Notes From Freak Valley 2023 – Day 3

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Slift 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Freak Valley Festival 2023 – Day 3

Sat. – 12:34PM – Same tent as yesterday

Feeling moderately asskicked when I woke up, I headed to the hotel breakfast quickly to grab coffee. They had scrambled eggs and I didn’t have any, which was the wrong choice. My stomach was a little iffy. So maybe pounding seven espressos out of the machine wasn’t a hot idea either. I’d call these rookie mistakes, but I’m no rookie. Just a dumbass who can’t handle basic nourishment when left to his own devices.

Some light nausea and a not-nap later, it was back to the festival grounds for me. Today is supposed to be hotter than yesterday, so I’ll keep to my routine of refilling the water bottle at least once per band. I am a firm believer in the power of hydration, which is good because I think that’s what’s going to get me through the day. You can’t always count on stumbling into a yoga class at just the right time, sadly.

Before I go up to take pics of the start of the 10-act final day here, I would like to reiterate my thanks to Freak Valley for having me back. The vibe here is intimate and friendly and there are still however many thousand people, so that’s saying something. I am honored to be here, to have been here, to have met people and made friends here and seen and heard things I never knew I would. If you told me 15 years ago that I’d be living this life, even on intermittent weekends spread throughout the year, I’d probably have been like, “Wow that sounds exhausting, sure hope I don’t blow out a knee or some shit,” but underneath I’d be flabbergasted. I remain so, loving it.

My phone autocorrected “living” at the end of that last sentence. I’m leaving it as is. Some mistakes are on purpose.

Thank you again. Here we go. Day three of three:

Reverend Beat-Man

Reverend Beat-Man 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before the show actually started, the good Reverend was to be found one-man parading around the merch/food area with a mini amp and bullhorn, hand-delivering scummer blues as he went. I didn’t even have the battery in my camera yet, so the above pic is from my phone. I don’t know what car battery he was huffing before going onstage, but I’d gladly take a hit off it. Dude was full-on, exclusively, there on his own doing weirdo blower blues, put his clergy collar on during his purposefully laughably long intro. Distorted vocals, some looped cello for good measure, a real performance piece, complete with sleaze, “Jesus Christ Twist,” boogie like he was born to do it, merch sold on the honor system, and a fest-day’s worth of shenanigans packed into a set that had the early crowd shouting for one more song when it was over. A hoot in the grand tradition of hoots.

Ritual King

Proper English heavy rock. You can hear aspects of original-era desert riffing, some Truckfighters as well in that rolling bass, but Ritual King’s 2020 self-titled debut (review here), issued through Ripple, had more progressive stretches too and that came through a bit in the shuffle jam amidst all the roll and richness of fuzz, the bass holding down the groove while the guitar trips out ever so slightly. It was almost like you could hear them growing as they played, and their first record was already a call to the converted. I’ll not go around making predictions, but they were tight, seemed to be just the right amount of not-sober to represent the UK ahead of Orange Goblin later, and made it clear that the next generation of heavy knows from whence it comes and is ready to make its own statement in the genre. That’s the hope, anyhow. They could break up tomorrow, you never know. If that happened, I’d be glad to have seen them today. Second record later this year. Don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret.

Food: With about 10 minutes before Gaupa went on, I very quickly inhaled the meat out of a sans-rice goulash, leaving most of the sauce, veggies, etc. Burned tongue for the effort. My self-imposed dietary restrictions at this point are laughable — I brought three (small, plastic) jars of almond butter with me, left the one I wanted to bring at the hotel, hence the improv. What my feelings on this matter tell me is I’m channeling other shit into disordered eating because it’s a way to exert control over some aspect of my life. Take care of your brain, kids.


Burner. If I hadn’t seen them in December in their native Sweden, I’d likely be blown away both by the band’s performance and the response from the crowd, but while I knew what to expect, Gaupa still set a high standard on the stage. Hair flying all over the place, and vocalist Emma Näslund’s sort of hard-hippie dance moves putting emphasis on the band’s psychedelic side even as the actual tones are doomly thick and their riffs are high-class Euro stoner. They’re on their way, and the only question is how far they’ll push it. And they’re young, which is crucial. Last year’s Myriad (review here) featured heavily and it was immediately apparent that those assembled were familiar. They were an early pull for the crowd — all of a sudden, the grass was packed — and their delivery more than justified that.


All the way over from San Francisco, Tabernacle are a conceptual four-piece who make a point of only playing original arrangements of traditional English folk songs. And I guess on paper that kind of says covers, but that’s not quite the end of it. Technically, they’re songs that have been around and performed by many people — it’s fucking folk music; it’s for and of the folk — but the way they interpret the root material is their own, pairing ancient melodies with heavy warmth, languid, fluid nod. I guess the difference between Tabernacle and what I would generally think of as covers is the possibility of progressing in terms of sound. Their approach is open to growing, and between lead vocalist/synthesist Caira Paravel, bechapeaued guitarist/vocalist Walker Phillips, who are solo filk players as well, bassist Camilla Saufley (ex-Golden Void, The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, and a Freak Valley veteran) and drummer Adam Weaver (The Asteroid No. 4), they clearly have the range and reach to make that happen if they choose. They don’t have much out, just a few songs streaming, and so I think people didn’t know them that well — writing the announcement that they were playing here was how I learned about them too — but for a band writing around established foundations, they wanted nothing for originality. I’d listen to a record of this, happily.

Hypnos 69

Hard for me to say enough how much I was looking forward to Hypnos 69. Not something I ever dreamed could happen, even before the band broke up like a decade ago. They’re a band whose music I’ve listened to for 20 years — and that by no means makes me groundfloor, so please don’t think I’m saying it does — and when I was first learning about underground rock, my initial immersion in different styles and bands from all over, they taught me so much about what heavy music could do, about what ‘progressive’ meant in terms of influence and presence, about atmosphere and about how music can seem to chase itself in circles forever and have fun doing it. I was nervous before they went on. What if they didn’t live up to the expectation in my head? What if they were jerks on stage? What if what if what if a piano fell out of the sky on my head two minutes before they went on? They were better than I could have hoped. I guess the phrase “bucket list band” applies, but really it was just something I’d reconciled myself to missing and never being able to see. I’ve lived with those records for so long, to hear and at them brought to life in front of me — along with new material, no less — felt like a landmark. I am so grateful. Thank you Hypnos 69, thank you Freak Valley. And please, if you’re seeing these words and you’ve never heard this band, I implore you to listen. Start with 2010’s Legacy (review here), and work back through 2006’s The Eclectic Measure (discussed here), 2004’s The Intrigue of Perception (discussed here) and 2002’s Timeline Traveller (rules but hasn’t closed a week yet; keeping it in my back pocket; it’s on their Bandcamp with all the rest). At least check it out if you haven’t. Please.

The Obsessed

Dudes sounded great. More than 40 years on, The Obsessed came across with new life and brought the doom of the Chesapeake to this little alcove in Netphen with fervency and groove alike. Founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and drummer Brian Costantino have been playing together for about a decade straight at this point, and with Chris Angleberger on bass and Jason Taylor on guitar/backing vocals — last I saw them was 2019 in Boston with Reid Raley still on bass and just Wino on guitar; the more standard configuration as a trio through their history — they sounded more than ready to follow-up 2017’s Sacred (review here) and were locked in all the way with a trademark groove that has helped forge trad doom. There was a short rant between songs about biometric scans and money on bracelets and freedoms being taken away, but that’s who Wino is and is nothing new, even if the discourse around and promulgation of conspiracy theories has changed in the last 10 years. In any case, the songs sounded like I can only imagine riding a motorcycle feels, and that’s the idea when it comes to The Obsessed, so I’m calling it a win outright. New record later this year on Ripple, from which they aired “It’s Not Okay,” which was shouted out to “all these fucking keyboard warriors” typing all their words and something about showing up at their house with a baseball bat on a Sunday and having them run away. Fair enough.

The Great Machine

Somehow they played fast even when they were playing slow, but either way, Israeli trio The Great Machine ran circles around the stage, and out in front for a bit too, and were a sight to behold as they made sure to get their cardio in while playing. Good fun, great energy, and their new album, Funrider (review here), while aptly named, is just a whiff of what they do live in terms of forward charge. But in addition to running around stage, the sound was also right on, roll and shove and even the odd quiet moment playing off each other with killer stoner roll and density that they made move almost as much as they did while playing. And even more, their set happened to coincide with the first break in the heat of this very, very sunny day, so all the conditions seemed to apply for them to kick ass, which they did with marked thoroughness. They’ve been here before, in 2017 (I looked it up; I know a good place for that kind of thing), and I have a hard time imagining they wouldn’t be invited back again. Rarely in my experience is heavy rock so much fun and still has so much to offer musically. They brought out a guest screamer toward the end of the set and continued to lap the vast majority of everything as they pummeled riff after riff. Hypnos 69 were the band I knew I was waiting for. The Great Machine were the band I didn’t know I was waiting for.


This wasn’t my first time encountering Swedish cosmic strutters Hällas — who rock proto-metallic ’70s space riffs and their capes with equal aplomb; not being sarcastic — but it was the melodies that got me this time. Such a smooth, classy style, between the up-to-three vocalists and the organ and guitars, giving them a sense of out-thereness in alignment with their stage presence. I don’t mind telling you I am beat. Truly. But the sun is on its way down as we head toward 21:30, and I’m happy to let “Star Rider” take me into the home stretch of Freak Valley 2023. Much like hope The Great Machine were more than just somebody’s ecercise video, so too were Hällas more than the sum of their stage costumes. I guess in terms of sound they’re vintage, but it’s retrofuturism if anything, and they’re masters of it at this point and reliable in that regard. And even if I was dragging ass — no yoga today, sadly, though I’ve done some stretching throughout and basic sustenance helped — they most certainly were not and they had people singing along, dancing, spontaneous clapping along, the whole thing. I found a not-quiet but also not-crowded spot to sit and watch, trying to soak in as much as I can of this festival because I know it’s going to be over soon. What a party it’s been. No wonder tickets sell out in like a day every year.

Orange Goblin

On a planet marked by its paucity of guarantees, you can know in your heart that when Orange Goblin show up, it’s to destroy. Their second album, Time Travelling Blues (discussed here), was released in 1998 on Rise Above Records, which makes its 25th anniversary the occasion for playing it in full for the first time ever here, at Freak Valley, but I ask you in a spirit of friendship, would they really need an excuse? From fucking “Blue Snow” through the fucking title-track — god damn, that groove, and that ending — and fucking “Nuclear Guru,” that’s one of the best fucking sabbath rock records ever made to not actually be by Black Sabbath. The set was a celebration that felt like it applied to the whole weekend, and Orange Goblin absolutely hit that mark. Chris Turner on drums propulsive or swinging or both, Joe Hoare on guitar with blues shred, Harry Armstrong — the only member of the band now who wasn’t in it a quarter-century ago — with a stark reminder that ‘heavy’ lives in the bottom end, and Ben Ward jumping up and down and running point like the frontman he is, like a walking advertisement for his own sobriety and healthy living. Full of life. The night isn’t over yet, but this was a special set in more than just the songs being played. A highlight? Shit. These guys — and in no small part, this record — have inspired a generation and counting of English heavy. It is, and they are, a classic. And being here, with the trees lit up in back and the hey-hey-heys from the crowd almost as loud as the band itself, the band throwing in “Red Tide Rising” as a bonus track at the end. I hope I never forget it. Thank you.


Do we need to talk about Ummon? That record (review here) carried entire legions of weirdos through the pandemic, and I felt like I was overdue for seeing Slift live. Not in a the-moment-has-passed way, because it hasn’t, but just in that way I’m perpetually late to any and all parties. They brought the drums down front and set up in a line, had a video protection behind, and you could feel the bass in your chest on that side of the stage even when they were warming up, speaking from personal experience. They lit the galaxy on fire. They blew up the fucking Death Star. Slayer meet Hawkwind. Didn’t know space thrash was a thing? It was tonight for sure, but that’s really just the launch point for the Andromeda-bound FTL groove that Slift emit. People were saying their goodnights, me too, but after a long and busy few days since I took off from Newark an entire dimension ago, I was only too happy to be disintegrated by the pulsations of their cosmic noise. I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe it’s ending. I can’t believe how ineffective my earplugs were in the face of their dizzying assault. I could go on, easily, about them ripping holes in space-time, or I could start using treknobabble, which might be fun, but I’m not sure that would capture the overwhelming physical presence of Slift at Freak Valley. I can’t remember the last time I so badly wanted a band to not be a fluke. They’ve got nearly impossible expectations to meet. But, that tension, you can feel in your blood. This band might be the real deal, and I know I’m not the first to say so. At least some of what they played was new, so that bodes well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m hopeful. Do you know how good that feels?

Thank you again for reading. Thank you Freak Valley. Thank you Jens, Alex, Marcus, Felli, Roman, Juan, Pete Holland. I met friggin’ Komet Lulu! I was so nervous and awkward; totally embarrassed myself. Everybody who approached me to introduce themselves and say some words about this site or what I do. People are so impossibly kind. Friends I met last year and saw again. Sister Rainbow! I don’t think I knew how badly I needed this, but I bet The Patient Mrs. knew, and thanks to her most of all. Thank you, Wendy. I love you.

I wrote too much today. I took too many pictures. I guess some part of me was trying to cram in as much as I could while I could. No regrets. For mostly my own future reference, here’s the running order of the entire festival. I saw all of it.

Freak Valley Festival 2023 running order

More pics after the jump. You know the deal. Cheers from Freak Valley 2023, and all the love in the universe. I fly home tomorrow.

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Freak Valley 2023 Adds Earthless, Slift, Stoned Jesus & More; Lineup Complete

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Not much you can really debate about Freak Valley Festival 2023 in either concept or execution. The headliners — Clutch, the Melvins and Orange Goblin playing Time Travelling Blues in its entirety — are long-established bill-toppers, and backed by the likes of EarthlessKing Buffalo and Stoned Jesus even before you get to Slift and The Obsessed and Astroqueen and Hypnos69 and Gaupa and on and on and on and fucking Seedy Jeezus is gonna be there — you’ve got Seedy Jeezus and Stoned Jesus in the same place on the same weekend! — it’s all the more apparent just how called-for making this trip actually is. So I’m going.

As with last year, I’ll be doing my best to cover as much of Freak Valley 2023 as possible with photos and writeups, and whether it’s bands I’ve seen or bands I’ve never seen, I know enough now to know that it’s not just about watching bands, but about watching them there, in that place between those hills, the joy that radiates through the hopefully cooperative weather and everybody in attendance. It’s gonna be a blast, and I’ll at last get to see Slift in a setting that I feel like is worthy of the occasion. Mark it a win even before I get on the plane. Speaking of, better book that flight.

Here’s the final lineup, newly announced:

freak valley 2023 final lineup

Hails Freaks!

Time for the final lineup announcement. We hope your 2023 is off to a great start. Either way, it’s about to get better.

Please welcome:


Full Line-up:

ORANGE GOBLIN “Time Travelling Freak Valley Blues Show”
EARTHLESS “Night Parade of 1000 Demons” in full!

We’re done – hope you love the lineup as much as we do!


Thank all of you so much for your support, this year and every year.

Freak Valley Festival // No Fillers – Just Killers
June 8-10, 2023

Event page:

Earthless, Night Parade of One Hundred Demons (2022)

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 102

Posted in Radio on January 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

If you missed the entire Quarterly Review, first of all, that’s okay. You’re not obligated. I only bring it up because it’s from that glut of 100 records that this playlist (and part of the last one) derives. It’s a good show, with a couple decent twists. I almost played the 18-minute Smoke song. Thought about it, but it gets a little droney and I worry about stuff like that getting lost in people’s audio feeds. You know, if they’ve got the thing streaming in the background or some such. I’m not fooling myself into thinking that, however many people are listening, they’re all paying the strictest attention to every minute of every song.

So it’s the seven-minute Smoke song, and the 14-minute Carrier Wave one. It was pretty easy to go and pick through the QR for stuff, to be honest. And there was enough that, even having done some last time, I might still be able to get more from it that would work for the show. That’s pretty killer, because unless I’m giving myself an excuse to get to know it, I don’t play stuff on here if I don’t think it’s at least worth hearing. In the meantime, this playlist rules. I can’t wait to hear what engineer Dean Rispler (he’s also in Mighty High and 70 or 80 other bands) does with the transition from Gaupa to Onségen Ensemble.

Thanks for listening if you listen. Thanks for reading either way.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at:

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 01.20.23 (VT = voice track)

Oktas Collateral Damage The Finite and the Infinite
Gaupa RA Myriad
Onségen Ensemble Naked Sky Realms
Simple Forms Reaching for the Shadow Simple Forms
Farflung Dludgemasterpoede Like Drones in Honey
Smoke The Son of Man Groupthink
Chrome Ghost Where Black Dogs Dream House of Falling Ash
Onhou Null Monument
Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol Jesus Was an Alien Doom Wop
Alconaut Slugs Slugs
Daevar Leila Delirious Rites
Astrosaur The Deluge Portals
Grin Aporia Phantom Knocks
Mister Earthbound Not to Know Shadow Work
Carrier Wave Cosmic Man Carrier Wave

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Feb. 3 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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Quarterly Review: Gaupa, Orango, Onségen Ensemble, Gypsy Wizard Queen, Blake Hornsby, Turbid North, Modern Stars, Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Borehead, Monolithe

Posted in Reviews on January 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

So here we are. On the verge of two weeks, 100 records later. My message here is the same as ever: I’m tired and I hope you found something worthwhile. A lot of this was catchup for me — still is, see Gaupa below — but maybe something slipped through the cracks for you in 2022 that got a look here, or maybe not and you’re not even seeing this and it doesn’t matter anyway and what even is music, etc., etc. I don’t know.

A couple bands were stoked along the way. That’s fun, I guess. Mostly I’ve been trying to keep in mind that I’m doing this for myself, because, yeah, there’s probably no other way I was going to get to cover these 100 albums, and I feel like the site is stronger for having done so, at least mostly. I guess shrug and move on. Next week is back to normal reviews, premieres and all that. I think March we’ll do this again, maybe try to keep it to five or six days. Two 100-record QRs in a row has been a lot.

But again, thanks if you’ve kept up at all. I’m gonna soak my head in these and then cover it with a pillow for a couple days to keep the riffs out. Just kidding, I’ll be up tomorrow morning writing. Like a sucker.

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #91-100:

Gaupa, Myriad

Gaupa Myriad

Beginning with the hooky “Exoskeleton” and “Diametrical Enchantress,” Myriad is the second full-length from Sweden’s Gaupa (their first for Nuclear Blast), and a bringing together of terrestrial and ethereal heavy elements. Even at its most raucous, Gaupa‘s material floats, and even at its most floating, there is a plan at work, a story unfolding, and an underlying structure to support them. From the minimalist start of “Moloken” to the boogie rampage of “My Sister is a Very Angry Man,” the Swedefolk of “Sömnen,” the tension and explosions of “RA,” with the theatrical-but-can-also-really-sing, soulful vocals of Emma Näslund at the forefront, a proggy and atmospheric cut like “Elden” — which becomes an intense battery by the time it hits its apex; I’ve heard that about aging — retains a distinct human presence, and the guitar work of Daniel Nygren and David Rosberg, Erik Sävström‘s bass and Jimmy Hurtig‘s drums are sharp in their turns and warm in their tones, creating a fluidity that carries the five-piece to the heavy immersion of “Mammon,” where Näslund seems to find another, almost Bjork-ish level of command in her voice before, at 5:27 into the song’s 7:36, the band behind her kicks into the heaviest roll of the album; a shove by the time they’re done. Can’t ask for more. Some records just have everything.

Gaupa on Facebook

Nuclear Blast Records store


Orango, Mohican

orango mohican

Six albums in, let’s just all take a minute to be glad Orango are still at it. The Oslo-based harmonybringers are wildly undervalued, now over 20 years into their tenure, and their eighth album, Mohican (which I’m not sure is appropriate to take as an album title unless you’re, say, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community) is a pleasure cruise through classic heavy rock styles. From opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Creek” twisting through harder riffing and more melodic range than most acts have in their entire career, through the memorable swagger in the organ-laced “Fryin’,” the stadium-ready “Running Out of Reasons,” the later boogie of “War Camp” and shuffle in “Dust & Dirt” (presumably titled for what’s kicked up by said shuffle) and the softer-delivered complementary pair “Cold Wind” and “Ain’t No Road” ending each side of the LP with a mellow but still engaging wistfulness, nobody does the smooth sounds of the ’70s better, and Mohican is a triumph in showcasing what they do, songs like “Bring You Back Home” and the bluesier “Wild River Song” gorgeous and lush in their arrangements while holding onto a corresponding human sensibility, ever organic. There is little to do with Orango except be wowed and, again, be thankful they’ve got another collection of songs to bask in and singalong to. It’s cool if you’re off-key; nobody’s judging.

Orango on Facebook

Stickman Records website


Onségen Ensemble, Realms

Onségen Ensemble Realms

You never really know when a flute, a choir, or a digeridoo might show up, and that’s part of the fun with Onségen Ensemble‘s six-track Realms LP, which goes full-Morricone in “Naked Sky” only after digging into the ambient prog of “The Sleeping Lion” and en route to the cinematic keys and half-speed King Crimson riffing of “Abysmal Sun,” which becomes a righteous melodic wash. The Finnish natives’ fourth LP, its vinyl pressing was crowdfunded through Bandcamp for independent release, and while the guitar in “Collapsing Star” calls back to “Naked Sky” and the later declarations roll out grandiose crashes, the horns of “The Ground of Being” set up a minimalist midsection only to return in even more choral form, and “I’m Here No Matter What” resolves in both epic keys/voices and a clear, hard-strummed guitar riff, the name Realms feels not at all coincidental. This is worldbuilding, setting a full three-dimensional sphere in which these six pieces flow together to make the 40-minute entirety of the album. The outright care put into making them, the sense of purpose, and the individualized success of the results, shouldn’t be understated. Onségen Ensemble are becoming, and so have become, a treasure of heavy, enveloping progressive sounds, and without coming across as contrived, Realms has a painterly sensibility that resonates joy.

Onségen Ensemble on Facebook

Onségen Ensemble on Bandcamp


Gypsy Wizard Queen, Gypsy Wizard Queen

Gypsy Wizard Queen self-titled

Chad Heille (ex-Egypt, currently also El Supremo) drums in this Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece completed by guitarist/vocalist/engineer Chris Ellingson and bassist/vocalist Mitch Martin, and the heavy bluesy groove they emit as they unfurl “Witch Lung,” their self-titled debut’s 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points), is likewise righteous and hypnotic. Even as “Paranoid Humanoid” kicks into its chorus on Heille‘s steady thud and a winding lead from Ellingson, one wouldn’t call their pace hurried, and while I’d like to shake everyone in the band’s hand for having come up with the song title “Yeti Davis Eyes” — wow; nicely done — the wandering jam itself is even more satisfying, arriving along its instrumental course at a purely stoner rock janga-janga before it’s finished and turns over to the final two tracks, “The Good Ride” and “Stoned Age,” both shorter, with the former also following an instrumental path, classically informed but modern in its surge, and the latter seeming to find all the gallop and shove that was held back from elsewhere and loosing it in one showstopping six-minute burst. I’d watch this live set, happily. Reminds a bit of Geezer on paper but has its own identity. Their sound isn’t necessarily innovative or trying to be, but their debut nonetheless establishes a heavy dynamic, shows their chemistry across a varied collection of songs, and offers a take on genre that’s welcome in the present and raises optimism for what they’ll do from here. It’s easy to dig, and I dig it.

Gypsy Wizard Queen on Facebook

Gypsy Wizard Queen on Bandcamp


Blake Hornsby, A Collection of Traditional Folk Songs & Tunes Vol. 1

blake hornsby A Collection of Traditional Folk Songs & Tunes Vol 1

It’s not quite as stark a contrast as one might think to hear Asheville, North Carolina’s Blake Hornsby go from banjo instrumentalism to more lush, sitar-infused arrangements for the final three songs on his A Collection of Traditional Folk Songs & Tunes Vol. 1, as bridging sounds across continents would seem to come organically to his style of folk. And while perhaps “Old Joe Clark” wasn’t written as a raga to start with, it certainly works as one here, answering the barebones runs of “John Brown’s Dream” with a fluidity that carries into the more meditative “Cruel Sister” and a drone-laced 13-minute take on the Appalachian traditional song “House Carpenter” (also done in various forms by Pentangle, Joan Baez, Myrkur, and a slew of others), obscure like a George Harrison home-recorded experiment circa Sgt. Pepper but sincere in its expression and cross-cultural scope. Thinking of the eight-tracker as an LP with two sides — one mostly if not entirely banjo tunes between one and two minutes long, the other an outward-expanding journey using side A as its foundation — might help, but the key word here is ‘collection,’ and part of Hornsby‘s art is bringing these pieces into his oeuvre, which he does regardless of the form they actually take. That is a credit to him and so is this album.

Blake Hornsby on Facebook

Ramble Records store


Turbid North, The Decline

Turbid North The Decline

Oof that’s heavy. Produced by guitarist/vocalist Nick Forkel, who’s joined in the band by bassist Chris O’Toole (also Unearth) and drummer John “Jono” Garrett (also Mos Generator), Turbid North‘s The Decline is just as likely to be grind as doom at any given moment, as “Life Over Death” emphasizes before “Patients” goes full-on into brutality, and is the band’s fourth full-length and first since 2015. The 2023 release brings together 10 songs for 43 minutes that seem to grow more aggressive as they go, with “Eternal Dying” and “The Oppressor” serving as the opening statement with a lumber that will be held largely but not completely in check until the chugging, slamming plod of closer “Time” — which still manages to rage at its apex — while the likes of “Slaves,” “Drown in Agony” and “The Old Ones” dive into more extreme metallic fare. No complaints, except maybe for the bruises, but as “The Road” sneaks a stoner rock riff in early and some cleaner shouts in late amid Mastodonny noodling, there’s a playfulness that hints toward the trio enjoying themselves while doling out such punishment, and that gives added context and humanity to the likes of “A Dying Earth,” which is severe both in its ambient and more outright violent stretches. Not for everybody, but if you’re pissed off and feel like your brain’s on fire, they have your back with ready and waiting catharsis. Sometimes you just want to punch yourself in the face.

Turbid North on Facebook

Turbid North on Bandcamp


Modern Stars, Space Trips for the Masses

Modern Stars Space Trips for the Masses

A third full-length in as many years from Roman four-piece Modern Stars — vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Andrea Merolle (also sitar and mandolin), vocalist Barbara Margani, bassist/mixer Filippo Strang and drummer Andrea SperdutiSpace Trips for the Masses is maybe less directly space rock in its makeup than one might think. The band’s heavy psychedelia is hardly earthbound, but more ambience than fiery thrust or motorik, and Merolle‘s vocals have a distinctly Mark Lanegan-esque smokiness to which Margani adds bolstering backing presence on the deceptively urbane “No Fuss,” after the opening drift of “Starlight” — loosely post-rock, but too active to be that entirely either, and that’s a compliment — and the echoing “Monkey Blues” first draw the listener in. Margani provides the only voice on centerpiece “My Messiah Left Me Behind,” but that shift is just one example of Modern Stars‘ clear intent to offer something different on every song, be it the shimmer of “Everyday” or the keyboard sounds filling the open spaces early in the eight-minute “Drowning,” which later takes up a march punctuated by, drums and tambourine, devolving on a long synth/noise-topped fade into the six-minute liquid cohesion that is “Ninna Nanna,” a capstone summary of the fascinating sprawl Modern Stars have crafted. One could live here a while, in this ‘space.’

Modern Stars on Facebook

Little Cloud Records store


Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Destination Ceres Station: Reefersleep EP

trillion ton beryllium ships destination ceres station reefersleep

Those who’ve been following the progression of Nebraska’s Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships will find Destination Ceres Station: Reefersleep — their second offering in 2022 behind the sophomore full-length Consensus Trance (review here) — accordingly dense in tone and steady in roll as the three-piece of Jeremy Warner, Karlin Warner and Justin Kamal offer two more tracks that would seem to have been recorded in the full-length session. As “Destination Ceres Station: Reefersleep” open-spaces and chugs across an instrumental-save-for-samples 12:31 and the subsequent “Ice Hauler” lumbers noddily to its 10:52 with vocals incorporated, the extended length of each track gives the listener plenty to groove on, classically stonerized in the post-Sleep tradition, but becoming increasingly individual. These two songs, with the title-track hypnotizing so that the start of the first verse in “Ice Hauler” is something of a surprise, pair well, and Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships add a taste of slow-boogie to lead them out in the slow fade of the latter, highlighting the riff worship at the heart of their increasingly confident approach. One continues to look forward to what’s to come from them, feeling somewhat greedy for doing so given the substance they’ve already delivered.

Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships on Facebook

Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships on Bandcamp


Borehead, 0002

Borehead 0002

The current of feedback or drone noise beneath the rolling motion of Borehead‘s “Phantasm (A Prequel)” — before the sample brings the change into the solo section; anybody know the name of that rabbit? — is indeed a precursor to the textured, open-spaced heavy progressive instrumentalism London trio have on offer with their aptly-titled second EP, 0002. Produced by Wayne Adams at the London-underground go-to Bear Bites Horse Studio, the three-song outing is led by riffs on that opener, patient in its execution and best consumed at high volume so that the intricacy of the bass in “Lost in Waters Deep,” the gentle ghost snare hits in the jazzy first-half break of “Mariana’s Lament” after the ticking clock and birdsong intro, and the start-stop declarative riff that lands so heavy before they quickly turn to the next solo, or, yes, those hidden melodies in “Phantasm (A Prequel)” aren’t lost. These aspects add identity to coincide with the richness of tone and the semi-psychedelic outreach of 0002‘s overarching allure, definitely in-genre, but in a way that seems contingent largely on the band’s interests not taking them elsewhere over time, or at least expanding in multiple directions on what’s happening here. Because there’s a pull in these songs, and I think it’s the band being active in their own development, though four years from their first EP and with nothing else to go on, it’s hard to know where they’ll head or how they’ll get there based on these three tracks. Somehow that makes it more exciting.

Borehead on Facebook

Borehead on Bandcamp


Monolithe, Kosmodrom

Monolithe Kosmodrom

With song titles and lyrical themes based around Soviet space exploration, Kosmodrom is the ninth full-length from Parisian death-doomers Monolithe. The band are 20 years removed from their debut album, have never had a real break, and offer up 67 minutes’ worth of gorgeously textured, infinitely patient and serenely immersive death, crossing into synth and sampling as they move toward and through the 26-minute finale “Kosmonavt,” something of a victory lap for the album itself, even if sympathy for anything Russian is at a low at this point in Europe, given the invasion of Ukraine. That’s not Monolithe‘s fault, however, and really at this point there’s maybe less to say about it than there would’ve been last year, but the reason I wanted to write about Kosmodrom, and about Monolithe particularly isn’t just that they’re good at what they do, but because they’ve been going so long, they’re still finding ways to keep themselves interested in their project, and their work remains at an as-high-if-not-higher level than it was when I first heard the 50-minute single-song Monolithe II in 2005. They’ve never been huge, never had the hype machine behind them, and they keep doing what they do anyway, because fuck it, it’s art and if you’re not doing it for yourself, what’s the point? In addition to the adventure each of the five songs on Kosmodrom represents, some moments soaring, some dug so low as to be subterranean, both lush, weighted and beautiful, their ethic and the path they’ve walked deserves nothing but respect, so here’s me giving it.

Monolithe on Facebook

Monolithe on Bandcamp


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Notes From Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 9, 2022 (Night One)

Posted in Features, Reviews on December 12th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Dozer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

4:17PM – Before the show

The pilot described it as beautiful weather in Stockholm, and then I think actually checked what the weather was and was like, “uh, winter conditions,” which meant lazily snowing and cold, both of which it is. That flight arrived this morning. I’d managed to sleep on the plane with an open seat next to me in a row of two — in fits and starts as I tried to squeeze my post-surgery knee into various positions, hoping one of them would magically pass for comfort — and then took the train to the hostel where I’m crashing with the guys in Kings Destroy. They’d been invited to play Truckfighters Fuzz Festival in 2020, and you’ll never guess how that went.

This is my first time at Debaser and Bar Brooklyn, my first time in Stockholm and my first time in Sweden. The festival is set to take place in the two conjoined venues, one bigger, one smaller, and as I sit and write, Gaupa are soundchecking for their headlining set later, merch is being laid out, all that kind of stuff. The quiet before the fuzz, as it were. Truckfighters Fuzz Fest scheduleApparently these days I’m more comfortable getting someplace early.

Mammonaut and Death Ray Boot open the Debaser and Bar Brooklyn stages, respectively. I’ve seen some of the Dozer and Colour Haze guys around, Truckfighters of course are here — they’re running it, so they ought to be — but I’m not looking to take up anybody’s time with my awkward-ass hellos. A quick hi after a set suits me well enough, but it’s nice to see familiar faces in a place I’ve never been.

Well, I just closed out the week, so I suppose that means I’m off the clock. Perfect for covering two killer nights of heavy rock and roll that feel like they were curated as a personal favor to yours truly (which of course they were not). If you stick through checking any of it out, thanks in advance.

Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 – Night Two


Mammonaut (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hard to complain about an uptempo fuzzy kickoff to an event billed quite literally as a fuzz festival. You wanted the tone, you got the tone. Sweden’s own Mammonaut recorded their 2020 debut EP, The Last Mammonaut, with Niklas from Truckfighters, and in some of the push of the drums one can hear that influence coming through, but there’s a bit more burl at the forefront of Mammonaut’s sound and that makes them all the more suited to lead this particular charge. Immediate vibe, dug in, groove on lockdown and not in the pandemic kind of way. Less proggy Skraeckoedlan, maybe? Definitely some hint of metal shared there between those two, but Mammonaut’s sound feels cohesive for essentially being a nascent project. If nothing else — and really, plenty else — they know when to give the riff its due and I’m not about to fight them on the point. I would not be surprised in the least if when they get around to a first full-length it comes out through Fuzzorama, and if it does, they’ll be a good fit.

Death Ray Boot

Death Ray Boot (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I had watched them soundcheck, so maybe some of the surprise was spoiled ahead of time, but it was still fun to watch Andreas Wulkan, who used to play in Deville and stayed at my house one time in 2014, fronting the band. Straight up heavy rock, a few shades of classic form, some Queens of the Stone Age-riffing for added flair, they started off the smaller of the two stages sharing Mammonaut’s affinity for uptempo push but were more decisively rock-based, and that made the songs feel all the warmer while bringing a strut to coincide with all the stomp. The room packed out, as I expect it will for the next two nights basically every time there is a band on the stage, and they played well to the crowd, clearly feeding off that energy as they also fed into it. Who doesn’t want a bit of boogie to go with all that hairy riffing? The back and forth between stages is pretty tight, but so far so good. Two for two is a good start and I know there’s more joy to come.

Swan Valley Heights

Just to be specific, yes, I was talking about this band when I said “joy” just now. On an evening headlined by Colour Haze, it’s hard not to appreciate some warm heavy psychedelic rock, and with reminders of the days of Sungrazer, Germany’s Swan Valley Heights were immediately known to the crowd and offered righteous immersion, blending impulses toward harder push with a tonal breadth that was seemed to reach that much farther back as they went on. These sets have been short, but how many chances in my life am I going to have to see Swan Valley Heights? They picked up the pace as they went on, a little bit of classic turn of the century-style European heavy, and maintained the fluidity that made me want to watch and hear them so damn much in the first place. I know that at some point soon the pace of this night is going to slow down, but so far the bang-bang-bang has made for a sampling that brings to mind the similarities as well as the differences between these acts. The flow from one to the next does not feel accidental or unconsidered, and with Swan Valley Heights, their own flow became a big part of the proceedings.

High Desert Queen

High Desert Queen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One of two US bands on the bill, I was kind of expecting to have to wait until they made the trip to Desertfest New York or some such to see Texas’ High Desert Queen, but this’ll work too, for sure. Regardless of where it happened — well, not entirely regardless; it’s pretty special to be in Sweden — that is one kick ass rock and roll band. They kind of stole the show. If you’ve been paying attention over the course of the last year-plus, High Desert Queen have been making their presence felt in genuine upstart fashion, and the energy they brought to that stage was a clear answer as to how. They’ve already made intentions known to be back in Europe and the UK next year (they were recently confirmed for Desertfest London 2023), and given the reception they got on the Brooklyn Bar stage, that’ll be a party worth attending. They didn’t even have their gear since their luggage apparently got lost — frontman Ryan Garney shouted out Lufthansa during the set — and they still very clearly gave it their collective all for the set, and the crowd went off. Up front, I got my first Swedish beer spilled on me, which felt like a ceremonial rite, and that was my cue to move back, but a sticky backpack is a small price to pay to see a band put so much into delivering their songs to a crowd.


Dozer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Dozer aren’t the only reason to make this trip at all, but if they were, they’d be enough. They’ve got a new record coming, but the focus here was on classics, and that felt like a win out in the crowd, where by the end of the first song I was covered on the bottom left half, including the pocket with my other camera lens in it, in some particularly drunk asshole’s beer. Alas. How could it be otherwise? I was not, however, going to let unexpectedly wearing a fellow attendee’s Carlsberg spoil seeing Dozer for only the second time in my increasingly long and privileged life, and even watching from the back they were on fire. Jammed a bit, sold the melodies well, and when it came to that absolutely inimitable forward shove, it was right on the money. They’ve gotta be past the 25-year mark by now, and they’ve got the legacy to prove it, but they played their set, and that might be the highest compliment I can give them. Earlier in the day, I asked on Facebook what were the best Swedish heavy rock records of all time. Dozer had a couple candidates on there, and if I was actually making a list — no, I’m not — they would be on it. Undeniable chemistry, undeniable songwriting, undeniable delivery. And that’s just in “Rising.” I think Fredrik blew his throat out on like the fourth song, but they were nonetheless a celebration of everything that has made them so special for all this time.


Gaupa (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ll admit to considering Gaupa in a tight spot. That is to say, I’ve been listening to Dozer and Colour Haze for about two decades. Gaupa are a much newer band — their second album, Myriad, came out on Nuclear Blast last month — and for me at least, there is not the same kind of sentimental attachment. Still, with mystique aplenty and a singer barefoot on a stage that was probably no less beer-soaked than myself, Gaupa stood and made that stage look small for more than just the fact that they were a five-piece. They’re up and coming, a good bit of buzz around their latest album, so right on, and I have no doubt that 20 years from now if the species is fortunate enough to last that long — we’ve got 20 years left, right? sure — there will perhaps be people who were in that room who’ll watch Gaupa headline somewhere and feel the way I felt about the headliners here. I did not stay long — circumstances dictated I be up front early for Colour Haze, but I do not regret the sample of Gaupa that I got, and the clear takeaway for me was I need to dig into that record. Rock and roll homework. And I’ll hope this isn’t the last time our paths cross.

Colour Haze

Colour Haze (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You have favorite bands? I do, and Colour Haze are one of them. I’ve seen them a handful of times over the years, but this was my first set with Mario Oberpucher on bass, and I was almost nervous on account of that before they went on. They played “Tempel” and all was well. I’m not going to belittle either Phillip Rasthofer’s work in the band — ever — or what Oberpucher brought to those songs live or on the newer, more his, material, but the big sigh of relief for me was when it was still Colour Haze. Was it different? Sure. There isn’t much that hasn’t changed one way or the other in the last few years. But it’s still them, and them with a new album, no less. I count Sacred (review here) among 2022’s best, because obviously, and they aired a couple songs from it. Could’ve just been where I was in the room, kind of off to the side of the stage, but it seemed like Jan Faszbender’s keys and synth were higher in the mix than last time I saw them, but it didn’t hurt, him pushing against Stefan Koglek’s guitar a bit in a solo section, like jazz players bringing the best out of each other, Manfred Merwald’s intricate but accessible drumming only furthering the impression. The place went off. Not like for Dozer — no moshing that I saw — but you could feel the appreciation between the songs and in the heavier moments, as well as when they crescendoed “Transformation” with the keyboard doing the horn parts. I’ve never regretted watching them play and I’m not sure I ever would. They only have ever been, and remain, a treasure of a band. A once in a generation band. A band to be appreciated while they can be. Am I telling myself to hit the merch stand? Yes I do believe I am.

Alright, night two tomorrow. Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

Read more »

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Desertfest Berlin 2023 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Desertfest Berlin 2023 banner first

This is always an exciting time of year, when the next Spring’s festival season in Europe begins to take shape. Between Desertfest Berlin and the same festival brand’s London edition, you can tell a good bit about who’s going to be on tour, and in the case of an act like Church of Misery coming from Japan, maybe even glean some idea of when their album is coming out just by the fact that they’re making the trip.

I have to wonder too if Uncle Acid won’t have their next record out by then — as I recall they were gearing up for a release more than two years ago — and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if King Buffalo managed to put together at least an EP to take over for the merch booth. Dozer as well will have a record coming if not out by then, and if that doesn’t make you feel warm inside, then I have absolutely nothing for you.

My big question is with whom Ecstatic Vision will be on tour, since there’s some serious potential for package runs. So you see it’s exciting to think of these festivals as the anchors they’ve become — you’ll notice Desertfest Berlin has a new venue to call home — for the touring season. Precisely my kind of fun to see who’s headed where and why, and I hope you share my nerdy enthusiasm as the announcements continue to roll in.

Weekend tickets go on sale Friday. From the fest’s social media:

Desertfest Berlin 2023


DESERTFEST BERLIN has announced the first names for its 2023 edition, and is happy to welcome UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS, THE OBSESSED, KING BUFFALO, CHURCH OF MISERY, DOZER, BLOOD CEREMONY, L.A. WITCH, SOMALI YACHT CLUB, GNOD, ECSTATIC VISION, DAILY THOMPSON, GAUPA and PSYCHLONA, with many more acts to be announced soon!

Taking place between May 19 – 21, 2023 will see a venue change from the Arena to Columbiahalle and Columbia Theater, with additional outdoor space & stage.

Weekend tickets for DESERTFEST BERLIN 2023 will be on sale this Friday, October 28th at 12PM CET via

Address: Columbiadamm 13-21, 10965 Berlin.

Artwork by @callumrooneyart

Lowrider, “Pipe Rider” live at Desertfest Berlin 2022

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Truckfighters Finalize Lineup for Fuzz Festival #3

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 3rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Sweden’s Truckfighters have completed the lineup for Fuzz Festival #3, set for Dec. 9 and 10 in Stockholm, and it is a significant bill, statistically speaking. It pays homage to the old school in headliners Dozer and Colour Haze, as well as Astroqueen, the newer school in High Desert QueenSwan Valley Heights and Gaupa, and the in-between in FirestoneTruckfighters themselves, Kings DestroyKal-El and others, and with Enigma Experience included in this find round of lineup additions, Truckfighters guitarist Niklas Källgren joins Tommi Holappa of Dozer/Greenleaf in pulling double-shifts, playing in two bands presumably on two separate days.

Swan Valley Heights, Gaupa — whose new record, Myriad, is due Nov. 18 on Nuclear Blast — and Mammonaut are also in the final group of acts joining the bill and I’m thrilled to say I’ll be there to see them. It’s been a long time since I last traveled with the Kings Destroy guys, but they were kind enough to invite me along for the trip, and I tried to say no because traveling is awful and I’m doing a fair amount of it in the coming months, music-related and not, but couldn’t. How many times in your life is someone going to say to you, “Come with me to Stockholm and see Dozer and Colour Haze?” Well.

The presumably final announcement from Truckfighters is below, barring any cancelations, etc., and I very, very much look forward to covering this front-to-back:

truckfighters fuzz festival 3 poster

Fuzz Festival #3

We are proud and happy to present the third edition of our Fuzz Festival! This time it will take place on Dec 9+10 2022. Festival #3 will continue on the same path as #2 with 2 days, 2 stages and a lot of fuzzy bands!

BIG THANKS to everyone who showed up in 2021 making it just as big success as the first edition back in 2019! Hope to see you this December, MAY THE FUZZ BE WITH YOU ALL!

Just a BIG, BIG Heads up! The last couple of bands is set! This is going to be a totally amazing weekend with so much amazing bands so it’s almost sick… :P

NEW AND LAST Bookings!



Get those tickets at




2 days, 2 stages.
Confirmed acts:
KAL EL [n]

Gaupa, “Diametrical Enchantress” official video

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Desertfest London 2023 Makes First Lineup Announcement

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

Some considerable names in the first announcement for Desertfest London 2023. The festival set for next May 5-7 in Camden Town will be kind of the first to be removed from the effects of pandemic delay — many artists who played earlier this year had been originally booked for 2020. Seeing them move forward is encouraging.

All the more so given the bands playing, from Uncle Acid and Kadavar to High Desert Queen and Plainride. With Mars Red Sky, Ecstatic Vision and Gaupa included, Blood Ceremony, Spaceslug and a ton of others in just this first round, it looks like Desertfest is ready to throw down after a few rough years, now a survivor event hopefully that much stronger for the experience as it moves past its first decade into the next.

Announcement follows, as seen on social media:

Desertfest London 2023 first poster


Tickets via

Returning stronger than ever thanks to the unyielding support of our steadfast fan base, Desertfest is now entering its eleventh year next May. Kicking off the initial 2023 announcement, we welcome cult heroes Uncle Acid and the deadbeats to headline the Roundhouse for the very first time. As one of the most widely-requested bands in the Desertfest-sphere, the Uncle Acid amalgamation of riff-driven hard-rock & trippy melodic weavings has allowed a uniquely original, yet utterly timeless beast to form.

Swedish heavy-blues maestros Graveyard join once again, eliciting raw emotion with their lyrical prowess & introspective compositions. One of the greatest live acts of all time, German groovers KADAVAR and worshippers of vintage occult folklore Blood Ceremony, all of whose boundary pushing retro-rock sounds make a gratifying return.

For those with a heavier appetite, macabre Japanese doom legends Church of Misery, genre-bending nihilists INTER ARMA & London’s own gloom heroes Grave Lines should be a delectable entrée to proceedings.

Ukraine’s Somali Yacht Club will undoubtedly meet a rapturous reception when their flawless musicianship makes its long awaited Desertfest debut. Dynamic US rockers Valley of the Sun will also make their first DF appearance, as they quickly propel themselves onto ‘must see’ lists across the globe.

Poland’s own Spaceslug will bring revellers into a world of atmospheric sci-fi influenced proto-doom, whilst the unique sounds of Mars Red Sky, GAUPA & Ecstatic Vision also up the ante with their progressive fusions of stoner & psychedelia.

Rounding off this first announcement, we also warmly welcome Celestial Sanctuary, High Desert Queen, Plainride, Everest Queen, Venomwolf & Margarita Witch Cult.

Weekend tickets for Desertfest London 2023 are on sale now, with much more still to be announced –

Artwork by Callum Rooney

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