Notes From Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 10, 2022 (Night Two)

Posted in Features, Reviews on December 13th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Truckfighters (Photo by JJ Koczan)

4:05PM – Before the show

It’s kind of a shame that when this trip is over and I go home, I probably won’t keep the image in my head of sitting here at this table and watching the December wind pushing along the top of the water of the Liljeholmsviken out the window of Bar Brooklyn. In the big room next door, Debaser, Truckfighters are soundchecking, then Firestone, Enigma Experience getting set here. I’m here earlier than yesterday, and I was plenty early yesterday too, anxious to get everything sorted see what the evening held in store for photos and whatnot, but today I mostly just got tired of sitting around, being headachy and jetlagged without the distraction of anything else on which to focus. Here I’ve got bass coming through the wall. Probably won’t cure the headache, but going nuclear with xanax, Advil and coffee should help things balance out, stop me from grinding my teeth, etc.

At some point last night, it occurred to me that as of today, it’s been a decade since the last time I took a drink of alcohol, and no, getting beer spilled on you doesn’t count — I packed a spare pair of pants for tonight, since it seems reasonable to expect that will again. Swedes going hard this weekend. But yeah, 10 years. I still don’t really call myself ‘sober,’ though it’s handy shorthand for ‘no I don’t drink because I used to drink too much,’ plus my relatively recent (re-)dive into various THC consumables doesn’t exactly speak to a drive for lucidity, but as far as being something, it’s not nothing. Given the shape my body is in more generally and the trajectory of deeper middle age to come, not downing a case of beer and/or a bottle of wine every night is probably the right call. I’m rarely tempted to drink, so that’s fortunate.

Coat check debaser StockholmI’m also wearing a warmer hoodie tonight, since among Debaser’s amenities is a massive coat-check — it could basically be a third stage; has to account for both rooms — of which I plan to avail myself when it opens. Until then, things are pretty quiet here. I met last night an entire American contingent, including members of Texas’ Mr. Plow and long-tenured folks from shows more local to me. Hell, Ron (you know Ron) was in Richmond last weekend too, so no lack of continuity there.

The days are shorter here than at home. I don’t know what time the sun came up, as much as it did, with yesterday’s grim and grey weather carrying over, but it’s been full nighttime for over an hour now. Stockholm was out partying last night though, dance clubs going off near here, and one here after the show was done, welp-dressed people waiting in line to get in as the rock crowd made its way out. Would expect more of that tonight as well.

But it’s a cool city and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow before flying out Monday morning, and I’m incredibly grateful to be here, thank you to Steve and the guys from Kings Destroy for having me along, intruding on their band-time, and to Truckfighters for putting this whole thing together and allowing me to access and cover it. And thank you as always for reading, Firestone soundcheckbecause if you didn’t, none of this shit would ever happen. This trip wraps the busiest stretch of travel in my life; since June, I’ve been to Germany, flew to Las Vegas in August, did Oslo in October, Mexico (not music-related but still travel) in November, drove to Virginia last weekend and now I’m here. Please don’t think I don’t understand how lucky I am.

Okay, enough sappy stuff, time for rock and roll. Thanks again and here we go.

Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 – Night Two


Firestone (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Was not sure what to expect from a Firestone reunion. Among Swedish heavy rock bands, they came about right as other stuff was kind of tailing off, but their Stonebeliever EP and their Fuzzsplit of the Century with Truckfighters — for whom Firestone guitarist Oskar Cedermalm already doubled on bass and vocals — remain choice these two decades later, and sure enough, they got on stage and delivered that sound, that fuzz for Fuzz Festival. I’ll admit I’m curious as to their plans, if they’re going to keep going, make another go of it now that there’s a different generational fanbase that’s proven ready and willing to dig back into older bands and material so long as it doesn’t suck and is available, and after seeing them play, it doesn’t seem over the top to think they might keep it going, but of course you never know watching a band on stage what else they might have going on in their lives. All the more with reunions. Still, they were vital in energy and classic in form, easy to dig for sure, and with the infrastructure of Fuzzorama Records behind them, it at least doesn’t feel crazy to think they could make something of it, even if that’s just more fest appearances every now and then.

Enigma Experience

Enigma Experience (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They were actually one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing, and I know that sounds funny given some of the acts on this bill over the two nights, but Enigma Experience released their debut album, Question Mark (review here), in 2020, and I feel like I’ve been trying ever since I heard it to get a handle on where exactly their sound is coming from. Seeing them live, as one would hope, gave more of a sense. Because it’s Niklas Källgren on guitar, at least some portion of the tone is going to be recognizable from his work in Truckfighters — yes, he and Oskar are both pulling double duty, triple if you count running the fest — but the context is legitimately different, and yeah, you might liken it to, well, he’s still jumping around on stage, but he’s doing so performing more vocals, switching from acoustic to electric, and complementing the stage presence of Maurice Adams while donning ladies’ eveningwear. The songs, still definitely rock and straight ahead, are also atmospheric in a way that makes me think they’ll continue to grow along those lines, and what’s nascent in their sound now will play an increasing role going forward as they grow together as a unit and gain the inherent confidence from that. They, very clearly, are on their way.


Astroqueen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not that I speak the language or anything, because I most definitely don’t, tack så mycket, but I’m pretty sure I heard Astroqueen announce from the stage they’ve got a new record coming. That would be their first in over 20 years — working on the Lowrider promotional model; funny that it works — and it would only be welcome if it’s got a fraction of the force I heard come off the stage. Playing more or less in the dark, they were no less vibrant for it, and where one might expect that two decades down the line the crowd might not be as immediately on board, but indeed, they had the room held rapturous. Again, it’s that same scene that produced Dozer, Firestone, Truckfighters, Demon Cleaner, The Awesome Machine, Astroqueen, all those bands who used to haunt the message boards and word of whom now spreads through social media. They are just not a band I ever expected to see, though I’ve had Into Submission since it was current, but it only really underlines for me how lucky I am to be here, to do this. The sound was bass-heavy and that’s just fine. They’ve been doing very select shows up to this point, but I can’t help but wonder how much they’ll get out with a new album to support. I look forward to potentially finding out, provided my inner translation matrix wasn’t way off and I’m excited about what was actually banter about doughnuts backstage or something. I guess you never really know until the press release, but here’s hoping.

Kings Destroy

Look at me, punching me ‘seen ’em in multiple countries’ card with Kings Destroy. They’ve toured Europe before, not to mention Australia and New Zealand, and I saw them in August, but to be honest, they used to play all the time, they don’t anymore, and I’m glad to catch a set whenever the opportunity might present itself. They were packed onto the Bar Brooklyn stage, the second five-piece there on the fest behind Gaupa last night, and they owned the room. The lights, the sound, the crowd were all in their favor, and that made being there for it that much better, but they’re the reason I got to come here in the first place, so watching them play is automatically a positive association in my mind, even when they complain about the set afterwards, which I have a hard time thinking they will tonight. You never know when it’s going to be the last time, so make the most of it. That was what I was trying to do in the front of the stage. My back’s sore, my head’s sore, and I don’t care. I know that most people don’t really get where this band is coming from — I’ll readily admit their second record was a head-scratcher for me for years until I got the vinyl — but I don’t care about that either. Call it sentimental if you want, it doesn’t matter. I feel fortunate every time I watch Kings Destroy play, and tonight they lived up to the occasion as well as their spot on the bill.


Greenleaf (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Words like “powerhouse” were invented for Greenleaf. I’ve seen the band that was once a classic rock side-project of Dozer’s Tommi Holappa before, but not since Arvid Hällagård joined on vocals, and he, Holappa, bassist Hans Frölich and drummer Sebastian Olsson just absolutely laid waste. I mean it. With Hällagård tapping full-on blues vocally with melody and confidence that reminds in the rawer live setting of some of what Dirty Streets touch on, from the opening notes, they took command of that room and made it move. Sound as physical presence. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to write about them objectively again, as much as I ever could, because there was such a sense of revelry, still drawn from that classic style that was the core of their beginning, but made into something compellingly their own over time. And in the year since Echoes From a Mass (review here) came out, my affection for it has only deepened. I don’t know if it’s timeless, their sound, but it’s dug through time to become something that is in and out of it simultaneously, and watching them play live, it was like watching dances being invented. What. A. Fucking. Band. The kind of band who make you wonder how it building still has doors. I’ll say this now, any opportunity I get to see Greenleaf, I’m going to take it for as long as I am able. They were superlative.


Kal-El (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rippers. I had a feeling the Stavenger, Norway-based five-piece would be bringing it hard to Fuzz Fest, and yes, they delivered on that expectation. Nothing to argue with when a band comes out of the gate width that much of a sense of who they are and what they do. Last year, they released Dark Majesty (review here) and only built on the momentum they’d amassed over the few years prior, and if the crowd response they got at Bar Brooklyn is the result of that work they’ve put in, then yeah, they earned it. “Witches of Mars,” “Dark Majesty” itself, and their closing cover of Kyuss’ quintessential “Green Machine” found them well in charge of that space, and for not the first time here I felt like this festival could have had two rooms of equal size. As was, Kal-El brought volume and depth in kind, and handed it out with due aplomb. They’re a newer band, having put out their first release in 2015, but they’re zeroed right in on that Scandinavian ideal, having taken the lessons of California desert rock and turned influence into new creation. Kal-El made their case — “I plead the riff,” to make probably a too-American reference — and brought down Brooklyn Bar as only a headliner could and invariably must.


Truckfighters (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They weren’t the first Swedish fuzz band, which is something they’ve plainly acknowledged in booking this fest, but I don’t think you can really have a conversation about fuzz from here or otherwise without respecting what Truckfighters have brought to the style. With an inimitable stage presence and nigh-on aerobic delivery, they’ve become one of the most influential heavy rock bands of their generation, at home and abroad, and their years of steady touring and the expansion of their own sound over the course of their studio material isn’t to be understated. I’m telling you this to emphasize the point that this is a group — Niklas Källgren and Oskar Cedermalm, both founding members, with a succession of drummers rounding out the trio — whose efforts have directly contributed to the way one thinks of heavy rock today. Following Greenleaf is no easy task, I don’t care who you are, and Truckfighters earn extra kudos by not making it easy on themselves in terms of where they are on the bill — don’t forget, they’re running the show and they’ve both played sets with other bands already today — but did they deliver? I wonder, could there be any doubt? Nah. They came out — on time, mind you — and tore the place a new one, that bassy sound that had given Astroqueen so much wub pushing Truckfighters heavier even as they operated true to form. It was an occasion because they made it one, literally and figuratively, and up front I could feel the full press of the crowd behind me, swaying, shoving, moving to the music. These guys tried to do the indefinite hiatus thing a few years ago, already not owing anyone anything, and that only seemed to bring into relief how crucial they are. Yeah, they go nuts on stage — mostly Källgren at this point, but he’s enough for everybody, and Cedermalm is by no means standing any more still than he has to in order to sing, but they’ve become a more dynamic band with time. Their legacy will invariably be tied to “Desert Cruiser, the Gravity X album, which was their first, but their reach is broader than they generally get credit for, and they continue to uphold a standard that most bands daydream about. All-in, every second. That’s who they are.

When it’s over, you try to drink in as many little details as possible to preserve it. The pulsing bass of the drag-friendly dance party after the show. The spiced-berry taste of that sip of (non-alcoholic) glögg from Peder sitting with his family in a cozy, low-ceiling bakery. The smell of candied nuts in the winter market so exactly the same as New York. A crane lit in green neon in Old Town, who knows why. A spiral staircase outside a three-story house seen out the window of the train on the way to the airport. I am lucky to have been here.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again for reading, and special thanks to Justin Waggoner for letting me step in front to take pictures of Greenleaf and Mat Hause for doing the same before Truckfighters on the Debaser stage. Thank you to Steve Murphy, The Patient Mrs., my mother and Peder Bergstrand. I am fortunate to have such love in my life. Thanks to everyone who came up and said hi at the show. It was humbling.

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Psycho Las Vegas 2022 – Day 2 Notes

Posted in Features on August 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Belzebong (Photo by JJ Koczan)


It’s a kind of radical self-determinism. There is no rescue or guiding hand coming. The whole time I’ve been in Vegas, and really since Psycho got rolling here in 2016, I think I’m not the only one who’s been trying to understand just what the hell it’s all supposed to be about. I won’t lie, getting my head around it and seeing what Psycho has become as it’s gotten bigger and more encompassing is part of why I’m here. I acknowledge that for a good many people that’s just the wrong approach, but that’s the idea too.

You know how Americans think we don’t have a culture and that’s our culture? Well, consider a festival as a “we” experience. There is a collective of people all in the same place for a similar basic reason — this is the foundation of community. Psycho isn’t about the “we.” Certainly there are people here with fest-friends and all that, but it’s more the individualized experience. The ‘you’ in it is singular. You choose your adventure.

For the most part you can move around freely as you do so — local statutes and constabulary permitting — and what you see, who you’re with and why is up to you. Psycho isn’t about bringing everybody together in a lump and presenting a vision. It’s letting attendees handle their own curation. Between that and the brass-coated male-gaze consumerism happening all around the music, this becomes a distinctly American idea. The narrative becomes one of searching out your own way through the huge tangle of lineups, discovering where you need to be and when as you go. It’s thrilling in a way. Pioneer spirit. You’re here, you figure it out.

That is not an experience for everyone, nor is it everyone’s experience of America, but that too is a part of the culture of this country and a part of the story Psycho Las Vegas is telling about it. I don’t know if I feel like I’ve figured it out, but everybody who for years has been comparing Psycho to other fests, in Europe or not, is doing it wrong. That giant chrome ball in the middle of the mall space at Resorts World? That’s your answer. It doesn’t have to justify itself. You are here. Now go get wrecked. Psycho Las Vegas is a different animal. Use its teeth to carve out your own good time.

For many, I expect the ‘mad musical odyssey’ aspect means last night’s, or Thursday’s, party is still going. So be it. It’s eight in the morning. My alarm was set for this time, but I got up and out early. I might sit outside Starbucks in this chair until someone either shoos me away or I actually finish both these coffees, which are what they are. I imagine there are people’s whose chosen adventures lead to places outside this billions-and-billions-of-dollars hotel complex. I’m not so brave, apart from that one trip the first night to the dispensary.

Later, after coffee

Maybe I got up too early. I feel like there’s a lot of very famous hair around right now. I wonder how many other festivals are going on?

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Seeing Kings Destroy was a trip. Every time I’m anywhere those guys are, it’s a good day. A bit sentimental, but let’s be honest, I don’t have a lot of friends. That’s my own fault more than anything. They played “Green Diamonds” though, which is loved, and “Old Yeller.” “I know your people they hang out at this club.”

There is no place to sit in the Dawg House, save for $25-minimum tables. I’ve got a leaning spot and might just have to stay here for the duration, since this is where most of what I want to see is happening. Choose your adventure and I stand still and complain about no chairs. That sounds about right.

But about Kings Destroy. I’ve written a ton of shit on the subject over the last 12 years. A lot. And I feel pretty comfortable in saying that I’ve barely scratched the surface in what’s going on in that band. The two-guitar dynamic, the different personalities of the players coming through on stage. There’s a ton there, influence-wise, pulling from classic rock more than I ever have them credit for, and it’s been a minute since I put on those records, but hearing songs from Fantasma Nera had almost nostalgic vibes, even though they’re not actually that old. Oh yeah, seeing Kings Destroy. That’s a thing I used to do before the world fell apart.

Greenbeard (Photo by JJ Koczan)

And goodness gracious Greenbeard rock. That’s kind of their thing, right? Well it holds up. Even after what I’ll call an excess of coffee, I feel a bit like I’m dragging ass, but neither Kings Destroy — C-wolf and Carl in sunglasses like the Blues Brothers on either side of the stage — nor Greenbeard were in similar straits. For the best. I stayed up front for Kings Destroy, like you do, and moved back for Greenbeard, but man, the groove is statistically significant. I don’t want to say it’s a surprise, since I saw them like two and a half months ago, but it is hitting the spot vibe-wise. Belzebong after this is going to be crusty fun.

Belzebong (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Later again

I feel guilty as shit for being here. You know what my wife did today? She painted the ceiling of our fucking kitchen. After driving back from dropping the kid off in Connecticut to stay with his aunt for an overnight. God damn I’m selfish. Painted the ceiling. And what was I doing? Daring to see Blood Incantation instead of Rifflord, who I saw two days ago? Yes, look at my bold and unpredictable action. Surely worthy of my apparent station in life.

Blood Incantation (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As Tom G. Warrior tells us, “Ough.”

But I did go see Blood Incantation after Belzebong’s ultra-stoner riff onslaught, because sometimes a bit of kicking around is good for the ol’ soul, and I needed it. Nothing against Rifflord, mind you. I just needed to be where I was.

And Blood Incantation provided the shove I needed as well, that ur-groove that only death metal has. Technical but fun to watch in a look-at-what-people-can-do-with-noise kind of way. You’ll pardon me if I try and push back on the imaginary obligations I invent for myself. Occasionally.

Duel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Duel, Blackwater Holylight, and Stinking Lizaveta (yes, again), in quick succession. It wound up I checked out Duel — ripper, duh — and went up to the Event Center to get in the photo pit for Blackwater Holylight, didn’t get my requisite email out soon enough and so didn’t get in. I took pictures from the crowd. Who cares? Like I gotta make deadline for The Daily Bugle or some shit. Heads up though, Blackwater Holylight are a prog band. And I’m pretty sure they know it. They had a violinist on stage and I guess that’s part of the impression, but what was psych bliss in their sound has evaporated and left behind a much darker exploratory ambience. Don’t let me get all critic, because I’m pretty sure that’s not in the spirit of the thing, but the turn in their sound on their last record isn’t over yet.

Blackwater Holylight (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I left there to get back to Dawg House — the security know me here now and make fun of me because I keep coming and going — and Duel were still on, so I got to watch more of their set as well as their Warriors of the World-worthy big rock finish, which, again, duh.

Stinking Lizaveta as revival music. I don’t know how many people were there to see them because I didn’t turn around but holy crap can that band play. They’re the heavy jazz of everything. Absolutely on fire, yesterday and today, and and suited to the kind of box effect of the Dawg House stage in a way not everyone has been. Interesting to think of both them and Blood Incantation as restorative in a way, but they have been, as kind of mirror set up to the anxiousness, pushing ahead if not breaking through. I don’t know. I had a couple decent conversations today with people who I have no idea why they’d want to talk to me. Amy Johnson brought me presents. Stinking Lizaveta played. Clearly things for a moment were their most perfect selves.


I’ve been trying to avoid reviewing. Did you notice? Did you notice me failing? Doesn’t that strike you as kind of sad? Or maybe it’s what I’m here for? A not-really-all-that-druggy journey of self-discovery in the desert? Could even I be so mild and cliché? I mean, yeah, probably. Easily. Twice today, and that’s my review of the review. Shit sandwich.

Later, getting late

Ruby the Hatchet could’ve played any stage of this festival. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all at this point. And they’d have killed everywhere they went. Just a rock band locked in, that’s all. Seems to happen a lot today.

Ruby the Hatchet (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I hung around for a few songs, lack of water had me feeling kind of stuck; I’d lost my bottle and had yet to replace it. This would be rectified in due time, but I was in no rush whatsoever to leave Ruby the Hatchet’s set, some new, some old, delivered by a band in a continuing process of finding their sound but with veteran confidence and professionalism. It still feels like shows are a thing that used to happen, but last time I saw Ruby the Hatchet was 2019, and on the warped scale of time the last few years have wrought, that’s not all that long ago. It doesn’t make any fucking sense.

Was talking with a friend today (not namedropping) about our children, about trying to raise them to be aware of the world around them, their place in it, the changing planet and all of these generally awful things that human beings have done and continue to do to this world in which right now we’re complicit right here every day all the time, and while I agreed with him that this was the proper course of bringing up a human being to not be a complete tool, there was also a part of me that would be okay if my kid skipped the baggage that seems to come tacked onto consciousness of self, floated through life unconcerned. The trouble is you can’t do it. How’s the kid gonna know who the fascists are if he doesn’t know it used to snow in December? These things are all interconnected, and I want little more out of parenting than to not raise a fucking fascist.


But thinking about time up and down had me in a good frame of mind for Ruby the Hatchet, improbably. I walked past Psychlona on my way to get another hamburger salad — no pickle, no onion, no cherry tomatoes — and they were right on, had shenanigans afoot in front of the stage. Spaceface played after them in the same spot and were on when I got back from dinner. I knew nothing about them but sat and watched about half their set ahead of Church of the Cosmic Skull and parts reminded me of spacier, young Ween, but it was the melodies that took me. They had a multicolored parachute out the crowd was playing with when I rolled in, people came and went, dancing all the while. They pre-closed with a cover of “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, and they were pretty loyal to the original, which is a song I happen to know fairly well because that’s just who I am. Didn’t see that one coming.

Dinner was eaten, by the way, sitting in a giant egg at the breakfast place and that was a thing I didn’t expect to say when I signed on for this trip. I take back whatever I said before, eating a sans-onion salad in a cracked-egg chair is exactly the kind of adventure I would choose. Have chosen.

Church of the Cosmic Skull have a new record out. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I will, hopefully before the adjacent-project Dystopian Future Movies put out their next album and I’m even further behind. I’d say it was guilt that kept me watching them in Famous Foods for the entirety of their set, but really it was just another extension of being where I needed to be. The tradeoff was missing Mondo Drag, who are fantastic, but Church of the Cosmic Skull got going late anyway owing to persistent technical issues and what seemed to be a general lack of mics. And when you’re a seven-piece band and just about everybody sings, that really makes a difference.

Church of the Cosmic Skull (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They got it going though. All was well. Couple hiccups, some feedback, but whatever. Even with all that, the room was on their side from before they even started playing, myself included, and once they were able to dig in, it was a perfect end to my night. They played “Everybody’s Going to Die” and the only thing that kept me from singing along was I was so choked up. They didn’t close with that, but they could have. “Evil in Your Eye” did just fine though. I eventually wound up in back with a couple of the Kings Destroy guys — not Aaron, who made his feelings known earlier in the photo above — and that brought the day to reasonable bit of full circle. At least I knew I’d been on the right path.

Tomorrow is the last day of the festival. I know that means I’ll spend at least half of it thinking about getting to the airport on Monday, because that’s my kind of neurotic, but like I’ve been rolling without a real, written-out plan, I’m gonna do my best to live in Psycho Sunday while it’s happening, because airlines permitting I’m going to be back in New Jersey on Monday evening and I’m going to have to stand under that newly painted kitchen ceiling and hold my head up to look at it. I feel like that might be easier if I’ve actually let myself have the good time I came here to have. Crazy, I know.

Thanks for reading.

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Kings Destroy Premiere “Dead Before” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

kings destroy

A couple weeks ago, New York’s Kings Destroy offered up a French-language version of the track “Dead Before,” taken from their latest album, 2019’s Fantasma Nera (review here), on Svart Records. It’s a fair enough track for them to try something new with, since the song itself was a turn from the hard-crunch norm they’ve established throughout the band’s decade-plus tenure. Steve Murphy speaks French, and the song’s mellow verses are suited to the translation, so sure, “Éveiller” it is — though even my took-it-in-high-school-level knowledge of the language is enough to notice that the new title ends in ‘-er’ so it’s most likely a verb infinitive. Sure enough, “Éveiller” is “to awaken.” A bit more fluid than “Mort Avant,” I’ll grant.

But having recently unveiled that in a lyric video, they would seem to be well within their rights to follow-up with a companion piece for “Dead Before” proper, and that’s where we’re at today. If you haven’t already turned yourself on to Fantasma Nera, it’s the best work Kings Destroy have done. Honestly. I’ve written a lot about them over the last 11 years, and while we’re being sincere, I have sentimental attachment to all four of their records, but speaking as objectively as I can about them, there really isn’t a level on which they didn’t outdo themselves in those tracks, save maybe for raw impact, which they made up for in the complexity and the depth of the material. And they were still plenty heavy.

I don’t know what the future holds for these guys. Bassist Aaron Bumpus has relocated to the West Coast. Murphy is here and there between NYC and Ireland. Drummer Rob Sefcik, like a lot of New Yorkers, left the city to avoid the plague. Guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski are still there, and I know from talking to the latter that there’s been new stuff in the works, but golly, rehearsing would seem to have become complicated. Logistics’ll bite you. Of course, this is the future, so home recording, trading files, blah blah. Kings Destroy have never struck me as that kind of outfit — they’ve always been a band-in-a-room kind of band, if that makes any sense — but one certainly knows from past experience, including this song, that they don’t shy away either from a challenge or from trying new ways of working.

Enjoy the video and be ready to have the hook on repeat in your head for the rest of however long:

Kings Destroy, “Dead Before” lyric video premiere

Carl Porcaro on “Dead Before”:

This song represents a number of firsts for Kings Destroy. It’s the first time we explored this type of sound, and the first time lyrics for one of our songs were written by someone who isn’t in the band. Dead Before’s lyrics were written by Anthony Drago, who I play with in the bands in Killing Time, Breakdown and Gordita Beach. Éveiller (aka Dead Before) also happens to be the first time one of our songs was sung in a language other than English. Our singer Steve learned French as a kid, having grown up with exchange students that his family took in from France, and something about this song inspired him. After we recorded it, he decided to translate the lyrics and cut an alternate version in his second language. When I sent Drago the lyric video for the French version he was a bit shocked and confused, so we ran a second one with the original version of the song, sung in English. This one’s for you Drago, and we hope everyone else digs it too.

Fantasma Nera is out now on Svart Records:

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Kings Destroy is Aaron Bumpus (bass), Stephen Murphy (vocals), Carl Porcaro (guitar), Rob Sefcik (drums) and Chris Skowronski (guitar).

Kings Destroy, “Éveiller” lyric video

Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera (2019)

Kings Destroy on Facebook

Kings Destroy on Instagram

Kings Destroy website

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Facebook

Svart Records on Instagram

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Christopher Skowronski of Kings Destroy & Killing Time

Posted in Questionnaire on May 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Christopher Skowronski of Kings Destroy & Killing Time

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Christopher Skowronski of Kings Destroy & Killing Time

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

I think it’s easiest and most accurate to say that I am simply a musician. Music has been the single most important thing in my life since I was a young kid, it’s what I think about most of the time, it’s what I spend the majority of my free time on. Beside playing and writing songs for the bands I play in now (and many others in the past), I have also produced, engineered, and mixed records with/for other bands. If a good song comes on the radio when I’m driving, I inadvertently play drums on the steering wheel and make my wife crazy. I suppose you could say in the broader sense that I am an “artist” and my medium is music, but that sounds a bit pretentious. So yeah, I’d define myself as a musician and what I do as just creating music. Pretty straight forward.

In terms of how I came to it, that is directly due to my family, particularly my older brother, Steven. I am the youngest of six children, and there was always a lot of old rock music playing in my house when I was a kid. My brother is ten years older than I am, and he was/is a musician. When I was very young—in the early to mid ’70s—he was a teenager listening to mostly classic rock. Sabbath, Kiss, Cheap Trick, etc. So that’s what I was listening to as a kid. He and his friends had a band, and they would play in my basement and do shows in our little backyard. (There is an old photo floating around of me sitting in on bongos during one of these backyard gigs!) In the later ’70s, he got into the first wave of punk, so then I got to listen to The Ramones, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, and then later lots of New Wave, like The Cars, Joe Jackson, etc. He kept playing in bands and started doing club gigs at places like the old Rising Sun in Yonkers and the Left Bank in Mount Vernon. By this time, there were drums and amps in the basement and guitars in his room. So, when he wasn’t around, I would sneak into his room and take out the guitar. (Sorry, Steve!) I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was cool! This was probably around the time I was 10, so, like, 1980.

As I moved into my young teens, he started getting heavily into The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, and that kind of stuff. So then I got an education in all of those types of bands. At this point, I had also moved into discovering the New Wave of British Heavy Metal on my own, and became a massive Iron Maiden fan (Up the Irons!). That was kind of my first foray into music that hadn’t come to me directly from him. The punk stuff he had hipped me to also led to me discovering more of the hardcore punk stuff on my own. West Coast stuff like Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies, some early New York and D.C. stuff. Most of it was music I discovered on my own through friends, though I have a distinct memory of the two of us in his car, driving my mom somewhere. We dropped her off, and as soon as she was out of the car, he said, “Time for some Misfits!” and cranked Walk Among Us. That was definitely the first time I’d heard them.

Anyway, when I was about 12 or 13, I saved up money from a paper route (remember those?) and bought my first guitar: a Harmony Flying V copy from the Montgomery Ward catalog. I was really into the Scorpions at the time, so the V was a no-brainer. I fucked around with it, having no real idea what I was doing. One day, I kept spinning Maiden’s “Flight of Icarus,” trying to figure out how to play it, but having no real clue what I was supposed to do. After picking up the needle about twenty times and making some god-awful random noise with my guitar, he came into my room, a little exasperated, and was like, “Let me just show you something.” He then taught me exactly one thing: How to play a barre chord. It was basically, “This is kind of all you need for now— figure out the rest on your own.” So I just kind of took it from there. I know this story makes it sound like he wasn’t super supportive of me playing, but my read on it was, I was the little brother, and he wanted to see if I was just fucking around with all of this or whether I was serious about it. Eventually, as I got better on my own, he would show me more things here and there, and I think he finally accepted that I was serious about it and was very supportive. To this day, I still send him demos of new songs I write, and he gives me feedback on them. So very long story short, my brother is the primary reason I became a musician. Eventually after playing in a bunch of garage bands, then I met the guys that I still play with now in Killing Time and KD, and became part of that second wave, late ’80s NYHC scene. Started playing in bands and playing shows. That was around 1988/89. Still best friends and playing with all of them today.

Describe your first musical memory.

Playing my oldest sister’s collection of Beatles 45’s. I’m a massive Beatles fan, and it can probably be traced back to that. I think that and the power pop that my brother turned me on to in the ’80s is why I still love really strong vocal melodies and harmonies, even in heavier music.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I was just talking about this with a couple friends last night. In 1988, I saw AC/DC at the Nassau Coliseum. It was general admission for the floor, and I went with a good friend who was a serious AC/DC fan. The plan was, “We’re getting there early, we’re getting to the front of the line, and when they open, we are getting right up to the front of the stage.” So that’s what we did. Back then, when they opened general admission, you had to run full speed and kind of fight off all the others who had the same plan as you, but we pulled it off. All this is to say that I got to see AC/DC at their prime, pressed right up to the stage, directly in front of Angus’s Marshall stacks for nearly two hours. I was just getting absolutely blasted right in the face by his cranked rig. It was like a religious experience. Probably my fist taste of tinnitus too!

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

I’ve had a couple friends who have had pretty serious struggles with drugs, and have seen them do some really awful shit to me and others in the process. I think my test was learning that really loving and caring about someone isn’t quite enough in those situations. That lifelong friendship doesn’t mean shit to someone in the throes of serious addiction. You just have to learn to to let go to a certain extent. I do think love and support are still essential in a situation like that, but I learned that they aren’t enough, at least in my experience. So I guess that belief was tested and changed as a result.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

For me, it leads to just being fulfilled as a person and feeling like you are continuing to live and grow. That sounds like some self-help book bullshit, but life is a real beatdown most of the time. Just having something you love to do, that you continue learning things about, continue practicing, continue improving upon, is a great way to feel like you are doing something worthwhile with your time on the planet instead of just working to pay bills until you go toes up.

How do you define success?

Making something you are happy with and proud of. That’s it. Probably sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. Everything else good that might happen from what you do after that is just a bonus.

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

I saw a woman commit suicide by jumping from the roof of a 12-floor apartment building. Wish I hadn’t seen that.

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

An instrumental metal record. I did a little side-project over the last couple of years and put out an instrumental song, but it was more on the jamming, boogie-rock side. I’ve always wanted to write and record a really epic all-instrumental metal record. I actually started working on one near the start of the pandemic, but it turned into me just using some of the material for new Kings Destroy songs.

I’ve also done some visual stuff, like the video I made for “Fantasma Nera” last year. I am by no means a visual artist, and don’t claim to have any real talent for it, but I really enjoyed it, and would love to do more.

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

To make you feel like there is something that separates you from the (other) animals. I think that works in terms of both for creating art and experiencing it.

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

The New York Knicks finally being in the NBA playoffs again!

Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera (2019)

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Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #2: Kings Destroy and Steak Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Of course, all the many caveats of 2020 apply. But shit, Truckfighters are putting together a party and it’d be awful shame if for one reason or another (or another… or another…) it didn’t come together. You know what I’d give to see Lowrider and Asteroid on the same bill? I’d give airfare. With Truckfighters themselves at the top of the bill, I’m happy to see New York’s Kings Destroy added along with UK Desertscene forerunners Steak, and they join Firestone — I guess that means Oskar Cedermalm is pulling double-duty? — and Swan Valley Heights and Elden with more still reportedly to be announced.

If it happens, that’s a killer show. And while we’re thinking about it, I’d rather think positive, so here’s the announcement:

truckfighters fuzz festival 2

Truckfighters Fuzz festival announce two bands!

We are proud and happy to present our own fuzz festival!

After a sold out 1st edition in 2019 this will be the 2nd edition of our annual festival in our home country of Sweden. We hope for cold weather and and snow outside so we can go in and let the fuzz warm us up. Yeah this festival is all about the FUZZ.

After years of touring around the world we bring our favorite concept home to Sweden: a club festival dedicated to fuzz/stoner and heavy rock.

In the year of the Corona virus we expand to a two day festival. The virus will hopefully be long gone in November. There’ll be two stages, ca sixteen bands and of course a lot of fuzz…

STEAK [UK] and KINGS DESTROY [US] will be joining our fuzz filled party that takes place on Nov 20 + 21 at Debaser and Bar Brooklyn, Stockholm, Sweden. They will join previously announced TRUCKFIGHTERS, ASTEROID, LOWRIDER, FIRESTONE, SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS, ELDEN – Many more bands will be added.

Confirmed acts so far are
TRUCKFIGHTERS (the fuzz planet)
ELDEN (swe)

*Live music from ca 6pm til midnight.
*Afterparty at Bar Brooklyn until 3am.

The Venue is located on the island of Södermalm, in Stockholm. This is a very nice area in the central parts of town.

Get there with subway or bus to ‘Hornstull’ station.

The festival has two stages, one big and one smaller. The smallest stage (Bar Brooklyn) has a limited space and can take up to 250 people standing. If you want to see a band in our smallest stage, come early! First come first served!
/ Truckfighters

As there was issues with the early bird ticket link we offer everyone who buys a ticket in June a 10EUR discount code at the Fuzzoramastore. Just e-mail a screenshot of your ticket to

Steak, “Living Like a Rat” official video

Kings Destroy, “Fantasma Nera” official video

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Video Premiere: Kings Destroy Make the Most of Quarantine with “Fantasma Nera” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

kings destroy

By now the ‘quarantine video’ is fast becoming a genre of its own, and one that will, when the planet has reopened to whatever new reality awaits our pitiful species — back to burning working class labor and fossil fuels we go, merrily cutting taxes and learning nothing — be a marker of this time and experience. It speaks to the simple need to create that, even isolated from each other, the members of bands can’t help but collaborate on projects like this new video from Kings Destroy. There are so many working on new material during this lockdown, and as we seem to be at least telling ourselves we’re through the worst of it — maybe we are, I don’t know — the baby-boom of records to come might indeed be another marker of COVID-19’s aftermath. So be it. In the meantime, locked in their homes in New York, Kings Destroy put together a clip for “Fantasma Nera” from their 2019 album of the same name (review here), which Svart delivered and you should’ve listened to if you didn’t. There’s time now, to paraphrase Burgess Meredith at the end of the world.

But whatever. The album’s fanatically melodic, and a boldly rock and roll reaction to the confrontationalism of their past work. More than anything, it was the record where they perhaps once and for all shrugged off the expectations of others and took the course they wanted to take. No two Kings Destroy releases have ever been the same — all the more reason to listen — so I wouldn’t count on them repeating this process next time, even should they return to work again with producer David Bottrill (ToolKing Crimson, etc.). But though I’m sure guitarists Carl Porcaro, who bursts into the room at one point in the video with his freshly-shaved head carrying his guitar like he’s on Smackdown, and Christopher Skowronski, who hates run-on sentences like this one and recently did a days of rona talking about his own plague experience, have been chipping away at new riffs and during their stuck-at-home time, the band as a whole aren’t probably there yet. It would probably help things along though if they could get in the same room. Remember when that used to happen?

And as the opening lyrics of the song say, “Remember when we were alive?/Neither do I.”

On that fun note, a few highlights: We see drummer Rob Sefcik‘s dog and child and he gives a good shrug in addition to a righteous performance on some pretend drums. At one point, vocalist Steve Murphy points at the camera. Bassist/backing vocalist Aaron Bumpus fades in with some ’80s metal effects on the harmonies and, later, enjoys a drink, as does much of the band. And of course, that Porcaro entrance. It’s a good one.

The video was edited by Skowronski and he offers some quick comment below, and the Bandcamp stream of Fantasma Nera is down there too. Have at it.

And please enjoy:

Kings Destroy, “Fantasma Nera” official video

Christopher Skowronski on “Fantasma Nera”:

“I was just looking for a project to keep me busy during the lockdown. I realized we never made a video for any song off of Fantasma Nera, so why not make one. Of course all of us being in isolation posed a problem. I also didn’t want to do one of those videos of a band playing “live” via Zoom or whatever. I mean, I’ve seen some cool ones, but it’s been done, and not all of us have the technology to pull that off anyway. So I just asked everyone to film themselves playing the song, as well as some footage of them in isolation doing whatever they chose. I got a ton of footage back from everyone, went through it, and cut it together. It wasn’t until I began making it that I realized the lyrics — especially the first few lines of the song — fit the overall situation so well. Anyway, it at least gave us all something creative to do.”

Fantasma Nera is out now on Svart Records:

Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera (2019)

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Kings Destroy on Instagram

Kings Destroy website

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records on Instagram

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Days of Rona: Christopher Skowronski of Kings Destroy & Killing Time

Posted in Features on April 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

kings destroy christopher skowronski

Days of Rona: Christopher Skowronski of Kings Destroy & Killing Time (Brooklyn, New York)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

As far as health goes, I just got over my own brush with what was probably the virus. I didn’t mention it at all on any social media, so outside of my family and close friends, I haven’t let anyone know until now. I began feeling sick with a fever and dry cough on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day. I had some close contact with someone who had gotten pretty sick, so I was kind of expecting it. For a few days it just felt like a mild cold, but by the weekend, I was in bed for about 17 hours a day. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. My entire body ached, I was completely exhausted, and I had a fever that wouldn’t quit. I also lost my sense of smell and taste. By that point, they weren’t testing anyone in New York unless you were hospitalized, and since the system here in NYC was already being overwhelmed, they didn’t want you to go to the hospital unless it was an absolute emergency. So my doctor basically told me to ride it out at home unless I couldn’t breathe. It got a little dicey for a few days, but I slowly got better. At this point, I’m feeling pretty close to normal. As of today, it’s been three full weeks. I guess I got lucky.

Everyone else in Kings Destroy and Killing Time is okay health-wise so far. We all seem to be finding a way to deal and stay relatively sane. Some have been lucky enough to keep their day jobs; I and a couple others have been laid off.

Neither band is doing any practicing, and some plans changed. Kings Destroy was set to play a gig with Monster Magnet here in Brooklyn on March 20th, which obviously was cancelled. We were also working on some tour plans which had to be scuttled. Killing Time mostly plays one-off festivals and fly dates, but we had a New York show booked for early May that we had to postpone. We were talking about a possible European run, but that wasn’t going to happen until 2021 anyway, and hopefully, this will be a distant memory by then.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

The rules here in NYC are all non-essential businesses are closed, unless work can be done from home. Restaurants can stay open, but take-out only. I guess there is loophole that dictates that a bar that serves any kind of food call stay open to sell take-out drinks, so some bars in my neighborhood are serving drinks to-go.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Overall, it’s definitely much quieter here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which is normally a pretty active neighborhood. You do see people out walking dogs and going to the grocery store, etc., but it’s nothing like normal. Also, I’d say about 9/10 are now wearing masks. It’s great that people are taking it seriously, but it makes for a creepy vibe for sure. And of course all this is set against the backdrop of what is happening in the hospitals here. New York is just getting hammered by this virus, and there is a palpable sense of anxiety.

As far as businesses are concerned, there are so many that are taking a huge hit and probably won’t survive. Some of the bars and restaurants are trying to hang on just doing the take-out thing, but many have just shuttered. It’s pretty bleak.

I think the reaction in the music scene has actually been pretty inspiring, for the most part. I know a lot of guys are taking the time to hunker down, write, and trade ideas with bandmates over the Interwebs. I certainly feel worst for the bands that had whole tours booked and ready to go. That’s just a gut-punch. Then there are all the sound people, bartenders, bookers, etc. who are out of work. Once you start thinking about all of it, it gets really depressing. But from everything I’ve seen online, everyone seems to be tackling it with humor, positivity, and creativity.

I joked on Facebook that this situation would probably bankrupt me, but at least my guitar chops would be sick. And that’s pretty much how it’s turning out. I had to file for unemployment for the first time in my life, but I have been playing more guitar than ever. I’ve sat in bed and played guitar for hours, which is not something you normally get to do on a regular basis. In a way, it is a luxury. I have already written and recorded a brand new song for a side-project I was working on before this all happened, and I’m building up a pretty impressive strategic stockpile of riffs. I’ve also been recording some videos of me teaching Kings Destroy songs which I’ve been posting to our Instagram. That’s actually been a lot of fun. In the end, I think this whole situation is going to make people a little more stoked when we’re all finally able to get out there and play. So in that sense, maybe it’ll turn out to have a small silver lining. At least I hope so.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

As much as this situation sucks, I am incredibly lucky. I’m out of a day job, but my wife is still working. I had some gigs cancelled, but it isn’t my entire livelihood as it is for some bands and most venues. I know there are people out there that are truly in desperate times. But it’s going to pass one way or another. So I try to stay as positive as possible. I mean, when I started getting really sick, I was absolutely terrified. I’m just stoked to still be here.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 26

Posted in Radio on January 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Nothing says ‘welcome to a new year and new decade’ like playing a bunch of songs from the one that just ended, right? Right? I knew I should’ve gone into marketing.

Still, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the lack of how much ground was left uncovered by last month’s edition of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It was an awesome playlist, which I’ll gladly say as the guy who made it, but two hours is just two hours. I could’ve easily gone 10. Dedicating another show to the cause, even just with one a month, seemed like a worthy endeavor. And so it was.

As I write this I’m still waiting to cut voice tracks, but you’ll notice there are only two breaks. I didn’t want to take the extra couple minutes away from music, so I thought one for each hour of the show was fair. Ain’t nobody listening for my “duh, this record’s good” level of insight, and I refuse to fool myself into thinking otherwise. But some of this stuff — Uncle Woe, Stones of Babylon — is new to me. Those two were just sent my way in the last week or so, and they’ll both be covered in the Quarterly Review next week — at least I think they will; should check that list — so I thought to get them a look here as well would be cool. You’ll also notice Zone Six was reviewed this morning. Trying to keep current, at least with myself.

But in with those of course are more 2019 essentials, and I won’t list them twice when you can just read the below. All of these (the newer-to-me stuff notwithstanding) were included in the Best of 2019 feature, so I was thinking of this a little bit as a complement to that. Either way, I hope you dig it.

The Obelisk Show airs 1PM today at

Thanks if you get to listen.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 01.03.20

Stones of Babylon Hanging Gardens Hanging Gardens*
Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybody’s Going to Die Everybody’s Going to Die*
Year of the Cobra Into the Fray Ash & Dust
Beastwars Raise the Sword IV
Solace The Light is a Lie The Brink*
Kings Destroy Dead Before Fantasma Nera
SÂVER How They Envisioned Life They Came with Sunlight
Green Lung Let the Devil In Woodland Rites
Magic Circle I’ve Found My Way to Die Departed Souls
Spaceslug Half-Moon Burns Reign of the Orion*
Valley of the Sun All We Are Old Gods
Worshipper Coming Through Light in the Wire
Hazemaze Lobotomy Hymns of the Damned*
Uffe Lorenzen If You Have Ghosts If You Have Ghosts
Uncle Woe Push the Blood Back In Our Unworn Limbs
Zone Six Song for Richie Kozmik Koon

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every first Friday of the month at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Feb. 7. Thanks for checking it out if you do.

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