The Obelisk Questionnaire: Duncan Park of Return to Worm Mountain, Rise Up Dead Man & More

Posted in Questionnaire on March 16th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Duncan Park

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Duncan Park of Return to Worm Mountain, Rise Up Dead Man & More

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

At the core, I play guitar and write songs. I started playing when I was ten years old, largely because my dad played guitar and my parents played loads of great guitar music in the house as I was growing up. At that age I also started listening to my “own” music, which at that point in time was pretty average pop “punk” like the Offspring and Blink-182 and then nü-metal bands like System of a Down, which was also generally guitar-oriented music.

From there I quickly realized that I love making new sounds on the guitar and started writing my own licks and riffs. At a very young age I knew that I preferred creating my own music to playing covers. I suppose it all just snowballed from there, especially as my tastes in music expanded and my artistic horizons broadened, which opened my eyes to the almost infinite possibilities of musical creation.

Describe your first musical memory.

I was lying on a couch which had been prepared as my bed for the night. I assume we were on a family holiday, or at the very least, we were travelling somewhere and staying in an unfamiliar house. I am not sure how young I was, but I remember feeling excited, and my dad was playing some songs to me on guitar in an attempt to get me to fall asleep. Appropriately, he was playing the song “I’m Only Sleeping” by the Beatles. I remember the song making me feel hopeful, and almost hypnotized. It was a feeling of pure emotive euphoria, which to this day only music can make me feel. It was incredible.

Growing up, my father often played my sister and I songs to get us to fall asleep. He would play his own renditions of the usual Disney songs that kids our age would have liked, but he was a massive Beatles and John Lennon fan, so to this day when I hear the original versions of “I’m Looking Through You,” “Beautiful Boy” or “I’m Only Sleeping,” it always makes me think of him, and more specifically, how much I preferred his versions of those songs (even though the originals are all stone cold classics). I’d love to get a recording of him playing those songs. Next time he comes to stay at my house I think I may force him into it.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is an incredibly difficult question. There are so many moments when writing music which give one an unbridled feeling of euphoria which is immensely satisfying, and I suppose these moments are my best musical memories. One moment in particular would be when Cameron and I wrote the song Umdhlebi Tree for the second Return to Worm Mountain album. We only had a handful of songs and whilst we were jamming and recording some live take’s in his garage to get things started on making the album he said to me we needed to write another song for the record, and kind of put me on the spot to come up with a riff there and then. I felt this immediate pressure and just started to let my fingers wander up and down the fretboard trying to find a riff. He kept saying “nah, I don’t like that” to everything I was coming up with, until I fell upon that serpentine arpeggio that makes up the main riff of the song. At that point we both knew we had something that was special to the two of us, and to this day that remains my favourite riff I have written, and Umdhlebi Tree is one of the songs that I am most proud of out of everything I have ever recorded.

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

In my day job, my firmly held beliefs are tested all the time. But in music, one firmly held belief of mine that is often tested in an incredibly positive way is my belief that when it really comes down to it, the only person you can rely on is yourself. Time and again my friends and musical peers have proved me wrong on this. The musical community has supported me through a great many experiences where I thought I was alone. Music tests me in ways which make me realise that people are generally kinder and more supportive than I believe them to be. And that is a wonderful way to be tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Within my own personal experience and understanding of what “artistic progression” is, it leads to an increased satisfaction in one’s own ability to articulate, express, and emote artistically. Something like becoming more fluent in the ability to communicate musically and express feelings and emotions which cannot be expressed through the limitations of conventional language. As you progress artistically, the wider and more powerful your emotive range becomes. With this ability, the more your own satisfaction in the art you create grows.

However, I don’t necessarily believe that I (or anyone) is constantly “progressing” artistically. I often feel more like I have “regressed” in certain aspects of the art I create, which can be incredibly frustrating.

How do you define success?

For me, success is almost synonymous with satisfaction or contentment. Some people are satisfied just being able to write a song which they will only ever play in their living room, and to them that is an accomplishment and a success in itself. Other people may only be satisfied if their album gets five-star reviews and they sell out a headlining tour of Europe or something like that. So it’s not the same for everyone, and I don’t believe anyone’s own criteria for success is more or less valid than the next person’s.

I also don’t believe that success is something that is static. Everything’s relative. When a band starts out, getting that first gig is a success worth celebrating. As they progress over time their own perception or threshold for success may change and evolve. These days, I often see the number of social media followers an artist has being used as a metric for success. Twenty years ago, social media didn’t even exist, so what is generally perceived or accepted as a measure for success by the public changes over time.

For me, playing music is an extremely personal, cathartic experience, so when I play music, whether it be live or recording and experimenting in my home, if I feel like I have achieved that satisfying release of catharsis, then it has been a success. If I walk away feeling elated, euphoric, or even “cleansed”, like I have purged my frustrations, then it has been a success. If I walk away feeling frustrated or disappointed, then it certainly was not a success at all. I guess that’s my metric for measuring success.

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

There are undoubtedly a couple of gigs I wish I hadn’t seen. Conversely, there are a few audiences I wish I hadn’t seen either. However, I suppose these were all learning experiences. Master classes in what not to do on either side of the stage. Not that I’ve come close to mastering the art of performing live.

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

I would really like to create an immersive, meditative drone recording that is over an hour long. I dabble in drone music in my solo stuff and with Rise Up, Dead Man, but I am always nervous to go for that overblown expanse of songs which last for 20+ minutes. It’s ironic, because many of my favourite songs and albums are crazy long, but I suppose I’m building up the confidence to pull something like that off myself. I also don’t want to go into writing a song or an album with the intention of just “making it really long” as an unwarranted tickbox criteria. I feel like it has to happen naturally, so I’m just waiting for the right piece of music or inspiration to come along so that I can ride that wave in a way that is organic rather than forced. Perhaps a stupid goal, but I guess I just want to make the kind of album or piece of music that I really love getting lost in myself. But if it never ends up happening, I am perfectly comfortable with that too.

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

In the immortal words of Shia LaBeouf, “Anything that moves you is art,” and much to my own amazement, I agree with the guy on this point. Whether it makes you reconsider the fabric of reality or just makes you feel happy and want to dance, if it moves you, it is art. Art’s most essential function is to move the audience. I’m sure there are artists who create their art with the intention to communicate something specific (even I have created art with this intention), but once it’s out in the world people will experience and interpret it in their own ways which you cannot, and should not be able to control. So regardless of the specific intention of the artwork, so long as it moves people, it is art.

I suppose this could also fall under the above question regarding how success is defined – art is ultimately successful if it moves the audience.

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

So many things… Summer vacation (I’m in South Africa in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s currently the middle of summer), my wife’s birthday, going hiking again, taking my dogs for a walk in the Durban botanic gardens, seeing my mother for the first time in two years (thanks Covid)… There are many things I am excited for.

Duncan Park, Invoking the Flood (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Sergio Ch., Dool, Return to Worm Mountain, Dopelord, Ancestro, Hellhookah, Daisychain, The Burning Brain Band, Slump, Canyon

Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan


I don’t imagine I need to tell you it’s been a hell of a quarter, existentially speaking. It’s like the world decided to play ’52 card pickup’ but with tragedy. Still, music marches on, and so the Quarterly Review marches on. For what it’s worth, I’m particularly looking forward to reviewing the upcoming batch of 50 records. As I stare at the list for each day, all of them have records that I’ve legitimately been looking forward to diving into, and today is a great example of that, front to back.

Will I still feel the same way on Friday? Maybe, maybe not. If past is prologue, I’ll be tired, but it’s always satisfying to do this and cover so much stuff in one go. Accordingly, let’s not delay any further. I hope you enjoy the week’s worth of writeups.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Sergio Ch., From Skulls Born Beyond

Sergio Ch From Skulls Born Beyond

Intertwining by sharing a few songs with the debut album from his trio Soldati, Doom Nacional (review here), the latest solo endeavor from former Los Natas/Ararat frontman Sergio Ch. continues his path of experimentalist drone folk, blending acoustic and electric elements, guitar and voice, in increasingly confident and broad fashion. The heart of a piece like “Sombra Keda” near the middle of the album is still the strum of the acoustic guitar, but the arrangement of electric and effects/synth surrounding, as well as the vocal echo, give a sense of space to the entirety of From Skulls Born Beyond that demonstrates to the listener just how much range Sergio Ch.‘s work has come to encompass. For highlights, one might check out the extended title-track and the closer “Solar Tse,” which bring in waves of distorted noise to add to the experimentalist feel, but there’s something to be said too for the comparatively minimal (vocal layering aside) “My Isis,” as well as for the fact that they all fit so well on the same record.

Sergio Ch. on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp


DOOL, Summerland

Dool Summerland

The follow-up to DOOL‘s 2017 debut, Here Now There Then (review here), does no less than to see the Netherlands-based outfit led by singer Ryanne van Dorst answer the potential of that album while pushing forward the particular vision of Dutch heavy progressive rock that emerged in the wake of The Devil’s Blood, acknowledging that past — Farida Lemouchi (now of Molassess) stops by for a guest spot — while presenting an immersive and richly arranged 54-minute sprawl of highly individualized craft. Issued through Prophecy Productions, it brings cuts like the memorable opener “Sulphur and Starlight” and the dynamic “A Glass Forest” as well as the classic metal chug of “Be Your Sins” and the reaches of its title-cut and acoustic-inclusive finale “Dust and Shadow.” DOOL are a band brazen enough to directly refuse genre, and it is to their benefit and the audience’s that they pull off doing so with such bravado and quality of output. For however long they go, they will not stop progressing. You can hear it.

DOOL on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website


Return to Worm Mountain, Therianthropy

return to worm mountain Therianthropy

By the time Durban, South Africa’s Return to Worm Mountain are done with 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Gh?l” from their second album, Therianthropy, the multi-instrumentalist duo of Duncan Park (vocal, guitar, bass, banjo, jaw harp) and Cam Lofstrand (vocals, drums, synth, guitar, bass, percussion) have gone from High on Fire-meets-Entombed crunch to psychedelic Americana to bare-essential acoustic guitar, and unsurprisingly, the scope doesn’t stop there. “Mothman’s Lament” is folksy sweetness and it leads right into the semi-industrial grind of “Mongolian Death Worm” before “Olgoi-Khorkoi” sludge-lumbers into Echoplex oblivion — or at very least the unrepentantly pretty plucked strings of “Tatzelwurm.” The title refers to a human ability to become an animal — think werewolf — and if that’s a metaphor for the controlled chaos Return to Worm Mountain are letting loose here, one can hardly argue it doesn’t fit. Too strange to be anything but progressive, Therianthropy‘s avant garde feel will alienate as many as it delights, and that’s surely the point of the entire endeavor.

Return to Worm Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Return to Worm Mountain on Bandcamp


Dopelord, Sign of the Devil

dopelord sign of the devil

Primo weedian stoner sludge doom of precisely the proportion-of-riff one would expect from Polish bashers Dopelord, which is to say plenty huge and plenty grooving. “The Witching Hour Bell” sets the tone on Sign of the Devil, which is the fourth full-length from the Warsaw-based four-piece. They lumber, they plod, they crash, and yes, yes, yes, they riff, putting it all on the line with “Hail Satan” with synth flourish at the end before “Heathen” and the ultimately-more-aggro “Doom Bastards” reinforce the mission statement. You might know what you’re getting going into it, but that doesn’t make the delivery any less satisfying as Dopelord plod into “World Beneath Us” like a cross between Electric Wizard and Slomatics and of course stick-click in on a quick four-count for the 94-second punk blaster “Headless Decapitator” to cap the 36-minute vinyl-ready run. How could they not? Sure, Sign of the Devil preaches to the choir, but hell’s bells it makes one happy to have joined the choir in the first place.

Dopelord on Thee Facebooks

Dopelord on Bandcamp


Ancestro, Ancestro

ancestro self titled

Numbered instrumental progressions comprise this third and self-titled offering from Peruvian trio Ancestro (issued through Necio Records and Forbidden Place Records), and the effect of the album being arranged in such a fashion is that it plays through as one long piece, the cascading volume changes of “II” feeding back into the outset count-in of the speedier “III” and so on. Each piece of the whole has its own intention, and it seems plain enough that the band composed the sections individually, but they’ve been placed so as to highlight the full-album flow, and as Ancestro move from “IV” into “V” and “VI,” with songs getting longer as they go en route to that engrossing and proggy 13-minute closer, their success draws from their ability to harness the precision and maybe even a little of the aggression of heavy metal and incorporate it as part of an execution both thoughtful and no less able to be patient when called for by a given piece. Hard-hitting psychedelia is tough to pull off, but Ancestro‘s Ancestro is no less spacious than terrestrial.

Ancestro on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp


Hellhookah, The Curse

hellhookah the curse

In 2016, Lithuanian two-piece Hellhookah made it no challenge whatsoever to get into the traditionalist doom of their debut album, Endless Serpents (review here), and the seven songs of The Curse make for a welcome follow-up, with an uptick in production value and the fullness of the mix and a decided affinity for underground ’80s metal in cuts like “Supremacy” and “Dreams and Passions” to coincide with the Dio-era-Sabbath vibes of centerpiece “Flashes” and the nodding finisher “Greed and Power,” which follows and contrasts “Dreams and Passions” in a manner that feels multi-tiered in its purpose. Departing from some of the Vitus-ness of the first full-length, The Curse adopts a more complex tack across its 38 minutes, but its heart and its loyalties are still of doom, by doom, and for the doomed, and that suits them just fine. Crucially, their lack of pretense carries over, and their love of all things doomed translates into every riff and every stretch on offer. If you’d ask more than that of them, well, why?

Hellhookah on Thee Facebooks

Hellhookah on Bandcamp


Daisychain, Daisychain EP

Daisychain Daisychain EP

Bluesy in opener “Demons,” grunge-tinged in “Lily” and fuzz-folk-into-’70s-soul-rock on “How Can I Love You,” Daisychain‘s self-titled debut EP wants little for ambition from the start, but the Chicago-based four-piece bring a confidence to their dually-vocalized approach that unites the material across whatever stylistic lines it treads, be it in the harmonies of the midtempo rocker “Are You Satisfied” or the righteously languid “Fake Flowers,” which follows. With six songs and 21 minutes, the self-released outing is but a quick glimpse at what Daisychain might have in store going forward, but the potential is writ large from the classic feel of “Demons” to the barroom spirit of closer “The Wrong Thing,” which reminds that rock and roll doesn’t have to sacrifice efficiency in order to make a statement of its own force. There’s plenty of attitude to be found in these songs, but beneath that — or maybe alongside it — there’s a sense of an emergent songwriting process that is only going to continue to flourish. What they do with the momentum they build here will be interesting to see/hear, but more than that, they’re developing a perspective and persona of their own, and that speaks to a longer term ideal. To put another way, they don’t sound like they’re half-assing it.

Daisychain on Thee Facebooks

Daisychain on Bandcamp


The Burning Brain Band, The Burning Brain Band

The Burning Brain Band The Burning Brain Band

Capping with a slide-tinged take on the traditional “Parchman Farm” (see also: Blue Cheer, Cactus, etc.), Ohio’s The Burning Brain Band‘s self-titled debut casts a wide net in terms of influences, centering the penultimate “The Dreamer” around 12-string acoustic guitar on an eight-minute run that’s neither hurried nor staid, but all the more surprising after the electronica-minded “Interlude (Still Running),” which, at four minutes is of greater substance than one might expect of an interlude just as the seven-and-a-half-minute warm-up “Launch Sequence” is considerably broader than one generally considers an intro to an album. There isn’t necessarily a foundational basis from which the material emanates — though “Brain Food” is an effective desert-ish rocker, it moves into the decidedly proggier “Bolero/Floating Away” — but “Launch Sequence” is immersive and the four-piece bring a performance cohesion and a clarity of mindset to the proceedings of this debut that may not unite the songs, but carries the listener through with a sure hand just the same. Who ever said everything on a record had to sound alike? For sure not The Burning Brain Band, who translate the mania of their moniker into effective sonic variety.

The Burning Brain Band on Thee Facebooks

The Burning Brain Band on Bandcamp


Slump, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country

Slump Flashbacks from Black Dust Country

Count Slump in a freakout psych renaissance, all punk-out-the-airlock and ’90s-noise thisandthat. Delivered through Feel It Records, the Richmond, Virginia, outfit’s debut, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country indeed touches ground every now and again, as on “Desire Death Drifter,” but even there, the vocals are so soaked wet with echo that I’m pretty sure they fucked up my speakers, and as much as “Tension Trance” tries, it almost can’t help but be acid grunge. In an age of nihilism, Slump aren’t so much unbridled as they are a reminder of the artistry behind the slacker lean, and in the thrust of “(Do The) Sonic Sprawl” and the far-out twist of “Throbbing Reverberation,” they affirm that only those with expanded minds will survive to see the new age and all the many spectral horrors it might unfurl. Can it be a coincidence that the album starts “No Utopia?” Hardly. I’m not ready to call these cats prophets, but they’ve got their collective ear to the ground and their boogie is molten-core accordingly. Tell two friends and tell them to tell two friends.

Feel It Records on Thee Facebooks

Feel It Records on Bandcamp


Canyon, EP III

canyon ep iii

It’s a ripper, inciting Larry David-style “prettay good” nods and all that sort of approval whatnot. If you want to think of Canyon as Philly’s answer to Memphis’ Dirty Streets, go ahead — and yes, by that I mean they’re dirtier. EP III boasts just three tracks in “No Home,” “Tent Preacher” and “Mountain Haze,” but with it the classic-style trio backs up the power they showed on 2018’s Mk II (review here), tapping ’70s blues rock swagger for the first two tracks and then blowing it out in a dreamy Zeppelin/Rainbow jam that’s trippy and righteous and right on and just plain right. Maybe even right-handed, I don’t know. What I do know is that these guys should’ve been picked up by some duly salivating label like last week already and they should be putting together a full-length on the quick. They’ve followed-up EP III with a stonerly take on The Beatles‘ “Day Tripper,” and that’s fun, but really, it’s time for this band to make an album.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp


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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 11

Posted in Radio on March 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

Oh, it was a cold and snowy Sunday night, but the rawk was hawt, and so on. Okay, so maybe I’m not much for the introductions, but I dug this episode. I want to screw with what I’ve kind of made the “format” of this show, and starting out with Kings Destroy, Clamfight and Forming the Void in honor of the show I saw on Saturday at the Saint Vitus Bar was fun. So it’s a little more than just be being like, “Duh, I like this record so here’s this song by this band,” though of course that pretty much applies here as well. I don’t know. Just something a little different. Branch out a bit. Try not to set rules for myself.

Speaking of a lack of rules, this one gets a little weird. Look out for Return to Worm Mountain and Hhoogg in the second hour, and then Volcano leading into longer tracks from Sons of Morpheus and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree. That last song from the latter is 17 minutes long, and hell yeah I was going to include it. So good. That record is an unexpected turn from them, but absolutely awesome, so if you know it, all the better, and if not, maybe you’ll dig. Dig dig dig.

New tunes besides from Hexvessel, Snowy Dunes, High Reeper, Yatra and the sadly-defunct Cloud Catcher, and a classic riff-roll from Spirit Caravan round out what I thought was a pretty killer mixtape, so yeah, if you checked it out last night or get to listen to it tomorrow morning, thank you.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 03.03.19

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera Fantasma Nera*
Clamfight Echoes in Stone III
Forming the Void On We Sail Rift
Yatra Smoke is Rising Death Ritual*
Hexvessel Wilderness Spirit All Tree*
Snowy Dunes Let’s Save Dreams Let’s Save Dreams*
High Reeper Bring the Dead Higher Reeper*
Cloud Catcher Beneath the Steel The Whip*
Spirit Caravan Cosmic Artifact Jug Fulla Sun
Hhoogg Journey to the Dying Place Earthling, Go Home!*
Return to Worm Mountain Song for the Pig Children Return to Worm Mountain*
Smokey Mirror Sword and Scepter Split w/ Love Gang*
Volcano No Evil Know Demon The Island*
Sons of Morpheus Slave (Never Ending Version) The Wooden House Session*
Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree Cinitus Grandmother*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is March 17. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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