhaps the plot thickens as regards just how much of band it is. Nonetheless, Astral Magic have all the cosmos to work with, so there’s plenty of room for everybody, as Visions of Infinity harnesses classic Hawkwindian space rock and is unafraid to add droning mysticism to the ever-outward procession on “Ancient Mysteries” or “Onboard the Spaceship,” to grow playful on “I Was Abducted” or bask in cosmic serenity on “Winds of Time” and “Wizards.” Off we go, into the greater reaches of “out there.” It’s a fun ride.

Astral Magic on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website


Crypt Monarch, The Necronaut

Crypt Monarch The Necronaut

Costa Rican trio Crypt Monarch offer their debut full-length in the form of the three-song/36-minute The Necronaut, the sound of which makes the claim on the part of the band — bassist/vocalist Christopher De Haan, guitarist Jose Rodriguez, drummer/vocalist J.C. Zuñiga — that it was made live in a cabin in the woods easy enough to believe. Though mixed and mastered, the 15-minute opener “Morning Star Through Skull” (15:41) and ensuing rollers “Rex Meridionalis” (10:12) and “Aglaphotis” (10:08) maintain a vigilant rawness, laced with noise even as De Haan and Zuñiga come together vocally on the latter, clean singing and gurgles alike. It is stoner metal taken to a logical and not entirely unfamiliar extreme, but the murk in which Crypt Monarch revel is dense and easy to get lost within. This, more than any single riff or lumbering groove, speaks to the success of the band’s intention in crafting the record. There is no clearly marked exit.

Crypt Monarch on Facebook

Electric Valley Records website


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Mat McNerney & Kimmo Helén of Hexvessel to Release A Fire in the Cold Season Soundtrack

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Neither Mat McNerney nor Kimmo Helén has anything to prove in terms of atmosphere building. The two are bandmates in Hexvessel and have a number of other projects going at any given moment, so a film soundtrack feels like an organic-enough extension of what they’ve done in the past to make sense. You’ll note the director here is Justin Oakey as well, with whom the pair has worked before in and out of the context of Hexvessel and who has helmed videos in the past as well for Ulver, Godstopper and others. A Fire in the Cold Season is Oakey‘s second feature film behind 2016’s Riverhead, and it was nominated in 2019 for a Canadian Screen Award in best cinematography, which, you know, feather in the cap and all that.

Svart Records will release the soundtrack to the film in October, and there’s a snippet up now. I don’t know if the movie is on — INSERT SERVICE HERE — at the moment or not, but if you made it this far into the bowels of the internet you’re obviously a resourceful sort and I’m sure you can figure out a way to see the thing. I think I might try to chase it down as well. Maybe my Netflix is up to date? I don’t know.

In any case, prepare thyself for minimalism on signed vinyl!

From the PR wire:

mat mcnerney and kimmo helen a fire in the cold season

A Fire In The Cold Season Original Soundtrack – Mat McNerney & Kimmo Helén

A Fire In The Cold Season, soundtrack to rural noir thriller from Newfoundland, Canada, scored by Mat McNerney and Kimmo Helén of the Finnish folk band Hexvessel.

McNerney (Hexvessel, Beastmilk, Grave Pleasures, Carpenter Brut, Me & That Man, ex-Code, ex-DHG) and multi-instrumentalist Helén have collaborated with director Justin Oakey before on a short film, but A Fire In The Cold Season marks their first full feature length soundtrack composition; a wild and evocative cross-pollination of Finnish and Newfoundland spirit. A Fire In The Cold Season is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s western narratives (No Country for Old Men, The Road, Blood Meridian, The Counselor), with a realistic, heavy paced mood where nothing is certain but the promise of despair in a violent world. McNerney and Helén’s soundtrack is signature ritualistic Hexvessel, straining violins and rustic guitars, but also a new and mature flourish of restraint and minimalist beauty where disparate piano and solemn voices echo through the wilderness.

Inspired by Newfoundland folk music, Philipp Glass, Shigeru Umebayashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, A Fire In The Cold Season is an elegant, romantic and suspenseful score which is as much a homage to the harsh and stunning nature witnessed in Oakey’s visual landscape as Hexvessel’s inherent nature mystic themes. Fans of Hexvessel’s work will find much to delight in A Fire In The Cold Season’s occult and noirish atmospheres, and new-comers to McNerney and Helén’s work will enjoy being transported from shamanic transcendence to heart-aching romantic mountain melancholy. With an international premiere of A Fire in a Cold Season in Iceland, nominated for a Canadian Screen Award and featured on Netflix internationally, McNerney and Helén creep out from outsider fringes of their humble underground origins to show their looming talents for commanding a vastly evocative and haunting cinematic story.

Released on vinyl in an exclusive run of 250 limited edition signed black LPs and digitally everywhere from 22nd of October 2021.


Mat McNerney & Kimmo Helén, “Romance of Mystery” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Am Universum

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’m begging you, just listen to this record. Please. For me. For you. Just listen.

Am Universum, the fifth album by Finland’s Amorphis, turns 20 this year. It was released through Relapse Records on April 3, 2001, so the date’s already passed. As the follow-up to 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), it found the band progressing further into traditional rock melodies tinged with Finnish folk elements and drives inherited from their journey through death metal. Vocalist Pasi Koskinen still throws in a couple growls if you listen for them, but from Santeri Kallio‘s keys to the guitar nuance from Eso Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari that unfurls in opener “Alone,” there’s no question that by this point Amorphis had largely left such extremity behind.

They did so organically, but boldly, over the course of their prior outings — 1992’s The Karelian Isthmus, coupled with the 1993 Privilege of Evil EP, 1994’s pivotal Tales From the Thousand Lakes, 1996’s even-more-pivotal Elegy, ’97’s My Kantele EP and the aforementioned Tuonela — their sense of progression never faltered, and it by no means stopped with Am Universum either. But, 10 years out from their first demo, Am Universum‘s 10-song/50-minute run marked a special moment in what was becoming the band’s signature blend of elements, and I don’t know that they’ve to-date ever written a stronger collection of tracks. Some songs are memorable. Once you get these into your head, they’re unforgettable.

Am Universum is a riding-a-bike album. Once you put it on, it’s like you never left. Multi-stage choruses in run rampant throughout, and as “Alone” introduces tones, melodies, the richness in Niclas Etelävuori‘s bass (he had replaced Olli-Pekka Laine, who’d soon come back) and the push of Pekka Kasari‘s drums (again, Jan Rechberger would return to the band in short order), the spectrum of colors offered only grows across cuts like “Goddess (of the Sad Man),” “The Night is Over” and “Shatters Within,” the band bringing structural variety along with a range of expression and an overarching flow that continues as the record progresses through the hard-riffed/well-organed “Crimson Wave,” “Drifting Memories” — one of several tracks to feature echo-lacedAmorphis Am Universum saxophone, but one on which it’s particularly well used — into the victory lap of “Forever More,” the gorgeous, melancholic semi-acoustic standout of “Veil of Sin,” and the closing duo, “Captured State,” which returns to some of the heavier hookmaking of the early cuts, and “Grieve Stricken Heart,” which is the first song since “Alone” to top six minutes and a beyond effective summation of the record’s many strengths in craft and aesthetic.

It’s hard with Amorphis — even harder than spelling “isthmus” — because especially up to this point in their career, every album really was an era. They had gone from raw death metal to the innovative use of instrumentation and themes from Finnish folk music, basing songs on the Kalevala, and so on, and they did so largely at a time before the internet really spread into people’s lives. So listeners lived with these albums in a different way. Even Relapse wasn’t the metal-major, whatever that means, it is now circa 1994 — indeed records like those Amorphis produced helped make them one. But the point is there are loyalists to each of those offerings listed above, and in that regard, Am Universum doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what the band managed to accomplish across its span.

Please. Just listen to it. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think it was something you should hear.

On its face, it’s kind of unassuming. Two six-minute tracks bookending a bunch of others around four and five minutes long, pretty consistent, and the art? 20 years later and I’m still not sure what’s going on there, but I can tell you that its muted colors don’t come close to representing either the vast soundscape or the emotional breadth that comes across in the listening experience. In context it makes sense. This was, ostensibly, a metal band putting out a melodic heavy prog rock record. There had to be a certain amount of, “what the hell do we do with this?” going on, because especially coming out of death metal, and especially walking the sonic path that Amorphis were across genres, almost defining them as they went — folk metal is still a thing — it had never happened before. Am Universum pushed across boundaries and challenged the band to become something almost entirely different than they were when they started, and even crazier, pulled it off. I never have, but I’d love to talk to Matt Jacobson from Relapse about this album, if only to say thanks for taking the chance on putting it out.

Amorphis, true to their name, would continue to change. In 2003/2004, they offered Far From the Sun, as their first outing for Nuclear Blast, which stripped their songwriting down further into melodic heavy rock and would prove to be Koskinen‘s last album with the band; he has gone on to contribute to a number of outfits, among them MannhaiShape of Despair, Ajattara and so on. His replacement, Tomi Joutsen (also Hallatar and a bunch of others), made a distinguished first impression on 2006’s Eclipse (I saw them at BB King’s in Manhattan on that tour; it was the day I got back from SXSW that year; I was tired, they were great) and has gone on to be a reliable frontman presence for the group across the better part of two decades’ worth of releases, the band ultimately finding a line between melody and harder hitting fare that is no less their own for the influence it’s had over European metal in general.

In 2021, the band released Live at Helsinki Ice Hall, and Holopainen has a solo-ish album out under the moniker Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen on which he collaborates with different singers, so there’s plenty more to dig into after this. Amorphis‘ latest studio outing was 2018’s Queen of Time (review here), which demonstrated just how much the band’s sound has come to encompass over their now 30 years, and how distinctive their work is across the greater sphere of heavy music, metal or otherwise.

Please, just listen.

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

Man, nobody’s gonna give a shit. I know it. Amorphis is one of those bands I write about because I love them and no one cares. Amorphis, Anathema, Swallow the Sun, etc. I’ve got a whole list. Let the record show I did it for me anyway, despite the begging aspect. That’s mostly me trying to convince Mike H. and a few others it’ll make their day better.

Lot going on this weekend, but somewhere in there I’m going to find time to review the Fatso Jetson/All Souls stream. I think that might be the last livestream review I do, at least of pandemic-era stuff. Shows are starting up again this Fall, it’s looking like, and barring disaster, it’ll be possible to see bands in-person rather than onscreen. I don’t think livestreams are going to completely disappear, so I’m not gonna say I’ll never do another one, period, but for now, unless something really amazing comes up — more ‘Live in the Mojave Desert’ etc. — I feel like maybe this is a good one to go out on.

Weird week. The Pecan is out of the boot post-legbreak, and that’s good. He’s still favoring the leg a bit, but it’s only been a few weeks. He’s running again, so that’s good, and I took him to the playground down the way yesterday and he played hard like a three year old who hasn’t been to the playground in the better part of a month, so that was good to see. He saw the moon while he was on the swings and got all excited: “It’s a crescent moon!” If I could live a thousand years, I’d hope never to forget it.

But the week is over, which is good, I think. No school next week, which is going to be a crunch. Summer break, huh? Okay. Camp starts after the July 4 holiday, so that’s about two and a half weeks he’s home. There you go. If you’re wondering, that’s why I didn’t answer your email. I’ll be lucky if I have time to shower twice.

I made Facebook group for The Obelisk this week. It’s here if you want to check it out: http://www.facebook.com/groups/theobeliskcollective/

So far it’s a lot of people introducing themselves and their projects, but that’s to be expected, I think. And the whole point of the thing is to share music, so that’s reasonable. You could argue I did the same thing by starting it in the first place.

So yes, needless to say I’ll be phasing out this blog in the next couple weeks to focus on The Obelisk as a purely social media-based entity.

No. Of course not. Not that I’m so attached to WordPress — though apparently I am — but I’ve yet to find a social media interface that holds a candle to AOL 3.0. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic. I can still hear my 28k baud modem screeching in my head, about to get knocked offline when someone picks up the phone. Charged by the minute. Madness.

What a time to be alive.

But that’s enough whatnot. I plug along. I did some good reading this week, nothing too challenging, but it feels good for the brain. I hope you’re well and stay that way. Have fun, be safe, watch your head, hydrate. Gotta hydrate. So important.

No Gimme show today, but next week’s is the first part of a two-parter Neurosis deep-dive. It’s gonna be awesome.


The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch



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Skepticism to Release Companion Sept. 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


This rules. I don’t have the record yet, but I didn’t know a new Skepticism was coming, and I’m very glad one is. The long-running Finnish funeral-doom innovators’ last release was 2015’s Ordeal, and I can’t help but think of Companion in terms of the idea of walking with death all throughout our lives. Whether or not that’s what they’re going for, I don’t know, but they’ve got a track from the album posted now, and if you’ve been missing a bit of the surge of quality death-doom fare that 2020 bought — a comfort in dark times as it was — then I’ll direct you immediately to “Calla” at the bottom of this post to check that particular box. I was fortunate enough to see Skepticism in 2016 (review here) and the experience was resonant enough that if you’d asked me, I would’ve said it was three years later.

Fingers crossed I’ll have more to come before the release. For now, the PR wire has preorder options:

skepticism companion

SKEPTICISM – “Companion” – 24th September 2021

Finnish Funeral Doom pioneers Skepticism celebrate their 30th anniversary with the release of their sixth full length album “Companion”. Released on the 24th of September 2021 via Svart Records, “Companion” takes the listener on a journey from Skepticism’s gloomy past through to a monument of a band that has weathered their liturgy for 3 decades of mournful service.

On “Companion”, Skepticism further refine their signature sound to engulf the listener in a cavernous heavy wall of organ and guitars laid to rest under an ominous cascade of hammering drums.

“Companion” was recorded and mixed at Sonic Pump Studios with Nino Laurenne. The way Skepticism works is set in stone, like a monument, with every album recorded the same way. The base tracks are laid down with the full band playing in free tempo, feeling every beat and crushing chord together. The atmosphere at the studio helped tremendously in capturing the essence of the songs in the recording of “Companion” and one that culminated in a very unique set of songs. The band is very satisfied with the result, with even Laurenne experiencing something new in the process.

“Companion”, holds the tradition of all Skepticism albums, containing six songs which draw from the deep well of the band’s history of songwriting, as well as introducing and incorporating some new elements.

On recording “Companion”, and introducing some rather unconventional techniques, engineer Nino Laurenne explains: “It took a while to get used to some of the unusual details on how the band plays and sounds. One such detail is the snare drum without the snares. Once I got used to them it became obvious that I should refrain from using some of the techniques I normally use when mixing. The drums for example retain the feel of the recorded performance very closely – and definitely have the longest reverbs I have ever used! A band with such a long history and a sound of their own is best presented in its natural form, even when it departs from common practices.”

The first single from “Companion” is “Calla”. “Calla” is a story of longing and closure told in the language of Skepticism’s sorrowful and lamenting vocabulary. Let the bells toll and the ceremony begin.

First single “Calla” is out from the 4th of July 2021. The “Companion” album is out on the 24th of September 2021.

Listen to “Calla” here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4KCIuNdKxIxgOVog40VTPa?si=doj9fbZrSYOJMoCep0Pxow

Pre-order “Companion” here: https://svartrecords.com/product/skepticism-companion-album/


Skepticism, “Calla”

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Swallow the Sun to Release 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair – Live in Helsinki July 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I was very, very, very much looking forward to seeing Finland’s Swallow the Sun come through Dingbatz in April 2020 on an anniversary tour that, of course, was canceled. And of all the shows missed out on over the last year-plus, that was continues to sting as very few do. What a special night that would’ve been. A band with a sound so huge in a space small enough that the floor would’ve vibrated under your feet. For those who showed up, it would’ve been a gig to remember for decades. Swallow the Sun are undervalued anyway. Too extreme for the rock crowd, to melodic for the extreme metallers. I’ve seen them before, but still. What a night. What could’ve been.

They did manage to get a few anniversary shows in before lockdown hit though, and it’s from those that the upcoming live album, 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair – Live in Helsinki, is made. Set to release July 30 through Century Media, maybe it’ll give me some idea of what I missed out on, because it seems like too damn much to hope that that show might ever get scheduled again.


Swallow The Sun 20 Years of Gloom beauty and despair live in helsinki



Finnish doom stars SWALLOW THE SUN announce their first ever live album 20 Years Of Gloom, Beauty And Despair – Live in Helsinki! The live album is set for release on July 30th via Century Media Records.

“Finally some good news after a year of cancellations and shitshow! We managed to play only 10 of these special 20th anniversary gigs before the whole world shut down in March 2020 and the rest of the tour got cancelled. Luckily we filmed and recorded one of the gigs, which we now release as our very first live album as we wait to be able to get back on stages again,”, states Swallow The Sun vocalist Mikko Kotamäki.

About the production Kotamäk adds, “We played the whole ‘Songs from the North II’ with a string quartet—comprised of very professional musicians, two of whom played on our previous album and appeared with us on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise in 2018. For the first time, we also asked our fans on social media to vote for their favorite songs from each album. We then played the most-voted songs from every album.”

20 Years Of Gloom, Beauty And Despair – Live in Helsinki will be available as Ltd. 2CD+DVD Digipak, Gatefold 3LP+DVD and as digital album. All physical formats are available for pre-order HERE: https://swallowthesun.lnk.to/20YearsOfGloomBeautyAndDespair-LiveInHelsinki

The vinyl version will be available in the following colors:
– Black vinyl, unlimited
– Golden vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available at Levykauppa Äx
– Dark green vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, available at CMDistro
– Deep blood red vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available at EMP
– Mint colored vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available Nuclear Blast
– Glow in the dark vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available at the official band store

Swallow The Sun is Mikko Kotamaki (vocals), Matti Honkonen (bass), Juuso Raatkainen (drums), Jaani Peuhu (keys and vocals), Juho Raiha (guitar), and Juha Raivio (guitars).


Swallow the Sun, “Lost and Catatonic” Live t 70,000 Tons of Metal 2018

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Dust Mountain Set Oct. 8 Release for Hymns for Wilderness

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

dust mountain

You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Dust Mountain as a ‘feat. members of…’ kind of band, given the collective pedigrees involved, from Oranssi Pazuzu to Cats of Transnistria to Hexvessel and Death Hawks and Vuono, but as long as you weren’t necessarily expecting them to sound like any of those others, that’s fine. Dust Mountain, who premiered as a part of Roadburn Redux in April, bring new vigor to classic Brit-style progressive/psychedelic folk on “Village on Fire,” which is the first single from their coming Oct. 8 release, Hymns for Wilderness.

Not a surprise that the record is showing up through Svart — their Roadburn appearance was part of the label’s showcase — but nice to have a confirmed date just the same, and while I wouldn’t imagine this one song speaks for the entirety of the band’s stylistic reach given the number of players involved and their backgrounds, let alone anyone else who might show up, what I’m hearing in “Village on Fire” only seems appropriate for autumn. Might fly under the radar of some more rock-minded heads, and that’s fine. I look forward to hearing more just the same.

I assume more complete album info, tracks, etc., will be along sometime between now and October. The PR wire has this announcement for now:

dust mountain hymns for wilderness

Dust Mountain – “Hymns for Wilderness” – October 8th 2021

Svart Records is proud to release Dust Mountain’s new album “Hymns For Wilderness” on the 8th of October 2021. First single “Village on Fire” out now!

Dust Mountain was founded in 2016 by siblings Toni Hietamäki (Oranssi Pazuzu, Waste of Space Orchestra) and Henna Hietamäki (Cats of Transnistria, Henna & Houreet), accompanied by an exceptional band: drummer Jukka Rämänen (Hexvessel, Dark Buddha Rising) bassist Riku Pirttiniemi (Death Hawks) and guitarist/backing vocalist Pauliina Lindell (Vuono). Having brewed their musical magic potions for an eternity, Dust Mountain are now finally ready to share the fruits of their joined forces with the world, resulting in their debut album “Hymns For Wilderness”.

In April 2021 Dust Mountain performed their international live debut at the legendary Roadburn Festival, Redux edition as part of the Svart Sessions, and instantly captivated audiences around the globe with their shimmering, otherworldly harmonies. Inspired by 1960’s and 1970’s acts such as Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Jefferson Airplane, Coven and Linda Perhacs, with a soft touch of doom riffs and distortions, Dust Mountain’s joyous pagan gospel seeks pieces of a world hidden but not lost.

Their stories celebrate the connection to nature and ancient rituals, moving between fictional fantasies and true, close-to-heart beliefs, making “Hymns For Nature” a startling and outstanding debut record. The mandolin riff driven “Village On Fire” is a powerful theme for burning down unjust kingdoms, so kick back and let Dust Mountain blow their magic breath of fiery air through your mind now!

Village on Fire:
Song & lyrics: Hietamäki & Hietamäki
Lead vocals: Henna Hietamäki
Mandolin & organ: Toni Hietamäki
Guitar & vocal harmonies: Pauliina Lindell
Bass: Riku Pirttiniemi
Drums: Jukka Rämänen
Percussion: Jaakko Niemelä
Recording: Tom Brooke at Tonehaven Studio
Mixing: Niko Lehdontie
Mastering: Jaime Gomez
Cover art: Tekla Valy


Dust Mountain, “Village on Fire”

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