Dead Satellites Set July 26 Release for Debut EP Burst

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Let’s assume that if a band goes ahead and names their debut EP after you, you’ve probably gotten the job done as a recording engineer. So it is with Burst, the first four-songer outing from Dead Satellites. The duo splintered off from Brooklyn’s Matte Black recorded the darkly spacious offering with Charles Burst at Studio G and, sure enough, decided to title it in his honor. Can’t argue with the sentiment — the thing sounds great — but it’s not something you run into all that often. It probably should be. There’d be a lot of records out there called Anderson, I guess.

In any case, Burst is out July 26 and will be available from the band. They’ve got the first two tracks streaming now in the form of “42,” with its immediacy of post-metallic riffing (indeed, it’s their “Stones from the Sky” moment) and the more sprawling “Beyond the Sun / Last Transmission,” and between the two, you can get a pretty good picture of where they’re coming from, though of course “Name_” and “El Guapo” have a few more tricks up their sleeve as well.

Cool stuff from a new band. That’s my favorite kind of story. Here’s the release announcement:

Dead Satellites Burst

Dead Satellites was born out of the love for playing live music. The duo had been hammering out riffs in the heavy NYC underground music scene since 2010. Most notably in the heavy psychedelic doom leaning power trio, Matte Black. Fidel Vazquez on drums and Matt McAlpin on Guitars/Vocals. The pair found themselves wanting to create something new and immediate as the band was finishing up the recently completed Matte Black album, “Psyche”. They accepted a gig supporting Lacey Spacecake before putting together a new set from scratch in a few weeks time. A few months later they went into Studio G to record with Seaside Lounge engineer, Charles Burst.

“Everything was tracked quickly in sequential order. The drums sounded fantastic in the live room and most songs were captured on the first or second take.” Matt remembers, “It was liberating and exciting session. Everything felt alive and the drums sounded huge. Charles really did an amazing job capturing the energy and feeling of our live performances.”

Dead Satellites “Burst” will be self released on Friday, July 26th.

Tracklisting:
1. 42
2. Beyond the Sun / Last Transmission
3. Name_
4. El Guapo

Dead Satellites are:
Idel Vazquez – drums
Matthew McAlpin – guitars + vocals

https://deadsatellitesmusic.bandcamp.com

Dead Satellites, Burst (2019)

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The Giraffes to Release Flower of the Cosmos Aug. 2

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the giraffes (Photo by Ebru Yildiz)

Down at the bottom of this post, where the streaming stuff goes, there’s streaming stuff. You’ll find The Giraffes‘ 2008 full-length, Prime Motivator, and the song “Product Placement Song” from their 2015 EP, Usury (review here). They’re down there, but I’m not going to put either one on to listen to while I write this, as I otherwise might do under normal circumstances. Because The Giraffes aren’t normal circumstances. They’re the kind of circumstances where I might put a track on and be completely unable to function for the rest of the day because they’re so goddamned catchy. I’ll tell you to go ahead and listen though, because frankly your productivity isn’t my concern. So yeah, dig in.

Maybe you know it and maybe you don’t, but a new album from The Giraffes is the best news of your day.

It comes from the PR wire:

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

THE CHAOS AND MENACE OF BROOKLYN BAND THE GIRAFFES LIVE PERFORMANCES HAS BEEN CAPTURED ON THEIR NEW STUDIO ALBUM: FLOWER OF THE COSMOS OUT AUGUST 2, 2019 ON SILVER SLEEVE RECORDS

record release show 8/3/19 at Union Pool with Beechwood, Chest High Fires

Brooklyn cult band The Giraffes are best known for their chaos and menace filled live shows and their cult following. The band will release their new studio album titled, Flower of the Cosmos, on Silver Sleeve Records (Caroline Distribution; formats include vinyl LP and digital) on August 2, 2019.

Flower of the Cosmos is a heavy, yet agile record filled with fun songs about sad realities that never gets bogged down but instead rips in ways no other band has been able to manage.

“Recording this album was the single most rewarding and challenging experience I’ve ever had in the studio,” guitarist Damien Price explains. “Conceived as love songs and played with an unbridled ferocity in reaction to the perpetual state of crisis America has placed itself in for the last three years.”

The record was produced and engineered by The Giraffes, Tony Maimone, and Francisco Botero, at Studio G (Tom Waits, The Black Keys, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Unsane) in Brooklyn during the summer of 2018. Maimone’s production credits include: Frank Black, Pere Ubu, Mike Watt, John Langford, Golem, and Ani DiFranco among others. Grammy award nominee Botero’s engineering credits include Highly Suspect, Adriana Lucia and more.

The album title, Flower of the Cosmos, the band explains “is a bitter acknowledgment that the modern world in all of its absurdity, vanity, sham, exploitation, and cruelty stands as the culmination of a 4 billion year uninterrupted chain of life on earth. We are the fruit of all that has come to pass before us, the pinnacle of creation, the acme of reality.”

Tracklisting:
1. “Can’t Do This In Your Head”
2. “Like Hate”
3. “Faks”
4. “Golden Door”
5. “Fill Up Glass”
6. “Bubble Scum”
7. “Raising Kids In The End Of Times”
8. “Dorito Dreams”
9. “Crude Wave”
10. “Romance”

The Giraffes is:
Aaron Lazar on vocals and guitar
Damien Paris on guitar
Andrew Totolos on drums, percussion, accordion
Hannah Moorhead on bass

Live in concert:
Saturday, August 3rd, 2019
at Union Pool
484 Union Ave Brooklyn NY 11211
Doors: 7pm
Ticket Price: $15
The Giraffes, Beechwood, Chest High Fires

https://www.thegiraffes.com
https://www.facebook.com/TheGiraffes
https://instagram.com/thegiraffesofficial
https://thegiraffes.bandcamp.com/
https://soundcloud.com/the-giraffes
http://giraffesofficial.tumblr.com
https://soundcloud.com/silversleeverecords

The Giraffes, Prime Motivator (2008)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

eternal black slow burn suicide

[Click play above to stream Slow Burn Suicide by Eternal Black in its entirety. Album is out June 13.]

At least as regards rock and roll, the sound of New York City has always been one fueled by grit and concrete. From the speed-pop of the Ramones to the bruiser noise of Unsane, New York has always been at its best when it manifests the intensity of its surroundings in an almost unconscious fashion, and that would seem to be precisely what’s happening with Eternal Black‘s second full-length, Slow Burn Suicide. Because for sure while the trio, in following their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), speak directly to NYC-based influences like early Type O Negative, River Runs Red-era Life of Agony, Cro-Mags — right about when RoadRacer became Roadrunner — bringing that aggression and heft of presence into the context of the traditional doom of their first record, they do so in a manner that sounds overarchingly natural. It’s clear they were consciously pushing themselves as songwriters — the returning lineup is guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob, bassist Hal Miller, and drummer Joe Wood — and in so doing, they’ve entered into conversation with influences beyond the standard fare for doom.

Across nine tracks bookended by the into “All These Things Destroy You…” and the outro “All These Things (Slight Return),” Eternal Black cast the identity for themselves that the debut and 2015 self-titled EP (review here), returning to record at Suburban Elvis Studios with Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall at the helm for a tonally consistent work that’s nonetheless a marked step forward from where they were two years ago. On tracks like the post-intro opener “Lost in the Fade” and the rolling “The Ghost,” they tap into this omnidirectional aggression, and even as “Sum of All Your Fears” hits into a chorus ripe for comparison to Deliverance-style C.O.C. — especially followed by the solo as it is — the band maintain their downtrodden atmosphere instrumentally and lyrically, taking what they want from the past and making it their own.

This is pretty much the ideal in all cases, but it especially suits Eternal Black to step into the role of representing trad doom from New York, where the style has never had the same foothold it’s enjoyed for decades a few hours south in Maryland. But from the moody, atmospheric notes and strums that launch the brief “All These Things Destroy You…” onward into the tom hits that build tension at the start of “Lost in the Fade” with feedback roiling behind, Eternal Black is both things: New York and doom. The gang-style shouts in the chorus of “Lost in the Fade” only further demonstrate the point, and the band retain a sense of impact to go along with the thickness in Wohlrob and Miller‘s tones, the hook coming around after a brash verse that keeps a raw feeling despite being produced for clarity.

eternal black

“Lost in the Fade” is the longest song on Slow Burn Suicide, and a highlight, but it doesn’t feel artificially extended or any longer than it needs to be to make its point, and “Below,” which follows, reinforces the core approach of the album, with Wohlrob‘s vocals offering a guttural, low-register melody and riding a groove that, had it been on the first record, I’d probably liken to The Obsessed, while keeping a more understated chorus en route to a sharp finish. This in turn brings “The Ghost,” with smooth hi-hat work from Wood in the nodding verses and more angular turns in the bridge, eventually leveling out to a longer instrumental section ahead of the solo and closing verse riffery, which is as fitting a march as one might make to “Sum of All Fears,” which is the centerpiece and a straightforward showcase of what Eternal Black are bringing to their second LP in terms of atmosphere, lyrical depth, largesse of groove and tone, and the focus on mood throughout. Four years on from their inception, they’ve succeeded in manifesting their sound from the roots of their inspiration, and “Sum of All Fears” might be the point on Slow Burn Suicide where that’s most palpable.

Though of course there’s plenty of competition in that regard, and as “A Desert of No Name” takes hold, it does so by renewing the rhythmic bounce early and moving in its middle third to a percussion-led instrumental break — not quite a jam, but not far off — as Wohlrob pulls a quick solo overtop. They move into a speedier section to finish as one last verse sneaks in at the end, and “Three Fates” provides an interplay of acoustic and electric guitar for an interlude leading to “Saints, Sinners and Madmen.” That track is also the last before the outro “All These Things (Slight Return),” which means essentially it’s surrounded on all sides. Think it’s meant to be a standout? The purposefulness of its positioning is met by its slow-crawling lurch — as with any doom worthy of the name, the bass is the secret weapon, and Miller locks in on “Sinners, Saints and Madmen” in an effective reminder of that — and Wohlrob tosses out the album’s title line amid further grim plodding.

The song is only four and a half minutes long, which is kind of surprising given the ceremony leading into and out of it, but it picks up its pace somewhat to give a fair-enough end, though the outro’s arrival — worth noting the “Slight Return,” at 2:22, is a minute longer than the intro — does much to underscore the true message of Slow Burn Suicide in terms of the consciousness and forward-moving will of Eternal Black‘s work. That can be heard in their songwriting here all the more with the consistency in terms of production, and what while what they do remains thoroughly doomed, it’s their doom. Listening to “All These Things (Slight Return)” as it dissembles at the finish, one does not at all get the sense that Eternal Black have finished exploring the parameters of what “their doom” is, but they take important steps here and find themselves exploring new ground even as they plunge deeper into the foundations of their approach.

Eternal Black website

Eternal Black on Bandcamp

Eternal Black on Thee Facebooks

Eternal Black on Instagram

Eternal Black on Soundcloud

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Eternal Black Announce June 13 Release for Slow Burn Suicide; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

eternal black

Preorders are up now for Eternal Black‘s second album, Slow Burn Suicide, which is fair enough because the June 13 release date is coming up faster than you (or I, anyhow) think. In accordance with the order of things, the Brooklyn-centered three-piece are streaming the track “The Ghost” from the record as an initial teaser for what the entirety holds, and its sound is true to what their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), set forth, while drawing at the same time toward a rawer approach. The guitar has more bite. The bass seems to hit with more force. The drums crash and roll with a barely-restrained intensity. It’s doom, make no mistake, but it’s fascinating to hear Eternal Black purposefully trying to bring something of their own to the traditions of the style, let alone openly discussing doing so as they do in the PR wire info below. The edge suits them.

I have to think that if Hellhound Records was a going concern in 2019, these guys would get a serious look.

To the announcement:

eternal black slow burn suicide

Eternal Black To Release New Album, Slow Burn Suicide, on June 13th, 2019

Pre-order available on Bandcamp; Includes a New Track, “The Ghost,” for Immediate Download and Streaming

Brooklyn-based doom band ETERNAL BLACK will release their second full length album, Slow Burn Suicide, on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Comprised of nine new songs, Slow Burn Suicide is the follow-up to their debut album, Bleed the Days. Fans can pre-order the album on Eternal Black’s Bandcamp page (eternalblack.bandcamp.com) and download or stream a new track titled “The Ghost” right away. The album will also be available on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services. Details about CD and vinyl versions will be coming soon.

Official statement from the band:

“Our mission on this album was ‘Keep Doom Ugly.’ We felt the raw edge of foundation Doom has been lost. Everything has become too self-indulgent. The meandering 12-minute tracks have been done to death. We wanted to push back against that trend. Restore the grit and grime to a sound that used to make the hair stand up on your arms. As before, we looked to the foundation Doom bands and dragged that sound back into the present. It can still be raw and innovative. On this album, the heavy parts are heavier and the grooves are groovier. In places, we’ve given the songs a little more light and made the dark parts darker. Slow Burn Suicide is a step forward while still honoring what came before.”

For the new album, Eternal Black again worked with the production team of Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Ministry, Begotten) at Suburban Elvis Studios in New York. The duo has produced all of Eternal Black’s studio recordings including Bleed the Days and their self-titled EP. The album was mastered by Tony Reed of Mos Generator, who also mastered their previous album.

Formed in late 2014, Eternal Black is made up of Ken Wohlrob (End of Hope) on guitar and vocals, Joe Wood (Borgo Pass, Bloody Sabbath) on drums, and Hal Miller on bass. The group came together out of a desire to create dark songs driven by fuzz-drenched riffs and old-school heavy grooves.

http://eternalblackdoom.com
https://eternalblack.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/blackhanddoom
https://instagram.com/eternalblackdoom/
https://soundcloud.com/eternalblackdoom

Eternal Black, “Ghost”

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Sàbba Sign to DHU Records; Pentacle Vinyl Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sabba

New York trio Sàbba released their debut EP, Pentacle, in the early hours of 2019. The tape edition largely gone (Sludgelord Records still has it) and I wouldn’t expect much different as the response when DHU Records gets behind the vinyl release for a very, very limited pressing of 66 copies. I think they’ll probably do a second run somewhere down the line — or at least I’d kind of hope? — but if you ever needed an example of it paying to get your preorders in, this has to be it. 66 copies! That’s like nothing. The wax is clear, and if you haven’t heard the tracks yet, they’re name-your-price on Bandcamp. I’d just hate to see you miss out on it twice. You know me. Looking out.

DHU sent the following down the PR wire:

sabba pentacle

SÀBBA sign to DHU Records to release debut Pentacle

DHU Records is proud to announce the signing of Brooklyn, New York’s Occult Doom band SÀBBA to release their debut record “Pentacle” on extremely Limited Edition vinyl!

Sàbba is a Brooklyn bred doom metal/stoner rock band with themes ranging from total obliteration to daunting practices of the occult. Sàbba, meaning Sabbath in southern Italian, offers a sound which mushrooms from psychedelic, trance-inducing hypnotism into a brick wall of crushing annihilation.

“Pentacle” will be the first release in the Exclusive Press series Limited to 66 copies on Crystal Clear Lathe Cut which will be pressed by Royal Mint Records

Info and details for pre orders coming real soon

Side A:
A1. Pentacle
A2. Smoke Goddess

Side B:
B1. IVPITER

Pentacle was Recorded and Mixed at AVERNVS BK Studio in Brooklyn, NY
Mixed by Kevin Dawkins
Engineered by Kevin Dawkins and Mike Calabrese
Produced by Sàbba

Art Design by Kevin Dawkins
Cover photo by Hex Kim

SÀBBA
Drums- Kevin Dawkins
Guitar/Bass- Mike Calabrese
Vocals- Valerie Russo

https://www.facebook.com/sabbadoom/
https://www.instagram.com/sabbadoom/
https://sabbadoom.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://twitter.com/dhu_records
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Sàbba, Pentacle (2019)

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Conan Announce Secret Show at Saint Vitus Bar This Friday with Yatra and False Gods

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

conan (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I don’t at all think you need me to tell you to go see Conan whenever the opportunity should happen to present itself. With the brand-newly-announced secret show with Yatra and False Gods at the Saint Vitus Bar as an offshoot from their tour with Black Label Society and The Atomic Bitchwax, that’s one more chance to do so. The UK three-piece have made a couple stops at the venerable Brooklyn institution at this point — I saw them there in 2015 (review here) — but it’s a sight to behold and sound to… well, have your ears blown out by. Their volume, in that room. Safe to say you’ll be hitting the water cooler in back by the bar once or twice during the set. Or, you know, just drinking more generally.

Conan continue to support their 2018 album, Existential Void Guardian (review here), and are working toward the release of yet another new record this year, all the while coming back to the States in June around an appearance at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 where, as one would expect, they’ll be headlining. Hard to argue with the logic there, and whenever I hear something about the next Conan LP showing up, I’ll let you know. Unless it’s a secret. I can keep secrets.

Not this one though:

conan new poster

CONAN – Semi-Secret Show at Saint Vitus Bar

CONAN Live:
May 09 Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino #
May 10 Brooklyn NY – Saint Vitus Bar
May 12 Richmond, VA – The National #
May 13 Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live #
May 14 Toronto, ON – Opera House #
May 15 Toronto, ON – Opera House #
May 22 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater #
May 23 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater #
# = w/Black Label Society
* = w/Atomic Bitchwax

June 23 Frederick, MD – Maryland Doom Fest ^
June 26 Boston, MA – Great Scott ^
June 27 Portland, ME – Geno’s ^
June 28 Montreal, QC – Turbo Haus ^
June 30 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class ^
July 01 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups ^
July 02 Indianapolis, IN – Black Circle ^
July 03 Chicago, IL – Reggies ^
July 04 Rock Island, IL – RIBCO
July 05 Omaha, NE – Slowdown
July 06 Rapid City, SD – Haycamp Brewery
July 07 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
^ = w/Witchkiss

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, March 4, 2018

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Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night Three, 04.28.19

Posted in Reviews on April 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The final day of a festival is always bittersweet, in any context. This being the first Desertfest NYC, it was a time to step back and take stock of the event, the crowd, the proceedings, what worked well, what could be tweaked in the future, and in what ways generally it could grow — because if the Desertfests in Berlin, London and Antwerp are any indication of intent, growth is the idea.

So what about it? The venue worked. The Well is a cool spot, and you almost feel like you’re getting away with something out on that back patio. The tent for the main stage worked. The food worked. The free iced coffee cans from Stumptown Roasters certainly worked for me, if we’re defining “worked” as “kept me upright.” The sound worked. The lights worked for the most part. And the location worked. I got street parking both days, no problem. Mark it a win based on that alone.

The second stage room was intentionally smaller and got to be a squeeze, and with the way the door was, you were either in or out — there was no peaking through to see the band onstage. Not that that’s the ideal way of seeing live music, but it’s better than nothing. It was easy enough to get there early, but I heard people noting it just the same. And it was cold. Yesterday more so than the day before. The sun teased a couple times but wasn’t out for more than about 20 minutes at any point, and then it was night, so it got colder. Rain held off, which was a relief, but there was definitely a flux of people going inside for a bit to get warm before going back out to be in front of the main stage. April in New York. That’s a possibility.

But on the whole, given the crowd size and response, the fact that it ran so well from front to back, and the general spirit of those playing and attending comingling and having a good time, I wouldn’t call it anything but a success. Desertfest is a brand, and they were feeling out a new, tough market in New York, but they pulled it off. I was given a t-shirt and I’ll wear it proudly. I hope they do another.

But holy crap was I tired.

Really, just a mess. Doing a festival is one thing. Doing it not completely removed from the rest of one’s life is quite something else, and I could feel myself showing signs of wear and tear especially early in the day before what little adrenaline my deeply flawed body could produce got to work and got me through. That coffee didn’t hurt either. You’ve made a customer for life, Stumptown. I mean that. I don’t usually even drink iced coffee.

Felt like an earlier start than it was at 3:15PM:

Unearthly Trance

Unearthly Trance (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As sadly will happen, Fatso Jetson canceled their trip east to open the third and final day of Desertfest NYC 2019, and I guess it was something of a scramble, but the fest kind of wound up with the opposite. If Fatso Jetson are desert rock, Unearthly Trance are dystopian-expanse-of-concrete-under-a-dark-grey-sky metal. Local heroes from Brooklyn, their 2017 comebacker full-length, Stalking the Ghost (review here), was followed last year by a split with Relapse labelmates Primitive Man (review here), and the few years they spent apart clearly did not dull their impact or atmospheric breadth. Playing in the tent with the sun outside, they were still unremitting in their darkness, and their slow, churning sonic gruel was served up cold to the early crowd, which was perhaps still bleary-eyed from the night before but primed to get bleary-eyed all over again, in no small part to keep warm. That’s a thing, right? Whatever. Unearthly Trance were loud as fuck and bleaker than they were loud. They’ve always been more of an export than a NY-scene band, at least since about 15 years ago, but they gave Brooklyn a showing of some of its best homegrown, and so could’ve hardly been more fitting for that spot.

Sun Voyager

Sun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan)

That’s a good band. They’ve got their kinks and quirks to work out — don’t we all — but the second they realize how much power they actually command from the stage, it’s all over. They’ve got newly-announced tour dates in June that begin in Denver at Electric Funeral Festival and will see them bum around the Midwest for a while, and that’s only going to help. More of that. But already their presence is significant. I haven’t seen them since they released Seismic Vibes (review here), which was a debut I was anticipating to an almost embarrassing degree, so they were an absolute must for my weekend, and hearing them do “Open Road” and “God is Dead,” two of the most potent hooks from among the many boogie-driven brainmelters on the record was more than welcome. They would close with the Budgie cover they just issued digitally, “Crash Course in Brain Surgery,” but their energy was infectious and as I stood there and watched I imagined what it might’ve been like to see Nebula 20-plus years ago when they were just really starting to hit it. It couldn’t have been much different. Sun Voyager are awash in potential now and starting to put the work in to pay that off. I will continue to hope they get there.

Ruby the Hatchet

Ruby the Hatchet (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Forerunners of Philadelphia’s burgeoning heavy psychedelic movement, Ruby the Hatchet brought presence and the chops to back it up in kind to their set outside on the main stage. The Tee Pee rollers were fresh off Grim Reefer Fest in Baltimore on April 20 and were on the West Coast earlier this year supporting 2017’s Planetary Space Child LP (review here), and I’ve seen them live a few times at this point, so to find them locked in wasn’t really a surprise as such. The difference was just what they were able to do in being so locked in. It was a classic heavy rock show. Frontwoman Jillian Taylor led the way through the show, with Johnny “Scarps” Scarperia setting the foundation in riffs somewhere between psychedelic rock and proto-doom, Lake Muir‘s bass and Owen Stewart’s drums pushing the groove forward and the keys — it was quite a setup — of Sean Hur adding texture beyond what one finds in the standard boogie rock of the heavy ’10s. Their next album will say a lot for what the ultimate story of Ruby the Hatchet will be, but their live show left nothing to question about who they are as a band, and the Uriah Heep cover for a finale was a particularly nice choice. Hail heavy prog.

ASG

ASG (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve never been a huge fan of North Carolinian four-piece ASG. Not for lack of respect for the work they do, the time they’ve put in touring, the quality of their records, and so on. Sometimes it just doesn’t click, and I’ll readily acknowledge that’s me and not the band, who obviously weren’t hurting for proponents as they packed out the tent outside at The Well, the chilly air getting chillier and the vibe getting its collective buzz on. I grabbed a can of coffee — honestly, if it had been a bucket, I’d have grabbed that — and watched them for a while and tried to figure out the mental block was stopping me from getting on board. Their 2018 album, Survive Sunrise, was a pick in the Year-End Poll, and I’ve been writing about the band on and off since I saw them in 2011, but everybody else had me beat by far in terms of being into it. My loss, I’ve no doubt. It usually is with that kind of thing. Gave me a chance to go inside and get warm.

Duel

Duel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Does Duel‘s reputation precede them yet? Maybe, given the fact that the room with the Desertfest NYC second stage was filling up 80 minutes before the Austin, Texas, four-piece were slated to go on. Part of that was wanting to keep warm, but the band were setting up their gear and looked surprised to see the expectant faces staring back at them. Fair enough. Duel have a pair of killer studio records under their collective belt for Heavy Psych Sounds in 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and they’re about to unleash the third, Valley of Shadows (review here), on a speedy turnaround May 17 and do the bulk of their label’s impending West Coast package tour earlier next month as preparation for heading to Europe for a month on the road there. So yeah, Duel seemed to be in a good place as they came back on stage at their appointed time and destroyed that tiny room in a way that would’ve translated well to the stage outside, playing like a band taking their delivery to the next level and doing their best work to-date on all fronts. They were riotous and a pleasure to watch. It once again got slammed in the small second stage space as they rose to the occasion, and while everyone there may or may not have known what they were in for, they will next time. Duel are very quickly making themselves essential. A do-not-miss reputation won’t, and maybe doesn’t already, hurt.

Monolord

Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure if Monolord‘s new album — which will also mark their jump from RidingEasy Records to Relapse — is done, or if they’re just already touring for it, but the Swedish trio might as well have been flashing a sign from the stage that said, “NOW IS THE HEADLINING PORTION OF THE EVENING.” Indeed, they and Elder who would follow made up the headliner spots and in the case of Monolord, their primeval riffing, ultra-grooving largesse, chemistry boomed like it was in a meth lab and still-just-dudes-who-like-to-play-loud stage presence was already a highlight of the weekend by the time the first song of their set was done. They’re on the road in the US only briefly this time, having done the Psycho Smokeout on the West Coast as well as this, but they’ll be back for sure after a summer spent in Europe. And I don’t know when they’re record’s coming out, but you’d be a fool not to hold a place on your best-of-the-year list for it whenever it actually happens, because if Monolord have proven anything to this point in their career, it’s consistent. Other bands play, Monolord kill. Make the t-shirt with the spoof logo and sell a million of them. You’re welcome.

Green Milk from the Planet Orange

Green Milk from the Planet Orange (Photo by JJ Koczan)

All three members of Tokyo’s Green Milk from the Planet Orange played seated. Or at least for the most part seated, since I don’t think any of them stayed sitting the entire time, up to and including the drummer, but the arrangement gave their set on the second stage a jazzy feel, with their mega-freaked-out astro-prog heavy grind enhancing that mood. A neon green bass was visible even on what all day was the dark side of the stage, and they likewise were a beacon of weirdness in an undulating sea of riffery. A band on their own wavelength aren’t always easy to listen to — and I’d imagine Green Milk from the Planet Orange‘s new record, which they had for sale outside in the merch area, is plenty frenetic — but the trio made the math add up in their sound and were fun even as they dared the crowd to keep up with them. Most couldn’t, frankly, but that’s the nature of the kind of progressivism a band like that taps into. It’s never been and it never will be for everyone. It was awesome to witness, however, and for the technical prowess and the weirdo vibes coming off the stage, they were a highlight unto themselves. You need that sore thumb band sometimes.

Elder

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elder are arguably the most forward-thinking band in the current American heavy rock underground. By starting out young, they’ve become the spearhead of a generation of acts, and the work they’ve done throughout this decade is unmatched in its scope and the sheer will toward exploring new ideas. Plus it’s heavy. And plus, it rocks. I mean, there are a lot of krautrock bands out there. They’re in Europe. And the US has its fair share of heavy in various stripes, whether it’s desert rock or psych or doom metal or whatever the hell else we’re on this week, but what Elder tie together with their sound is a signature blend of influences that no one else can match, and their style of songwriting is inimitable. The way their parts interact with each other like Nick DiSalvo, Michael Risberg, Jack Donovan and Matt Couto have a musical conversation on stage. The way they’re able to build tension subtly and find just the right moment to swap out trajectories and head someplace else. It’s brilliant in the very real sense of luminosity. They are important, yes, because their influence will continue to spread, but they’re also incredible just to stand back and watch play. Every bit the headliner at this stage in their career, and I suspect they will remain that way for as long as they choose to do so. This is a special band doing special work on their own terms. Long may they reign.

Mick’s Jaguar

Mick's Jaguar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not going to pretend I had it in me to stand there for the entire Mick’s Jaguar set. I didn’t have it in me to stand there for the entire Elder set — I had to go sit inside for a couple minutes at one point or another — but I’d seen every band on all three days of Desertfest NY, so you’re damn right I stuck around and waited for them to go on. I love how New York’s version of party rock is still just a little mean. It’s the punk lineage, or at least the spirit of that culture, because even when a band like Mick’s Jaguar come out on the second stage and start tearing into songs from 2018’s Fame and Fortune (review here), there’s still a little edge of “fuck you” to the good time they’re having. Like they’re saying, “fuck you we’re fun.” And they were a blast. It was late and dark in the room, but a lot of people had gone home after Elder, so Mick’s Jaguar were kind of the pre-after-party for the after-party happening after the show. I knew vaguely what to expect going into the set, but as tired as I was and as much as I still had that hour drive home ahead of me, I knew staying for one more song was the right way to go, and hey, no regrets.

The actual after-party was being held at The Anchored Inn around the corner. I said goodbyes at the venue and farted my way over there for a couple minutes to see how the cool kids live. They live boozy. I tried not to put my backpack in anyone’s face, failed, and then once again took my leave. Maybe I hadn’t been ready after all for Desertfest NY to end. Maybe I was delaying that drive home.

Either way, the toll would be paid this morning. Got to bed before 1AM, but the alarm went off at 5:50AM to get up, pack the car and drive back to Massachusetts so The Patient Mrs. could go to work. It had been traffic all weekend, so I should’ve expected no different. Left at 7:30AM, got in at 1:30PM. Stops for diaper-change, gas, etc., but yeah. Still six hours for a trip that’s ideally not much over four.

That had me pretty much comatose for the afternoon, but I started this review during the baby’s nap and I’m finishing it now after he’s gone to bed. I’m falling asleep while I type and I still need to sort pictures, so I’ll leave it here, but before I go, heartfelt congratulations to Matte Vandeven and Reece Tee on a job well done, and thanks to them, Sarika, Jake and everyone else involved in the festival crew for having me along for it. I felt welcomed in a way that warmed my heart and set the tone for the entire experience. It was much, much appreciated. Here’s to the next one.

More pics after the jump:

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Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night One, 04.26.19

Posted in Reviews on April 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Black Cobra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

An unfamiliar context in familiar environs. Desertscene and Sound of Liberation, who together are behind Desertfest in London and Berlin as well as numerous other events, are playing it smart. New York is a hard town to do a festival, and if they’re thinking of making this an annual event, they’re building from the ground up. It’s not about rolling into Brooklyn and trying to nudge arguably the most entitled audience in the US — because fucking everything comes through New York, and is expected to — into embracing your brand, but about introducing what you do in a way that allows that audience to feel like it’s getting in on something on the ground floor.

To that end, the first night of the first Desertfest NYC was held at the Saint Vitus Bar with a welcoming spirit and a due course of volume. To those who’d point out there are no deserts in New York, congratulations on your cleverness. Please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your sticker. For those of more discerning cognition, the point was the music, always, and Desertfest NYC 2019 both embraced the space it was in and the audience it drew in delivering an inaugural night that felt like a kickoff as much for the parties behind it as those in attendance.

Four bands would lead in to two days of nine apiece, and the venue for Saturday and Sunday is The Well, but the Saint Vitus Bar is not only pro-shop from top to bottom, but an intimate enough space to still feel like something special might happen. Whatever the future holds for Desertfest in New York City, I’ll gladly argue that something special already did.

Here’s how the night went:

Heavy Temple

Heavy Temple (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Have you told two friends yet about Heavy Temple? I sincerely hope so, and I hope they do likewise. It was my first time seeing the latest incarnation of the Philly purveyors of hard fuzz, who seem to have sacrificed little of their forward momentum for once again swapping out two-thirds of the lineup around founding bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk. Now in the company of guitarist Lord Paisley — and congratulations to him on the stage name, because that is marvelous — and drummer Baron Lycan (not bad either), Nighthawk remains the commanding presence at the heart of the band. They’re new in this form, but at least some of what they played was readily familiar from 2016’s shorty-long-player Chassit (review here), and with Nighthawk righteously softshoeing her basslines in true “taking them for a walk” fashion” and Paisley and Lyan certainly more than just along for the ride, they showed that the band’s potential has not at all dimmed for the tumult in personnel. They’re recording — guitars next, apparently — and have tour dates lined up with Ecstatic Vision (info here). I’d say by the end of that run they’ll be on fire, but they already were.

High Tone Son of a Bitch

High Tone Son of a Bitch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I seem to have a preternatural aversion to bands with two frontmen, which is a terrible generalization to make across the board, but true nonetheless. Some people don’t like two guitars. I tend to feel like if you’re going to have more than one person whose primary function is as a singer, you need to earn that aesthetically, either with some harmonies or arrangement depth, etc. Oakland, CA’s High Tone Son of a Bitch brought some aggro noise spirit to both traditionalist heavy rock and Southern-tinged riffing, and indeed there was some interplay between their two vocalists, which helped. They’re a band requiring context, with members of Noothgrush and Kalas aboard and the fact that they were together in the early part of the century before losing guitarist Andrew Kott to drug addiction, and taking more than a decade off only to recently begin a comeback. Even for those without the background though, they seemed to hold their own. They’ve been touring with Weedeater — always helps — and were still getting their feet (back) under them amid some competing vibes onstage, but they acquitted themselves well and their new material seemed to pick up where they left off 15 years ago, so all the better.

Here Lies Man

Here Lies Man (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was talk afterward of Black Cobra stealing the show — and fair enough — but I’d never seen Here Lies Man before, and among the entire weekend’s lineup, they were high among my most anticipated sets. Their two full-lengths for RidingEasy Records, 2017’s Here Lies Man (review here) and last year’s You Will Know Nothing (review here), have both garnered significant critical praise, but they have yet to capture the kind of word-of-mouth-holy-crap-you-gotta-see-this-band backing they deserve. With shared vocals among guitarist Marcos Garcia, drummer Geoff Mann and bouncing bassist JP Maramba and keyboardist Will Rast prominent in the front-of-house mix, they showed just how far they’ve taken the central conceit of the group they started with — “what if Black Sabbath played afrobeat” is how it’s been phrased in the press releases — and made something new from it that’s neither entirely one or the other but all the more a defined Here Lies Man sound. They jammed with character and held down air-tight rhythm and melody with a sense of artistry and professionalism, and as they move toward their third full-length, they only seemed to be poised for people to catch on to what they’re doing. They were, in short, really, really good. You like bands? Okay cool. Here’s a band. Fucking dig in.

Black Cobra

Black Cobra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hey, guess what. Black Cobra were completely dominant. Well of course they were — that’s what they do, and they do it remarkably well. There was some trouble early on with Rafa Martinez‘s bass drum trying to run away from him — only reasonable, since he was kicking the shit out of it at the time — but he and guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian took the Saint Vitus Bar stage and pummeled, pummeled, pummeled their way into a massive oblivion of thrash-infused heft, delivered with the efficiency of a band 15 years removed from their first EP who have long since attained plug-in-and-destroy status via touring that, for years during that stretch at least, was well into what most humans would consider “excessive.” They’re three years out from 2016’s Imperium Simulacra (review here), and I certainly wouldn’t mind if they did a follow-up to that offering, which was their most dynamic to-date, but let’s face it, if Desertfest NYC wanted to be sure everyone stumbled out of the bar feeling like their asses had just been handed to them, they called the right band. I thought maybe I’d try an experiment and try to review their set without once referencing an act of violence — really, I thought of it while they were playing and people were moshing, chuckled out loud to myself at the notion and was interested to try — but obviously such a cause would be hopeless. With the venue duly laid waste, Black Cobra wrapped their set and gave the addled room over to the after-party, every bit in the fashion of the headliners they truly are.

One thing I wanted to mention that didn’t fit in the review: I got pushed at this show. I was taking pictures of High Tone Son of a Bitch and was up front for it, and I stepped to the other side of the stage, saw the guy I was getting in front of was wearing a SonicBlast Moledo shirt, said “nice shirt,” turned to take a picture of the stage-right guitarist, and the dude pushed me as if to move me out of his way. I don’t imagine this was someone from the area. I spent a decent few minutes afterwards thinking about the ownership of space, personal agency of one’s body, how one responds to being bullied, my own history in this regard, and so on, and landed pretty much on my initial reaction, which was a hearty go fuck yourself. It’s a show, and shit happens, but if you want to be up in front of the stage so bad, get there first. Otherwise, feel free to kiss my ass.

I saw the same guy after the set as he was walking to the back, and as he passed me, I gave him a little shove. Equal and opposite reaction. No words were exchanged — I didn’t think it required verbal follow-up — and that was it. I didn’t see him again and if I did, I don’t think there would’ve been any residual acrimony. But these moments affect one’s evening, if temporarily, and I was glad to be in a place I enjoy so much and surrounded by so many good people — the New York Faithful Family Reunion 2019 in full effect — who helped put me back in the proper mindset without even knowing they were doing it. It was a great night.

Today the show moves to The Well and it starts in a couple hours, so I’ll leave it there and just say I’m looking forward to it. More pics after the jump if you’re interested.

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