Quarterly Review: Ufomammut, Insect Ark, Heath, The Cosmic Dead, The Watchers, Juke Cove, Laurel Canyon, Tet, Aidan Baker, Trap Ratt

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Good morning and heavy riffs. Today is day 7 of the Quarterly Review. It’s already been a lot, but there are still 30 more releases to cover over the next three days, so I assure you at some point I’ll have that nervous breakdown that’s been ticking away in the back of my brain. A blast as always, which I mean both sincerely and sarcastically, somehow.

But when we’re done, 100 releases will have been covered, and I get a medal sent to me whenever that happens from the UN’s Stoner Rock Commission on Such Things, so I’ll look forward to that. In the meantime, we’re off.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Ufomammut, Hidden

ufomammut hidden

Italian cosmic doomers Ufomammut celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2024, and as they always have, they do so by looking and moving forward. Hidden is the 10th LP in their catalog, the second to feature drummer Levre — who made his debut on 2022’s Fenice (review here) alongside bassist/vocalist Urlo and guitarist Poia (both also keyboards) — and it was preceded by last year’s Crookhead EP (review here), the 10-minute title-track of which is repurposed as the opener here. A singular, signature blend of heft and synth-based atmospherics, Ufomammut roll fluidly through the six-tracker check-in, and follow on from Fenice in sounding refreshed while digging into their core stylistic purposes. “Spidher” brings extra tonal crush around its open verse, and “Mausoleum” has plenty of that as well but is less condensed and hypnotic in its atmospheric midsection, Ufomammut paying attention to details while basking in an overarching largesse. The penultimate “Leeched” was the lead single for good reason, and the four-minute “Soulost” closes with a particularly psychedelic exploration of texture and drone with the drums keeping it moving. 25 years later and there’s still new things to discover. I hear the universe is like that.

Ufomammut website

Supernatural Cat website

Neurot Recordings website

Insect Ark, Raw Blood Singing

insect ark raw blood singing

Considering some of the places Dana Schechter has taken Insect Ark over the project’s to-date duration, most of Raw Blood Singing might at times feel daringly straightforward, but that’s hardly a detriment to the material itself. Songs like “The Hands” bring together rhythmic tension and melodic breadth, as soundscapes of drone, low end chug and the drumming of Tim Wyskida (also Khanate, Blind Idiot God) cast a morose, encompassing atmospheric vision. And rest assured, while “The Frozen Lake” lumbers through its seven minutes of depressive post-sludge — shades of The Book of Knots at their heaviest, but still darker — and “Psychological Jackal” grows likewise harsher and horrific, the experimentalist urge continues to resonate; the difference is it’s being set to serve the purposes of the songs themselves in “Youth Body Swayed” or “Cleaven Hearted,” which slogs like death-doom with a strum cutting through to replace vocals, whereas the outro “Ascension” highlights the noise on its own. It is a bleak, consuming course presented over Raw Blood Singing‘s 45 minutes, but there’s solace in the catharsis as well.

Insect Ark website

Debemur Murti Productions website

Heath, Isaak’s Marble

Heath Isaak's Marble

Laced through with harmonica and organic vibes, Netherlands-based five-piece Heath make their full-length debut with the four extended tracks of Isaak’s Marble, reveling in duly expansive jams keyed for vibrancy and a live sound. They are somewhat the band-between as regards microgenres, with a style that can be traced on the opening title-cut to heavy ’70s funk-boogie-via-prog-rock, and the harmonica plays a role there before spacing out with echo over top of the psychedelia beginning of “Wondrous Wetlands.” The wetlands in question, incidentally, might just be the guitar tone, but that haze clears a bit as the band saunters into a light shuffle jam before the harder-hitting build into a crescendo that sounds unhinged but is in fact quite under control as it turns back to a softshoe-ready groove with organ, keys, harmonica, guitar all twisting around with the bass and drums. Sitar and vocal harmonies give the shorter-at-six-minutes “Strawberry Girl” a ’60s psych-pop sunshine, but the undercurrent is consistent with the two songs before as Heath highlight the shroomier side of their pastoralism, ahead of side B capper “Valley of the Sun” transitioning out of that momentary soundscape with clear-eyed guitar and flute leading to an angular progression grounded by snare and a guitar solo after the verse that leads the shift into the final build. They’re not done, of course, as they bring it all to a rousing end and some leftover noise; subdued in the actual-departing, but still resonant in momentum and potential. These guys might just be onto something.

Heath website

Suburban Records store

The Cosmic Dead, Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead, releasing through Heavy Psych Sounds, count Infinite Peaks as their ninth LP since 2011. I’ll take them at their word since between live offerings, splits, collections and whatnot, it’s hard sometimes to know what’s an album. Similarly, when immersed in the 23-minute cosmic sprawl of “Navigator #9,” it can become difficult to understand where you stop and the universe around you begins. Rising quickly to a steady, organ-inclusive roll, the Glaswegian instrumental psilocybinists conjure depth like few of their jam-prone ilk and remain entrancing as “Navigator #9” shifts into its more languid, less-consuming middle movement ahead of the resurgent finish. Over on side B, “Space Mountain” (20:02) is a bit more drastic in the ends it swaps between — a little noisier and faster up front, followed by a zazzy-jazzy push with fiddle and effects giving over to start-stop bass and due urgency in the drums complemented by fuzz like they just got in a room and this happened before the skronky apex and unearthly comedown resolve in a final stretch of drone. Ninth record or 15th, whatever. Their mastery of interstellar heavy exploration is palpable regardless of time, place or circumstance. Infinite Peaks glimpses at that dimensional makeup.

The Cosmic Dead website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

The Watchers, Nyctophilia

The Watchers Nyctophilia

Perhaps telegraphing some of their second long-player’s darker intentions in the cover art and the title Nyctophilia — a condition whereby you’re happier and more comfortable in darkness — if not the choice of Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Death Angel, etc.) to produce, San Francisco’s The Watchers are nonetheless a heavy rock and roll band. What’s shifted in relation to their 2018 debut, Black Abyss (review here), is the angle of approach they take in getting there. What hasn’t changed is the strength of songwriting at their foundation or the hitting-all-their-marks professionalism of their execution, whether it’s Tim Narducci bringing a classic reach to the vocals of “Garden Tomb” or the precise muting in his and Jeremy Von Epp‘s guitars and Chris Lombardo‘s bass on “Haunt You When I’m Dead” and Nick Benigno‘s declarative kickdrum stomping through the shred of “They Have No God.” The material lands harder without giving up its capital-‘h’ Heavy, which is an accomplishment in itself, but The Watchers set a high standard last time out and Nyctophilia lives up to that while pursuing its own semi-divergent ends.

The Watchers on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Juke Cove, Tempest

juke cove tempest

Leipzig’s Juke Cove follow a progressive course across eight songs and 44 minutes of Tempest, between nodding riffs of marked density and varying degrees of immediacy, whether it’s the might-just-turn-around-on-you “Hypnosis” early on or the shove with which the duly brief penultimate piece “Burst” takes off after the weighted crash of and ending stoner-rock janga-janga riff of “Glow” and precedes the also-massive “Xanadu” in the closing position, capping with a fuzzy solo because why not. From opener “The Path” into the bombast of “Hypnosis” and the look-what-we-can-make-riffs-do “Wait,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mateusz Pietrzela, bassist/vocalist Dima Ogorodnov and drummer Maxim Balobin mine aural individualism from familiar-enough genre elements, shaping material of character that benefits from the scope wrought in tone and production. Much to its credit, Tempest feels unforced in speaking to various sides of its persona, and no matter where a given song might go — the watery finish of “Wait” or the space-blues drift that emerges out of psych-leaning noise rock on “Confined,” for example — Juke Cove steer with care and heart alike and are all the more able to bring their audience with them as a result. Very cool, and no, I’m not calling them pricks when I say that.

Juke Cove on Facebook

Juke Cove on Bandcamp

Laurel Canyon, East Side EP

laurel canyon east side

A little more than a year out from their impressive self-titled debut LP (review here), Philly three-piece Laurel Canyon — guitarist/bassist/vocalist Nicholas Gillespie, guitarist/vocalist Serg Cereja, drummer Dylan DePice — offer the East Side three-songer to follow-up on the weighted proto-grunge vibes therein. “East Side” itself, at two and a half minutes, is a little more punk in that as it aligns for a forward push in the chorus between its swaggering verses, while “Garden of Eden” is more directly Nirvana-schooled in making its well-crafted melody sound like something that just tumbled out of somebody’s mouth, pure happenstance, and “Untitled” gets more aggressive in its second half, topping a momentary slowdown/nod with shouts before they let it fall apart at the end. This procession takes place in under 10 minutes and by the time you feel like you’ve got a handle on it, they’re done, which is probably how it should be. East Side isn’t Laurel Canyon‘s first short release, and they’re clearly comfortable in the format, bolstering the in-your-face-itude of their style with a get-in-and-get-out ethic correspondingly righteous in its rawness.

Laurel Canyon on Facebook

Agitated Records website

Tet, Tet

tet tet

If you hadn’t yet come around to thinking of Poland among Europe’s prime underground hotspots, Tet offer their four-song/45-minute self-titled debut for your (re-)consideration. With its lyrics and titles in Polish, Tet draws on the modern heavy prog influence of Elder in some of the 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points), “Srebro i antracyt,” but neither that nor “Dom w cieniu gruszy,” which follows, stays entirely in one place for the duration, and the lush melody that coincides with the unfolding of “Wiosna” is Tet‘s own in more than just language; that is to say, there’s more to distinguish them from their influences than the syllabic. Each inclusion adds complexity to the story their songs are telling, and as closer “Włóczykije” gradually moves from its dronescape by bringing in the drums unveiling the instrumentalist build already underway, Tet carve a niche for themselves in one of the continent’s most crowded scenes. I wonder if they’ve opened for Weedpecker. They could. Or Belzebong, for that matter. Either way, it will be worth looking out for how they expand on these ideas next time around.

Tet linktr.ee

Tet on Bandcamp

Aidan Baker, Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

aidan baker Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

Aidan Baker, also of Nadja, aligns the eight pieces of what I think is still his newest outing — oh wait, nope; this came out in Feb. and in March he had an hour-long drone two-songer out; go figure/glad I checked — to represent the truism of the title Everything is Like Always Until it is Not, and arranges the tracks so that the earlier post-shoegaze in “Everything” or “Like” can be a preface for the more directly drone-based “It” “Is” later on. And yes, there are two songs called “Is.” Does it matter? Definitely not while Baker‘s evocations are actually being heard. Free-jazz drums — not generally known for a grounding effect — do some work in terms of giving all the float that surrounds them a terrestrial aspect, but if you know Baker‘s work either through his solo stuff, Nadja or sundry other collaborations, I probably don’t need to tell you that the 47 minutes of Everything is Like Always Until it is Not fall into the “not like always” category as a defining feature, whether it’s “Until” manifesting tonal heft in waves of static cut through by tom-to-snare-to-cymbal splashes or “Not” seeming unwilling to give itself over to its own flow. I imagine a certain restlessness is how Aidan Baker‘s music happens in the first place. You get smaller encapsulations of that here, if not more traditional accessibility.

Aidan Baker on Facebook

Cruel Nature Recordings on Bandcamp

Trap Ratt, Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Trap Ratt Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Based in the arguable capitol of the Doom Capitol region — Frederick, Maryland — the three-piece Trap Ratt arrive in superbly raw style with the four-song/33-minute Tribus Rattus Mortuus, the last of which, aptly-titled “IV,” features Tim Otis (High Noon Kahuna, Admiral Browning, etc.), who also mixed and mastered, guesting on noise while Charlie Chaplin’s soliloquy from 1940’s The Dictator takes the place of the tortured barebones shouts that accompany the plod of 13-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Sacred Skunk,” seemingly whenever they feel like it. That includes the chugging part before the feedback gets caustic near the song’s end, by the way. “Thieving From the Grieving” — which may or may not have been made up on the spot — repurposes Stooges-style riffing as the foundation for its own decay into noise, and if from anything I’ve said so far about the album you might expect “Take the Gun” to not be accordingly harsh, Trap Ratt have a word and eight minutes of disaffected exploration they’d like to share with you. It’s not every record you could say benefits aesthetically from being recorded live in the band’s rehearsal space, but yes, Tribus Rattus Mortuus most definitely does.

Trap Ratt on Facebook

Trap Ratt on Bandcamp

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High Noon Kahuna Premiere “Good Night God Bless” From This Place is Haunted

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

high noon kahuna this place is haunted

Maryland genre destroyers High Noon Kahuna will loose their second album, This Place is Haunted, on the unknowing ether May 17 with the 25-years-strong backing of Crucial Blast behind them. And as their debut, 2022’s Killing Spree (review here), willfully united the disparate worlds of black metal and surf rock, it seems only fitting that the 12-song/54-minute follow-up should go someplace else. Based in Maryland’s doom capitol, Frederick (home to Maryland Doom Fest, where the trio will celebrate this release on June 23) the pedigreed three-piece of vocalist/bass-VI-ist Paul Cogle, guitarist Tim Otis (also backing and other vocals throughout) and drummer Brian Goad present a sound that feels simultaneously broader and more solidified than on the first record, touching on a darker, heavier post-punk at the outset with “Atomic Sunset” that meets its semi-goth vibe and Otis‘ first lead vocal head-on with a wash of noise at the end, before “Lamborghini” — the first of three sub-three-minute instrumentals spread throughout the tracklisting, each with its own character, with the bassy stonerjazz meander of “The Devil’s Lettuce” and the thicker noise-rock riffing of “Midnight Moon” offsetting/bolstering some of the stylistic turns surrounding and giving preface to side B’s outward push in the drifting “Flaming Dagger” and the echoes emerging from the crashing void of seven-minute finale “Et Ita Factum Est” — redirects toward a more straight-ahead, riffer charge.

Returning producer Kevin Bernsten at Developing Nations Studio in Baltimore does well in not so much corralling High Noon Kahuna‘s various whims and impulses, but in highlighting the multifaceted dynamic and tonality that draws their material together. That is to say, while This Place is Haunted doesn’t linger in any particular aural locale for too long and with 12 cuts included there’s no shortage of jumping around from place to place — to wit, “Prehistoric Love Letter” picking up after “Lamborghini” with Torche-style uptempo heavy rock reimagined as Chesapeake emo/post-hardcore with shared vocals from Otis and Cogle and the subsequent “Good Night God Bless” (premiering below) burning the ground with feedback before slamming into its densely-weighted roll with shouts cutting through, angular twists of effects and whatever else that is, and a bombast that gives over to residual noise, drone and buried voice(s) to lead into the aforementioned addled sway of “The Devil’s Lettuce”; or, you know, the rest of the thing — when taken as a whole, in a single dose, the album’s cohesion comes in part from its willingness to be itself apart from outside expectation, the imaginary limits of style, and, in the true spirit of Maryland’s doom underground, the direction of trend.

“Brand New Day” finds a Josh Homme-style vocal topping more gothic-ish proceedings, this time led by Cogle‘s bass, and leads one to wonder if it and “Atomic Sunset” aren’t intended to be complements; i.e., the morning of the next day. Certainly “Good Night God Bless,” “Midnight Moon,” and “Tumbleweed Nightmare” could be read into this theme as well, and given the nature of the project, that they aren’t necessarily in linear go-to-bed-dream-and-wake-up order hardly matters. That doesn’t account for cuts like “Sidewalk Assassin” though, with its alarm of feedback screech and tense intro drumming unfolding into a barrage of low noise riffing and shouting that turns to more spacious and less voluminous fare before it’s done without letting go of that tension, or the amalgam of chug-punk and atmospherics that arrive with “Mystical Shit,” which follows.

high noon kahuna

The lesson there, perhaps, is that it’s a mistake in the first place to try and find rules where for the most part there aren’t any, and that High Noon Kahuna‘s sundry divergences throughout This Place is Haunted are most of all linked by the fact that it’s all part of the band’s overarching scope. And as in the best of scenarios, it works because they make it work in pieces that aren’t trying to be defined as weird or outside this or that common ‘heavy’ expectation so much as they are a realization of the personalities behind the songwriting. A good bit of instrumental chemistry and breadth of production don’t hurt either, and This Place is Haunted benefits from those as well.

Airy in the high end, storytelling in its lyric and dense in its bassy fluidity, “Tumbleweed Nightmare” comes apart at the crunching staticky finish to give a fresh start to “Flaming Dagger,” which feels at least part-improvised around its core bassline — Otis is on a journey here — before the wash of guitar gradually consumes the bass and drums in the mix, leading to another noisy end that lets “Et Ita Factum Est” stand on its own. Fair enough. The closer’s title translates from Latin as “And So it Was Done,” and it is correspondingly declarative in the execution, from the pattern-setting onset to the howls of guitars that bookend the cacophony and lost-in-space echoing voice calling out (in Latin, though it’s hard to tell) near the end of its middle third.

The drums are first to depart as Cogle holds to the progression he set at the beginning and Otis channels animalian feedback, but soon the bass is gone as well and High Noon Kahuna cap with a suitable wall of amplified residual drone. It’s not as harsh as it could be, in terms of the noise offered elsewhere on This Place is Haunted, but I wouldn’t call it a gentle goodbye either. Like the rest of what surrounds, it is a moment defined mostly by being the band’s own. This is doubly impressive when one considers that two years ago their debut set a largely different context for its own definition.

As to what that means for High Noon Kahuna going forward — the question being if they’ve found ‘their sound’ in the reaches here or if whatever they do next will embark on another stylistic course — it would be useless, stupid, and not the least in the spirit of This Place is Haunted to speculate. Given what they do here and what Killing Spree wrought, they’re somewhat less madcap than they were two years ago, but that has clearly allowed them to find poise in the control over what for many bands would be a chaos either too encompassing to wield or result in something outright unlistenable.

This Place is Haunted doesn’t bow to notions of accessibility, but it does leave room for the listener to find a place for themselves in the world the trio are making. Sometimes it even feels safe there after a while, in that maybe-ghost-ridden fray, which makes the procession across these songs all the more special to behold for those who can meet the band on their own, deeply individualized level.

“Good Night God Bless” premieres below, followed by more background, the invite to a Bandcamp listening party next week, live dates and such from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

High Noon Kahuna, “Good Night God Bless” track premiere

High Noon Kahuna is a power trio of veteran heavy musicians from Frederick, Maryland, with Tim Otis on guitar (Admiral Browning), Brian Goad on Drums (Internal Void / The Larrys / Nagato), and Paul Cogle on Bass VI and Vocals (Black Blizzard / Vox Populi / Nagato / Slagstorm). These three gents have known each other for years and have always supported each other in their respective bands.

High Noon Kahuna is back in 2024 to present their second album, This Place is Haunted. This collection of songs captures the raw vibe of their last album, Killing Spree, while expanding on the band’s diverse corners of influence. Spanning the genre sphere across Surf, Western, Deathrock, Noiserock, Punk, and Psych, these songs show HNK at their most aggressive… as well as most ethereal, spacey, and gothic.

All the songs on the album came from unrestricted jamming over the last 20 months. In fact, the very first notes and beats the three members ever played together was an instantly exciting song that is captured on this album (Brand New Day). In that time, the band has toured and played many shows, continuing to hone their unhinged live performances. This Place is Haunted is an evolution of the unique HNK sound and sees them at new creative heights.

Before entering the studio, roughly 80% of the songs were solidified, and most were played out live; the other 20% were based on free-form jams in the HNK archive and re-created on-the-fly, pseudo improv style. The band partnered with Kevin Bernsten and Developing Nations for recording, as they did with Killing Spree. His studio provided a vibe that sparked their creativity and gave them freedom to work at another level. Working with Kevin on this album was a creatively liberating experience; his knowledge, gear, recording space, and ear allowed the band to get wild.

Final mastering for This Place Is Haunted was completed by the ever-inventive James Plotkin at Plotkin Works. The album’s stirring cover art was created by HNK’s own drummer, Brian Goad.

The album is set for release on May 17th, 2024, on CD, cassette, and digital (vinyl TBA).

This Place Is Haunted – Tracklist:
01. Atomic Sunset
02. Lamborghini
03. Prehistoric Love Letter
04. Good Night God Bless
05. The Devil’s Lettuce
06. Brand New Day
07. Midnight Moon
08. Sidewalk Assassin
09. Mystical Shit
10. Tumbleweed Nightmare
11. Flaming Dagger
12. Et Ita Factum Est

Crucial Blast just announced a listening party for This Place Is Haunted:

The event is scheduled for:
Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 7:00 PM EDT

RSVP: https://crucialblast.bandcamp.com/merch/high-noon-kahuna-this-place-is-haunted-listening-party

Come and join Crucial Blast and the members of MD/WV noise rock / occult desert rock / phantasmagorical psychedelic punk power-trio HIGH NOON KAHUNA as we hang out next Wednesday (7pm EST) and listen to the upcoming full-length album “This Place Is Haunted”. We will all be in the chat, and would love to hear from you and blab with ya! We will also be doing an online raffle + trivia question for free HIGH NOON KAHUNA shirts and copies of the new album, only for participants in the listening party chat. Come and get it!

Upcoming Live Dates:
May 23 – Asheville, NC @ The Odd
May 24 – Richmond, VA @ Another Round
May 25 – Staunton, VA @ The Brick
May 26 – Lexington, KY @ Green Lantern
May 28 – Washington, DC @ The Pie Shop
Jun. 23 – Frederick, MD @ MARYLAND DOOM FEST (Local Release Party)

High Noon Kahuna:
Tim Otis: Guitar / Vocals
Brian Goad: Drums
Paul Cogle: Bass / Vocals

High Noon Kahuna, This Place is Haunted (2024)

High Noon Kahuna linktr.ee

High Noon Kahuna on Bandcamp

High Noon Kahuna on Instagram

High Noon Kahuna on Facebook

Crucial Blast linktr.ee

Crucial Blast on Bandcamp

Crucial Blast website

Crucial Blast on Facebook

Crucial Blast on Instagram

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

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

Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

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

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

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

Describe your first musical memory.

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

Describe your best musical memory to date.

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

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

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

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

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

How do you define success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



High Noon Kahuna, This Place is Haunted (2024)

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High Noon Kahuna Sign to Crucial Blast; This Place is Haunted Out May 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Please know that I’m sincere when I tell you High Noon Kahuna signing to Crucial Blast for their now-announced second long-player, This Place is Haunted, is heartwarming. The label has been supporting the weirder end of underground weird for 25 years now, and in their snagging High Noon Kahuna — whose 2022 debut, Killing Spree (review here), drew together seemingly disparate ends within heavy rock, black metal, surf, jazz and doom — I’m reminded of their long history with noisy bands who didn’t quite fit a mold otherwise, be it Jumbo’s Killcrane or Totimoshi around the turn of the century, Across Tundras, Weedeater, the split between Floor and their offshoot Dove, etc., or bands like Cultic and Gnaw Their Tongues in more recent years. Not every imprint, new or old, has a broad enough background to get what a band like High Noon Kahuna are going for.

Based in Frederick, Maryland, High Noon Kahuna will indeed be at Maryland Doom Fest 2024 this June (info here) for their first appearance, and a May 17 release means This Place is Haunted will be out before they even get there. They’re playing live in the meantime, of course. The other night they were in Martinsburg, West Virginia, for a set that was filmed (credit to Phebography, I think?) that you can watch in its entirety at the bottom of this post.

I’ll hope to have more to come closer to the release, but here’s what’s out there now from socials:

high noon kahuna (Photo by Tigran Kapinos Photography)

HIGH NOON KAHUNA This Place Is Haunted CD / CS / DL (VINYL TBA) – OUT MAY 17, 2024

Crucial Blast is stoked to announce that we are joining forces with longtime friends HIGH NOON KAHUNA on the release of their second album, This Place Is Haunted.

Harder, darker, but also brimming with haunting melody, the Maryland band features former members of Internal Void, Vox Populi and Admiral Browning, executing an incredibly infectious mix of classic noise rock and psychedelic crunch. The twelve songs on Haunted are on a whole new level from the band; this rumbling riff-beast brilliantly evokes everything from pummeling Am Rep abrasion, soaring Hawkwindian space rock, haunting post-punk, Dick Dale-on-acid licks, doses of massive doom-laden crush, and even wisps of classic Morricone moodiness and some hammering QOTSA-esque groove.

Easily one of the most unique bands ever to emerge from the DC/MD area, KAHUNA is weirder, heavier, and catchier than ever before, and C-BLAST is incredibly excited to bring this banger to your ears.

This Place Is Haunted will be released May 17th, 2024.

Stay tuned for the first single from the album, coming in early March!

High Noon Kahuna is:
Tim Otis: guitar (Admiral Browning)
Brian Goad: Drums (Internal Void / The Larrys)
Paul Cogle: Bass VI and Vocals (Black Blizzard)



High Noon Kahuna, Live in Martinsburg, WV, March 2, 2024

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Spiral Grave Post “The Death of Ronnie M.” Video; Ill Repute Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kind of a lower-key album announcement happening here as Maryland doom standard-bearers Spiral Grave unveil a video for “The Death of Ronnie M.” — as opposed to the death of Ronnie J. D., which I’m still not over — and send first word of the impending Ill Repute as a follow-up to the four-piece’s Argonauta-backed 2021 debut, Legacy of the Anointed (review here). That release was both proof-of-concept and a statement of intent for the band that pulled together vocalist “Screaming Mad Dee” Calhoun, bassist Louis “Iron Lou” Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann from the final incarnation of Iron Man and teamed them with guitarist Willy Rivera, formerly of the wildly underrated (and just plain wild) sludge metal experimentalists Lord. No solid date yet for Ill Repute, but ‘2024’ is easy enough to believe.

I don’t know if Ronnie M.’s is a true case of child abuse and you’ll pardon me if I skip Googling it to find out. In any case, Calhoun (a published author multiple times over) is no stranger to narrative in songwriting between Spiral Grave and his solo work, and “The Death of Ronnie M.” hits sharp with intensity in its low-end-shove midsection to coincide with the traditional metal reach of the vocals, and it’s plain to hear the band are pushing themselves. I haven’t heard Ill Repute or anything, and I can’t even play clever and drop some hint as to when it’ll be out, but a new track isn’t nothing to go on in advance of a familiar ‘more to come’ as they ramp up for the release.

Gets in, lands hard, gets out. Makes it easy to look forward to the record:

spiral grave

SPIRAL GRAVE, the US doom metal band consisting of members from Iron Man and Lord, has released a new official music video for ‘The Death of Ronnie M.’.

The first single from Ill Repute, “The Death of Ronnie M,” is quite simply about murdering a pedophile. The live footage from the video was shot at Another Round in Richmond VA on September 30, 2023.

Spiral Grave formed in late 2018 following the demise of two legendary mid-Atlantic bands, Iron Man and Lord. The band quickly hit the live circuit and recorded their debut album, Legacy of the Anointed (release delayed until 2021 due to COVID). Since that album’s release Spiral Grave has continued to tour, playing live dates and festivals in and around their home area of MD/VA, going as far west as Texas. In addition, the band has recorded their sophomore effort Ill Repute, which is scheduled for a 2024 release from Argonauta Records.

Screaming Mad Dee – voice
Willy Rivera – guitar
Louis Strachan – bass
Jason “Mot” Waldmann – drums



Spiral Grave, “The Death of Ronnie M.” official video

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Maryland Doom Fest 2024 Announced Full Schedule and Timetable

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Look at the blue text below and you know what you’re gonna see? Yes, a whole lot of skull emojis. Like a lot. But it happens that each individual one corresponds to a demonstration of the labor of love and community that is the Maryland Doom Festival. From Abel Blood through Zekiah, Maryland Doom Fest 2024 celebrates its 10th anniversary edition with its standard sans-bullshit glut of heavy. Once more the Frederick-based event looks your square in the eye, drops for absolutely immersive days on you and asks if you’re up for it. Well, are ya?

I’m not sure what my summer travel plans are yet — this and Freak Valley have overlapped the last couple years for me — but it’s been since 2019 that I was last down there and oh I’d be so eager to show up and have the three or four people who recognize me (and thus make it feel like an absolute family experience; love love love everywhere you go down there) quietly think to themselves I’ve gotten older and fatter en route to obliterating myself with volume for about 96 hours straight. Fuck. King. A.

Oh, and I hear Thunderbird Divine have new stuff in the works and it’s amazing. So that’s a thing too.

Social media had it like this:

Maryland Doom Fest 2024 poster

We are super stoked to share with you the Maryland Doom Fest 2024 rosters, schedules, and lineups!!!



✝️Thursday June 20

Cafe 611-

💀 Thunderhorse
💀 The Magpie
💀 Born of Plagues
💀 Stone Nomads
💀 Pyre Fyre
💀 Dirt Eater

Olde Mother Brewery-

💀 Spellbook
💀 Strange Highways
💀 Bailjack
💀 Stone Brew
💀 Abel Blood

✝️Friday June 21

Cafe 611-

💀 Diggeth
💀 Shadow Witch
💀 Red Beard Wall
💀 Almost Honest
💀 Cobra Whip
💀 The Crows Eye
💀 Stereo Christ

Olde Mother Brewery-

💀 Ten Ton Slug
💀 Thousand Vision Mist
💀 Crowhunter
💀 Asthma Castle
💀 Bonded by Darkness

✝️Saturday June 22

Cafe 611-

💀 Bloodshot
💀 Double Planet
💀 Sun Years
💀 When the Deadbolt Breaks

Olde Mother Brewery-

💀 Black Water Rising
💀 Switchblade Jesus
💀 Wyndrider
💀 Indus Valley Kings
💀 Vermillion Whiskey
💀 Doctor Smoke

✝️Sunday June 23

Cafe 611-

💀 Cirith Ungol
💀 Mythosphere
💀 Conclave
💀 Compression
💀 Sons of Arrakis
💀 Curse the Son
💀 Kulvera
💀 Old Blood
💀 Cloud Machine

Olde Mother Brewery-

💀 Thunderbird Divine
💀 Black Manta
💀 High Noon Kahuna
💀 Unity Reggae
💀 King Bastard
💀 Zekiah

52 bands over a 4 day weekend at 2 venues across the street from one another!!

WEEKEND PASSES: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2024-tickets-732298202637?aff=oddtdtcreator


Thunderbird Divine, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Babe” (Barry White cover)

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Maryland Doom Fest 2024 Announces Full Lineup for 10th Anniversary Edition

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2023 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2024

With headlining performances slated from a soon-to-retire Cirith Ungol, noise crushers Whores., mostly-local melodic heavy proggers MythosphereSwitchblade JesusConclaveTen Ton Slug (from Ireland; I got to see them one time; way burly; they’ll do well in Frederick), and plenty of other returning acts and newcomers alike, the lineup for Maryland Doom Fest 2024 could hardly be more appropriate a celebration of the annual Chesapeake gathering’s 10th anniversary. Based in Frederick, the four-day ultra-consuming sensory assault of volume will once again take place at Cafe 611 and Olde Mother Brewing, and if you’ve never been, I’ll tell you outright there’s nothing quite like it.

I mean that. Maryland Doom Fest goes harder than the average festival. A day might start at 1PM and not end until 2AM. And now more than ever, as the fest has grown with the two venues running alongside each other, the bill is packed. I think this year was 50 bands? Well, they’ve got 52 for 2024, and while next June is a while out, there’s a tradition to uphold of Halloween announcements, and festival honcho JB Matson (Bloodshot, War InjunOutside Truth, etc.) pays tribute to his regulars — Shadow WitchBailjackThunderbird Divine, Thousand Vision Mist (congratulations to Danny Kenyon of Thousand Vision Mist on recently kicking cancer’s ass), among others here — while also giving showcase to outfits like Pyre FyreO Zorn! (whose very moniker heralds weirdness), WyndRider and more.

Congrats to Matson and all at Maryland Doom Fest on their 10th anniversary. To do something of this scope once is a lot. To do it across 10 years, well, aside from being fucking crazy, it’s also deeply admirable.

The aforementioned announcement — brief as ever; the poster lands heavy enough to cover any lack of verbiage — follows, courtesy of socials. Ticket link is there too:

maryland doom fest 2024 poster


52 bands over a 4 day weekend at 2 venues across the street from one another!!

WEEKEND PASSES: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-maryland-doom-fest-2024-tickets-732298202637?aff=oddtdtcreator


Ten Ton Slug, Live at Red Crust Festival 2022

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Review & Full Album Stream: Dee Calhoun, Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 22nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

dee calhoun old scratch comes to appalachia

[Click play above to stream Dee Calhoun’s Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia in its entirety. Album is out tomorrow through Argonauta Records.]

Perhaps best known as the final vocalist for Iron Man and for currently fronting Spiral Grave, who are the spiritual successors of said legends of Maryland doom, Dee Calhoun takes on the task of his fourth solo album in expansive fashion. Across 10 songs/51 minutes, Calhoun, bassist “Iron” Louis Strachan (also of Iron Man lineage, as well as Life Beyond and Wretched) and percussionist/vocalist Rob Calhoun, present Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia as a complement to a Calhoun-penned collection of four novellas published under the same name. As regards full-lengths, it follows behind 2020’s Godless (review here) and 2018’s Go to the Devil (review here), his debut, Rotgut (review here), having arrived in 2016, and maintains in the vein of the Southern apocalyptic acoustic metal that has typified Calhoun‘s work to-date.

But the arrangements run deeper on Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia, and though Calhoun — who here is multi-instrumentalist as well as singer, playing acoustic and electric guitar and a variety of other stringed instruments as well as keyboard — and many songs are united by a kind of heavy, rhythmic, maybe software-based thud, a large-footed stomp in leaves or dirt that one compare to some of Author & Punisher‘s mammoth plod. As Calhoun makes his way through opener “The Day the Rats Came to Town,” soaring on the first sung lyric after the spoken intro, backed by acoustic guitar and harmonica, some flourish of electric guitar hints at the depth of detailing to follow throughout, whether it’s in a whisper track as on “Conjured” or the later “All I Need is One,” the sample at the start of “Verachte Diese Hure,” or the higher-notes line of keys peppered into “Pulse,” and so on. Like some aspect of each of Calhoun‘s solo albums to-date, the abiding theme is anti-religious, untrusting of the traveling preacher who turns out to be the devil, and so on, Calhoun at once sympathetic for the plight of this imaginary devil-beset populace and kind of calling them stupid for believing in the first place: “Closing minds that open wounds in the name of a counterfeit god/With the sin of their own, they spare the rod,” go the lyrics of “Pulse.”

Religious corruption is not the only theme, of course. Calhoun follows the sample in “Verachte Diese Hure” (German for ‘despise this whore’) with some far back percussion, string sounds and a simple, consistent beat, with his voice using the space in the mix, powerful as one might expect. There’s some swagger in his guitar work that wouldn’t be there a couple years ago, and he’s more willing to dwell in the parts, as later shows on the tense verses of “Self-Inflicted,” backed by Rob and a lower-mixed, slow beat behind the guitar. “A Wish in the Darkness” brings a Zeppelin via Down key change to brighter acoustic sentiments, its vocals in layers except that howl of “too late!” before three minutes in and folkish complemented by subtle keys later and Strachan‘s bassline.

That fullness of sound continues on the subsequent “New Modern World” with its hints toward flamenco rhythm missing just the the handclaps joining in and old Western catchiness, the vocals (at least) doubled over the sharp guitar progression as Rob takes his first and likely not last lead spot, plenty of room later for the harmonica solo and whatever wobbly-metal-thing, possibly found instrument percussion is banged on in the background, effectively, since for all the progression and opening sonic doors and bringing in new elements Calhoun does throughout Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia, it’s also his fourth album and by now he’s clearly got a decent idea of the kind of fun he’s looking to have. “New Modern World” is hookier than some of the material around it, but is a fitting landmark as Calhoun and company roll through “Pulse” and the dramatic, guitar-forward, swirling around of “Self-Inflicted,” which is foreboding in a less direct way than “Verachte Diese Hure” but still gets its point across in lyrics like “No life, no hope, no chance, no love from anywhere/Lash out but no one seems to care.” Amid distant crackles keeping the rhythm, keyboard enters at around three minutes in, the brooding sensibility maintained.

dee calhoun promo pic

“Stand With Me” reignites the don’t-come-’round-here-again twang of “Verachte Diese Hure,” but pairs it with harmonized vocals — Dee and his daughter Nadia — and a fuller-sounding arrangement, that same thud buried under the guitars, harmonica or some such, some kind of thing-hitting-another-thing keeping a tinny beat for an extra backwoods feel that reminds all the more of Larman Clamor‘s swamp blues on “All I Need is One,” which follows and puts a heavier, distorted single-stringed diddley bow at the start before an up-front verse takes hold, down to the business of semi-plugged blues metal. A there and gone whisper, intertwining strum and shaker, it’s doom, or at very least Calhoun‘s recontextualizing of it. He is guttural in the line, “I don’t need a million preachers telling me the shape I’m in/All I need is one solution and the healing can begin,” and could carry this material with his voice alone, easily, but that he doesn’t is emblematic of his growth as a songwriter and his emergent willingness to experiment around his central approach.

The final lines of “All I Need is One” are about having “zero fucks to give,” the last one purposefully over-the-top and hilariously grandiose, and if that’s what’s gotten him to where he is, fair enough. As regards philosophies, one could clearly do worse. The closing title-track (premiered here) caps with continued thud and apocalyptic storytelling, some residual metallic shimmer or shake or rattle, and melody forcefully delivered in a way that’s very much Calhoun‘s own despite its long roots in classic metal. “Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia” is the longest cut on the album that shares its name at 6:50, and feels like it’s building initially, though it evens out as the verses unfold.

One can’t help but wonder what a full-band arrangement from Dee Calhoun — the name as a band — might sound like, with drums, bass, guitars, maybe keys given the more prominent role they play here? I don’t know, but Calhoun might get there given the steady growth in his approach that’s unfurled across what’s by this time a respectable solo catalog to go with all his ‘in-band’ pedigree. Multifaceted and multimedia as the album, book, videos and so forth are, it’s difficult to summarize a narrative or speak for the full scope of the outing, but in offering his audience as much depth as possible for Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia, Calhoun is well in keeping with the longstanding, sleeve-worn passion that’s been driving him all this time.

Dee Calhoun, “Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia” official video

Dee Calhoun on Facebook

Dee Calhoun on Instagram

Dee Calhoun website

Argonauta Records website

Argonauta Records on Facebook

Argonauta Records on Instagram

Argonauta Records on Bandcamp

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