Quarterly Review: Black Helium, Seismic, These Beasts, Ajeeb, OAK, Ultra Void, Aktopasa, Troll Teeth, Finis Hominis, Space Shepherds

Posted in Reviews on April 14th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


If you work in an office, or you ever have, or you’ve ever spoken to someone who has or does or whatever — which is everybody, is what I’m saying — then you’ll probably have a good idea of why I cringe at saying “happy Friday” as though the end of a workweek’s slog is a holiday even with the next week peering just over the horizon beyond the next 48 hours of not-your-boss time. Nonetheless, we’re at the end of this week, hitting 50 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and while I’ll spend a decent portion of the upcoming weekend working on wrapping it up on Monday and Tuesday, I’m grateful for the ability to breathe a bit in doing that more than I have throughout this week.

I’ll say as much in closing out the week as well, but thanks for reading. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Black Helium, UM

Black Helium Um

It’s just too cool for the planet. Earth needs to step up its game if it wants to be able handle what London’s Black Helium are dishing out across their five-song third record, UM, from the sprawl and heavy hippie rock of “Another Heaven” to the utter doom that rises to prominence in that 12-minute-ish cut and the oblivion-bound boogie, blowout, and bonfire that is 15:47 closer “The Keys to Red Skeleton’s House (Open the Door)” on the other end, never mind the u-shaped kosmiche march of “I Saw God,” the shorter, stranger, organ-led centerpiece “Dungeon Head” or the motorik “Summer of Hair” that’s so teeth-grindingly tense by the time it’s done you can feel it in your toes. These are but glimpses of the substance that comprises the 45-minute out-there-out-there-out-there stretch of UM, which by the way is also a party? And you’re invited? I think? Yeah, you can go, but the rest of these fools gotta get right if they want to hang with the likes of “I Saw God,” because Black Helium do it weird for the weirdos and the planet might be round but that duddn’t mean it’s not also square. Good thing Black Helium remembered to bring the launch codes. Fire it up. We’re outta here and off to better, trippier, meltier places. Fortunately they’re able to steer the ship as well as set its controls to the heart of the sun.

Black Helium on Facebook

Riot Season Records store


Seismic, The Time Machine

seismic the time machine

A demo recording of a single, 29-minute track that’s slated to appear on Seismic‘s debut full-length based around the works of H.G. Wells sometime later this year — yeah, it’s safe to say there’s a bit of context that goes along with understanding where the Philadelphia instrumentalist trio/live-foursome are coming from on “The Time Machine.” Nonetheless, the reach of the song itself — which moves from its hypnotic beginning at about five minutes in to a solo-topped stretch that then gives over to thud-thud-thud pounding heft before embarking on an adventure 30,000 leagues under the drone, only to rise and riff again, doom. the. fuck. on., and recede to minimalist meditation before resolving in mystique-bent distortion and lumber — is significant, and more than enough to stand on its own considering that in this apparently-demo version, its sound is grippingly full. As to what else might be in store for the above-mentioned LP or when it might land, I have no idea and won’t speculate — I’m just going by what they say about it — but I know enough at this point in my life to understand that when a band comes along and hits you with a half-hour sledgehammering to the frontal cortex as a sign of things to come, it’s going to be worth keeping track of what they do next. If you haven’t heard “The Time Machine” yet, consider this a heads up to their heads up.

Seismic on Facebook

Seismic linktree


These Beasts, Cares, Wills, Wants

these beasts cares wills wants

Something of an awaited first long-player from Chicago’s These Beasts, who crush the Sanford Parker-produced Cares, Wills, Wants with modern edge and fluidity moving between heavier rock and sludge metal, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Chris Roo, bassist/vocalist Todd Fabian and drummer Keith Anderson scratching a similar itch in intensity and aggression as did L.A. sludgecore pummelers -(16)- late last year, but with their own shimmer in the guitar on “Nervous Fingers,” post-Baroness melody in “Cocaine Footprints,” and tonal heft worthy of Floor on the likes of “Blind Eyes” and the more purely caustic noise rock of “Ten Dollars and Zero Effort.” “Code Name” dizzies at the outset, while “Trap Door” closes and tops out at over seven minutes, perhaps taking its title from the moment when, as it enters its final minute, the bottom drops out and the listener is eaten alive. Beautifully destructive, it’s also somehow what I wish post-hardcore had been in the 2000s, ripping and gnarling on “Southpaw” while still having space among the righteously maddening, Neurot-tribal percussion work to welcome former Pelican guitarist Dallas Thomas for a guest spot. Next wave of artsy Chicago heavy noise? Sign me up. And I don’t know if that’s Roo or Fabian with the harsh scream, but it’s a good one. You can hear the mucus trying to save the throat from itself. Vocal cords, right down the trap door.

These Beasts on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store


Ajeeb, Refractions

Ajeeb Refractions

Comprised of Cucho Segura on guitar and vocals, Sara Gdm on bass and drummer Rafa Pacheco, Ajeeb are the first band from the Canary Islands to be written about here, and their second album — issued through no fewer than 10 record labels, some of which are linked below — is the 11-song/42-minute Refractions, reminding in heavy fashion that the roots of grunge were in noisy punk all along. There’s some kick behind songs like “Far Enough” and “Mold,” and the later “Stuck for Decades” reminds of grainy festival videos where moshing was just people running into each other — whereas on “Mustard Surfing” someone might get punched in the head — but the listening experience goes deeper the further in you get, with side B offering a more dug-in take with the even-more-grunge “Slow-Vakia” building on “Oh Well” two songs earlier and leading into the low-end shovefest “Stuck for Decades,” which you think is going to let you breathe and then doesn’t, the noisier “Double Somersault” and closer/longest song “Tail Chasing” (5:13) taking the blink-and-it’s-over quiet part in “Amnesia” and building it out over a dynamic finish. The more you listen, the more you’re gonna hear, of course, but on the most basic level, the adaptable nature of their sound results in a markedly individual take. It’s the kind of thing 10 labels might want to release.

Ajeeb on Facebook

Spinda Records website

Clever Eagle Records website

The Ghost is Clear Records website

Violence in the Veins website


OAK, Disintegrate

Oak Disintegrate

One might be tempted to think of Porto-based funeral doomers OAK as a side-project for guitarist/vocalist Guilherme Henriques, bassist Lucas Ferrand and drummer Pedro Soares, the first two of whom play currently and the latter formerly of also-on-SeasonofMist extreme metallers Gaerea, but that does nothing to take away from the substance of the single-song full-length Disintegrate, which plies its heft in emotionality, ambience and tone alike. Throughout 44 minutes, the three-piece run an album’s worth of a gamut in terms of tempo, volume, ebbs and flows, staying grim all the while but allowing for the existence of beauty in that darkness, no less at some of the most willfully grueling moments. The rise and fall around 20 minutes in, going from double-kick-infused metallurgy to minimal standalone guitar and rebuilding toward death-growl-topped nod some six minutes later, is worth the price of admission alone, but the tortured ending, with flourish either of lead guitar or keys behind the shouted layers before moving into tremolo payoff and the quieter contemplation that post-scripts, shouldn’t be missed either. Like any offering of such extremity, Disintegrate won’t be for everyone, but it makes even the air you breathe feel heavier as it draws you into the melancholic shade it casts.

OAK on Facebook

Season of Mist store


Ultra Void, Mother of Doom

Ultra Void Mother of Doom EP

“Are we cursed?” “Is this living?” “Are we dying?” These are the questions asked after the on-rhythm sampled orgasmic moaning abates on the slow-undulating title-track of Ultra Void‘s Mother of Doom. Billed as an EP, the five-songer skirts the line of full-length consideration at 31 minutes — all the more for its molten flow as punctuated by the programmed drums — and finds the Brooklynite outfit revamped as a solo-project for Jihef Garnero, who moves from that leadoff to let the big riff do most of the talking in the stoned-metal “Sic Mundus Creatus Est” and the raw self-jam of the nine-minute “Måntår,” which holds back its vocals for later and is duly hypnotic for it. Shorter and more rocking, “Squares & Circles” maintains the weirdo vibe just the same, and at just three and a half minutes, “Special K” closes out in similar fashion with perhaps more swing in the rhythm. With those last two songs offsetting the down-the-life-drain spirit of the first three, Mother of Doom seems experimental in its construction — Garnero feeling his way into this new incarnation of the band and perhaps also recording and mixing himself in this context — but the disillusion comes through as organic, and whether we’re living or dying (spoiler: dying), that gives these songs the decisive “ugh” with which they seem to view the world around them.

Ultra Void on Facebook

Ultra Void on Bandcamp


Aktopasa, Journey to the Pink Planet


Italian trio Aktopasa — also stylized as Akṭōpasa, if you’re in a fancy mood — seem to revel in the breakout moments on their second long-player and Argonauta label debut, Journey to the Pink Planet, as heard in the crescendo nod and boogie, respectively, of post-intro opener “Calima” (10:27) and closer “Foreign Lane” (10:45), the album’s two longest tracks and purposefully-placed bookends around the other songs. Elsewhere, the Venice-based almost-entirely-instrumentalists drift early in “It’s Not the Reason” — which actually features the record’s only vocals near its own end, contributed by Mattia Filippetto — and tick boxes around the tenets of heavy psychedelic microgenre, from the post-Colour Haze floating intimacy at the start of “Agarthi” to the fuzzy and fluid jam that branches out from it and the subsequent “Sirdarja” with its tabla and either sitar or guitar-as-sitar outset and warm-toned, semi-improv-sounding jazzier conclusion. From “Alif” (the intro) into “Calima” and “Lunar Eclipse,” the intent is to hypnotize and carry the listener through, and Aktopasa do so effectively, giving the chemistry between guitarist Lorenzo Barutta, bassist Silvio Tozzato and drummer Marco Sebastiano Alessi a suitably natural showcase and finding peace in the process, at least sonically-speaking, that’s then fleshed out over the remainder. A record to breathe with.

Aktopasa on Facebook

Argonauta Records store


Troll Teeth, Underground Vol. 1

Troll Teeth Underground Vol I

There’s heavy metal somewhere factored into the sound of Philadelphia’s Troll Teeth, but where it resides changes. The band — who here work as a four-piece for the first time — unveil their Underground Vol. 1 EP with four songs, and each one has a different take. In “Cher Ami,” the question is what would’ve happened if Queens of the Stone Age were in the NWOBHM. In “Expired,” it’s whether or not the howling of the two guitars will actually melt the chug that offsets it. It doesn’t, but it comes close to overwhelming in the process. On “Broken Toy” it’s can something be desert rock because of the drums alone, and in the six-minute closer “Garden of Pillars” it’s Alice in Chains with a (more) doomly reimagining and greater melodic reach in vocals as compared to the other three songs, but filled out with a metallic shred that I guess is a luxury of having two guitars on a record when you haven’t done so before. Blink and you’ll miss its 17-minute runtime, but Troll Teeth have four LPs out through Electric Talon, including 2022’s Hanged, Drawn, & Quartered, so there’s plenty more to dig into should you be so inclined. Still, if the idea behind Underground Vol. 1 was to scope out whether the band works as constructed here, the concept is proven. Yes, it works. Now go write more songs.

Troll Teeth on Facebook

Electric Talon Records store


Finis Hominis, Sordidum Est

Finis Hominis Sordidum Est EP

Lead track “Jukai” hasn’t exploded yet before Finis HominisSordidum Est EP has unveiled the caustic nature of its bite in scathing feedback, and what ensues from there gives little letup in the oppressive, extreme sludge brutality, which makes even the minute-long “Cavum Nigrum” sample-topped drone interlude claustrophobic, never mind the assault that takes place — fast first, then slow, then crying, then slow, then dead — on nine-minute capper “Lorem Ipsum.” The bass hum that begins centerpiece “Improportionatus” is a thread throughout that 7:58 piece, the foundation on which the rest of the song resides, the indecipherable-even-if-they-were-in-English growls and throat-tearing shouts perfectly suited to the heft of the nastiness surrounding. “Jukai” has some swing in the middle but hearing it is still like trying to inhale concrete, and “Sinne Floribus” is even meaner and rawer, the Brazilian trio resolving in a devastating and noise-caked, visceral regardless of pace or crash, united in its alienated feel and aural punishment. And it’s their first EP! Jesus. Unless they’re actually as unhinged as they at times sound — possible, but difficult — I wouldn’t at all expect it to be their last. A band like this doesn’t happen unless the people behind it feel like it needs to, and most likely it does.

Finis Hominis on Facebook

Abraxas Produtora on Instagram


Space Shepherds, Losing Time Finding Space

Space Shepherds Losing Time Finding Space

With its title maybe referring to the communion among players and the music they’re making in the moment of its own heavy psych jams, Losing Time Finding Space is the second studio full-length from Belfast instrumentalist unit Space Shepherds. The improvised-sounding troupe seem to have a lineup no less fluid than the material they unfurl, but the keyboard in “Ending the Beginning (Pt. 1)” gives a cinematic ambience to the midsection, and the fact that they even included an intro and interlude — both under two minutes long — next to tracks the shortest of which is 12:57 shows a sense of humor and personality to go along with all that out-there cosmic exploratory seeking. Together comprising a title-track, “Losing Time…” (17:34) and “…Finding Space” (13:27) are unsurprisingly an album unto themselves, and being split like “Ending the Beginning” speaks perhaps of a 2LP edition to come, or at very least is emblematic of the mindset with which they’re approaching their work. That is to say, as they move forward with these kinds of mellow-lysergic jams, they’re not unmindful either of the listener’s involvement in the experience or the prospect of realizing them in the physical as well as digital realms. For now, an hour’s worth of longform psychedelic immersion will do nicely, thank you very much.

Space Shepherds on Facebook

Space Shepherds on Bandcamp


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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 103

Posted in Radio on February 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Yeah, I realize that I say the same shit every time I post a Gimme Metal playlist, but this is a good god damn show. New Simple Forms to start, new Sandrider, Merlock, Acid King, Polymoon, REZN, some WyndRider and Strider — both reviewed in the last week or so — then on to Enslaved as a shift into meaner fare with Tribunal, These Beasts, They Grieve, Fuzzy Grapes and Mammoth Caravan touching on various points in gruff doom and sludge before I come on again to mouthfart or whatever it is I do around saying ‘thanks for listening’ and turn it over to an 18-minute finish from Clouds Taste Satanic, who’ll head to Europe this Spring to support the 2LP record they released today on Majestic Mountain. Good god damn show.

There’s a flow to it that I like, from the Pacific Northwestern takes of Simple Forms and Sandrider at the outset to the lumbering of Mammoth Caravan before that last voice track, it has a groove. Because it airs at 5PM on a Friday evening, I’m not always able to blast out the show while I try to keep up with the chat — that’s Sesame Street time, these days, and all volume conflicts are resolved by my being yelled at and turning down the music, putting my phone on the lowest volume and holding it to my left ear or stepping out to the back yard to get stoned and listening there for a bit — but Dean Rispler, who actually assembles the thing from the playlist I turn in, is a genius and I always know that he’s got it down when it comes to conveying the flow from one song to the next. I rely on that, and he nails it every time. It honestly makes me look forward to these Fridays more.

If you listen, I hope you dig it. Thanks for reading either way.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 02.03.23 (VT = voice track)

Simple Forms Unprecedented Uncertainty Unprecedented Uncertainty
Sandrider Alia Enveletration
Merlock Onward Strides Colossus Onward Strides Colossus
Acid King Beyond Vision Beyond Vision
Polymoon Set the Sun Chrysalis
REZN Possession Solace
WyndRider Creator WyndRider
Strider Midnight Zen Midnight Zen
Enslaved Forest Dweller Heimdal
Tribunal The Path The Weight of Remembrance
These Beasts Code Name Cares, Wills, Wants
They Grieve Wither To Which I Bore Witness
Fuzzy Grapes Sludge Fang Volume 1
Mammoth Caravan Petroglyphs Ice Cold Oblivion
Clouds Taste Satanic Flames and Demon Drummers Tales of Demonic Possession

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Feb. 17 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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Live Review: Magnetic Eye Records Day of Doom in Brooklyn, 11.02.19

Posted in Reviews on November 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

magnetic eye records day of doom poster

Before the Show

Well, don’t tell anybody, but the dude sitting at the end of the bar DJ’ing is me. Actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I don’t care if you tell anybody. At this point, I know most of the seven or eight people in this room right now. But I made a playlist, edited it together so it all plays as one track, and it’s three hours long — like the old podcasts, including a really long song or two along the way — but that’s going, so as far as I’m concerned, sitting here on my laptop is why they asked me to come early. The rest is kind of just waiting around, so at least this way I can look like I’m doing something.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing the review while the show is happening — I’m not committing to posting any of it live, since I’ve never done photos on this machine before when I’m actually in a hurry — but it’s 15-minute breaks between bands, DAY OF DOOM SCHEDULEso it’s going to depend on how I can time it either way. The important thing? That I stress out about it. Obviously.

And oh yeah, I included Earthride on my playlist specifically with the Saint Vitus Bar in mind, because they often play them between bands. My nod to the room. No one cares, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise, so there it is.

This is the Magnetic Eye Records Day of Doom, a nine-band label showcase that will go from at least now — coming on 1:30 — to 10:30 tonight, so yes, a full day of doom, as it were. At very least, if today had a quota of heavy, I suspect it’ll be filled by the end of it and then some.

But we enter now the sit-tight portion of the afternoon, so that’s my plan. Will check in with more either during or after it’s all over.

During the Show

These Beasts

these beasts (photo by jj koczan)

One would not accuse Magnetic Eye Records of easing into the day with These Beasts. Rather, the Chicago three-piece are at this very moment bludgeoning a Vitus Bar live room with an ultra-aggro, thickened noise rock that’s only sense of letting up is in letting up on the letup. By which I mean there is none. It’s somewhat awkward to be sitting here while they’re playing and admit I don’t know their self-titled LP, released earlier this year, but they’re showing me the error of my ways in pummeling fashion. Can hear punk roots coming through amid the intertwining screams and shouts, but there’s a definite heft to the tone and some vocal echo adds atmosphere to go with all that heads-down force. But there’s plenty of that too and it’s the sheer physicality of what they’re playing that’s letting them pull in such an early crowd. To wit, I’m one of like three people in the back bar right now and I’m about to head back in. Clearly they’re doing something right in there.

Leather Lung

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It’s been weeks, not months, not years — more than days, though — since I last saw Boston’s Leather Lung. Last time? Dudes brought stoner-sludge chicanery to Ode to Doom in Manhattan (review here). This time? The location has changed, but the mission not so much. Vocalist Mike Vickers has had the cast taken off his arm and judging by his onstage mosh-shuffle, all seems to be in good working order, so that’s my official medical checkup, but beyond that, they’re bringing a groove that’s plenty fresh in my memory; sludge played from the heart via the crotch that makes no bones about where it’s coming from — Boston — and no bones about its affection for all manner of inebriating. Their groove has this toughguy edge to it that I can’t quite put my finger on and couldn’t last time either, but I don’t think these dudes want to fight so much as they want to get fucked up and play riffs. Like I said, the mission hasn’t changed much since I last saw them. I’ll check back on them in a bit and hope for no more busted limbs from them or anyone else in attendance, for that matter. “It’s all fun and games, until,” and so on.

High Priest

High Priest (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Chicago’s High Priest issued their Sanctum EP (review here) earlier this year and it was kind of a sleeper, but they were high (pun like 25 percent intended) among my list of anticipated acts for the day. Nothing too complex, but they roll out big-time riffs and dig into some hazy vibes and especially after the nasty nasty nastiness that was These Beasts and Leather Lung back to back, they’re a chance to show off some of the stylistic breadth on Magnetic Eye‘s roster. The kind of label as likely to redux Pink Floyd as Helmet, you know. They’d be a fitting complement to a tour with Elephant Tree, if we’re doing label pairings, but I guess probably there needs to be an album out before one starts nailing down dates. We’re in November now, so kind of fair to look back on some of the year’s highlights, and seeing High Priest live for the first time is a reminder of just how much I dug those tunes this past Spring. I’m apparently learning stuff all over the place today. Fun and educational! They also finished by dissolving into a total wash of noise that was affecting and psychedelic in kind. A pleasure to watch. Can’t say it plainer than that.

Caustic Casanova

Caustic Casanova (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Of the nine bands on this bill, I’m pretty sure Caustic Casanova win the prize for having the most recent release. Their new record, God How I Envy the Deaf, came out on Oct. 18 as their first through Magnetic Eye and they’re playing Vitus Bar as a precursor to hitting the road on the next of their seemingly endless string of tours. This is also the first time I’m seeing them as the four-piece of drummer/vocalist Stefanie Zaenker, bassist/vocalist Francis Beringer, and guitarists Andrew Yonki and Jake Kimberley, the last of whom is a new recruit. For a band on the road as much as they are, I have to imagine finding someone to mesh with wasn’t easy — Caustic Casanova‘s particular take on melodic heavy rock is a big-time beneficiary of the chemistry they’ve built through touring — but they did it, and the match extends to onstage energy, to be sure. How many bands could cover “Wicked World” and make it sound believable? Caustic Casanova played it like they wrote it, and their original material was no less vital. I’ll make it easy: this is a band you should see. They make it even easier by touring their collective ass off, but even if they didn’t, they’d be worth the effort of showing up when possible. Magnetic Eye made a good-ass pickup when they signed them.

Ghastly Sound

Ghastly Sound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rivaling Caustic Casanova in the running for most-recent-outing is Vermont trio Ghastly Sound, whose debut full-length, Have a Nice Day, dropped like a sarcastic anvil in September. This was my first time seeing the three-piece, but it’s worth noting they primo position on the bill they’ve received, and I’ll admit that because of that alone, my expectations were high before they went on. Is this the part where I say the band slaughtered those expectations outright, blah blah blah dominance, blah blah blah heavy band destroys minds reaps souls and all the rest? Well, my mind feels pretty destroyed and if I ever had a soul — nope — it’s long gone, but yeah, they delivered in a big spot, taking crossover-style hardcore and leaving the guitar at home, adding melody through vocal effects and reviving a bit of the aggression from earlier in the day. The way they were set up on the Saint Vitus Bar stage made me think there was a guitarist somewhere missing in the building, but nope, and it turned out they didn’t need one, though one hesitates to say such things on a day that has featured thus far and will continue to feature so much choice riffing. A little — or a lot, as in this case — of rumble goes a long way. Also with the shouting and the being really loud. No question the pressure was on, and I know their record was a while in coming, but if I didn’t know they’d just released their debut, I’d say they’d been around much longer.


Horsehunter (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Okay. Putting together a nine-band bill? Pretty impressive. Doing so and bringing in bands from the UK and Europe? Even more impressive. Doing so and bringing a band from Australia? And that band is Horsehunter? Who I don’t think are really even together at this point? Yeah, that’s some next level shit. The Aus megasludge four-piece put out their self-titled second album (discussed here) and swansong earlier this year — like, earlier than September — and had already been busted up for two years. Should they be broken up? No, they should not. Even if one could manage to put aside the context of seeing them play even just for 45 minutes as being a total once-in-a-lifetime experience, a group of the Melbourne four-piece’s destructive potential should continue to exist. If they were the only band playing today, it would still be a Day of Doom, and in volume and viscosity alike, they’re on a plane of their own amid this lineup. I don’t know what the future might hold for them, as members have already moved onto different projects, but I have to think that if a band is willing to get together and travel to the other side of the planet to play essentially a one-off gig, they’d have to feel motivated to maybe follow that up with something? Or maybe this would be a pinnacle anyway? I don’t know. Either way, it’s clearly a special moment for all involved parties — those in attendance, those playing, and the Magnetic Eye crew, who believed in them enough to release the record even though they were done — and I’m lucky to have been here for it. Biggest big rock finish of the day as well, so bonus points there, as if they needed them.


Domkraft (Photo by JJ Koczan)

This is my second time seeing Sweden’s Domkraft after being fortunate enough to catch them about 13 months ago in Oslo, Norway, at Høstsabbat (review here). They were at that point heralding the release of their second album, Flood (review here), and as they got ready to go on just now I thought back fondly to the positive impression they made that day, blending noise rock, sludge and an almost post-metallic kind of ambience. That’s a fun little narrative, right? Sure it is. Lost in that, however, is the rhythmic undulation of that nod, but man, when they decide to lock that in — and they don’t always, because they’re not a do-one-thing kind of band — they are hypnotic. They had their work cut out for them in following Horsehunter, as anyone would, but guitarist Martin Widholm, bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland and drummer Anders Dahlgren captured a feeling of spaciousness that seemed to take all the crush of the mighty performance before them and taffy-pull it into a headier, spacier reach, still deeply weighted, still giving that feeling of surrounding you while you’re standing there in front of it, but at the same time extending outward beyond you, beyond the room — maybe just beyond, period. They’ve been to the States before, having played Psycho Las Vegas, and I guess you could count the show they did last night in Jersey with Solace too, but they feel like a band who are really stepping into themselves, and the identity they’re finding as a part of that process suits them. I’m already looking forward to their next record, and far be it from me to tell you how to live your life, but you probably should be too.


Summoner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you know anything about Magnetic Eye Records, or label founder Mike Vitali (also Black Electric, Ironweed, ex-Greatdayforup, etc.), it’s probably that the label frickin’ loves Boston’s Summoner. I’ve seen them live a handful of times over the years, certainly dug the crap out of 2017’s Beyond the Realms of Light (review here) as I have their material since their days a decade ago operating as Riff Cannon — a name they quickly outgrew and were smart enough to realize it, even though it was a cool moniker to have — and it’s hard to argue. I knew accordingly what to expect going into their set, at least to a degree, but with the recent change that brought Worshipper‘s Dave Jarvis to the lineup on drums — I’m not sure if it’s a permanent or temporary thing; dude was sitting next to me like 15 minutes ago, I should’ve asked — there was an added sense of intrigue to seeing them for what was the first time in a while anyway. However, part of knowing what Summoner do is knowing they do it pro-shop, and as their slot found them positioned right before Elephant Tree at the end of the show, they had an occasion to rise to and they rose to it accordingly, Jarvis sliding right in alongside bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson and guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner, on familiar material while still bringing some of his own swing to it. You won’t hear me disparage the work of Summoner as they were, but if they’re indeed pressing on in this configuration, they’ll be just fine. When Johnson stops smiling on stage, I’ll worry. Didn’t happen at Day of Doom, even after the strap of his bass broke and he had to finish the song with it resting on his knee. That was like two songs in, maybe? No loss of momentum. Pro-shop, front to back.

Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elephant Tree‘s second full-length, which will actually be released by Holy Roar Records at least in the UK — I admit there might be some regional deal worked out with Magnetic Eye that I don’t know about — is reportedly in the mastering stage. At least, that’s what they told me and I’m not sure what would be their motive for lying about it. Last I heard were a couple rough mixes, but that was a while ago, and I’m all-the-way-serious when I tell you that I can’t think of another record that’s been announced for 2020 that I’m anticipating more. The Londoners’ 2016 self-titled debut (review here) has lost none of its appeal for the subsequent three years — just ask Sister Rainbow, who flew from the UK for this show basically just to see them for what I understand is at least the 48th time — and with the progression I heard evident in their performance (again) at Høstsabbat 2018 (review here) and those rough versions, yeah, I feel justified in my high hopes. It wouldn’t have made sense for them to come to Brooklyn and play only new stuff, but as noted, even the cuts from their self-titled were welcome. The fact that even after such a full show they were given a complete hour for their set should tell you something, and basically it should tell you they’re a band just waiting for your loyalty. See them 49 times? Well, I’m up to at least three now and I feel like that’s barely worth calling a start. Also of note, they’re a four-piece now, with John Slattery on guitar and keys and vocals joining the trio of guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (of the green strings) and drummer Sam Hart, so that’s all the more of an occasion for their primo stage banter. They’ve just hit into “Aphotic Blues,” if you’ll excuse me… Yeah, that’s an earplugs-out moment not to be missed. And to have them then follow it by bringing album-engineer/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/he’s-kinda-in-the-band-but-not-really-anymore-except-I-guess-sometimes-like-tonight Riley “The Wizard” MacIntyre on stage first to scream like mad, then to take over Townley‘s guitar for “Wither” only highlighted how incredible this day has been. What a trip. It’s not over. I mean, it’s mostly over, but they’ve got about 10 minutes left, so I’m going to stow the computer and get back to what’s important and get up front for the end, which is where it feels like I should be.

After the Show

Just past 12:30AM. I left the Saint Vitus Bar at I guess around 10:45PM and got back here a little bit ago, cursing the name of the tech giant whose mappery failed yet again to take into account Lincoln Tunnel traffic in its calculations. Next time, I take the FDR unless it’s visibly on fire.

Elephant Tree finished with their slowed-down take on Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” which given the Brooklyn setting found Holland’s gruffer vocal reminding all the more of Peter Steele from Type O Negative (green strings may have been a factor there as well), and followed that with a new song called “Bird,” the harmonies of which are particularly gorgeous and lush seeming. Mike Vitali Magnetic Eye Records (Photo by JJ Koczan)I can’t wait to hear that album.

Basically I’m keying down from the show, and there was a lot of show to key up. Kind of striking how even the bands whose sounds had common elements were able to stand themselves apart. That was true the whole time. And I stayed the whole time. And I wound up running the playlist the whole time as well, at least until Elephant Tree were done. So I guess that’s a thing. I DJed the show. Wasn’t planned, but I was plugged in and using my laptop anyway, so there you have it. I dug the tunes, anyway. Hopefully I wasn’t the only one.

Thanks to Mike Vitali and to Jadd Shickler for having me on board for that and for putting the thing together generally. This was a pretty astounding feat when it comes to coordination, and those efforts on their behalf were deeply appreciated. Vitali got on stage before Horsehunter went on to thank everybody and it was plain to see it was an emotional night for him as well. It would have to be, frankly.

Thanks to the bands, to everyone who said hi and/or nice things, and thanks to you for reading. Most of all, thanks to The Patient Mrs., who made my being there possible, and who makes pretty much everything that’s possible possible.

Now off to bed.

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Magnetic Eye Records Announces Label Showcase with Horsehunter, Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Clearly, Magnetic Eye Records is not into half-measures. Any label can put together a tribute. When Magnetic Eye does it, it’s two sprawling collections of bands playing homage to landmark albums and artists’ greatest hits. Any label can put together a showcase. When Magnetic Eye does it, they fly in three international acts, from Australia, the UK and Sweden, to round out the bill. Do you have any idea how insane that is?

It’s quite insane.

They’ve got a Kickstarter up now, as they will, and as rewards for backers they’re letting you preorder which set you’d like to have the recorded version of, because of course they’re also recording the sets. Seriously?

To do otherwise would be a half-measure.

They’re calling it ‘The Day of Doom,’ and in addition to HorsehunterElephant Tree, and Domkraft, they’ll have SummonerLeather LungGhastly SoundHigh PriestCaustic Casanova and These Beasts on the bill. Nine bands at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Nov. 2.

Quite insane. Just enough to work:

magnetic eye showcase banner

MAGNETIC EYE RECORDS presents its first ever live label showcase at the legendary Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn this November 2nd!

Check out the Kickstarter to help us make the Day of Doom truly epic and get in on the exclusive live album releases from MER’s flagship bands.

Sure, it’s summer right now, but have you looked around? Seas are rising, animal populations are shrinking, Scott Stapp has a new album, dogs and cats are living together… it’s mass hysteria.

Not the types to fly in the face of impending Armageddon, Magnetic Eye thought we’d expedite the end times by officially declaring our own DAY OF DOOM on November 2nd of this year as the date of our first-ever live label showcase.


The Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York. Where the hell else?


No less than nine crushing Magnetic Eye roster bands, headlined by our four flagship acts that have helped shape and define the core of the MER sound:

Elephant Tree

What does this mean for you?

Two things:

1. If you’re anywhere near the New York area (or even if you’re not), you’re going to want to make the pilgrimage to this show. With our biggest and heaviest acts flying in from all over the world, it’s probably no stretch to say we have no idea when or if this will ever happen again. Tickets will be on sale soon directly via the Saint Vitus Bar, and we’ll of course let you know where to get them.

2. Whether you can make this incredible convergence in person or not, you can share in the experience. Magnetic Eye will be recording the four headline bands at Day of Doom for an exclusive set of live album releases, and you can support helping get the bands here for the event and reserve your live records now by jumping on board the Kickstarter for the project at this location.

Look, we’d love to have all of you there with us. But we know it’s not possible for some to make the trip, and we understand. Hell, it wasn’t possible for most of us to attend Woodstock, but at least we have the soundtrack, right?

Check out our Kickstarter now to lock down your exclusive editions of Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner and Horsehunter Live at the Day of Doom New York. It’s going to be absolutely unforgettable. And thanks to these records, you’ll always remember.


Leather Lung, Lonesome, On’ry & Evil (2019)

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