Vorare & Earthflesh Premiere “Seepage” Video; Rope Tower Collaborative LP Out May 31

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on May 3rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Vorare Earthflesh Rope Tower

Finnish extreme industrial two-piece Vorare are releasing two albums this month, and the Rope Tower collaboration LP pairing them with Geneva, Switzerland, experimentalist noisemaker Earthflesh is the latter of them, set to issue on May 31. That puts it just one week after the standalone Atelier lands May 24 as the follow-up to 2022’s Voyeur (review here), and that record too is a barrage of death-stench machine cruelty. The concurrent offerings began their respective recording processes about two years ago, but where Atelier was finished in May 2022, the five-track/30-minute so-dark-it’s-like-you-read-the-news Rope Tower started toward the end of that summer and seems to have been longer in its poisonous steeping.

Earthflesh earlier this year released the 39-minute single-tracker Light-Matter-Spirit — also stylized all-caps — and amid the panicked pulsations of “Seepage” premiering in the ropes-and-hoods-themed video below, the effectively noise-on-noise blend feels particularly harsh, even in the context of what Vorare have done before. It all seems to decay in the middle of the six-minute piece, with indecipherable blown-out growling to offer no real comfort and a later drag of beat offset by various electronic hums before it ends with distorted drone. That’s also how “Ovigerous” leads off Rope Tower, but the opener hits less immediately with its beat, instead using that drone and various piercing high frequencies to set the backdrop for the cruelty about to unfold.

I’ll note that “Seepage” isn’t the first reference to bodily discharge from Vorare, whose debut EP was 2022’s The Drainage Rituals (review here), but together with Earthflesh, the foreboding ambience wrought in Rope Tower is its own thing. Listening front-to-back as “Haswell” slowly fades-in its threat with howls like distant mechanized beasts or war horns echoing over devastated landscapes, the feeling is like when you stand somewhere you know that a murder or something else awful happened. That lingering aura of the reality of violent death. Certainly the suicidal/executionary imagery bolsters this impression, but as “Haswell” cymbal-washes out circa 2:50 and everything but the guttural vocals goes away for about 20 seconds before slamming back with a grueling thud, rising to a speaker-blowing (seriously, watch out) low-end static unto its gradual wash of funereal sounds, the confrontation is consuming.

“Sopite” doesn’t blink in staring into this overarching void, evolving its infected cinematic tension with non-beat rhythmic back-and-forth and elements appearing and disappearing as they go. Without the onslaught of the vocals, the penultimate piece of Rope Tower feels like a respite, but the keyboard lines in its second half and the rumble underscoring them are consistent in their horrific manifestations and more than just a setup for the eight-minute finale “Turpentine Falls,” which begins with its own flatline drone and far-back growling over the course of its first two minutes. You could call it minimal in everything but how it makes your skin crawl. It’s not until 3:47 that the beat and harsh screaming kick in, and from there, the next several minutes embark on a vicious build-up so that by the time they hit the six-minute mark, “Turpentine Falls” has grown to the LP’s most ferocious cacophony.

It’s anyone’s guess who’s meting out which aspects of the punishing entirety — most of the vocals seem to come from the Vorare side, so that’s something — but as “Turpentine Falls” shifts from its payoff to the fading residual drone that ends, it underscores the way Rope Tower works on multiple levels at once in a mix that’s deep enough to hold the monsters it does. United perhaps most of all in their readiness to push the limits of extremity in music through their way-gone-and-way-dark approaches, the alignment of Earthflesh and Vorare results in an aurally caustic and immersive nightmare. Words like ‘heavy’ don’t begin to cut it.

Rope Tower is out May 31. “Seepage” premieres below. It’s NSFW unless you never want anyone in your office or other place of employment to talk to you again. Which maybe you do, and fair enough.

Good luck:

Vorare & Earthflesh, “Seepage” video premiere

VORARE, the Finnish avant-garde drone-doom/death industrial duo comes together with the Swiss one-man drone/noise outfit EARTHFLESH to bring you the five-track, 30-minute collaboration album Rope Tower. The albums is the second of the two VORARE albums coming out in May, scheduled to be released on May 31. Pre-orders available here: https://vorare.bandcamp.com/album/rope-tower

Having crossed paths first elsewhere, the idea for the two projects to collaborate came into fruition after each noticed they’re on similar wavelengths when it comes to hallucinatory aesthetics in both aural and visual worlds. The work begun in late summer ’22 and took its own time to morph and refine over the ensuing year and a half, involving multiple recording sessions across countries, and meticulous attention to detail above all. The end result is a perfect amalgamation of the two entities, presenting familiar corners from both worlds yet discovering brand new nooks along the way.

Rope Tower is an immensely dark but pervasive journey throughout various sonic fields ranging from structured bursts of industrial and doom to seeping, slowly evolving droning ambiances, that melt together seamlessly as a single tapestry free of dashed lines and silent spaces. The narratives detail real life events from the personal to the more broad instances, more often than not brushed in monochromatic colours and vile mien. You can only match the abyss by becoming one.

1. Ovigerous (4:33)
2. Seepage (5:59)
3. Haswell (7:12)
4. Sopite (5:01)
5. Turpentine Falls (8:02)

Vorare on Facebook

Vorare on Instagram

Vorare on Bandcamp

Earthflesh on Facebook

Earthflesh on Instagram

Earthflesh on Bandcamp

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Up in Smoke 2024 Adds Monster Magnet, Daevar, Valley of the Sun, Samavayo & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 19th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The 2024 Up in Smoke Festival came out swinging big in its first announcement last month, with names like Greenleaf, Monolord, Lowrider, Truckfighters, Messa and Gnome among others, and the second announcement below makes a fitting follow-up with the promise of a doesn’t-happen-all-the-time-see-them-when-you-can stopover from Monster Magnet, as well as up and coming atmospheric doomers Daevar, the e’er-a-riot Valley of the Sun, the reunited Scorpion Child and veteran heavy rockers Samavayo set to play. It’s the 10th anniversary for the Swiss festival held each Fall in Pratteln as part of what’s become an international family of festivals backed or semi-backed by Sound of Liberation — see also Keep it Low, Desertfest Belgium, etc. — and they’re only right to do it up accordingly.

From Pentagram to Slomosa, the span of generations and sounds here is broader than the monikers alone can convey, but the celebratory feel of how the lineup is taking shape remains strong. There’s a lot to like about it, in other words, and while I’ve never been lucky enough to attend, I do know enough to know that running a successful fest for a decade — never mind surviving the odd bit of pandemic interruption of same — is no minor feat. Congratulations to Up in Smoke on the anniversary, and I look forward to when the rest of the bill is announced, say, mid-April?

From the PR wire:

up in smoke 2024 second poster square

UP IN SMOKE FESTIVAL confirms MONSTER MAGNET & many more new band names for its 2024 edition!

UP IN SMOKE FESTIVAL has announced new names for their upcoming, 10th anniversary edition, and confirms spacelords MONSTER MAGNET, high-voltage desert rockers VALLEY OF THE SUN, Berlin’s finest SAMAVAYO, stoner doomsters DAEVAR, US rock act SCORPION CHILD & many more!

They will join the already eclectic line-up featuring mighty PENTAGRAM, who will play their last Swiss show ever(!), TRUCKFIGHTERS, MONOLORD, GREENLEAF, LOWRIDER, SLOMOSA and more high class live acts. Further band names will be revealed soon.

UP IN SMOKE FESTIVAL will take place between October 4 – 6, 2024 at Konzertfabrik Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland, Hard tickets are available via https://sol-records.com/products/up-in-smoke-2024-festival-hardticket, to grab your online ticket, visit: https://www.sol-tickets.com/produkte



Daevar, “Amber Eyes” official video

Valley of the Sun, The Chariot (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious


The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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Monkey3 Announce Spring & Summer Touring; Welcome to the Machine Out Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

As they make ready to release their new album, Welcome to the Machine, this Friday through Napalm Records, Swiss instrumentalist prog-psych mainstays Monkey3 have revealed the tour that draws together previously-announced stops through festivals like Desertfest London, Desertfest Berlin, Esbjerg Fuzztival, Heavy Psych Sounds, an so on. Their paths will cross with the Brant Bjork Trio more than once as they go, and you’ll note that the entirety of the run is billed as ‘Pt. I’ of a larger touring plan. It would not be a surprise to find them out again later this year as well, perhaps on the Sound of Liberation circuit of Fall festivals? You never know.

There are two singles out from Welcome to the Machine, both of which stream below if you haven’t had the chance yet to engage, and the e’er crucial ticket link, should you be in a position to leave the house for a few hours at some point in the next couple months. And if not, no judgment. I don’t always have those hours either. The music’s still cool and there for you to check out.


monkey3 tour

MONKEY3 – 🔥Tour Announcement🔥

Sound of Liberation Presents: MONKEY3 – WELCOME TO THE MACHINE TOUR – EUROPE 2024 Part 1
27.04 FR Savigny le Temple, L’Empreinte, Paris Grand Sludge
28.04 FR Colmar, Le Grillen
10.05 CH Seewen, Gaswerk
11.05 DE Fulda, Kulturkeller Kreuz
12.05 DE Köln Club Volta w/Brant Bjork Trio
13.05 DE Hamburg, Knust
14.05 DK Kopenhagen, Stengade
15.05 DE Bremerhaven, Shiva
16.05 BE Sint-Niklaas, De Casino w/Brant Bjork Trio
17.05 BE Brussels, Magasin 4
18.05 UK London, Desertfest
19.05 NL Den Bosch, Willem Twee
23.05 DE Jena, KuBa
24.05 DE Berlin, Desertfest
25.05 PL Krakow, Kamienna 10
27.05 AT Vienna, Viper Room
29.05 DE Dresden, Chemiefabrik
31.05 DK Esbjerg, Fuzztival
07.06 CH Winterthur, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
08.06 CH Martigny, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
28.06 DE Passau, Blackdoor Festival
09.08 BE Kortrijk, Alcatraz Festival
18.08 FR Motocultor, Carhaix

More dates to be announced !

Tickets at: http://monkey3official.com/node/62

Walter – Drums
Jalil – Bass
Boris – Guitars
dB – Keys and Sounds



Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine (2024)

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Up in Smoke 2024 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

With Pentagram at the top of its thus-far bill playing what will reportedly be their final Swiss show ever on a retirement tour that will also stop through Desertfest Berlin 2024 this Spring, the Sound of Liberation-associated Up in Smoke Festival has made the first lineup announcement for its 10th anniversary edition. Set for Oct. 4-6, it is at the spearhead of what will almost certainly be a busy month on the European underground touring circuit. And as one expects news to follow shortly from other October festivals throughout Western Europe — Keep it Low in Munich, Desertfest Belgium in Antwerp, Høstsabbat in Norway that I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a couple times, and so on — knowing that the likes of TruckfightersMonolord, LowriderGreenleaf and Slomosa will be out on the road, at least the latter two of them behind new records, warms the heart in February’s drear. Will I be there? Probably not, barring a miracle or some kind of grant that doesn’t exist, but someone will be, and that’s rad enough of a thought to get me through the end of this sentence, so I’ll take it.

Wonder if we’ll see new stuff from Gnome this year, and I think Messa were beginning the process this winter of their next LP. October is far enough away that just about anything can happen between now and then, and I guess that’s part of the fun in posting these things in the first place. Thanks for talking that one through with me.

And while we’re here, happy 10th anniversary to Up in Smoke, and many happy returns.

Here’s the latest:

Up in Smoke 2024 first announce


Hey Smokers,

Today, we are thrilled to announce the first bunch of amazing bands for the 10th-anniversary of our beloved Up In Smoke Festival!🖤

None other than Bobby Liebling and his crew in Pentagram will be joining us to celebrate their last show in Switzerland ever! 🔥

So great to see our Scandinavian friends Truckfighters, Monolord, Slomosa, Greenleaf and Lowrider joining the madness with exclusive Switzerland shows.

In addition to this, we are introducing the dark, haunting sounds of the female-fronted doom outfits Messa and Wolvennest, along with the experimental rockers Djinn, Belgium’s one and only Gnome, and the UK riffmasters Psychlona.

Up in Smoke takes place near Basel and Switzerland offers some excellent bands as well! Check out Tar Pond, Preamp Disaster, Norna, No Mute and Glue.🇨🇭

Make no mistake, this was just the beginning!👀

Up in Smoke 2024 will be a massive heavy rockin’ birthday bash and the stoner party of the year!🪩

Line Up:

Pentagram *last Swiss show ever*
Tar Pond
Preamp Disaster
No Mute
& many more

🎫Online-Tickets: www.sol-tickets.com
(link in bio)
& www.z-7.ch

🎫Hardtickets: www.sol-records.com

🌐Website: www.upinsmoke.de

Up In Smoke Festival
10th Anniversary
🗓️04. – 06. October 2024
📍Z7 Konzertfabrik
Pratteln, Switzerland

Your UIS-Crew



Lowrider, Live at Hellfest 2022

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Monkey3 to Release Welcome to the Machine Feb. 23; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

monkey3 (Photo by Giuseppe Aufiero)

Swiss heavy progressive instrumentalists Monkey3 have already been confirmed for Desertfest Berlin 2024 and its UK co-flagship Desertfest London 2024, which implies at least a week of touring, so it’s not the craziest thing in the universe that the band are announcing the release of Welcome to the Machine today and streaming the visualizer for the first single “Rackman” that you can find at the bottom of this post, but it’s welcome news either way.

Their last studio outing was 2019’s Sphere (review here), and 2023 marks two decades since their self-released self-titled debut. “Rackman,” as the first I’ve heard of Welcome to the Machine to come — out Feb. 21, on Napalm — is duly mature and progressive but also somewhat surprisingly heavy. There are moments in the first few minutes where if you put a growl on there you’d have death-doom, but that’s only one element of the atmospherics Monkey3 present. They’ve never been an outfit to do the same thing over and over, but if the other four songs on the record stand up to “Rackman” tonally, it could be the band’s heaviest work.

The PR wire explores themes and more in the info that follows:

monkey3 welcome to the machine

Instrumental Psych Rock Masters MONKEY3 Announce New Album Welcome To The Machine

Music Video For First Single “Rackman” Premiering Now!

New Album, Welcome To The Machine, out February 23, 2024 via Napalm Records

Pre-Order HERE: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/monkey3

Following Live at Freak Valley in 2017 and their latest, much-acclaimed album, Sphere (2019), instrumental psych rock frontrunners MONKEY3 will herald 2024 with a true album highlight of the new year: The Lausanne-based four-piece has announced a brand new, cosmic studio offering, entitled Welcome To The Machine, set for release on February 23, 2024 via Napalm Records!

Once again, MONKEY3 envelops listeners in their unique, cosmic auditory haze. Welcome To The Machine not only marks their seventh and most epic, dark and captivating record to date, but will also clearly prove why they are one of the most exciting instrumental rock bands in the modern stoner and psychedelic rock scene.

Today, MONKEY3 has premiered a music video for their first album single “Rackman”. “‘Welcome To The Machine’ is a reflection on the future of humanity through the duality of man and machine,” the band explains. About the new single, they comment: “Are human beings becoming machines or machines becoming human beings?”

Welcome To The Machine’s musical themes are inspired by movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Sunshine, Solaris and 1984, while unveiling an intense mankind vs. machines story that instantly launches the listener into deep space. Right from its first tones, the album immediately emerges as a perfect soundtrack to a journey into the unknown. Tracks such as “Rackman” perfectly showcase how MONKEY3, who formed in 2001, are one of only a few instrumental bands that know how to tell an enthralling story. Welcome To The Machine explores as much as it poses questions. It is dark and menacing; evoking melancholic destruction while somehow bursting with hope at the same time, moving between haunting passages and progressive breaks, mesmerizing grooves and colossal riffs.

The album was recorded and mixed by Raphaël Bovey at Blend Studio and MyRoom Studio, and was mastered by Lad Agabekov at Caduceus Studios in Switzerland. The incredible cover artwork was created by Sebastian Jerke.
Pre-Order Welcome To The Machine HERE: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/monkey3

Welcome To The Machine track listing:
1. Ignition
2. Collision
3. Kali Yuga
4. Rackman
5. Collapse

Welcome To The Machine will be available in the following formats:
– Digipak
– 1 Vinyl Gatefold Black
– 1 Vinyl Gatefold Clear Orange
– 1-Vinyl Gatefold Crystal Clear Deluxe Version (incl. Slipmat & Art Print )
– Digital

MONKEY3 live:
May 24 – 26, 2024 (DE) Desertfest Berlin
+ many more live dates to be announced soon!

Walter – Drums
Jalil – Bass
Boris – Guitars
dB – Keys and Sounds



Monkey3, “Rackman” visualizer

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Up in Smoke 2023 Adds Nebula, Sons of Morpheus, Heavy Temple & Howling Giant

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Admittedly, I’m a few days behind on this. I don’t know how many — I didn’t want to look — but it’s times like this I like to remind mostly myself that I’m doing the best I can here with the time and energy I have on any particular day. Up in Smoke 2023 is set for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Pratteln, Switzerland, the location same as ever, and seems to be the kickoff point for the Fall heavy touring and festival season in Europe. As much as there even are seasons anymore and tours and fests aren’t just happening all the time — by which I mean they are, the dead of winter kinda notwithstanding, for now — but still, moving out of summer brings a new round of beginnings and offerings coming out.

Seeing Nebula and Heavy Temple and Howling Giant together here after also being added to Desertfest Belgium in Antwerp, which takes place nearly a month later means that’s going to be some significant touring for the three American acts. I’m hoping they’re going together — love a package tour — but I have no info or confirmation that that’s what’s happening. At very least, they’ll be meeting up along the way.

Basel’s own Sons of Morpheus round out the new announcement, and as their last release was 2019’s The Wooden House Session (review here), the inevitable curiosity is piqued as to whether they might have a new release in the works for Fall. We’ll see, I guess, and in the meantime, they strengthen an already strong lineup of acts oldschool and new that still has more to come. Good fun.

From social media:

up in smoke 2023 second poster


Hey friends,

We’re more than happy to present you today the new bands for our beloved Up In Smoke Festival!

Please give a very warm welcome to:

This is just a small update – there are many more bands to come!

Stay tuned!

29. Sep – 01. Oct 2023

Konzertfabrik Z7
Pratteln (Basel, CH)

Get ready for three full days of finest heavy rock music!

Tickets (3 Day Passes and Sleepover Tickets) are on sale -> https://www.sol-tickets.com/produkte

Poster by Brookesia Estudio



Nebula, “To the Center/Come Down” live in North Carolina, March 2023

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Quarterly Review: HIGH LEAF, JAAW, The Bridesmaid, Milana, New Mexican Doom Cult, Gentle Beast, Bloodsports, Night Fishing, Wizard Tattoo, Nerver & Chat Pile

Posted in Reviews on May 8th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Didn’t we just do this? Yeah, kind of. It’s been a weird season, but I knew last month when I launched the Spring 2023 Quarterly Review that it needed to be more than two full weeks and given the timing of everything else slated around then and now, this is what worked to make it happen. For what it’s worth, I have QRs scheduled for July and early October, subject to change, of course.

The bottom line either way is it’s another batch of 50 reviews this week and then that’s a wrap for Spring. It’s a constant barrage of music these days anyhow, and I’m forever behind on everything, but I hope at least you can find something here you dig, whether previously familiar or not. We go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

HIGH LEAF, Vision Quest

High Leaf Vision Quest

An awaited debut from this Philadelphia heavy rock scene outfit, HIGH LEAF‘s Vision Quest makes its home among heavy tropes (also some minute cultural appropriation in the title) with unabashed glee and deceptively sharp songwriting. Certainly opener “Green Rider” is perfectly willing to beat you over the head with its chorus — and rightly so, you have it coming — but the spacious title-track that follows stretches over eight minutes and seamlessly works through drift and heavy psych impulses to get to the post-grunge roll that makes its increasingly aggro presence known past six minutes in, and that’s by no means the final bit of sludge to be had as the later “Hard to Find” leans toward nastiness only to be offset by the funky outset of “Painted Desert,” having pushed deeper from the Kyussery of “Dead Eye” and a swagger in “Subversive” worthy of comparison to Earthride. This lineup of the band has already split (there’s a new one, no worries), and how that reboot will affect HIGH LEAF going forward obviously remains to be seen, but this is a ‘serving notice’-type debut, doubling down on that in closing duo “March to the Grave” and “The Rot,” and the eight songs and 38 minutes commune with groove and riffs like they’ve been speaking the language the whole time. There’s definitely a vision at work. Let’s see where the quest takes them.

HIGH LEAF on Facebook

HIGH LEAF on Bandcamp


JAAW, Supercluster

jaaw supercluster

Fucking hell I wish this was what the future sounded like. It rocks. It’s interesting. It’s driven to be its own thing despite traceable roots. It’s got edge but it’s not hackneyed. It’s the tomorrow we were promised when industrial rock and metal became a thing in the 1990s and that corporate alt-everything and pop-punk usurped. I knew I wanted to write about it now, because it’s coming out now, but I’ll tell you honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of JAAW‘s Svart-issued debut, Supercluster — recorded at Bear Bites Horse in London by Wayne Adams, who’s also in the band alongside Andy Cairns of Therapy?, Mugstar‘s Jason Stoll and Adam Betts (of Squarepusher and others) — and this is the kind of album that’s going to be years in revealing itself. How about this? Sometime in 2028, if this site is still here, I’ll follow-up and let you know what I’ve found digging into the sinister groove of “Rot” or the shout-kraut rumble and noise of “Bring Home the Motherlode, Barry,” “The Dead Drop” going from minimalism to full heavy New Wave wash in five minutes’ time, and so on, but for right now, let it serve as the cannonball to be lobbed at anyone who says there aren’t any acts out there doing new things or pushing different styles forward, because hell’s bells, that’s the only place this goes even as it also seems to go everywhere at the same time, unto closing out with a Björk cover “Army of Me” as imagined by Ministry doing ’90s drum ‘n’ bass. Some things are just bigger than the year of their release, and I look forward to living with this record.

JAAW on Facebook

Svart Records website


The Bridesmaid, Come on People Now, Smile on Your Brother

The Bridesmaid Come on People Now Smile on Your Brother

From the opening drone-and-toy-chime-forward over industrial black metal of “Leytonstone: Eat Your Landlord” through the sample-fed machine sludge-turned-psych experimentalism that gives way to a shimmering haze of jazz metal in “Cleveland: And the Rain Came Down” and the can’t-fool-me-by-now acoustic strum at the start of “Summerland: A Long, Maintenance-Free Life” that runs a current of cello under its aural collage and low-end lumber early only to bask in news-and-drone departure with percussion later on the way to what post-hardcore could still someday be, the name of the EP is Come on People Now, Smile on Your Brother and The Bridesmaid deliver the proceedings in a manner more suited to Kurt Cobain‘s fuckall rasp of that line rather than the Youngbloods original. So it’s probably the latter. In any case, the UK solo-plus-friends outfit helmed and steered by JJ Saddington are an aural barrage, and while the temptation is to think of the three-song/21-minute offering as a blender on liquefy, the truth is the material is more thought out, more considerately mixed, and more engaging, than that kind of spastic randomness implies. If you can keep up with the changes, the adventure of listening is well worth the ankles sprained in its twists, but you should go into it knowing that the challenge is part of the appeal.

The Bridesmaid on Facebook

The Bridesmaid on Bandcamp


Milana, Milvus

milana milvus

If the hard push and tonal burl of comparatively straight-ahead opener “The Last Witch” aren’t convincing, stick around through “Celestial Bird Spirit” and “Impermanence” on the rest of side A before you resolve one way or the other as regards Milana‘s debut album, Milvus. The Mallorca-based four-piece are for sure in conversation with fest-ready modern European heavy rock, and that’s the thread that weaves throughout the album, but in the 11-minute “Impermanance,” they build on the more temperate rollout of “Celestial Bird Spirit” and find an intriguing blend of atmosphere and dense fuzz, more moody than psychedelic, but smart to hold back its weightiest tonality for the rolling end. Appropriately enough, “Lucid Reality” brings them back to ground at the start of side B, but still has an atmospheric effect in its verse, with vocal layering over open-spaced guitar and an alt-rock pickup as they move toward the chorus, and Howling Wolf gives a class-conscious definition of the blues, in the long intro of “Gray City Lights,” setting a difficult standard for the rest of the song to match, but the organ helps. And all seems well and fine for “Whispering Wind” to wrap up mirroring the rocker “The Last Witch” at the start until the song breaks, the harmony starts, and then the growls and massive fuzz start in the last minute and it turns out they were metal all along. Go figure. There’s growing to do, but there’s more happening on Milvus than one listen will tell you, and that in itself is a good sign.

Milana on Instagram

Milana on Spotify


New Mexican Doom Cult, Necropolis

New Mexican Doom Cult Necropolis

Swedish upstart four-piece New Mexican Doom Cult offer a distinctly Monolordian weep of lead guitar on “Seven Spirits,” but even that is filtered through the band’s own take, and that’s true of their first full-length, Necropolis more generally, as the Gävle outfit now comprised of guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter Nils Ahnland, guitarist Johan Klyven Kvastegård, bassist Emil Alstermark and drummer Jonathan Ekvall present seven songs and 48 minutes of dug-in rockers, distortion keyed to its fuzziest degree as Ahnland hints vocally on “Underground” toward a root in darker and more metallic fare ahead of the chugging build that rounds out the eight-minute centerpiece title-track and the make-doom-swing ethic being followed in closer “Worship the Sun.” “Vortex” is a highlight for the melody as much as the double-dose of nodfuzz guitar work, and opener “Architect” sets an atmospheric course but assures that the sense of movement is never really gone, something that’s a benefit even to the righteous Sabbath blowout verse in the penultimate “Archangel.” Much of what they’re doing will be familiar to experienced heads, but not unwelcome for that.

New Mexican Doom Cult on Facebook

Ozium Records on Bandcamp

Olde Magick Records on Bandcamp


Gentle Beast, Gentle Beast

Gentle Beast Gentle Beast

Capable double-guitar heavy rock pervades the 43-minute Gentle Beast by the Swiss five-piece of the same name. Mixed by Jeff Henson of Duel and issued through Sixteentimes Music, the eight-song run is defined by knowing itself as stoner rock, and that remains true as “Super Sapiens” departs into its post-midsection jam, eventually returning to the chorus, which is almost unfortunately hooky. “Greedy Man” is almost purely Kyuss in its constructed pairing of protest and riff, but the “Caterpillar” shows a different side of the band’s character in its smooth volume shifts, winding leads and understated finish, leading into the sharper-edged outset of closer “Toxic Times.” In the forward thrust of “Joint Venture,” the opener “Asteroid Miner” with its gruff presentation, and the speedier swing of “Headcage” reinforcing the vocal reference to Samsara Blues Experiment in the leadoff, Gentle Beast tick all the boxes they need to tick for this debut long-player some four years after the band’s initial 7″ single, setting up multiple avenues of possible and hopeful progression while proving dexterous songwriters in the now. Won’t change your life, but isn’t trying to convince you it will, either.

Gentle Beast on Facebook

Sixteentimes Music store


Bloodsports, Bloodsports

bloodsports bloodsports

Denver four-piece Bloodsports — also stylized all-lowercase: bloodsports — give a heavygaze impression with “Sky Mall” at the launch of their self-titled debut EP that the subsequent “Crimp” gleefully pulls the rug right from under with a solo section like All Them Witches grew up listening to The Cure after its Weezery verse, and the proceedings only gets grungier from there with the low-key Nirvana brooding of “Sustain” (also issued in 2022 as a standalone single) and its larger-scale, scorch-topped distorted finish and the shaker-inclusive indie ritual that is “Carnival” until it explodes into a blowout ending like the release of tension everyone always wanted but never actually got from Violent Femmes. Some noisy skronk guitar finishes over the hungover fuzz, which is emblematic of the way the entire release — only 11 minutes long, mind you — derives its character from the negative space, from its smaller moments of nuance, as well as from its fuller-sounding stretches. They’re young and they sound it, but there’s a sonic ideal being chased through the material and Bloodsports may yet carve their aural persona from that chase. As it is, the emotive aspects on display in “Sustain” and the volatility shown in the roll of “Sky Mall” make in plain that this project has places it wants to go and areas to explore, and one hopes Bloodsports continue to bring their ideas together with such fluidity.

Bloodsports on Instagram

Candlepin Records on Bandcamp


Night Fishing, Live Bait

Night Fishing Live Bait

Recorded seemingly almost entirely live on audio and video, vibrancy would seem to be the underpinning that draws Night Fishing‘s Live Bait together, if fishing isn’t. The Denver four-piece are a relatively new formation, with guitarists Graham Zander (also Green Druid) and Zach Amster (Abrams), bassist Justin Sanderson (Muscle Beach) and drummer Gordon Koch (Call of the Void) all coming together from their sundry other projects to explore a space between the kosmiche, heavy rock and semi-improv jamming. The turns and fills and crashes that round out the second of three cuts, “No Services,” for example, feel off-the-cuff, but throughout most of “Alone With My Thoughts” and at least in the initial Slift-like shuffle at the start of “Slapback Twister,” there’s a plan at work. At 25 minutes, they’re only about a song shy of making Live Bait a full-length — though another track might mess up the shortest-to-longest and alphabetical ordering Live Bait has now, which are fun — but the instrumentalist exploration is suited to the nascent feel of the outfit, and while I don’t think Night Fishing is anybody’s only band here, if they can build on the sense of purpose they give to the jangly rhythm and airy solo of “Slapback Twister” and the right-on push of “Alone With My Thoughts,” they can make their records as long or as short as they want and they’re still bound to catch ears.

Night Fishing on Instagram

Brutal Panda Records website


Wizard Tattoo, Fables of the Damned

Wizard Tattoo Fables of the Damned

Following last year’s self-titled debut EP, Indianapolis solo-project Wizard Tattoo cuts itself open and bleeds DIY on the seven songs and 40 minutes of the self-recorded, self-released Fables of the Damned, beginning with distinct moments of departure in opener “Wizard Van” and “The Black Mountain Pass,” the latter of which returns to its gutted-out chorus with maestro Bram the Bard (who also did the cover) cutting through the tonescape of his own creation to underscore the structure at work. There are stories to be told in “The Vengeful Thulsa Dan” and the folkish “Any Which Way but Tuned,” which brings together acoustics and chanting like a gamer version of Wovenhand, deep-mixed tom thud peppered throughout while the chimes are more forward, while the seven-minute “The Ghost of Doctor Beast” picks up with the slowest and most doomed of the included rollouts, “God Damn This Wizard Tattoo” ups the tempo with a catchy chorus, a little bit of mania in the hi-hat under the guitar solo, and hints dropped in the bassline of the grunge aspects soon to be highlighted in instrumental closer “Abendrote.” The sense of character is bigger than the production, and that balance is something that will need to be ironed out over time, but the dug-in curio aspects of Fables of the Damned make it engaging, whatever it may or may not lead toward.

Wizard Tattoo on Facebook

Wizard Tattoo on Bandcamp


Nerver & Chat Pile, Brothers in Christ Split


I’ll never claim to be anything more than a dilettante when it comes to noise rock, and I’ll tell you outright that Kansas City’s Nerver are new to me as of this Brothers in Christ split with Oklahoma City’s Chat Pile, but both acts are coming from a strong Midwestern tradition of post-industrial (talking economy not genre) disaffection and building on momentum from strong 2022 releases, those being Nerver‘s even-the-CD-sold-out (aha! but not from the label! got it!) sophomore full-length CASH and Chat Pile‘s much-lauded debut, God’s Country (review here), and the scream-topped bombast of the one and volatile emotive antipoetry of the other make fitting companions across the included four songs, as Nerver‘s “Kicks in the Sky” underscores its jabs with deep low rumble as a bed for the harshly delivered verse and “The Nerve” shoves itself faceward in faster and less angular fashion, consuming like Chicago post-metal but pissed off like Midwestern hardcore while Chat Pile build through “King” en route to the panicked slaughter of “Cut,” which is sure enough to trigger fight-or-flight in your brain before its sub-five-minute run is up. Neither arrives at this point without hype behind them, both would seem to have earned it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go put on that Nerver album and play a bit of catchup.

Chat Pile on Instagram

Nerver on Facebook

Reptilian Records website

The Ghost is Clear Records website


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