Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Desertfest Belgium 2024: 15 More Bands Added to Lineup for Oct. 18-20

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

From the kingpins Monster Magnet placed at the top of the poster to lumberwizards Monolord, British sludge-chargers Raging Speedhorn, the darkly crushing Morne and the deathly extrapolations of Inter Arma and whatever on earth Spaceslug might get up to when they take the stage, the latest announcement from Desertfest Belgium 2024 expands the scope of the Antwerp-based three-dayer in multiple directions at the same time. I suppose that could be said even if the only band joining the lineup was Green Milk From Planet Orange, but perhaps it’s that much truer with Dutch heavy rockers Drive by Wire listed alongside Portland, Oregon, extreme proggers Lord Dying, and so on, and as this batch of 15 acts is added to the glut of those already confirmed, the shape of the festival seems set up to benefit from playing all these different takes off each other. They’re announcing the day splits tomorrow, and it should be interesting to see who ends up where and how it all fits together under the headliners.

They say there’s more to add, so I guess that timetable will have a few TBAs. Still, in geographic and aesthetic reach, Desertfest Belgium has become a standout among the busy October festival season in Europe, and a point of convergence for a slew of tours besides. Even if they weren’t bringing anybody else on board, it would already be one to remember.

Dig it:

desertfest belgium 2024 second poster

As promised we quench your thirst for new DF24 names with this divine batch of bands! 👁️

Monster Magnet / Monolord / Black Tusk / INTER ARMA / Spaceslug / Raging Speedhorn / Lord Dying / MORNE / Your Highness / KARKARA
Drive By Wire / Five The Hierophant / Norna
Green Milk From The Planet Orange / Hell Valley High

This Friday (May 3rd) our day ticket sales starts at 11:00am CET.

Check out our website this Friday to find out which of your favourite bands is playing when.

https://www.desertfest.be/antwerp/information/ticketing/

We’ll be back with more news very soon…🤘

http://www.desertfest.be/
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_belgium/

Monster Magnet, Live in Berlin 2023

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Roadburn 2024: Notes From Day One

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 19th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn welcomes you.

Before 2PM writing start. Check-in at the 013, easy, the ideal. Head up to the office, coffee, a bit of sitting around, loosely productive chatting. Some quick writing that hopefully turned out to be complete sentences. Nice to feel helpful.

Merch opened at noon. I arrived at Koepelhal about 20 minutes after and it was crammed as expected. Inching forward and imagining the shirts selling out, more urgent in my head than in real life, to be sure. I don’t even know how many lines — more of a congregation. Label stalls over there, band merch, etc. Soundcheck wubbing through from wherever. Come on, man. Live a little.

Back to the hotel after to drop off purchases — tote and hoodie for The Patient Mrs. acquired as requested, along with a tshirt for myself —Roadburn merch and charge the phone for a few minutes, then up to Koepelhal again in time for The Terminal stage to open. The sign above, “Roadburn welcomes you,” outside as you walk up to the building. Trying to breathe that in slowly.

I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to format the next few days of writing. Might just make words? Crazy thought, I know. The festival starts in about 15 minutes and I can feel it in my nervous blood. Slow down the brain, remember where you are. This used to be easier. Was never as easy as the check-in this morning. I’ll get the camera out in a bit. Fidget fidget. Are the batteries in of course the batteries are in. That kind of thing.

Lights come down, room fills up. The space is set up differently than last time I was here. I like that as a running theme. For what it’s worth — and in my estimation, that’s just about everything — I do feel welcome, and have since the moment I ran into Walter yesterday n the hotel lobby and ended up sitting down to the end of breakfast. I like that as a running theme as well.

Okay, Roadburn. Let’s see how this goes.

Hexvessel are a quintessential Roadburn band in my mind, and yes that’s a compliment. They were doing last year’s black-metal-adjacent Polar Veil (review here) in full, and thinking about past times I’ve seen them here, it brings to mind how broad their scope has been but how each whim they follow is wrapped around an organic core of craft whether it’s woods-worship folk mourning, dark post-punk, psych-pop experimentalism or the blend of melody and char of this latest work. The fact that you don’t know what’s coming next until it’s happened, and Hexvessel 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)the way they bring everything they do into their sphere rather than playing to style — whatever style — makes them a fitting lead-in for who knows what the next few days will bring. I watched the whole set.

Sunrise Patriot Motion were going on 10 minutes later in the Engine Room, which is right next door to the Terminal, so I sauntered over, casual-like, to check out an act I knew nothing about but had heard were cool. Not quite as sad as Crippled Black Phoenix, but a not-dissimilar feel in their post-everything-but-not-too-cool-for-their-owm-songs approach, the keyboard probably more prominent for where I was standing and the vocals blown out to add some rawness to the gothy vibe. I don’t know where they’re from but their music is English as fuck. Beacon, New York. The lineup is half of Yellow Eyes, I’m told. Fair enough. Knowing the actual geography, I couldn’t help but hear some Type O in their slower parts, but I admit that’s more in my head than in their sound.

Some quickly fixed technical hiccup and they were back at it with little actual momentum disruption. Apparently it was their first show ever. Hope the second one lives up. They finished 37 minutes into a 40-minute slot and with a half-hour before Body Void back over in The Terminal — which is the bigger of the two connected Koepelhal spaces — I sat in back and purposefully let myself be in no rush to anywhere. Someone offered me beer as they were walking by — I guess I happened to be in the path of their generosity — but I don’t drink, so politely declined. When I was just about the last one in the Engine Room who wasn’t breaking down the stage, I decided to go find some water. I don’t know if it’ll last, but I like my low key approach so far. In my head, I’m calling it Freeburn as of like 30 seconds ago.Sunrise Patriot Motion (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Emphasis on ‘burn’ there as regards Body Void, who in performing their Atrocity Machine LP in full set alight grind and caustic sludge for a feedback and noise-drenched onslaught of extreme, churning disaffection. Harsh harsh harsh, but, you know, they’re probably super-nice people. I didn’t get mean vibes certainly as their bassist took a couple selfies during one of the breaks in the songs. Laced with synth for further noise drench, thudding with a pulse you could feel in the side of your head, and with screams cutting through to offer no comfort whatsoever, they were brutally life-affirming, a wave of self-declarative volume, music wielded as expression of self coincidental to self-expression. To call it inviting would be to undercut just how far they were pushing limits, so I’ll say that there was room for everybody in that slaughterhouse of sound.

A quick stop to see Andreas Kohl at his Exile on Mainstream both, big hugs, then walked back behind the warded off doings of the Koepelhal, took a cup from an errant pot of coffee, heard something like somebody sawing through metal — no competition for Body Void — and ended up by the art show space and re-met Maarten Donders, bought a couple prints from Vince “Cavum” Trommel, who had an 1860s printing press ready for a workshop tomorrow. Outside briefly and over to Hall of Fame for the start of Seán Mulrooney, 5:10PM in a deceptively quick passage of time for the day. People, places, music. Vibe is on. It’s one to the next, but the resonance of Mulrooney intoning “Slow down, do what you want” from Tau and the Drones of Praise’s “The Sixth Sun” might just be the key to my time here. I know enough now to know this might not come again. I never took Roadburn for granted, but I’ve missed it more than I understood, and maybe more than I wanted to understand.

I damn near wept as Mulrooney — who’s the type Body Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)of hippie folk troubadour that just might make a chorus out of the single word “osmosis” — brought out “Seanóirí Naofa” and “Ceol ón Chré,” fronting a four-piece solo-band built up around the initial duo of himself switching between guitar and piano with a stompbox for percussion along with standup bass. He’d get get to electric guitar in his time, but it was a quiet start that grew more outwardly vibrant, as he said it would. But while he wasn’t onstage alone by any means, it was his first solo show performed under his own name, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last. The crowd knew the Tau stuff, as they would given that the band played here, did the Roadburn Redux thing that non-year, etc., but if it seems like a stark contrast going from Body Void to Seán Mulrooney, he was no less a realization than they were, just working from a different point of view. Maybe I don’t have to tell you that.

Was hit by the old you-need-to-go-write itch as I stood there on front of the Hall of Fame stage, and I almost heeded it, but stopped myself before actually leaving my spot. That’s not how we’re doing Freeburn. Me and that bird that pecks at my compulsive brain with its gotta-remove-myself-from-a-thing-before-I-actually-start-enjoying-it beak go back a long way, but I’m glad it’s a habit I’m trying to break. If I only succeed in doing so one time this weekend, I’m glad it was for Mulrooney’s set, but his was the third full set of the day I saw, and that’s more than I’ve done in entire years at Roadburn.

A few more hellos en route to the fourth, which was Inter Arma back at The Terminator — that’s an autocorrect typo, but I’m leaving it because Inter Arma are nothing if not cybernetic organisms from the future sent to undo history by killing us all — as they presented their yet-unreleased New Heaven LP, which is out next week on Relapse. I’ve heard the record, in all its sweltering progressive death metal dissonance and encompassing crush, but they are aSean Mulrooney (Photo by JJ Koczan) particular beast live and I’ve put off really digging in until I saw it in-person. They should be playing art galleries, and not just for the theremin, but close enough at Koepelhal.

Every now and then they still lock in a doom groove, but they’ve been in obvious pursuit of their own thing as they’ve grown darker, more vicious and experimental in terms of their willingness to fuck around stylistically. Their last record was 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), and between you and me, I thought that was as far as they could go, but I’d sat down along the wall to write and stood back up when the harmonized leads and cleaner vocals — later on, they’d get Nick Cavey with voice and piano — started. So is New Heaven it? Maybe. Hell if I know, but I can’t think of anyone else who does what they do better, in, out or around progressive death metal, though I acknowledge I’m no expert. At the very least, it’s a new mark on their forward path, another reach into the threatening, staring-back void, and definitely enough to flatten an audience in the Netherlands most of whom haven’t heard it yet, so take it as you will.

I ate before the day started, finishing off the last of a half-pint of home-ground almond and pecan butter I brought with me, but hydrating had been trickier. I ran into Dennis and Jevin from Temple Fang, as well as Rolf from Stickman Records, saw Désirée from Lay Bare and chatted briefly, said hi to Jurgen from Burning World, hugged Amy Johnson, all of whom are very kind, nice people I’m glad to know. It had been posted on social media as well, but the Temple Fang guys let me know that Heath were doing a secret show at the skate park at 9:40, and my night got immediately more complex. They were on their way here or there, to piss first, I believe, so I hung back and by 8PM I could feel myself needing water if not more calorically complex sustenance. The line at the bar in the Engine Room meant it would have to wait until after I got whatever photos of White Ward I could and their set was properly underway. The Ukrainian black metallers have been four years in the making for Roadburn between the plague and the Russian invasion, and I didn’t want to miss it. I took my pictures, got two waters from the bar — however much they cost it was worth it — and was in much better spirits after for the scathing black metal catharsis that ensued, like tearing off your flesh to let your soul go. All that tension and release. Next time they’re here, and I have to imagine there will be one, they’ll probably play the main stage.

They took the stage as a four-piece and mentioned it was because one of their members had joined the military. I don’t know if that was voluntary or conscription, but it brought the ongoing conflict in and for White Ward’s home country into the room — it was there anyway — and showed it’s real for them in a way war never has been for me as an American.Inter Arma (Photo by JJ Koczan) War is a thing that happens elsewhere, exclusively, though there’s never a lack of random violence, whether repressive in nature or the woefully normalized mass shootings. In any case, despite being down a member, White Ward shredded the Engine Room into little tiny pieces with glorious intensity that extended even to the sampled sax over some of the songs, the piano, spoken sampling and such and sundry added to their core fury. Once again, I watched the full fucking set. I hope I do this all weekend.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but my heart said that going to see Heath at the skate park was a probably-once-in-a-lifetime chance and that even though I’d miss Chelsea Wolfe to do it — Roadburn means hard choices — I’d already had my one-per with Chelsea Wolfe, albeit brief, watching her and the band rehearse the night before in a group of five people in a room that holds well over a thousand, all that empty space filled with sound. So when White Ward finished, I made a right turn out of Koepelhal to get to the Hall of Fame, and from there, asked a helpful security guy where to go. Sure enough, the skatepark was closed but the doors had ‘there’s something secret happening here’ printed on them. A small group of people had gathered, and a couple minutes later we were let inside.

White Ward (Photo by JJ Koczan)Secret shows have become a Roadburn tradition, like commissioned pieces, the side programme, full-album sets. It’s part of the thing. There were three tonight, between Backxwash on the main stage at the 013 — a big deal — and Heath and Ontaard at the skate park. Like everything, there are arguments for and against the notion, but they add a chance for intimacy at an event where every room you stand in is most likely to be slammed with people, so I’ll take it when I can get it. And bonus, Heath were a hoot.

Some shuffle here, some grassy, pastoral psychedelia there, and a lot of classic prog rhythms topped off with in-on-the-jams harmonica from their frontman, who can both sing and keep up with the twisting riffs throughout their songs. Their debut album, Isaak’s Marble, is out next month. I’ll be interested to see how it’s received, but the songs, energy and spirit are there, and they looked like they were having fun playing the material live, whether it was breaking out the mallets for the drums, putting effects on the harmonica for the psych parts, trading solos between the two guitars or the builds and runs on bass. Fiery at their most upbeat, trance-inducing in their atmospheric stretches; I found myself recognizing parts from the record, which was even more encouraging, and digging the fact that they had more going for them as regards character than being young. Potential for growth and more than a little boogie to boot. There weren’t 100 people in the room, and I was very, very glad to be one of them.

They’re a band to tell your friends about,Heath (Photo by JJ Koczan) so here’s me telling you about them. None of the singles on their Bandcamp are on the album, which is on Suburban Records, but the title-track is on YouTube here. Happy travels.

I could’ve kept going after they finished — say it with me now: “I watched the whole set” — but it would’ve been an uphill push and that’s not the Freeburn way. I got back to the hotel a bit before 11, a little over 12 hours from when I left in the morning. Roadburn day one was a reminder of how special this time is to me, and I’m thankful to be here to be reminded. Thank you for reading. Sorry for the writing-on-my-phone typos.

More photos after the jump.

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Inter Arma Releasing New Heaven April 26; Title-Track Streaming

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

 inter arma (photo by Jonah Livingston)

There isn’t a doubt in my mind you’ve seen the below announcement, or at least the gist thereof, around by this point. I was fully embroiled in the Quarterly Review when word came through of Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma setting an April 26 release for their awaited new album, titled New Heaven and led off by its discordant and deathly not the least for its cohesiveness title-track, which is streaming now. I’m playing catchup, I guess, but as this is a record I’ll probably write about at some point, I want the info here. Is it weird that I’ve started to think of this kind of thing as archival? I guess spending the last 15 years going back to chase down old links will do that.

I’m sure there’s a story behind “Forest Service Road Blues” and one could only call “The Children the Bombs Overlooked” relevant, what with the US’ ongoing material and moral support for genocide in the Middle East, but as a first impression, “New Heaven” finds Inter Arma stately at the center of the seven-and-a-half-minute tumultuous progression. The band made their 2019 release, Sulphur English (review here), a statement of intent in terms of extremity and atmosphere, and discuss below how the last several years have factored into their work this time around.

Here’s how the PR wire put it, along with the preorder link and the single for good measure. As noted, they were confirmed to play the album in full at Roadburn in the Netherlands even before the title was officially announced:

inter arma new heaven

INTER ARMA RETURN WITH NEW HEAVEN FULL-LENGTH OUT APRIL 26

SHARE TITLE-TRACK ON ALL STREAMING SERVICES

PERFORMING NEW HEAVEN IN FULL AT ROADBURN FESTIVAL

PRE-ORDER/LISTEN:
https://orcd.co/interarma-newheaven

New Heaven, Inter Arma’s anticipated new album, is a compelling testament to perseverance, top to bottom. Its thicket of ever-dense layers of doom, death, and black metal occasionally let bits of light slip in, fleeting reminders to keep going amid the tumult. The record marks a sharp turn for Inter Arma, showcasing some of the most extreme and angular songwriting the band has ever laid bare. Known for their cinematic take on sludgy, extremely cavernous and borderline psychedelic Metal, the Richmond band broadens their dynamics by seesawing between piledriving momentum and swirling oblivion. New Heaven crushes and conquers, and illustrates what Inter Arma can truly be.

Take the title track— which premieres today— with its hair-raising lead riff stemming from drummer/songwriter TJ Childers’ challenge to himself to write a nonsensically dissonant part that he ended up loving. Meanwhile, vocalist Mike Paparo’s enraptured earsplitting bellows bludgeon above an impossibly complicated web of riffs and rhythms. From the get go, New Heaven and the opening title track eschews any restraint; Inter Arma is completely unchained.

Though New Heaven is indeed another triumph for the band, it is not a triumphant album, meant to offer some glib or naïve assurance that everything will be fine.

They call it the ‘Inter Arma Curse’: for nearly two decades, the band has emerged as one of the most inspired and fearless acts in or around American metal. They’ve also endured an endless parade of complications, hurdles, and slights: visa problems in Russia, stolen passports in Europe, unexpected member turmoil in their ranks, accidents and near death experiences, and a pervasive paradoxical sense that they have either been too metal or not metal enough. It’s been forever Sisyphean, except that Inter Arma has sporadically crested the hill to make a series of visionary albums.

As New Heaven started to take shape, the curse roared to life. Worldwide pandemic that squashed tours and writing sessions aside, Inter Arma churned through four bassists before finding salvation in Joel Moore, a guitar-and-engineering whiz who had never before played bass in a band. With the addition of Moore, drummer T.J. Childers admits that New Heaven features some of the kind of music Inter Arma could have never executed. Listen for the uncanny keyboards wedged between Paparo and the band, for the ways Steven Russell and Trey Dalton coil and collide with Moore, for Childers’ way of slipping some Southern soul into what borders on truly brutal prog. Paparo’s keen and empathetic lyrics explore arduous facets of the human experience, from innocent victims of war, to addiction, and social apathy. New Heaven is a record about enduring brambles and curses and lasting long enough to make something profound, honest, and even affirming about it all every now and again..

Childers comments, “New Heaven is the culmination of four years worth of adversity ranging from near death experiences, multiple member changes and of course a global pandemic. It marks a new chapter for us musically as we feel we’ve taken our songwriting to places we’ve never explored before. We’re excited to have come out of the madness relatively unscathed and feel as though we’ve created something completely unique that will stand apart in the sometimes homogenous extreme music community.” Guitarist Trey Dalton continues, “This record, maybe more than our previous efforts, more fully represents what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s still very much us – you know, music made by dudes coming from disparate musical backgrounds and perspectives, but with a more collective and defined sense of purpose. Clarity in direction, maybe. Your mileage may vary, but we like it a lot, and we hope you do too.”

Catch Inter Arma at this year’s Roadburn Festival on April 18th performing New Heaven in its entirety. Pre-order New Heaven here: https://orcd.co/interarma-newheaven
or direct from Relapse Records here: https://www.relapse.com/pages/inter-arma-new-heaven
and look for more news from Inter Arma to surface in the near future.

New Heaven, track listing:
1. New Heaven
2. Violet Seizures
3. Desolation’s Harp
4. Endless Grey
5. Gardens in the Dark
6. The Children the Bombs Overlooked
7. Concrete Cliffs
8. Forest Service Road Blues

Inter Arma is:
T.J. Childers – Drums, Percussion, guitars, lap steel, piano, noise
Trey Dalton – Guitar, synthesizers, mellotron, vocals
Joel Moore – Bass, synthesizers, tape loops, samples, and noise
Mike Paparo – Vocals
Steven Russell – Guitars

https://www.facebook.com/INTERARMA/
https://www.instagram.com/interarmamusic/
http://interarma.bandcamp.com/

http://www.relapse.com
http://www.instagram.com/relapserecords
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
https://relapserecords.bandcamp.com/

Inter Arma, New Heaven (2024)

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Kristonfest 2023 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 13th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

When asked if I wanted a logo for The Obelisk to appear on the poster for Kristonfest 2023 — to be held next May 27 in Madrid, Spain — I knew the answer was yes even before I was aware of who’d be playing. The festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the coming year, and with GraveyardThe ObsessedInter Arma and Mars Red Sky in the first lineup announcement, they’re wanting for nothing in terms of reach or scope. This does make me think maybe Inter Arma will be on tour with The Obsessed, but I don’t know that so don’t go spreading it or anything, but regardless, from the heavy blues and classic doom at the top of the bill through the sheer visceral extremity and ever-proggier melodic songcraft that follows here, they’re four-for-four in my mind. And now that I’ve seen the announcement, maybe instead of congratulating myself in “I called it” fashion, I’ll say that I’m humbled they asked about that silly logo in the first place.

Also, that’s the first I’m hearing of a new Graveyard album. So that’s a thing ot watch for.

Expect more to come probably in the New Year, but for now here’s the poster and what Kristonfest has to say about it:

Kristonfest 2023 with logos

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COMPLETE POSTER FOR THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE KRISTONFEST

This new edition will take place on Saturday, May 27, 2023 in the central La Paqui room (Former BUT room) in Madrid and tickets are now available at www.kristonfest.com

After many turbulent months and full of uncertainty, the Kristonfest is back with a bang and presents itself with a lineup full of quality, variety and that picks up the gauntlet thrown by the fans who, year after year, show their support and encouragement for a self-managed event and focused on rock in its most extensive color palette. Maintaining the philosophy of giving space to different styles and prominence to the participating bands, the 2023 line-up is made up of four bands that perfectly represent what Kristonfest is and wants to be:

The titanic GRAVEYARD will visit the festival for the first time, a double joy since they will be presenting their new studio album, the sixth in their career since their formation in 2005. Entangled in an amalgamation of blues-rock, psychedelia and mesmerizing compositions, accompanied by a voice and lyrics loaded with feeling, make this Swedish quartet a benchmark. They will be accompanied by the historic THE OBSESSED, formed at the end of the ’70s and led by the charismatic Scott “WINO” Weinrich, for many one of the fathers of doom-metal and who treasures an endless career (The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan , The Hidden Hand, Wino, Probot, etc…) and that has served as a reference for hundreds of bands that have emerged in recent decades! For this occasion, the band adds a second guitarist to its classic trio format, which will give more strength and power to the show of those from Maryland-USA!.

The INTER ARMA quintet has carved out a well-deserved reputation as a live band, largely due to such majestic songs that act as a facilitating element to offer a brutal and uncompromising set list in which they leave no puppet with a head. Richmond’s quintet outdoes itself on each album it publishes, mixing sludge with black and even post-metal with majestic and apparent ease. We don’t usually see such wild bands at Kristonfest, don’t miss them! To close this vicious circle, some old acquaintances from the underground circuit, the French MARS RED SKY, who have had hundreds of concerts around the world behind them and appearances as significant as those they offered at important festivals such as Hellfest, Motocultor or the homeland Resurrection Fest. Leaders of rock psychedelia in Europe together with contemporaries such as Colour Haze, Causa Sui or Siena Root, the Bordeaux trio is loaded with fuzz, groove and stoner-rock, pure dynamite to round off a night that seems special and worth remembering. THIS IS KRISTONFEST!

Poster by Raul Viana / @backtotheprimitive

http://www.facebook.com/kristonfest
http://www.instagram.com/kristonfest/
https://www.kristonfest.com/

Graveyard, Live on Rockpalast 2018

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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

DESERTFEST LONDON – FIRST BANDS ANNOUNCED FOR 2023 EDITION

Tickets via www.desertfest.co.uk

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 – www.desertfest.co.uk

Artwork by Callum Rooney

http://www.desertscene.co.uk/support
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
https://www.desertfest.co.uk/

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Notes From Desertfest New York 2022: Night 2 at the Knockdown Center

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

desertfest new york 2022 saturday

When it comes to festival survival, the value of being able to take a shower in your own shower is not to be understated. I wanted to scrub myself with dish detergent just to cut through all that rock and roll greasiness. Alas, resisted the impulse. Still, your own water, soap, toothpaste, towel? These are luxuries not everyone gets to enjoy at an event like this, and which, most of the time, I don’t either.

The tradeoff is commuting to NYC four days in a row, but whatever. The ride today was easy enough, and the ride home last night was bearable even with traffic because the lower level of the GW was closed. There need to be at least three more Hudson River crossings from the Jersey side, though I think you’d have to level Weehawken to make that happen. Eminent domain.

Second day of the fest proper. I’m hanging in. Ground myself macadamia nut butter for the car ride, had a protein bar this morning. Saw a wonderful bunch of people yesterday and expect the same tonight; such are the comings and goings. A boost of energy from that. I was beat to crap by the time C.O.C. went on though, and managed about five decent hours of sleep once I got home, a little after 1AM. You get what you can get when you can get it. Showing up early today, I got to watch WarHorse soundcheck, and that was a win, as I expect much of the day will be. Doors are in an hour.

Green Druid

Green Druid 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A fresh take on atmospheric sludge that, when they decide it’s time to slow it down, is god damned brutal. It’s easier to get a handle on where they’re coming from live than on record, big crash, big lurch, plenty of creeper vibes, but delivered with an element of rawest-style post-metal. Low end is ferocious with bass and two guitars and the vocals swapping between cleaner singing and harsher screams is arranged more creatively to suit the mood. Quick set, but they made a positive impression on an already-warm room and for a day that’s more about weight and extremity at least in parts than was yesterday, they seemed to be just right in terms of bridging worlds. If you need me I’ll be at the merch stand. So long as there’s no cartoon boobs, I’m all over it. [Actually, turned out I barely looked at the shirt before I bought it. It’s got a big ol’ bong on it. Probably won’t wear it much, but screw it, gave the band some money. Gas ain’t cheap.]

 

WarHorse

WarHorse 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I like to think of WarHorse playing 20 years ago and clearing out rooms of people who just don’t get it. As they are now, they manage to be both devastatingly heavy and a good time. You can tell watching them that they’re having fun playing the songs, and while their sound remains utterly miserable and Jerry Orne’s gurgle is as guttural as ever, he and Terry Savastano are into it immediately while Mike Hubbard lays suitable waste behind them. For a reunion that started kind of casually, not a ton of hype around it, WarHorse have become a force. They were one before, obviously, but the appetite for such things has clearly changed in the last two-plus decades. I don’t know what label I’d put them on — Profound Lore? Season of Mist? — but they sound like a band too dead on in their game not to put out new material. I love watching wretched sounding metal played with a smile. Also with a grimace.

 

Somnuri

Somnuri 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Nothing follows slow-brutal-fun like periodically-thrashz-fast-brutal-fun, and I’ll tell you, that thrash with a ‘z’ was a typo but I’m leaving it because fuck it, it works. Like Green Druid, they change it up arrangement-wise, but their take is more directly lethal, and they manage the balance between heavy tones and rip-face thrust well on stage. Justin Sherrell is stupid talented. They got a new bassist since the last time I saw them, but so it goes. Last summer’s Nefarious Wave full-length has held up, and frankly it deserves every airing it gets. I seem to recall they did a tour for it earlier this year, and they opened one of the YOB shows at the Saint Vitus Bar — not the one I saw, but still — their stuff is a rager unto itself and the latest incarnation of the regional penchant for creative confrontationalism that once birthed Hull. That’s good company to keep as far as I’m concerned. The fog machine was rolling and the riffs were bludgeoning breakdown-style and offset by ambient stretches like a seething just waiting to explode. Like me on the George Washington Bridge last night at 12:30. Their version of that feeling is better.

 

Cloakroom

Cloakroom 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not a band I knew a ton about prior to their taking the stage, but they were a big swap-out in mood from Somnuri and the fact that they carried their shoegaze-informed take on heavy across so well and so immediately transformed the spirit of the big room after WarHorse is much to their credit. I’ll admit that I didn’t stay probably as long as I should have because I knew I wanted to be up front for Brume, but their roll was like a deep, fresh, cool breath and watching them I got shades of early Jesu and newer Elephant Tree both — neither of whom I imagine they sound like on record, but that’s where my brain went; I heard tell later that the guitarist is a big Weezer fan, which makes as much sense as anything — and there’s nothing but to dig about that. True to their style, they were pretty subdued on stage for the most part, but their combination of depth of tone, volume and melody made them immersive in a way that no one else up to this point has been. Five years from now, when I’m probably sweating everything they do like the Johnny Comelately poseur I am, I’ll probably brag about having seen them at Desertfest.

 

Brume

Brume 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There have been and still are a lot of bands I want to see this weekend, but Brume were my most eagerly anticipated. They offer something that nobody else on this bill does in the same way, and the spaces they create with their material are incredible. I was right to look forward to it. I ended up taking pictures blah blah and then just stayed up front for all but about the last two minutes of the set, and goodness gracious I’m glad I did. The addition of Jackie Perez-Gratz on cello and a couple backing vocal spots puts them in another echelon. Put out another record already. [Edit: I talked to them later in the night and told them I wanted to hear it finished by Tuesday; they said they needed a deadline.] The stage energy was surreal and I did, I just planted myself up front and that was it. Every bit what I hoped their set would be and when I went over to the main room for the start of Inter Arma, I was annoyed with myself for not seeing the last 30 seconds or whatever it was of Brume. Yeah, I know how the song ends, but still. At least I can take comfort in knowing what’s in store for next time. Back to Rabbits I go until then.

 

Inter Arma

Inter Arma 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Like, six dudes? Yeah, I think six. Could’ve been 40, they were so intense. Fucking death metal. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was so widely hailed it actually got annoying, but they brought that chug and death stomp to the stage with all due brutality and then just a little extra on top. First theremin of the weekend, which is always a good sighting, but the core of the band is the fact that they’re punishingly extreme and still manage to evoke some presence beyond that in their sound. I was more into it than I expected to be, especially coming off Brume, but there was no real question about their intention from the start, and it was a reminder that I actually enjoy death metal even if it’s not what I always write about. But even in that sphere they’re a legit creative band with less genre-strictness than many, and that’s a thing to be respected. I don’t reach for their stuff all the time, and I don’t think I’ve seen them since their first record, but they were killer.

 

Yatra

Yatra 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Yatra are a death metal band. They started out as kind of a deathly sludge act and have leaned decidedly into the more teeth-gnashing side of their approach. Their new album is their first for Prosthetic, which is a good fit for them label-wise since that’s where metal bands go who do more than one thing, and they played the title-track “Born Into Chaos.” I’ll confess I haven’t really dug into the record yet — I think the promo came in my email on Thursday? — but their last one wasn’t exactly subtle about the course they were setting and that’s just fine. They can play here, they can play Maryland Deathfest, they can play a kid’s backyard birthday party and get arrested, whatever. Let them be the death metal band who heavy rockers are into, or at least one of a very select few. It’s gotta be somebody, and the more direct route to aural decapitation suits them. Only surprised there was no mosh, even when the blastbeats started.

 

King Buffalo

King Buffalo 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What catharsis. I feel like I’ve been waiting the whole pandemic to see King Buffalo again. Admittedly, there have been opportunities in the last year as they’ve gotten back out, so it’s me, but to finally be in the same space as these songs. They opened with “Silverfish.” That’s the whole story. What more do you need than that? This trilogy of albums, The Burden of Restlessness, Acheron, and the third to come, are a fucking document of this era and if you don’t realize how fortunate you are that this band is doing this work right now, you’re missing it. You’re fucking up. It’s not too late. I was all set to go watch Silvertomb, who I hear do Type O Negative songs too and that’s great, but King Buffalo started to play “Orion” and I knew that if I moved I’d regret it no matter what. Then they break out “Loam?” Come on. Where in earth could you possibly need to be more than you need to be here? Huh? King Buffalo stand among the best and most forward thinking heavy psych bands of their generation and there’s nothing to make me think their best work isn’t ahead of them. Bands like this don’t happen all the time. This. Is. A. Special. Band. Tell your friends. Shit, tell your mom. She’ll be into it. You know how good it was? It was so good that I just stood there and enjoyed it.

 

Silvertomb

Silvertomb 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Somebody’s going home with covid tonight. Kenny Hickey. He called it a rite of passage. Maybe it is. He also called the crowd a bunch of potheads, which is fair considering the smell in the room right now. I was late to the start of the set, but managed to finagle my way around the side to catch what remained. Of course the relation to Type O Negative gives a nostalgic feel. Hearing Kenny Hickey sing brings back fond memories, but also in reminded of a time when no less than 80 percent of the metal bands in Brooklyn sounded like this, about 20 years ago. Getting to see a guy who was in no small part responsible for that — especially on the last two Type O records, both of which I continue to love — is probably enough of an appeal to earn Silvertomb the spot on the bill, honestly, but they also rocked. I whiffed completely on their last album, but had checked out the one before. Kenny teased an “Oh Darling” cover on acoustic guitar, which might’ve been fun, but no dice.

 

Torche

Torche 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Impossible to watch them play and remove it from the context of Steve Brooks announcing on Thursday that he’s done in the band after their Fall tour with Meshuggah. Still don’t know if that means the band are done, but they played as trio, owing to Jon Nunez getting covid. So it goes. They did “Mentor,” and they did Floor’s “Iron Girl,” and they closed with “Tarpit Carnivore,” is if this is the last time I ever see them play, I can’t possibly feel like Torche owe me anything. For them, there was a pit. And yeah, that makes sense. I put myself in the crowd to watch, and there were some laughs, some fuckups, and so on. It was not the tightest Torche set I’ve ever witnessed — have I ever told you about the time I saw Torche and Black Cobra circa ’06 in a shoe museum in Los Angeles? yes? well anyway they rocked the shit out of that footwear and the lucky several individuals who happened to be in attendance — but it’s hard not to be in a good mood when they play regardless of the circumstance. Bomb string, man. Maybe they’ll get back together at some point in some incarnation. Isn’t that what bands do at this point? A six-week hiatus? That’d be fine. Not that they owe it or anything.

 

Baroness

Baroness 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve never successfully managed to get on board with Baroness. I’ve tried — I promise, I have — but it just hasn’t happened. Even knowing this, and knowing there’s a good lot of modern heavy that has operated and continues to operate under their direct influence, I did my best to keep an open mind and try to catch the vibe. And I think I succeeded in that at least to some extent. They’re like Rush. You listen to Rush, and a whole lot of other bands across a bunch of different styles start to make sense. Baroness engage with a lot of different forms of rock and heavy music, metal, punk, prog and so on, and they’ve turned it into their own thing. I might not dig it, but I’m not going to rag on them either because what they’ve accomplished is significant even before you get to what they sound like, their massive, won-the-hard-way chemistry as players, their attention to presentation (a setlist with lighting instructions being just one example), or their stage presence. In many respects, they are the quintessential headliner. So, they headlined.

Other Random Observations:

– I don’t think I’d be a very good bartender, and for someone who’s spent so much of his life daydreaming about opening a venue, I’ve considered it a fair amount.

– On the other hand, someone drove through with a forklift before doors and that looked like good fun.

– Tried not to be starstruck when Jackie Perez-Gratz walked past me wheeling her cello in its case. Did it work? Maybe. Still gonna put on Grayceon’s All We Destroy on the way home.

– Can hear the Morbid Angel influence both in Yatra and Inter Arma. Ties them together in a way I wouldn’t have expected.

– Wow.

– Slower start to the day in terms of crowd, but it filled up. The party must’ve gone late last night.

– Again, folks be inebriated. Guess it’s Saturday. Get home safe.

– That macadamia nut butter may have saved my life.

More pics after the jump.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 84 – Desertfest NY Special

Posted in Radio on May 13th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Gadzooks! You’d almost think I planned these things out in advance. Please rest assured that this 84th episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal is as conceptually haphazard as usual — I’d say it’s as haphazard in execution as well, but Dean Rispler does a banger job putting it all together, editing, etc. — so it’s really just my end that’s a wreck. In any case, today begins Desertfest New York 2022 proper at the Knockdown Center in Brooklyn, and I’m thrilled to have this playlist as a selection from among the bands playing it.

Some are New York or area natives — Geezer, King Buffalo from Upstate, Somnuri from Brooklyn itself — but whether it’s WarHorse coming down from Boston to play or High on Fire, Brume, Red Fang, Dead Meadow, Sasquatch and others coming from the other side of the country to Orange Goblin making the trip from the UK, it’s a rager. The playlist is killer because the fest is killer. Simple as that.

I won’t be in the chat this time because, well, I’ll be at the fest, but I’ll check in if I can. Thanks if you listen, and thanks for reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.13.22

Corrosion of Conformity Deliverance Deliverance
Torche Mentor Torche
High on Fire Hung, Drawn & Quartered Surrounded by Thieves
VT1
John Garcia Chicken Delight John Garcia & The Band of Gold
Sasquatch It Lies Beyond the Bay Fever Fantasy
Dead Meadow Sleepy Silver Door Live at Roadburn 2011
Brume Despondence Rabbits
Red Fang Number Thirteen Murder the Mountains
Somnuri Watch the Lights Go Out Nefarious Wave
King Buffalo The Knocks The Burden of Restlessness
Orange Goblin They Come Back (Harvest of Skulls) Healing Through Fire
VT2
Inter Arma A Waxen Sea Sulphur English
WarHorse Lysergic Communion As Heaven Turns to Ash
Yatra Terminate by the Sword Born Into Chaos
Valley of the Sun The Chariot The Chariot
Druids Path to R Shadow Work
High Reeper Plague Hag Higher Reeper
Greenbeard Diamond in the Devil’s Grinder Variant
VT3
Geezer Atomic Moronic Stoned Blues Machine
Howling Giant Nomad The Space Between Worlds

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is May 27 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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