Desertfest New York 2024 Makes Second Lineup Announcement

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

Desertfest New York 2024 banner

A righteous dose of lineup additions to Desertfest NYC 2024 today puts High on Fire and Amenra at the top of the bill thus far along with the previously announced Russian Circles, and unveils the bands who’ll play the pre-party as The Skull-offshoot Legions of Doom, Tee Pee Records‘ house classic heavy proggers Mirror Queen, the revamped Satan’s Satyrs, and Mustafina.

All well and good, don’t get me wrong. Killer, all the way through. For me though, the personal highlight here is Spaceslug coming from Poland to play, hopefully on the main stage at the Knockdown Center. Not only is their new album the latest in a string of immersive heavy psych semi-metal explorations, but right around the end of last year, I was angling trying to get myself out to Vegas to see them at Planet Desert Rock Weekend, where they featured this past January. The thought of seeing them in Brooklyn takes some of the sting out of missing their first US appearance, and as that will occur among the likes of Primitive Man, Blackwater Holylight and Spirit Mother, so much the better.

If you’re not from New York and have ever thought about traveling there, take a gander at the following:


🎟️ 🎟️

Performing at the Knockdown Center please welcome…
↠ High On Fire
↠ Amenra
↠ Blackwater Holylight
↠ Spaceslug
↠ Spirit Mother

Who will all be joining the likes of Russian Circles, Acid King, GREEN LUNG, Truckfighters, Dozer, BelzebonG for the 4th edition of our independent East Coast venture, celebrating the best in underground heavy music! With more still to announce, including day splits – which will be released in July.

We are extremely proud of this line-up and the amount of EU bands we are able to bring over to you!
Plus we are thrilled to welcome doom metal super-group Legions of Doom (ft. members of Trouble, Saint Vitus, The Skull & COC) to headline our SOLD OUT pre-party, hosted by TeePee Records alongside the return of Satan’s Satyrs, plus local heroes Mirror Queen & Mustafina!

Will we see you there?? Check out more info at

Desertfest New York 2024 will take place September 12th – 14th. 3-Day Festival Passes (incl. pre-party access) and 2-Day Festival passes are available now via &

Spaceslug, Out of Water (2024)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mirror Queen Announce Midwestern Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Mirror Queen 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

After calling off a trip to Europe this month to play alongside Tee Pee labelmates Danava, long-running New York classic heavy proggers Mirror Queen, Sons of Kreisor, Coverers of Captain Beyond, etc., etc. — they are a band with many titles — will return to the road at the end of October. They’ve got a week-long Midwestern tour assembled, and they’ll be joined by Black Moon Cult for it. They go supporting 2022’s Inviolate (review here), which grooved with laid back ’70s heft in a way that was not vintage but definitely picking and choosing its influences and leaving out a few of the crappier decades. You know what I’m talking about.

Before they go, Mirror Queen are set to provide hometown representation at The Kingsland in Brooklyn supporting Freedom Hawk on Sept. 3, which, uh, is this weekend because apparently that’s where we are on the calendar. Last time I saw them was 2019 at the Saint Vitus Bar (review here) with Nebula, Sasquatch and Geezer, and they’re no strangers to picking up the support slot on an out-of-towner-type gig, when they’re not the out of towners themselves, so I expect that’ll be a good time. That was one of the last shows I saw before the pandemic hit. I don’t regret going to it.

The band put the dates up on social media, which is I guess what you do with tour dates. We all are subject to the mercies of the algorithm. In any case, they’ll be at the following wheres and whens:

mirror queen tour


Hitting the High-ways and byways with Black Moon Cult this fall!

10.29 Howard’s Club Bowling Green OH
10.30 Buzzbin Akron OH
10.31 Dead City/Halo Live Sandusky OH
11.01 Black Circle Brewing Indianapolis IN
11.02 Livewire Lounge Chicago IL
11.03 McAlpine Meadery Beach City OH
11.04 The Mothership Mansfield OH

Mirror Queen is Kenny Kreisor (guitar/vocals), Jeremy O’Brien (drums), James Corallo (bass/backing vocals) and Morgan McDaniel (guitar).

Mirror Queen, “Inviolate”

Tags: , ,

SonicBlast 2023 Adds 16 More Bands to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

I’m not going to pretend to have heard every band in this 16-strong announcement from Portugal’s SonicBlast Fest 2023, and honestly, that’s part of the appeal as far as I’m concerned. And if you’re looking for bigger names, certainly bringing in The Black Angels and Thuston Moore of Sonic Youth ought to qualify. But check out Mythic Sunship being confirmed, Mirror Queen heading abroad once again from their home in New York, Dozer supporting their first album in 15 years, Crippled Black Phoenix bringing their thoroughly English gloom to the otherwise sunshiny proceedings, Sasquatch pushing their forever-tour further presumably after completing the recording of their next LP, Danava and Love Gang both supporting new releases, on and on.

Is this the part where I tell you how killer the lineup looks and perhaps list off the various parts of my body I’d cut off in order to attend? Yeah, probably. But my own escapism aside, you can see for yourself what SonicBlast has put together in terms of a diverse range of sounds based around a unifying heavy ideal, and between the new names and those previously confirmed, it seems like it’s going to be a special couple days for those attending as well as the bands actually playing the thing. Maybe that could be you too.

Here’s the latest from social media:

SonicBlast Fest 2023 new announce

We’re so proud and honored to announce 16 more bands that’ll blow our minds this summer, at SonicBlast Fest 2023 — The Black Angels, Thurston Moore Group, Bombino, Dozer, CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX (official), Imarhan, Hällas, Scowl, SPY, Sasquatch, LOVE GANG, Mythic Sunship, Etran de L’AĂŻr, DANAVA, Mirror Queen and scatterbrainiac!!

Join us in this crazy heavy psychedelic weekend by the ocean at Praia da Duna dos Caldeirões, Âncora, Portugal!

*** many more to be announced soon ***

Full festival tickets are already on sale at BOL ( and at

Artwork by Branca Studio

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Hazemaze, Elephant Tree, Mirror Queen, Faetooth, Behold! The Monolith, The Swell Fellas, Stockhausen & the Amplified Riot, Nothing is Real, Red Lama, Echolot

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


Guess this is it, huh? Always bittersweet, the end of a Quarterly Review. Bitter, because there’s still a ton of albums waiting on my desktop to be reviewed, and certainly more that have come along over the course of the last two weeks looking for coverage. Sweet because when I finish here I’ll have written about 100 albums, added a bunch of stuff to my year-end lists, and managed to keep the remaining vestiges of my sanity. If you’ve kept up, I hope you’ve enjoyed doing so. And if you haven’t, all 10 of the posts are here.

Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Hazemaze, Blinded by the Wicked

Hazemaze Blinded by the Wicked

This is one of 2022’s best records cast in dark-riffed, heavy garage-style doom rock. I admit I’m late to the party for Hazemaze‘s third album and Heavy Psych Sounds label debut, Blinded by the Wicked, but what a party it is. The Swedish three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ludvig Andersson, bassist Estefan Carrillo and drummer Nils Eineus position themselves as a lumbering forerunner of modern cultist heavy, presenting the post-“In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” lumber of “In the Night of the Light, for the Dark” and “Ethereal Disillusion” (bassline in the latter) with a clarity of purpose and sureness that builds even on what the trio accomplished with 2019’s Hymns for the Damned (review here), opening with the longest track (immediate points) “Malevolent Inveigler” and setting up a devil-as-metaphor-for-now lyrical bent alongside the roll of “In the Night of the Light, for the Dark” and the chugging-through-mud “Devil’s Spawn.” Separated by the “Planet Caravan”-y instrumental “Sectatores et Principes,” the final three tracks are relatively shorter than the first four, but there’s still space for a bass-backed organ solo in “Ceremonial Aspersion,” and the particularly Electric Wizardian “Divine Harlotry” leads effectively into the closer “Lucifierian Rite,” which caps with surprising bounce in its apex and underscores the level of songwriting throughout. Just a band nailing their sound, that’s all. Seems like maybe the kind of party you’d want to be on time for.

Hazemaze on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds store


Elephant Tree, Track by Track

Elephant Tree Track by Track

Released as a name-your-price benefit EP in July to help raise funds for the Ukrainian war effort, Track by Track is two songs London’s Elephant Tree recorded at the Netherlands’ Sonic Whip Festival in May of this year, “Sails” and “The Fall Chorus” — here just “Fall Chorus” — from 2020’s Habits (review here), on which the four-piece is joined by cellist Joe Butler and violinst Charlie Davis, fleshing out especially the quieter “Fall Chorus,” but definitely making their presence felt on “Sails” as well in accompanying what was one of Habits‘ strongest hooks. And the strings are all well and good, but the live harmonies on “Sails” between guitarist Jack Townley, bassist Peter Holland and guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery — arriving atop the e’er-reliable fluidity of Sam Hart‘s drumming — are perhaps even more of a highlight. Was the whole set recorded? If so, where’s that? “Fall Chorus” is more subdued and atmospheric, but likewise gorgeous, the cello and violin lending an almost Americana feel to the now-lush second-half bridge of the acoustic track. Special band, moment worth capturing, cause worth supporting. The classic no-brainer purchase.

Elephant Tree on Facebook

Elephant Tree on Bandcamp


Mirror Queen, Inviolate

Mirror Queen Inviolate

Between Telekinetic Yeti, Mythic Sunship and Limousine Beach (not to mention Comet Control last year), Tee Pee Records has continued to offer distinct and righteous incarnations of heavy rock, and Mirror Queen‘s classic-prog-influenced strutter riffs on Inviolate fit right in. The long-running project led by guitarist/vocalist Kenny Kreisor (also the head of Tee Pee) and drummer Jeremy O’Brien is bolstered through the lead guitar work of Morgan McDaniel (ex-The Golden Grass) and the smooth low end of bassist James Corallo, and five years after 2017’s Verdigris (review here), their flowing heavy progressive rock nudges into the occult on “The Devil Seeks Control” while maintaining its ’70s-rock-meets-’80s-metal gallop, and hard-boogies in the duly shredded “A Rider on the Rain,” where experiments both in vocal effects and Mellotron sounds work well next to proto-thrash urgency. Proggers like “Inside an Icy Light,” “Sea of Tranquility” and the penultimate “Coming Round with Second Sight” show the band in top form, comfortable in tempo but still exploring, and they finish with the title-track’s highlight chorus and a well-layered, deceptively immersive wash of melody. Can’t and wouldn’t ask for more than they give here; Inviolate is a tour de force for Mirror Queen, demonstrating plainly what NYC club shows have known since the days when Aytobach Kreisor roamed the earth two decades ago.

Mirror Queen on Facebook

Tee Pee Records store


Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel

Faetooth Remnants of the Vessel

Los Angeles-based four-piece Faetooth — guitarist/vocalist Ashla Chavez Razzano, bassist/vocalist Jenna Garcia, guitarist/vocalist Ari May, drummer Rah Kanan — make their full-length debut through Dune Altar with the atmospheric sludge doom of Remnants of the Vessel, meeting post-apocalyptic vibes as intro “(i) Naissance” leads into initial single “Echolalia,” the more spaced-out “La Sorcie|Cre” (or something like that; I think my filename got messed up) and the yet-harsher doom of “She Cast a Shadow” before the feedback-soaked interlude “(ii) Limbo” unfurls its tortured course. Blending clean croons and more biting screams assures a lack of predictability as they roll through “Remains,” the black metal-style cave echo there adding to the extremity in a way that the subsequent “Discarnate” pushes even further ahead of the nodding, you’re-still-doomed heavy-gaze of “Strange Ways.” They save the epic for last, however, with “(iii) Moribund” a minute-long organ piece leading directly into “Saturn Devouring His Son,” a nine-and-a-half-minute willful lurch toward an apex that has the majesty of death-doom and a crux of melody that doesn’t just shout out Faetooth‘s forward potential but also points to what they’ve already accomplished on Remnants of the Vessel. If this band tours, look out.

Faetooth on Facebook

Dune Altar on Bandcamp


Behold! The Monolith, From the Fathomless Deep

behold the monolith from the fathomless deep

Ferocious and weighted in kind, Behold! The Monolith‘s fourth full-length and first for Ripple Music, From the Fathomless Deep finds the Los Angeles trio taking cues from progressive death metal and riff-based sludge in with a modern severity of purpose that is unmistakably heavy. Bookended by opener “Crown/The Immeasurable Void” (9:31) and closer “Stormbreaker Suite” (11:35), the six-track/45-minute offering — the band’s first since 2015’s Architects of the Void (review here) — brims with extremity and is no less intense in the crawling “Psychlopean Dread” than on the subsequent ripper “Spirit Taker” or its deathsludge-rocking companion “This Wailing Blade,” calling to mind some of what Yatra have been pushing on the opposite coast until the solo hits. The trades between onslaughts and acoustic parts are there but neither overdone nor overly telegraphed, and “The Seams of Pangea” (8:56) pairs evocative ambience with crushing volume and comes out sounding neither hackneyed nor overly poised. Extreme times call for extreme riffs? Maybe, but the bludgeoning on offer in From the Fathomless Deep speaks to a push into darkness that’s been going on over a longer term. Consuming.

Behold! The Monolith on Facebook

Ripple Music website


The Swell Fellas, Novaturia

The Swell Fellas Novaturia

The second album from Nashville’s The Swell Fellas — who I’m sure are great guys — the five-song/32-minute Novaturia encapsulates an otherworldly atmosphere laced with patient effects soundscapes, echo and moody presence, but is undeniably heavy, the opener “Something’s There…” drawing the listener deeper into “High Lightsolate,” the eight-plus minutes of which roll out with technical intricacy bent toward an outward impression of depth, a solo in the midsection carrying enough scorch for the LP as a whole but still just part of the song’s greater procession, which ends with percussive nuance and vocal melody before giving way to the acoustic interlude “Caesura,” a direct lead-in for the noisy arrival of the okay-now-we-riff “Wet Cement.” The single-ready penultimate cut is a purposeful banger, going big at its finish only after topping its immediate rhythmic momentum with ethereal vocals for a progressive effect, and as elliptically-bookending finisher “…Another Realm” nears 11 minutes, its course is its own in manifesting prior shadows of progressive and atmospheric heavy rock into concrete, crafted realizations. There’s even some more shred for good measure, brought to bear with due spaciousness through Mikey Allred‘s production. It’s a quick offering, but offers substance and reach beyond its actual runtime. They’re onto something, and I think they know it, too.

The Swell Fellas on Facebook

The Swell Fellas on Bandcamp


Stockhausen & the Amplified Riot, Era of the Inauthentic

stockhausen and the amplified riot era of the inauthentic

For years, it has seemed Houston-based guitarist/songwriter Paul Chavez (Funeral Horse, Cactus Flowers, Baby Birds, Art Institute) has searched for a project able to contain his weirdo impulses. Stockhausen & the Amplified Riot — begun with Era of the Inauthentic as a solo-project plus — is the latest incarnation of this effort, and its krautrock-meets-hooky-proto-punk vibe indeed wants nothing for weird. “Adolescent Lightning” and “Hunky Punk” are a catchy opening salvo, and “What if it Never Ends” provokes a smile by garage-rock riffing over a ’90s dance beat to a howling finish, while the 11-minute “Tilde Mae” turns early-aughts indie jangle into a maddeningly repetitive mindfuck for its first nine minutes, mercifully shifting into a less stomach-clenching groove for the remainder before closer “Intubation Blues” melds more dance beats with harmonica and last sweep. Will the band, such as it is, at last be a home for Chavez over the longer term, or is it merely another stop on the way? I don’t know. But there’s no one else doing what he does here, and since the goal seems to be individualism and experimentalism, both those ideals are upheld to an oddly charming degree. Approach without expectations.

Artificial Head Records on Facebook

Artificial Head Records on Bandcamp


Nothing is Real, The End is Near

Nothing is Real The End is Near

Nothing is Real stand ready to turn mundane miseries into darkly ethereal noise, drawing from sludge and an indefinable litany of extreme metals. The End is Near is both the Los Angeles unit’s most cohesive work to-date and its most accomplished, building on the ambient mire of earlier offerings with a down-into-the-ground churn on lead single “THE (Pt. 2).” All of the songs, incidentally, comprise the title of the album, with four of “THE” followed by two “END” pieces, two “IS”es and three “NEAR”s to close. An maybe-unhealthy dose of sample-laced interlude-type works — each section has an intro, and so on — assure that Nothing is Real‘s penchant for atmospheric crush isn’t misplaced, and the band’s uptick in production value means that the vastness and blackened psychedelia of 10-minute centerpiece “END” shows the abyssal depths being plunged in their starkest light. Capping with “NEAR (Pt. 1),” jazzy metal into freneticism, back to jazzy metal, and “NEAR (Pt. 2),” epic shred emerging from hypnotic ambience, like Jeff Hanneman ripping open YOB, The End is Near resonates with a sickened intensity that, again, it shares in common with the band’s past work, but is operating at a new level of complexity across its intentionally unmanageable 63 minutes. Nothing is Real is on their own wavelength and it is a place of horror.

Nothing is Real on Facebook

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp


Red Lama, Memory Terrain

RED LAMA Memory Terrain Artwork LO Marius Havemann Kissov Linnet

Copenhagen heavy psych collective Red Lama — and I’m sorry, but if you’ve got more than five people in your band, you’re a collective — brim with pastoral escapism throughout Memory Terrain, their third album and the follow-up to 2018’s Motions (discussed here) and its companion EP, Dogma (review here). Progressive in texture but with an open sensibility at their core, pieces like the title-track unfold long-song breadth in accessible spans, the earlier “Airborne” moving from the jazzy beginning of “Gentleman” into a more tripped-out All Them Witches vein. Elsewhere, “Someone” explores krautrock intricacies before synthing toward its last lines, and “Paint a Picture” exudes pop urgency before washing it away on a repeating, sweeping tide. Range and dynamic aren’t new for Red Lama, but I’m hard-pressed to think of as dramatic a one-two turn as the psych-wash-into-electro-informed-dance-brood that takes place between “Shaking My Bones” and “Chaos is the Plan” — lest one neglect the urbane shuffle of “Justified” prior — though by that point Red Lama have made it apparent they’re ready to lead the listener wherever whims may dictate. That’s a significant amount of ground to cover, but they do it.

Red Lama on Facebook

Red Lama on Bandcamp


Echolot, Curatio

Echolot Curatio

Existing in multiple avenues of progressive heavy rock and extreme metal, Echolot‘s Curatio only has four tracks, but each of those tracks has more range than the career arcs of most bands. Beginning with two 10-minute tracks in “Burden of Sorrows” (video premiered here) and “Countess of Ice,” they set a pattern of moving between melancholic heavy prog and black metal, the latter piece clearer in telegraphing its intentions after the opener, and introducing its “heavy part” to come with clean vocals overtop in the middle of the song, dramatic and fiery as it is. “Resilience of Floating Forms” (a mere 8:55) begins quiet and works into a post-black metal wash of melody before the double-kick and screams take hold, announcing a coming attack that — wait for it — doesn’t actually come, the band instead moving into falsetto and a more weighted but still clean verse before peeling back the curtain on the death growls and throatrippers, cymbals threatening to engulf all but still letting everything else cut through. Also eight minutes, “Wildfire” closes by flipping the structure of the opening salvo, putting the nastiness at the fore while progging out later, in this case closing Curatio with a winding movement of keys and an overarching groove that is only punishing for the fact that it’s the end. If you ever read a Quarterly Review around here, you know I like to do myself favors on the last day in choosing what to cover. It is no coincidence that Curatio is included. Not every record could be #100 and still make you excited to hear it.

Echolot on Facebook

Sixteentimes Music store


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mirror Queen to Release Inviolate June 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

The first single from Mirror Queen‘s new album, Inviolate, is the title-track, which closes the seven-tracker. Set to release on June 24, Inviolate is the fourth long-player from the NYC-based outfit, whose New Yorkness extends further back with guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s tenure in Kreisor and his position as honcho of the much-respected Tee Pee Records. “Inviolate” itself was premiered here with a video in 2018 as the band began a European tour to support their 2017 full-length, Verdigris (review here).

I don’t know if the album has been in the works for that long and it was pieced together or if it’s a new recording or what, but listening to it now, I’m reminded of just how fluid the band makes mellow classic heavy rock feel. Shifting between proggier fare and more straight-ahead — what used to be called “radio friendly” — verses and choruses, Mirror Queen‘s songs are pulled together by organic performances and a laid back vibe. The riffs abide. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.

New album June 24?

Mirror Queen Inviolate




Mirror Queen, the NY-based stoner rock outfit release their new album, Inviolate, on June 24 via Tee Pee Records.

“On this album we’re continuing to collaborate among the members more so than ever, exploring the riffs, hooks, and melodies – everything from classic pop to favorite prog moves has been fair game to be included in our hard rock stew. Doing our own thing: Inviolate, ” says vocalist/guitar player Kenny Kreisor.

The band, who performed at both the New York and European versions of Desertfest 2019, recorded the self-produced, 7-song collection at Flux Studios in Alphabet City, Manhattan. Album pre-orders are available here:

A late Summer tour will be announced soon, with a record release show slated for June 25 show at Union Pool.

Inviolate cover art by Malleus Art Labs

Inviolate track list:

Inside An Icy Light
Sea of Tranquility
The Devil Seeks Control
Witching Hour
A Rider On The Train
Coming Round With Second Sight

Mirror Queen is Kenny Kreisor (guitar/vocals), Jeremy O’Brien (drums), James Corallo (bass/backing vocals) and Morgan McDaniel (guitar). The New York-based band have released three albums: Verdigris (2017), Scaffolds of the Sky (2015) and From Earth Below (2011).

Mirror Queen, “Inviolate”

Tags: , , , ,

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Morgan McDaniel of Mirror Queen

Posted in Questionnaire on March 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

morgan mcdaniel mirror queen

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: Morgan McDaniel of Mirror Queen

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

I would say I play the guitar like trying to figure out which is the right doorbell. I enjoy few things more than music and am delighted that I have been presented opportunities to travel and deal high volume riffs to those who wish to listen (and otherwise). I came to do it and continue to do it with an all encompassing word — persistence. You must always work towards whatever it is you want and never be disillusioned by fear of failure, expectation or convention.

Describe your first musical memory.

My first real musical memory is my father introducing me to the Doors and The Kinks at a young age. While that didn’t kick me into full musical gear at that age it certainly left its effects as the latter remains one of my constantly favorite groups to revisit.

The first one of significant impact was the first lesson with second guitar teacher (since clearly the first one didn’t motivate me) Tor Synder, showing me the very barebone basics (string tunings and partial chords). Then before leaving me he (having played an acoustic for the duration of the lesson) asked to see my “Ion” brand strat knock off my parents had bought at Urban Outfitters for $100 (a real quality instrument). He then proceeded to play all of the Hendrix riffs at his disposal. I remember all I knew about Hendrix at that time was the name but I knew exactly whose music I was listening to and that was the thing for me. Side note, the week following he introduced me to Scorpions (Uli Jon Roth years), UFO and Rainbow. The world needs more people like that fella.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Opening for Deep Purple [with The Golden Grass] at Capitol Theatre. Besides the obvious reasons for that being something I look back on fondly, what sticks out most was watching Deep Purple play from every possible vantage point. At one point I found myself watching from the staircase on the balcony (trying not to obstruct any views) when someone tugged on my shoulder. I had figured it would have been a “hey buddy, get out of the way” but was pleasantly greeted by an usher who gave a solid “that was a great set,” then I promptly thanked them, watched for a second longer and got out of the way.

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

My first European tour. As a 19 year old with no steady employment, no (formal) college education, a sprained wrist (as a bass player auditioning for a power trio, that was quite the intimidating predicament) and maybe a little over a month to rehearse. The idea of (in a sense) escaping the lack of (in a sense) purpose ‘back home’ was a welcome thought. However, when the reality sets in, relationships break down and at times you don’t know if you are really enjoying yourself then you are really forced to contemplate on whether you made the right choices. Luckily the verdict on my end was it was and I would do the same a hundred times over.

The last show of that tour was to a packed house in the Green Room stage at Roadburn which is a close second on the fondest memory front and the beliefs of right and wrong were null.

Where do you feel artist progression leads?

Up, down, left, right, all around. It leads wherever you want it to and even where you don’t. The ultimate destination being discovery, realization and enjoyment for oneself as well as others.

How would you define success?

Being happy, content yet ambitious in any venture one decides to embark on.

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

One stands out vividly but I will save that for my book….

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

The perfectly disguised pop song. An unconventionally structured, familiar but new monstrosity that is as easy at it is to listen to as it is to analyze. Then I’d hope to write a few more in that vein.

Also working on a film score sounds like an arduous yet rewarding project.

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

The most essential function of art in my humble opinion is the freedom of interpretation it emanates (solicits/elicits). The term “universal language” is as justifiable as it is clichĂ© when describing music as it acts as a healer, reminder of distant memories both good and bad, an equalizer of interest and anything/everything in between.

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

Travelling, hanging out with all my friends in a dirty bar, oh and giving my mom a big hug.

Mirror Queen, “Inviolate” official video

Mirror Queen, Verdigris (2017)

Tags: , , ,

Live Review: Nebula, Sasquatch, Mirror Queen & Geezer in Brooklyn, 09.07.19

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Nebula (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had all the makings of a classic Saturday night at Saint Vitus Bar, including a few classics along the way from the bands playing. I was trying to remember the last time I saw either Nebula or Sasquatch, and I know that at least in the case of the former, it was well before the fabled Brooklyn venue opened in 2011 — they haven’t toured widely since, what, 2010, for the LP version of Heavy Psych (review here)? — and I think as regards Sasquatch, it might’ve been when they were supporting their second album, II (discussed here). That came out in 2006, so definitely a long time. Now that I think about it, it’s been a couple years since I last saw Geezer as well, and only Mirror Queen, who played Desertfest NYC (review here) this past April, can I say it hasn’t been an absurdly long time.

There were reportedly a bunch of relevant shows happening in Brooklyn at the same time, from The Budos Band to Siege, but whatever. I knew where I wanted to be, and I knew I wanted to be there early. I actually got to the Vitus in time to catch the end of Geezer‘s soundcheck, and it was a quick reminder of why I was so excited to see them again in the first place. The Kingston, NY, trio have new recordings currently in progress, and unless I’m missing something — as I said, it’s been a while — the bulk of what they played was new. They finished out with “Charley Reefer” from earlier 2019’s Spiral Fires EP (review here), but beyond that and maybe one or two others the riffs to which called out their origins, the point of it having been too damn long was underscored by how fresh Geezer‘s material was, rife with ride-this-groove slow-motion boogie and an engagingly jammy soul from guitarist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota. The first bottom line is they were on earlier than they probably should’ve been — hazards of a four-band bill and an 11PM curfew, I suppose — and they killed it just the same, the smoothness of their roll easing those there in time to see them into what was already working on being a great night.

Mirror Queen, long since an NYC staple whose current incarnation features — in addition to founding guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal, also of Tee Pee Records fame — guitarist Morgan “Can’t Help but Boogie” McDaniel, who held down low-end for a time in The Golden Grass, alongside bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien, also had a swath of new material to showcase. I don’t know their recording plans, but they’re embracing classic progressive heavy rock in a big way and by all appearances even more than they did on 2017’s Verdigris (review here), their most recent LP. They played one song from that in opener “Poignard” and the title-track from 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here) before launching into new songs “Inside an Icy Light,” “A Rider on the Rain” and “The Devil Seeks Control” and a take on “Stairway to the Stars” by Blue Ă–yster Cult that would not be the last set-closing cover of the night. As with Geezer before them, their new stuff only made me look forward to what the New Year might bring, and though they had some technical trouble with a persistent buzz and some crackling this-or-that, their bouncing rhythms seemed to make up for whatever time they lost sorting it all out. Kind of know what to expect from them at this point, but that does nothing to lessen the appeal, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll admit there have been chances — not many, but at least two — for me to see Sasquatch in the last couple years, and for whatever reason I haven’t been able to make it work. Their lineup, with Roadsaw‘s Craig Riggs on drums/sometimes-vocals, guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, was unstoppable. Front-to-back energy of the kind where you can tell each of the players is challenging the others to keep up. Around hyper-memorable songs like “More Than You’ll Ever Be,” “Rational Woman” and “Bringing Me Down” from 2017’s Maneuvers (review here) and the much-appreciated “Chemical Lady” from their 2004 self-titled debut and “New Disguise” from 2010’s III (review here), they seemed to have some new songs in tow as well — “It Lies Beyond the Bay,” if I’m reading the setlist right? — but either way, if you could get kicked in the ass by a breath of fresh air that somehow also kind of smells like motor oil, that would be like seeing Sasquatch live. Yes. It is an experience of mixed-metaphor hyperbole-worthy heavy rock and roll of the kind that makes you want to believe not only that we live in a gilded age for the genre, but that future generations of those with any clue whatsoever will some day come up to those who were there and ask what it was like to see that band in their day. And if you’re wondering, this most certainly was their day. New album next year? That’d be just fine by me.

Speaking of new albums, did I ever think Nebula would put out another record? I wouldn’t have called it impossible, but until they got back together for Desertfest in 2018 — credit where it’s due — I don’t think I’d have considered it overly likely. However, they gave 2019’s aptly-titled Holy Shit (review here) its fair outing, with “Messiah,” “Witching Hour,” the Luciferian “Man’s Best Friend,” “Let’s Get Lost” and “The Cry of a Tortured World” aired alongside classics like “Fall of Icarus,” “Aphrodite” — which opened; my god — and the ultra-languid-and-still-somehow-aggro “Anything from You” and “To the Center,” which only brought out the spirit of how much Nebula are a punk band even if one that’s been left out in the California sun to bake until, well, baked. Guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass‘ return feels triumphant, and not just because the record rules, and he and bassist/backing vocalist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster — who seems to have become desert rock’s drummer of choice, as he’s also now joined Mondo Generator; his adaptable style and obvious power behind the kit make it hard to think of a band from out that way in which he wouldn’t mesh — brought out the tech they referred to only as Ranch from the stage to play second guitar, which only filled out the sound further.

Under rainbow-hued lights, they demonstrated not only why it’s proper to think of them more than 20 years later as a classic band, but why Nebula are a band that underground heavy rock needs now, at a time when shut-the-fuck-up-and-chill seems to be in such short supply. Late in the set they included a version of “Out of Your Head” that made me want to go back and get to know 2003’s Atomic Ritual all over again, and the jammy “Sonic Titan” was more than welcome as well. I could’ve done with “Down the Highway,” but you can’t have everything. As it was, there was an event scheduled for after the show — a Smiths/Morrissey party or something like that — and so Nebula were scheduled to be done circa 10:45. They played for another 10 minutes and, in true punker fashion, threw in a cover of The Stooges‘ “Search and Destroy” to close the night, playing it with conviction enough that it felt like the song should’ve thanked them afterward. Righteous, it was. A righteous blowout.

Also classic? The traffic I hit heading back to Jersey. Midnight on a Saturday at the Lincoln Tunnel? Yeah, your trip’s gonna take twice as long as it otherwise might. Still, I got back to my ancestral homestead around 12:30 — the Morrissey party was probably in full swing — and crashed out in short order, ready to call the night a complete win as few could hope to be. Nebula and Sasquatch head west from here en route to Northwest Hesh Fest later this month and a capstone gig in San Francisco thereafter, but whether it’s now or next time, if you have the opportunity, take it. I can’t say it any simpler than that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , ,

Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night Two, 04.27.19

Posted in Reviews on April 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Windhand (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Well — not to be confused with the Austin, Texas, band of the same name — is around the corner from where The Acheron used to be in Brooklyn and there still stands The Anchored Inn as a congregation point. I was there for not the day’s first cup of coffee before day two of the inaugural Desertfest NYC kicked off back at the venue. It was cloudy and the air was chilled — April in New York — but by the time Electric Citizen were done, the sun was out and would remain so for the bulk of the day. That helped all the more since the main stage was outside.

A large tent was erected on an expansive enclave of a patio space. In back was the merch area, seating at picnic tables and along the other side there was a bar, taco stand, and the raised shipping container up some stairs that had been converted to a backstage lounge, complete with deck. The vibe was immediately relaxed and cool, with another bar inside and the second stage, in a smaller room off to the side of The Well‘s main corridor. My first time in the space, and it seemed ready for the event from its basic structure to the tent outside, though if Desertfest NYC is going to be an annual event, they’ll need a bigger one.

The afternoon kicked off soon enough, but though the venue switched from the Saint Vitus Bar the evening prior, the mood around was much the same. It was something Ron Holzner of The Skull would effectively summarize in saying, “About damn time we had a European festival come to the States. A sign of good things to come.” One hopes he’s correct in the foresight.

It was a packed nine-band day, mostly alternating back and forth between the stages, and it went vaguely like this:

Electric Citizen

Electric Citizen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had been a few years since I last caught Ohio heavy rockers Electric Citizen, but their 2018 album, Helltown (review here), was a stripped down and switched on groover that at the same time offered the band’s most developed sense of melody yet, so yes, it was something to look forward to. I don’t think they were helped by the early slot, but with the bill as stacked as it was, there wasn’t really anywhere else to put them. There was, fortunately, a good crowd to start the day off, and that only grew in number as the RidingEasy Records five-piece went on, their sound pulling elements from cult rock, glam, doom and proto-metal in order to create a brew that’s readily familiar and nuanced at the same time. They played as a five-piece, with keys alongside the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and frontwoman Laura Dolan noted from the stage that this was their sendoff for a European tour. They’ll spend the month of May in the UK and EU, playing Desertfest in London and Berlin as well as other dates before and after. They sounded ready to go, to say the least.


Tower (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Immediately after Electric Citizen wrapped on the main stage, the second stage launched with the classic metal stylings of Tower, who continue a tradition of gritty NY homage to the NWOBHM and early thrash that goes back pretty much to when that sound was current. There’s always been a place for that stuff in New York, and Tower represented well what Brooklyn has done in the wake of bands like Early Man in the last decade and Natur and others in this one, two guitars blazing to coincide with the first off-stage frontperson of the weekend — presumably not the last, though one never knows — and a riotous stage presence that all the more justified that spillover onto the floor. They were probably the most metal act of the day, but still well accessible to the Desertfest NYC crowd. I’ve made the argument a thousand times at this point that classic metal is the domain of the heavy underground. Tower were another notch in favor of that position, and they effectively captured the spirit of the metal to which they were paying homage via their material. Not unfamiliar, but that’s the point.


Danava (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back on the main stage, Portland, Oregon, stalwarts Danava answered such metallurgy with a bit of boogie, a bit of NWOBHM dual-guitar action, and a lot of soul. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Danava a couple times over the years, and though my initial impression of them wasn’t positive, they’ve proven consistent in terms of the high-quality of their work on stage and off — my initial impression, in other words, was wrong. The simple fact that they haven’t put a record out in eight years and continue to get booked on shows like Desertfest NYC and Psycho Las Vegas, where they’ll play the pool party in August, should speak volumes to their continued relevance, and though they had the At Midnight You Die single (review here) out through Tee Pee in 2016, you would have to say they’re due for a record. Overdue. But they killed. Founding guitarist/vocalist Gregory Meleney warned the crowd before they played what was presumably a new song, “Nothing but Nothing,” that they might screw it up, but by all appearances they nailed it, which was basically the case for their entire set.

The Skull

The Skull (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Yeah, I know The Skull is Ron Holzner and Eric Wagner from Trouble, and I know they’ve got Rob Wrong from Witch Mountain on guitar alongside Lothar Keller and they’ve got Brian Dixon from Cathedral on drums (though it was Chad Walls for this show). They’ve got all that, and I won’t take away from anyone’s pedigree whatsoever. But you know what else The Skull have? Songs. Songs. Songs. They’ve got songs that are memorable. Songs that stay with you after you put the album down and move onto the next thing. Songs that, when they play them on stage, you go, “Oh shit yeah, this song!” as I did when they launched into “When the Sun Turns Black” from their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) and the title-track of last year’s follow-up, The Endless Road Tuns Dark (review here). Stage presence is a factor, of course, and if you’re going to call anyone in American doom a supergroup, it’s probably fair to do so for The Skull, but whatever they do, their foundation is there in the songs, and it’s the songs that carry them most of all. They were and are the best example I can think of for a band building something new out of a storied legacy.


Worshipper (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Boston’s Worshipper packed the second stage room beyond capacity — there was a line out the door to get in — and played like a band who are about to release one of the best records of the year, which they are in the form of their second album, Light in the Wire (review here). They opened with “Visions from Beyond” and “Coming Through” from that offering and gave a preview of what they’re soon to take on the road in Europe with their Tee Pee labelmates in The Skull — they too will be at Desertfest‘s London and Berlin editions — as guitarist John Brookhouse and bassist Bob Maloney proffered dead-on vocal harmonies on material new and old, guitarist Alejandro Necochea tore into leads and offered more harmony alongside Brookhouse‘s guitar, and drummer Dave Jarvis pushed the entire thing forward, grounding the psychedelic stretches and keeping momentum on their side, which it was for the duration. They were the band I was most looking forward to in the lineup for the day, particularly in light of their new album, and they very clearly played to the momentousness of the occasion at the first American Desertfest. It was the kind of thing I’ll be glad to have seen.


Weedeater (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some technical trouble with the bass amp before Weedeater went on, but plenty of shenanigans to fill the time and bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Colins spat out auctioneer’s chatter and lines like “crack rocks” and “wow, wow, mom” in checking the mic. The North Carolinian trio — Collins, guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd, drummer Ramsey Ateyeh (I think; someone please correct me if I’m wrong) — are on a forever-tour, their last record, Goliathan (review here), having come out in 2015, but they absolutely packed that tent and people went apeshit for them to the point that, when I went into the photo pit later for Windhand, the barricade had moved up in front of the stage to the point that there was no more access to the other side. Weedeater do nothing but deliver, and I know Dixie is kind of playing to character, but dude is working from the moment he hits stage to the moment he leaves. He’s the James Brown of sludge, and Weedeater‘s legend has grown all the more over their nearly-25-years because of that. They played the songs they always play, they kicked ass like they always do, and they proved once more that there’s only ever been and there only ever will be one Weedeater. Accept no substitutes.

Mirror Queen

Mirror Queen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Let’s face it: you’re never going to beat Weedeater at their own game. Luckily for all involved, Mirror Queen were on a different wavelength entirely. Their progressive-tinged classic heavy rock is a staple of New York’s underground, and with guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s dual-role as the head of Tee Pee Records, their inclusion was all the more fitting. The four-piece, with Morgan McDaniel on guitar, James Corallo on bass and Jeremy O’Brien on drums, bounced and careened through a set that acquitted them well with the Desertfest crowd — doubly fortunate since they’ll be in Berlin soon enough — and asked nothing by way of indulgence while bringing to bear material of melody and weight that wanted neither in perspective or delivery. Mirror Queen have been around, and have had their share of lineup turnover, but the band as they are now was only engaging, and to those familiar with them and not in the crowd, they were a return to consciousness after the bash over the head that the main stage had just delivered. Heavy rock and roll is always welcome, and Mirror Queen were a fitting reminder why.


Windhand (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Like Weedeater before them, like Black Cobra the night prior and like Monolord and Elder to follow the next day, Windhand were not an unknown quantity, but for a festival brand feeling its way out in a hard city, they made perfect sense for the bill, and their doom was absolutely massive in the tent that held the main stage. I had been thinking after The Skull played that there was no doom left for anyone else — and certainly Windhand‘s 2018 album, Eternal Return (review here), had more going on than just that — but the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece managed to scrape enough together in order to feel like they were burying the crowd alive in low end. I will gladly argue for Windhand as being among the most important bands of their generation, particularly for those who’ve come up since and have taken influence from the sense of atmosphere they bring to their material in the studio and on stage, and though they had a hard act to follow on the main stage, they lived up to even the mighty expectations that are placed on them at this point wherever they go. They are a headlining band, full stop. They’ve worked hard to become one, and they deserve every bit of significant acclaim they’ve garnered over the years, while still sounding like they want nothing more than to move forward.


Steak (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ambassadors from London’s populous heavy underground, Steak were nothing short of a refreshing way to close out the night. They’ve been a staple act of Desertfest London, which guitarist Reece Tee is also involved in organizing via Desertscene, as he was with Desertfest New York, so like Mirror Queen, they also had a family connection to the proceedings, but even their soundcheck drew a crowd keyed in to the fuzz tone and heavy roll they let loose. They were not halfway through the first song before frontman Chris “Kippa” Haley was standing on the front-of-stage riser, and he’d spend a goodly portion of the set up there, toasting the crowd and personifying the entire band’s really-glad-to-be-here mood, which was infectious. They too packed out the second stage room and held the crowd for the duration, begging a revisit for 2017’s No God to Save (review here) and showing off the development in their dynamic since which is set to manifest on their next record, due out before they play Keep it Low in Munich this October. Seeing them live for the first time in I don’t even want to count how many years only made me look forward to that more, whenever and however it might actually show up, and for the first Desertfest New York, they hit stage like a mission statement of what the festival brand is all about, from top to bottom. It was right on and then some.

It was not a small amount of day. As of now, it’s about two hours until it’s time to get back on the road from New Jersey to Brooklyn for the third and final round with Desertfest New York. The weather thus far seems to be uncooperative, but we’ll see how it all pans out this afternoon. Shower first. Shower first.

That’ll be good.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,