Quarterly Review: Pelican, My Dying Bride, Masonic Wave, Bismarck, Sun Moon Holy Cult, Daily Thompson, Mooch, The Pleasure Dome, Slump, Green Hog Band

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Welcome back to the Quarterly Review. Good weekend? Restful? Did you get out and see some stuff? Did you loaf and hang out on the couch? There are advantages to either, to be sure. Friday night I watched my daughter (and a literal 40 other performers, no fewer than four of whom sang and/or danced to the same Taylor Swift song) do stand-up comedy telling math jokes at her elementary school variety show. She’s in kindergarten, she likes math, and she killed. Nice little moment for her, if one that came as part of a long evening generally.

The idea this week is the same as last week: 50 releases covered across five days. Put the two weeks together and the Spring 2024 Quarterly Review — which I’m pretty sure is what I called the one in March as well; who cares? — runs 100 strong. I’ll be traveling, some with family, some on my own, for a bit in the coming months, so this is a little bit my way of clearing my slate before that all happens, but it’s always satisfying to dig into so much and get a feel for what different acts are doing, try and convey some of that as directly as I can. If you’re reading, thanks. If this is the first you’re seeing of it and you want to see more, you can either scroll down or click here.

Either way, off we go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Adrift/Tending the Embers

pelican adrift tending the embers

Chicago (mostly-)instrumentalist stalwarts Pelican haven’t necessarily been silent since 2019’s Nighttime Stories (review here), with a digital live release in Spring 2020, catalog reissues on Thrill Jockey, a couple in-the-know covers posted and shows hither and yon, but the stated reason for the two-songer EP Adrift/Tending the Embers is to raise funds ahead of recording what will be their seventh album in a career now spanning more than 20 years. In addition to that being a cause worth supporting — they’re on the second pressing; 200 blue tapes — the two new original tracks “Adrift” (5:48) and “Tending the Embers” (4:26) reintroduce guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec as a studio presence alongside guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg. Recorded by the esteemed Sanford Parker, neither cut ranges too far conceptually from the band’s central modus bringing together heavy groove with lighter/brighter reach of guitar, but come across like a tight, more concise encapsulation of earlier accomplishments. There’s a certain amount of comfort in that as they surf the crunching, somehow-noise-rock-inspired riff of “Adrift,” sounding refreshed in their purpose in a way that one hopes they can carry into making the intended LP.

Pelican website

Pelican on Bandcamp

My Dying Bride, A Mortal Binding

My Dying Bride A Mortal Binding

Something of a harsher take on A Mortal Binding, which is the 15th full-length from UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride, as well as their second for Nuclear Blast behind 2020’s lush The Ghost of Orion (review here. The seven-song/55-minute offering from the masters of misery derives its character in no small part from the front-mixed vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe, who from opener “Her Dominion” onward, switches between his morose semi-spoken approach, woeful as ever, and dry-throated harsher barks. And that the leadoff is all-screams feels like a purposeful choice as that rasp returns in the second half of “The 2nd of Three Bells,” the 11-minute “The Apocalyptist,” “A Starving Heart” and the ending section of closer “Crushed Embers.” I don’t know when the last time a My Dying Bride LP sounded so roiling, but it’s been a minute. The duly morose riffing of founding guitarist Andrew Craighan unites this outwardly nastier aspect with the more melodic “Thornwyck Hymn,” “Unthroned Creed” and the rest that isn’t throatripper-topped, but with returning producer Mark Mynett, the band has clearly honed in on a more stripped-down, still-room-for-violin approach, and it works in just about everything but the drums, which sound triggered/programmed in the way of modern metal. It remains easy to get caught in the band’s wretched sweep, and I’ll note that it’s a rare act who can surprise you 15 records later.

My Dying Bride website

Nuclear Blast webstore

Masonic Wave, Masonic Wave

Masonic Wave Masonic Wave

Masonic Wave‘s self-titled debut is the first public offering from the Chicago-based five-piece with Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Corrections House, Led Zeppelin II, etc.) on vocals, and though “Justify the Cling” has a kind of darker intensity in its brooding first-half ambience, what that build and much besides throughout the eight-song offering leads to is a weighted take on post-hardcore that earlier pieces “Bully” and “Tent City” present in duly confrontational style before “Idle Hands” (the longest inclusion at just under eight minutes) digs into a similar explore-till-we-find-the-payoff ideology and “Julia” gnashes through noise-rock teethkicking. Some of the edge-of-the-next-outburst restlessness cast by Lamont, guitarists Scott Spidale and Sean Hulet, bassist Fritz Doreza and drummer Clayton DeMuth reminds of Chat Pile‘s arthouse disillusion, but “Nuzzle Up” has a cyclical crunch given breadth through the vocal melody and the sax amid the multiple angles and sharp corners of the penultimate “Mountains of Labor” are a clue to further weirdness to come before “Bamboozler” closes with heads-down urgency before subtly branching into a more spacious if still pointedly unrelaxed culmination. No clue where it might all be headed, but that’s part of the appeal as Masonic Wave‘s Sanford Parker-produced 39 minutes play out, the songs engaging almost in spite of themselves.

Masonic Wave on Bandcamp

Masonic Wave on Bandcamp

Bismarck, Vourukasha


There are shades of latter-day Conan (whose producer/former bassist Chris Fielding mixed here) in the vocal trades and mega-toned gallop of opening track “Sky Father,” which Bismarck expand upon with the more pointedly post-metallic “Echoes,” shifting from the lurching ultracrush into a mellower midsection before the blastbeaten crescendo gives over to rumble and the hand-percussion-backed whispers of the intro to “Kigal.” Their first for Dark Essence, the six-song/35-minute Vourukasha follows 2020’s Oneiromancer (review here) and feels poised in its various transitions between consuming aural heft and leaving that same space in the mix open for comparatively minimal exploration. “Kigal” takes on a Middle Eastern lean and stays unshouted/growled for its five-plus minutes — a choice that both works and feels purposeful — but the foreboding drone of interlude “The Tree of All Seeds” comes to a noisy head as if to warn of the drop about to take place in the title-track, which flows through its initial movement with an emergent float of guitar that leads into its own ambient middle ahead of an engrossing, duly massive slowdown/payoff worthy of as much volume as it can be given. Wrapping with the nine-minute “Ocean Dweller,” they summarize what precedes on Vourukasha while shifting the structure as an extended, vocal-inclusive-at-the-front soundscape bookends around one more huge, slow-marching, consciousness-flattening procession. Extremity refined.

Bismarck on Facebook

Dark Essence Records website

Sun Moon Holy Cult, Sun Moon Holy Cult

Sun Moon Holy Cult Sun Moon Holy Cult

That fact that Sun Moon Holy Cult exist on paper as a band based in Tokyo playing a Sabbath-boogie-worshiping, riff-led take on heavy rock with a song like “I Cut Your Throat” leading off their self-titled debut makes a Church of Misery comparison somewhat inevitable, but the psych jamming around the wah-bass shuffle of “Out of the Dark,” longer-form structures, the vocal melodies and the Sleep-style march of “Savoordoom” that grows trippier as it delves further into its 13 minutes distinguish the newcomer four-piece of vocalist Hakuka, guitarist Ryu, bassist Ame and drummer Bato across the four-song LP’s 40 minutes. Issued through Captured Records and SloomWeep Productions, Sun Moon Holy Cult brings due bombast amid the roll of “Mystic River” as well, hitting its marks stylistically while showcasing the promise of a band with a clear idea of what they want their songs to do and perhaps how they want to grow over time. If this is to be the foundation of that growth, watch out.

Sun Moon Holy Cult on Instagram

Captured Records website

SloomWeep Productions on Bandcamp

Daily Thompson, Chuparosa

Daily Thompson Chuparosa

Dortmund, Germany’s Daily Thompson made their way to Port Orchard, Washington, to record Chuparosa with Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed at the helm, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist/vocalist Mercedes Lalakakis and drummer/vocalist Thorsten Stratmann bring a duly West Coast spirit to “I’m Free Tonight” and the grunge-informed roll of “Diamond Waves” and the verses of “Raindancer.” The former launches the 36-minute outing with a pointedly Fu Manchuian vibe, but the start-stops, fluid roll and interplay of vocals from Zaremba and Lalakakis lets “Pizza Boy” move in its own direction, and the brooding acoustic start of “Diamond Waves” and more languid wash of riff in the chorus look elsewhere in ’90s alternativism for their basis. The penultimate “Ghost Bird” brings in cigar-box guitar and dares some twang amid all the fuzz, but as “Raindancer” has already branched out with its quieter bassy midsection build and final desert-hued thrust, the album can accommodate such a shift without any trouble. The title-track trades between wistful grunge verses and a fuller-nodding hook, from which the three-piece take off for the bridge, thankfully returning to the chorus in Chuparosa‘s big finish. The manner in which the whole thing brims with purpose makes it seem like Daily Thompson knew exactly what they were going for in terms of sound, so I guess you could say it was probably worth the trip.

Daily Thompson on Facebook

Noisolution website

Mooch, Visions

mooch visions

Kicking off with the markedly Graveyardian “Hangtime,” Mooch ultimately aren’t content to dwell solely in a heavy-blues-boogie sphere on Visions, their third LP and quick follow-up to 2023’s Hounds. Bluesy as the vibe is from which the Montreal trio set out, the subsequent “Morning Prayer” meanders through wah-strum open spaces early onto to delve into jangly classic-prog strum later, while “Intention” backs its drawling vocal melody with nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and hand percussion. Divergence continues to be the order of the day throughout the 41-minute eight-songer, with “New Door” shifting from its sleepy initial movement into an even quieter stretch of Doors-meets-Stones-y melody before the bass leads into its livelier solo section with just a tinge of Latin rhythm and “Together” giving more push behind a feel harkening back to the opener but that grows quiet and melodically expansive in its second half. This sets up the moodier vibe of “Vision” and gives the roll of “You Wouldn’t Know” an effective backdrop for its acoustic/electric blend and harmonized vocals, delivered patiently enough to let the lap steel slide into the arrangement easily before the brighter-toned “Reflections” caps with a tinge of modern heavy post-rock. What’s tying it together? Something intangible. Momentum. Flow. Maybe just the confidence to do it? I don’t know, but as subdued as they get, they never lose their momentum, and as much movement as their is, they never seem to lose their balance. Visions might not reveal its full scope the first time through, but subsequent listens bring due reward.

Mooch on Facebook

Mooch on Bandcamp

The Pleasure Dome, Liminal Space

The Pleasure Dome Liminal Space EP

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it that guitarist/vocalist Bobby Spender recruited bassist Loz Fancourt and drummer Harry Flowers after The Pleasure Dome‘s prior rhythm section left, ahead of putting together the varied 16 minutes of the Liminal Space EP. For what it’s worth, the revamped Bristol, UK, trio don’t sound any more haphazard than they want to in the loose-swinging sections of “Shoulder to Cry On” that offset the fuller shove of the chorus, or the punk-rooted alt-rock brashness of “The Duke Part II (Friends & Enemies),” and the blastbeat-inclusive tension of “Your Fucking Smile” that precedes the folk-blues finger-plucking of “Sugar.” Disjointed? Kind of, but that also feels like the point. Closer “Suicide” works around acoustic guitar and feels sincere in the lines, “Suicide, suicide/I’ve been there before/I’ve been there before/On your own/So hold on,” and the profession of love that resolves it, and while that’s at some remove from the bitter spirit of the first two post-intro tracks, Liminal Space makes its own kind of sense with the sans-effects voice of Spender at its core.

The Pleasure Dome on Facebook

Hound Gawd! Records website

Slump, Dust

Slump Dust EP

A solid four-songer from Birmingham’s Slump, who are fronted by guitarist Matt Noble (also Alunah), with drummer David Kabbouri Lara and bassist Ben Myles backing the riff-led material with punch in “Buried” after the careening hook of “Dust” opens with classic scorch in its solo and before the slower and more sludged “Kneel” gets down to its own screamier business and “Vultures” rounds out with a midtempo stomp early but nods to what seems like it’s going to be a more morose finish until the drum solo takes off toward the big-crash finish. As was the case on Slump‘s 2023 split with At War With the Sun, the feel across Dust is that of a nascent band — Slump got together in 2018, but this is their most substantial standalone release to-date — figuring out what they want to do. The ideas are there, and the volatility at which “Kneel” hints will hopefully continue to serve them well as they explore spaces between metal and heavy rock, classic and modern styles. A progression underway toward any number of potential avenues.

Slump on Facebook

Slump on Bandcamp

Green Hog Band, Fuzz Realm

Green Hog Band Fuzz Realm

What dwells in Green Hog Band‘s Fuzz Realm? If you said “fuzz,” go ahead and get yourself a cookie (the judges also would’ve accepted “riffs” and “heavy vibes, dude”), but for those unfamiliar with the New Yorker trio’s methodology, there’s more to it than tone as guitarist/producer Mike Vivisector, bassist/vocalist Ivan Antipov and drummer Ronan Berry continue to carve out their niche of lo-fi stoner buzz marked by harsh, gurgly vocals in the vein of Attila Csihar, various samples, organ sounds and dug-in fuckall. “Escape on the Wheels” swings and chugs instrumentally, and “In the Mist of the Bong” has lyrics in English, so there’s no lack of variety despite the overarching pervasiveness of misanthropy. That mood is further cast in the closing salvo of the low-slung “Morning Dew” and left-open “Phantom,” both of which are instrumental save for some spoken lines in the latter, as the prevailing sense is that they were going to maybe put some verses on there but decided screw it and went back to their cave (presumably somewhere in Queens) instead, because up yours anyhow. 46 minutes of crust-stoned “up yours anyhow,” then.

Green Hog Band on Facebook

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp

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Pelican to Release Adrift/Tending the Embers This Friday; Listening Party Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

If you think I’m about to start complaining about a new two-songer from Pelican, you’ve got the wrong place. The long-running Chicago (mostly-) instrumentalists helped pioneer a take on heavy informed by post-rock, post-punk, emo and shoegaze, and considering that kind of thing is everywhere now, I’d say history has proven them right, whereas one recalls in their earlier going the message-board kerfuffle the airier elements of their styles caused. Dudes were pissed. But in the parlance of that same internet, Pelican did nothing wrong. Wasn’t their fault, being skinny and playing heavy.

Yeah, there’s probably a bit of the power of suggestion with the first on-studio-recording appearance of guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec since he rejoined the band — you’ll recall Dallas Thomas (Asschapel, The Swan King, etc.) held the position for the intervening years — but I do hear some aspects of Pelican‘s earlier work in Adrift/Tending the Embers, which carries all the poise one might expect from Pelican as a veteran act but seems as well to be exploring and questioning what it is that makes Pelican who they are. Was it a willingness to be heavy without metal’s chestbeating toxicity? That bit of float amid all the surrounding crunch?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but as many have been following the band on the trail they’ve marched lo these last two-plus decades, as many have taken on their influence and as forward as the band has always looked, I’m sure glad there’s new music happening alongside the reissues and covers that came out last year. Whatever this leads to or doesn’t as regards a full-length, I’ll take what I can get. If you want to hear it before it’s out on Friday, there’s a listening party on Bandcamp tomorrow you can get on board for. Info follows as per the band’s email list:

pelican adrift tending the embers

Dear friends – we are thrilled to announce that we have launched pre-orders for our new ‘Adrift / Tending the Embers’ EP, which is out this Friday. These are our first new songs since 2019 and the first material written with founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec since 2012.

Laurent joined us on our 2022 Summer tour and the reunion proved so inspiring that we began writing a new album early last year. The ideas were flowing so quickly that it soon became clear that there was more than an album’s worth of material in the works. Late last year we booked studio time with our longtime collaborator Sanford Parker to document a pair of the earliest compositions in order to present them to our supporters sooner than later.

The result is ‘Adrift / Tending the Embers’ – digital preorders are up right now and a limited cassette version (first press is 200 copies) will be coming on Friday. We’ve also launched preorders for a limited long sleeve shirt based on Christian Degn’s hand illustrated EP artwork- we will only be accepting orders for this until March 6, so jump on it sooner than later if you’re interested.

If you’re interested in hearing the EP early we will be hosting a Bandcamp listening party tomorrow at 2pm EST / 11am PST. Please join us!

We can’t thank you enough for you support and your patience. We’re still writing the album, so it may be a little wait for that still, but we are so excited by the direction of the new material and are thrilled for you all to hear it when the time comes.


Pelican, “For Your Entertainment” (Unwound cover)

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Pelican to Reissue Australasia Aug. 19

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

For my money, which I just might spend on this reissue, Pelican‘s Australasia (discussed here) is one of the best heavy records of all time. If you narrow those parameters to instrumental releases, it only moves higher up the list. Issued through Hydra Head, it broke ground for heavy atmospherics in a way that continues to resonate, and as one of series of reissues through Thrill Jockey Records (more info here), this reissue follows a stint for the band in Europe that included a headline slot at Freak Valley 2022 (review here) in Germany that I felt lucky to be able to witness. Guess that saves you the trouble of reading the review, which I’m pretty sure no one was going to do anyhow.

The release date is Aug. 19 and the vinyl is colored to the cover’s theme —  always classy, I think — with preorders up through Bandcamp. I have to imagine that if these don’t go beforehand, they will by the time the band plays a weekender in September that includes a stop at Post Festival in Indianapolis. I’ve never been to X-Ray Arcade in Cudahy (unless it’s the old Blue Pig), but I’ve hit Pyramid Scheme in Michigan before, and that place is fabulous. But really, anywhere Pelican are showing up is where you want to be.

From the PR wire:

pelican australasia

Pelican announces deluxe reissue of their classic debut album Australasia Out on August 19th, 2022

Featuring never-before released material from the era, remastered audio by Josh Bonati, and expanded artwork

Original guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec has rejoined the quartet, reinstating the band’s original lineup

Listen to Australasia:

Following a headlining European tour including sets at Dunk! Festival, Freak Valley Festival, and Hellfest, Chicago/Los Angeles quartet Pelican have announced the first of their Thrill Jockey reissues, Australasia, out on August 19th. The deluxe reissue will feature remastered audio by Josh Bonati and bonus material, including a never-before shared track, a live recording of the album’s title track from the era of the album’s release, a remix by James Plotkin, and artwork by ISIS/SUMAC/Hydra Head founder Aaron Turner.

Pelican’s debut album Australasia, originally released in late 2003 by Hydra Head Records, is a landmark record in the shifting tides of heavy music that took place at the turn of the millennium. 20 years since its release and with several sold out represses, Australasia is a proven essential for any listener exploring the bounds of rock music. Following the release of the band’s auspicious self-titled EP, Australasia’s singular integration of melodic complexity and tremendous density redefined conceptions of what constituted “heavy.” Pelican’s unique manipulation of atmosphere and dynamics seamlessly alchemized their disparate influences beyond metal into music grand, mercurial and utterly sublime, worthy of the album’s namesake.

Billowing clouds of strange serenity give way to tectonic riffs. Hypnotic rhythms chug at the precipice between doom and euphoria. Guitarists Trevor Shelley de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec twirl soaring harmonies around the roaring thunder of bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg. Throughout the album, the quartet move as one like a glacier, awesome and forever imbuing the landscape with their mark. Australasia stands as a pioneering work, unmatched in the level of unbridled beauty and devastation.

Pelican will be playing a handful of Midwest shows this September, including a headlining set at Indianapolis’s Post Festival.

Pelican tour dates
Sep. 9 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
Sep. 10 – Indianapolis, IN – Post Festival at The Vogue Theatre
Sep. 11 – Cudahy, WI – X-Ray Arcade



Pelican, Australasia (2003)

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Notes From Freak Valley 2022 – Day 2

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 17th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Freak Valley Festival van

Freak Valley Festival 2022 – Day 2

Thu. – 12:47PM – In a tent

A lot going on as the festival and its many volunteers — designated by crew shirts from various years — get ready for the first full day. First band is on in about 70 minutes.

I crashed out hard last night after a vigorous round of nesting — pillows here, water bottle there, white noise on, window open to let cool air in, book loaded on tablet so I could look at words for about seven seconds before falling asleep, etc. — and woke up with the alarm at 10AM, which is only ironic because that’s 4AM at home and I might be up then on any given day anyhow. What jetlag?

Hydrated. Took ibuprofen, drank three cups of drip coffee and some assemblage of espressos — two doubles and then some — ate a protein bar and got my head right before coming back here. DVNE growling through soundcheck right now is hilarious. Not everyone can do that without music behind. Now singing clean in French. Chuckles from those lounging nearby.

The sun is out and there’s more of a breeze so far, though it will get warmer over the next couple hours. It doesn’t matter though. FVF provides places to be, whether it’s the seats on the side or this tent or the hammocks under the trees in back, and so on. People go, have a smoke, catch their breath, rest before the next thing. I am sitting in a chair, as opposed to a bench or on the ground. This itself feels like a novelty, and backstage has its own amenities, including bathrooms and places to fill your water bottle.

There are three more bands on the bill today than yesterday and the last of them is Pelican, which I hope will feel like a wonderful moment of arrival after the long stretch. But we’re in it now with doors open and the hangover soon to give way to new drunkenness. Folks went hard last night, and it wasn’t just Mr. Roomtwentynine. I’ll be interested to see how it goes once the music starts, which it will soon enough.

Notes on the day, taken as it happened:


DVNE (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What a way to start the day. The largely uptempo UK post-metal outfit probably aren’t used to playing in sunshine, but all the better to see them obliterate. I’ve been lucky enough to catch DVNE live before, at Psycho Las Vegas a few years back (everything was a few years back), but the Etemen Ænka (review here) record that they put out between them and now brought them to a new level. They sound like a band who put work and conscious thought into the atmospheres they create — progressive in that way — and their clear desire to not do the same thing all the time, to distinguish themselves even among the crowded sphere of post-metal is something to deeply respect, all the more because they do it. And just when they seem to get all caught up in a mire of tense, complicated prog-metal noodling, that’s when they turn around and bash you over the head with a riff and if you can’t get down with that, why even have ears? Their sound goes as deep as you’re willing to follow it and on stage they back that cerebralness with due passion-derived force. Or, if you prefer the short version, this is a cool fucking band. I was surprised it wasn’t being filmed, but I guess one can’t have everything.

Supersonic Blues

Supersonic Blues (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hey, guess what? Been a few years since I last saw Netherlands classic rockers Supersonic Blues. Shocking, right? Well, earlier this year they put out their awaited debut album, It’s Heavy (review here) on Who Can You Trust? Records, and man, that record is a burner. A boogie burner, even better. Seeing and hearing them play songs from it put them high on my list of anticipated bands for Freak Valley 2022, but that they played as a two-guitar four-piece and seemed to take a special jammy pleasure in doing so made them even more enjoyable to watch. You wouldn’t call them innovative — and that’s not intended as a slight, they’re actively trying not to reinvent the wheel — but their songs and vibes are tremendous fun. One of those bands who are mellow no matter how heavy they get, and who seem to find a sweet spot between ’70s grooves and a kind of laid back melodicism. There’s a part of me that hopes they never add a keyboardist and go prog — which is what a goodly portion of the bands who influenced Supersonic Blues ended up doing — but time will tell of their ultimate direction. Right now, and for the last five or so years, they’re a blast. A party that’s been waiting for you to show up. They brought their own drums.


Kosmodome (Photo by JJ Koczan)

My first time seeing Kosmodone, whose name I’ve seen around a lot. I’ve played them on the Gimme Metal show before, but not really written about them, but they remind a bit of Hypnos 69’s warm prog, their stage arrangement such that the drummer/vocalist is off to the side rather than behind the guitars and bass, which is kind of where the keys are. They’re young, which means they can play prog without needing to stand still on stage and maybe have some Motorpsycho influence, and it’s hard to be really immersive when it’s broad daylight and still heating up, but whatever, it’s a good time. In the hills around there are hawks circling the woods, or maybe that’s the campsite, I don’t know. Either way, Kosmodome released their self-titled album last December and dedicated “The 1%” from it to all the children in the crowd, and yes, there are plenty of them and a few more clearly impending. I can’t imagine my family, my wife and son, would enjoy this — he might for a while but then would be trying to get on stage, she simply wouldn’t — but it would be an interesting experiment. Kosmodome came here from Bergen, Norway, and it occurs to me I have no clue how far away that is. Hard to get your bearings at a thing like this. But I know today’s Thursday, because that’s when Kosmodome played. They closed with “Orbit,” which also finishes the record, and I might have to buy this album now.

Les Big Byrd

Les Big Byrd (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hell yes Swedish space rock. This was my first experience with Les Big Byrd — and they pronounced it “less” on stage rather than the French “lay” Big Byrd — but however you want to say it they brought trance groove to the hottest part of the day, riding motorik groove and a balance between songwriting and jamming with similar ease. As I’d never heard them, their synth-laced sound hit a laid back feel just right, and they also had a side-of-stage drummer, like Kosmodome, except on the other side, and he did backing vocals. They said they’ll have a new record out this Fall, and if I had any idea what month it is, I might know how far away that is from now, but at least I’ll know to keep an eye out for it. I’d dozed in the shade prior to their going on, my new hippie hat over my face, and they made easing back to full consciousness smoother than, say, Mondo Generator probably would. I chased down some coffee later in the set in the interest of remaining upright for the second half of the day’s lineup and they were done by the time I got back, but I’d watched a bit out front on the grass, people dancing on either side of me to the fluid sounds. I’ll take it.

Mondo Generator

Mondo Generator (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Would you fuck with Mondo Generator? I wouldn’t. Seems like a good way to get punched. They’re like punk rock aggro taken to its natural extreme; a legacy of dirty, fucked up, angry — and in their case, heavy — rock and roll that is dangerous and in pursuit of danger as the end. Nick Oliveri doubles in Stöner with Brant Bjork these days, but it’s been nearly a decade since last time I saw Mondo Generator (review here) and they were a four-piece then, but they worked well as a trio. The rawer the better. Mike Pygmie I saw a few weeks ago playing with John Garcia at Desertfest New York (review here), but it’s been years since I watched the malleable Mike Amster bash away at a drum kit, and that was a pleasure as well. I don’t think I’ll ever be intense enough for Mondo Generator, but I’m honestly not sure anyone is. All the more reason to put Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age songs in the set: no one’s gonna argue with “Green Machine” and “Thirteenth Floor,” or at very least no one here. Even when they slow down though, they’re mean, and after they closed with “Tension Head” into “Allen’s Wrench” and “Millionaire,” just to make sure everybody goes home happy after getting their ass kicked., the crowd called for one more and apparently they had time, so they threw in Queens of the Stone Age’s “Six Shooter” with Oliveri putting down the bass and just singing. That was a fun 90 seconds for sure.

The Atomic Bitchwax

The Atomic Bitchwax (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Yay! If we’re being completely honest with each other, that’s about the extent of my depth of insight watching The Atomic Bitchwax right now. I’ll never claim to be impartial about this band, however many times I may be so fortunate as to see them or write about them, but they’re just one of the tightest heavy rock acts you’ll ever see. A couple weeks ago they absolutely flattened me at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn (review here) and it was nothing but a joy. Similar set here, the lines about songs about Kung Fu and shouting out “Kiss the Sun” to the ladies, etc., but they tore into it and were a blowout and a blast and probably six or seven other adjectives that collectively round down to “quite exciting, indeed,” while also exuding glee at doing so, Bob Pantella, Garrett Sweeney and Chris Kosnik (who I’m starting to think of writing in for the upcoming US midterm congressional election) simply working at another level from just about everybody and giving Mondo Generator a run for their money without the same kind of aggression behind it. What a tour that would be. ‘Too Fast for Your Brain 2022.’ I know things are about to take a mellower turn, but these guys were the kick in the ass I needed heading into the rest of the night. A heartfelt fucking a, The Atomic Bitchwax. Thanks for the boost. And for “So Come On.” And that slowdown and speed up in “Shitkicker.” And the Deep Purple. Right on.


Toundra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

After 9PM just now and still very light out. I guess that’s why I was disoriented last night, because night happened at a different time. Also the no sleep. I’ll admit to being relieved watching Toundra. I was expecting a big post-Bitchwax comedown, but that’s not at all what Spanish instrumentalists Toundra delivered. I’ve heard them before, written about them before, but as dug-in as their style is in that vaguely-My-Sleeping-Karma-ish progressive-meditative-sans-vocal heavy, they were jumping around on stage while they played it. It can be done! And even the dreamier stretches were given a push that was a perfect accompaniment to the richness of their tones and the lead guitar lines floating overhead. For a crowd who’ve largely spent already the last seven-plus hours drinking, or just for me who could use another coffee (perpetually), they were outright engaging to the crowd — very definitely a show — without giving up their progressive aspects. That’s not an easy thing to pull off, and they were treated with due respect by the crowd, I’m sure some of whom saw them here when they played in 2016. As I didn’t, I’m glad I’m seeing them now. If that makes me late to the party or whatever, fine. Story of my life. And yes, they had their “Stones From the Sky” moment. Someone in the back behind the lawn, by the merch and food, was burning incense. Balloons were being batted around until meeting their inevitable end. Kids sat on parents’ shoulders. Freak Valley could give classes in how to define heavy peace. Subsection on the syllabus for this set right now. How lucky I am to be here.

Endless Boogie

Endless Boogie (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The app I use to order pizza just sent me a “hey you should order a pizza notification.” It’s like somehow it knew Endless Boogie were playing. It’s usually right anyway, and the theory applies here if not the logistics. Paul Major, center stage, guitar in hand, occasionally grumping into the microphone while grooving out — this is kind of a band you need to see live to understand. And they’re from New York. And I live in New Jersey. And I’ve seen them once before this. And it was in Europe. If you have a “go figure” file, that can go right in there. They’re hitting it though. As mellow as their records can be, and as only-on-their-own-clock as they come across, their material isn’t staid or unipolar. It’s a classic kind of dynamic and nothing fancy on paper, but if you want dig a band Endless Boogie are a band to dig, and that’s a compliment. What they’re doing on paper couldn’t be simpler — starting out and seeing where it goes — but what distinguishes them is their personality as players — and that’s not just Major either — and the conversing they do as they ooze through one movement to the next, one jam to the next. I’ll spare you wax poetics in the spirit of Manhattan concrete, but whatever they might have in common with whoever, they are their own thing. Once again, people are dancing, even bigger bubbles are being blown, and meanwhile the band is on stage ripping it up. They dedicated the entire last half-hour of their set to one song, a flowing jam with repeated cycles about smoking in the house that also magically became space rock. There really is nothing like a band who keep their word.


Pelican (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m going to try to assemble a few coherent thoughts, but I can’t promise anything as regards making sense. What I didn’t realize throughout today was just how much it was building toward Pelican, and just how much the veteran Chicago instrumental four-piece were positioned as a culmination. They were the point of convergence. I’m not going to list the tie to each act, because why would I?, but as well as setting the course for an innumerable amount of acts in terms of their influence, they also kick a good deal of ass. That is to say, they’re a headliner on paper as well as in reality. I lost my left earplug right before they went on — I’d left my bag on the other side of the photo pit, and getting there was a journey; just trust me — but even with two full festival days left, I’m less distraught at the ringing in my ear with them as the cause than I might be other under circumstances. It got chilly after the sun went down, but I found a spot in back to watch them for just a bit before moving elsewhere and the swirling lights, the presence of the band on stage, the volume even after I replaced that earplug — staggering. I don’t even know how many times I’ve used the word “beautiful” in the last two days at Freak Valley, and this probably won’t be the last one either, but that’s really what it was. The end of a long day, people slouching with fatigue, booze, whatever. And then Pelican comes on and it’s this massive waveform of positive energy. A celebration, maybe. I don’t know, but it felt like resonant joy pushed through all that crunching tonality, all that hugeness of nod. Heart. In a universe where authenticity is a myth, Pelican communicate something essential — not quite primal, but not far off — for those ready to accept the invitation to hear it. That’s all. No big deal.

06.17.22 – Fri. – 10:54AM – Hotel

Liebe freunden — as the fellow says; it’s a kind of catchphrase for the fest and an appropriate, organic one — it occurred to me last night that I hadn’t had a meal since before I flew out on Tuesday, and that that last meal was composed entirely of Swiss cheese. So yes, breakfast. Some peppery eggs, assorted slices of cheese, coffee. The Karma to Burn of meals. Keep it simple as much as possible. Hydrate. I drank about half a liter of water per band yesterday. Take Advil. Sit down. Breathe to the extent that whatever allergy it is allows. Exist.

I’ve said a fair amount about the music so far, but the atmosphere here shouldn’t be neglected either. The spirit of the place, the green trees, green grass, yes. But also the kindness of the people. I was in the photo pit last night and someone up front in the crowd tapped me on the shoulder and said he probably wouldn’t be there if not for this site. I met a married couple (who’d gotten engaged at the festival in 2017) who were lovely and whose names I remember but won’t say, because, you know.

It’s not for me to be taking pictures of the crowd, of people who aren’t performing, who are there to hang out and enjoy themselves. It seems intrusive. But understand that, being here, the kindness of everybody I’ve met has been as essential as the music, as the setting. The people, the place, the thing. It is all the nouns, spiritually restorative.

Today I will pack a hoodie for the nighttime. Forgive me for being out of practice. I was burning yesterday afternoon and ended up buying a hat as well, so yes, you learn and relearn as you go. But strangers, friends, and strangers who become friends help along the way. Maybe not with showering — that I’ll do on my own — but the rest of it. As loud and raucous and go-go-go as it can be, it’s serene too. An existential butterfly landing on your nose. Just for a moment, I know. Two more days.

Thank you for reading. More pics after the jump.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 86

Posted in Radio on June 10th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Today’s episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal is a tribute to and a look at the lineup for this year’s Freak Valley Festival, taking place next week in Siegen, Germany. Freak Valley has been hosting bands for over a decade and I’m proud to say that this will be my first year attending after many, many more wanting to do so, doing writing for the festival, etc.

Should probably point out even if I d don’t necessarily need to that this isn’t the full lineup of the festival, just as much as I could effectively pack into two hours while also managing to play a 20-minute Endless Boogie track. Could I have hunted out shorter cuts and maybe been able to fit another band or two? Probably, but it doesn’t feel like The Obelisk Show in my brain if it doesn’t end with a jam, so it is what it needs to be.

I should be in the chat this time if you want to say hi. I was doing live factoids about the bands for a while because the Gimme Bot doesn’t always know this stuff if it’s new, or weird, or not at all metal, and so on, but it just kind of got sad after a while so I stopped. Lesson learned.

Thanks if you listen, thanks if you’re reading. Thanks in general.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 06.10.22

Psychlona Blast Off Venus Skytrip
Fu Manchu Strange Plan Fu30 Pt. 2
Duel Wave of Your Hand In Carne Persona
Green Lung Leaders of the Blind Black Harvest
Red Fang Wires Murder the Mountains
The Midnight Ghost Train Foxhole Buffalo
Villagers of Ioannina City Part V Age of Aquarius
Pelican Arteries of Blacktop Nighttime Stories
Djiin Warmth of Death Meandering Soul
Toundra Danubio II
Geezer Atomic Moronic Stoned Blues Machine
Slomatics Cosmic Guilt Canyons
IAH Naga Omines
Kosmodome Hypersonic Kosmodome
Madmess Rebirth Rebirth
Endless Boogie Jim Tully Admonitions

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is June 25 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Pelican to Reissue Australasia, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw & City of Echoes; European Tour Set for May/June

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


Holy trinity? Maybe it would be if the rest of Pelican‘s discography wasn’t also so good. Still, you won’t hear a bad word from me about Australasia (discussed here), and I still remember the first time I listened to follow-up The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw was at a gate at Chicago O’Hare airport waiting for a connecting flight to Austin, Texas, for SXSW a couple rows away from Sanford Parker, to whom I was too shy to say hello. I have a million stories like that, about not talking to people. More than ever, it seems.

City of Echoes was badass too, crunchy and defying-expectations-of-escapism and all. But the additional cool news to go with the remasters that Pelican‘s upcoming European tour will include founding member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec is certainly welcome, though Dallas Thomas was killer as well. Truth of the matter is I guess I’ll take Pelican as they come. It is my deep hope to be able to catch them at Freak Valley Festival. If that doesn’t happen, well at least I’ll have more stories of not interacting with humans.


Here’s word from the PR wire. Listen to Pelican today:

pelican tour

Thrill Jockey to reissue three essential albums by Pelican:

The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw
City of Echoes

Deluxe vinyl reissues throughout 2022-2023 will include rarities, unreleased outtakes, demos and remastered audio

Pelican touring Europe this Spring with original lineup

Thrill Jockey are proud to reissue acclaimed and innovative classic albums by Chicago/Los Angeles quartet Pelican: Australasia (2003), The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (2005), and City of Echoes (2007). The trilogy is streaming now and will be issued on deluxe vinyl editions throughout 2022 and 2023. The reissues will include a bevy of bonus material comprising rarities, unreleased recordings, long out of print singles & EPs and more. Each album will feature painstakingly remastered audio by Josh Bonati as well as deluxe artwork that recreates the classic artwork expanded to include unseen images sourced from the band’s archive.

Pelican have announced a European tour this spring, including their return to headlining Dunk! Festival, as well as rescheduled appearances at Hell Fest, Freak Valley Festival, and a handful of headlining shows. Following the departure of long-standing guitarist Dallas Thomas, the band will be joined on upcoming dates by founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, reuniting the classic Pelican lineup behind their first three albums.

Pelican is a dreamlike art-metal institution, a band whose kaleidoscopic melodies and ocean-dredging riffs have now hypnotized audiences for more than two decades. Emerging from the frozen tundras of Chicago, Pelican were early adopters in blending majestic repetition with sludge metal’s skull-vibrating bluster, adding their own singular sense of keening emo-psychedelia and heavy-metal motorik. Since then, their prismatic instrumental mesmerism has rippled across six critically acclaimed studio albums, been featured in television and film, and influenced countless bands in their wake.

Pelican tour dates
May 28 – Ghent, BE – Dunk! Festival
June 12 – Vienna, AT – WUK
June 13 – Linz, AT – Kapu
June 14 – Dudingen, CH – Bad Bonn
June 15 – Karlsruhe, DE – Jubez
June 16 – Netphen-Deuz, DE – Freak Valley Festival
June 17 – Strasbourg, FR – La Laiterie
June 18 – Clisson, FR – Hellfest


Pelican, Australasia (2003)

Pelican, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (2005)

Pelican, City of Echoes (2007)

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Freak Valley 2022 Adds Red Fang, Black Mountain, Pelican, Elder, Green Lung, Slomatics and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan

I’m not asking for much here, just let me go. I just want to go. It’s only a few days, and it’ll be June so whatever wave of whatever variant we’ll be in of this endless fucking pandemic shouldn’t be too terrible. But come on. Pelican and Supersonic Blues and Slomatics and Temple Fang and Elder and Geezer and IAH and Fu Manchu and The Midnight Ghost Train and Green Lung and Revvnant and Monster Magnet headlining and, and did I mention Slomatics yet because increasingly it’s starting to feel like Freak Valley Festival 2022 is being put together as a favor to me and it seems like the very least I can do is go. I just want to go.

That’s all I’ve got. I wrote this announcement for the fest. It’s a good batch of bands and that’s about the depth of insight I have on the matter just now:

freak valley 2022 square

Happy New Year, Freaks!

We know things are crazy right now just about everywhere, but we’re still doing our best to bring you the biggest celebration of Freak Valley Festival ever. How could we do otherwise?

Today’s announcement is huge and includes another headliner! Let’s welcome RED FANG to Freak Valley!

This will be the first time in Siegen for America’s overlords of Pacific Northwest rock and roll, and they come supporting their new album ‘Arrows,’ which reminds that nobody out there throws a party quite like they do. Their shows are the stuff of legend, the record rules, and the time is right. We can’t wait to see what they bring to our stage!

BLACK MOUNTAIN will also play on the Wednesday of the festival. If you’ve bought three-day tickets, we’re making more tickets available for the Wednesday show, so don’t miss out! It will sell out again!

Progressive heavy rock mainstays ELDER will also return, along with Chicago’s instrumental innovators PELICAN and even more!


Red Fang (headliner)
Black Mountain (playing Wednesday)
Mondo Generator
Daily Thompson
Green Lung
Temple Fang
Swedish Death Candy
The Re-Stoned
Les Big Byrd
Supersonic Blues

Still more announcements to come!

Freak Valley Festival // No Fillers – Just Killers

Freak Valley Festival 2022 IS SOLD OUT.

June 15-18 2022


Red Fang, “Rabbits in Hives” official video

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 41

Posted in Radio on September 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

I guess the last couple episodes I’ve been trying to mix up the approach a little, pull back from starting off with rock tracks, then getting heavy, then tripping out. It was feeling a little formulaic, maybe. Not that we didn’t trip out at the end last time, but I pushed a block of noise up front and that was different at least. This time I’m pulling back from just doing new music and throwing in some older stuff that’s just been on my brain. Some Elder, some Mars Red Sky, and mixing that in with Neurosis and Isis and new Bitchwax and a few bands from Latvia just because I found them all at the same time and figured I’d present them the same way.

Simple change, right? I don’t know about you but I get locked into modes of doing things — even the format of these posts carries over from one to the next — and every now and then I want to shift how it’s done. Not so much to take myself out of my own comfort zone — heaven forbid — but mostly so I can tell myself I’m not completely compulsive about everything even though, yes, I very much am. Whatever. You know what I’m saying.

I hope you enjoy the show.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.04.20

Elder Dead Roots Stirring Dead Roots Stirring
Mars Red Sky Way to Rome Mars Red Sky
Saturndust Saturn 12.c Saturndust
Saturn’s Husk Black Nebula The Conduit*
VVZ Dzeguze >>z*
Zintnieks Tumsais Zintnieks Demo Ieraksti
Acid Moon and the Pregnant Sun Creatures of the Abyss Speakin’ of the Devil
Pelican March into the Sea March into the Sea
Mos Generator Stolen Ages Shadowlands
Floor Sister Sophia Oblation
The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio Scorpio
Isis False Light Oceanic
Neurosis Reach Fires Within Fires

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Sept. 25 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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