The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 61

Posted in Radio on June 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Stuff that’s been on my mind lately or came in recently and caught my fancy. Nothing really too tricky to how this one came together. Heavy Temple and All Souls are the two most recent interviews I’ve done, and the King Buffalo and Moon Coven and Vokonis and Whims of the Great Magnet are also things I’ve covered lately. Ditto Cavern Deep. Electric Moon I bought a shirt from the other day — they’re putting together a new comp of their studio work — and the Somnuri record continues to demolish.

Déhà and Seputus and Gateway are killer and more extreme, Slomatics are recording, the Wooden Veins record is out on The Vinyl Division and was a record I wanted to give more attention to, and yeah, as far as motivation goes, this is basically what’s been circling around in my head for the last two weeks. More than that in some cases.

Without waxing poetic, I guess that’s kind of the point of the show. Hear new music, share new music. It’s not the most ambitious goal I’ve undertaken, but not to put too fine a point on it, it is essentially the rule by which I govern everything I do here. Next episode has more of a united theme (I already turned the playlist in; look at me being ahead of the game for once), but I think this flows well just the same.

Thanks for listening and/or reading. I hope you enjoy.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 06.11.21

Moon Coven Bahgsu Nag Slumber Wood
The Whims of the Great Magnet Share My Sun Share My Sun
Vokonis Through the Depths Odyssey
VT
King Buffalo The Knocks The Burden of Restlessness
Slomatics Proto Hag Split with Ungraven
Seputus The Learned Response Phantom Indigo
Déhà Blackness in May Cruel Words
Gateway Slumbering Crevasses Flesh Reborn
VT
Acid Magus Wyrd Syster Wyrd Syster
Heavy Temple A Desert Through the Trees Lupi Amoris
All Souls You Just Can’t Win Songs for the End of the World
Somnuri In the Grey Nefarious Wave
Wooden Veins Thin Shades In Finitude
Cavern Deep Waterways Cavern Deep
VT
Electric Moon The Doomsday Machine The Doomsday Machine

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

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Full Album Stream & Review: Vokonis, Odyssey

Posted in Reviews on May 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Vokonis Odyssey

[Click play above to stream Vokonis’ Odyssey in full. Album is out Friday on The Sign Records.]

At the core of what Vokonis bring to their fourth full-length, Odyssey, is the blossoming dual-vocal dynamic between guitarist Simon Ohlsson and bassist Jonte Johansson. As the Borås, Sweden-based three-piece have progressed across the last six years, with steady releases acting as landmarks along the way — 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here), 2017’s The Sunken Djinn (review here) and 2019’s Grasping Time (review here) — they have brought more and more styles of heavy under the umbrella of their aesthetic, and the six-song/40-minute Odyssey is both their most ambitious and most accomplished work in that regard. From the straight-ahead charge of “Rebellion” at the outset through the post-Scorpions progressive heavy rock touched on in Johansson‘s verses in 12-minute closer “Through the Depths,” there is nothing Vokonis reach for here that they don’t subsequently grab.

Notably, Odyssey marks the debut of drummer Peter Ottosson, who joined the band prior to the release of Grasping Time (but after the recording), and finds the band’s already formidable dynamic arrangements fleshed out through the inclusion of the near-ubiquitous Per Wiberg, whose organ/keyboard expressions build melody and atmosphere not only in the most pivotal stretches of that mentioned finale, but in the earlier title-track and the penultimate “Hollow Waters” — a highlight among highlights — as well.

The vinyl edition of Odyssey separates those last two from the rest of the proceedings, and fairly enough so, as they create a kind of flow between themselves that distinguishes from the mostly shorter surroundings — the title-track, which directly follows “Rebellion” and runs nine minutes, is the exception, acting as a foreshadow of things to come — but even in its most pointed moments of attack, Odyssey finds Vokonis confident of who they are as a band and willfully pulling their songs over the borderlines between microgenres, culling from noise, post-hardcore, black metal, doom, progressive heavy rock, and whatever else suits them as they embark on a craft that is all the more their own for being inclusive of so many elements.

“Rebellion,” then, might be the band’s statement against expectation. Its Mastodonic lead riff is topped by channel-swapping shouts from Ohlsson before Johansson joins on melodic, “cleaner” vocals. The two have never sounded more complementary than they do immediately on this three-minute piece, and the screams that arrive as the song moves into its second half act as a blindside but become a crucial element in Vokonis‘ arsenal across this Odyssey, not at all overused, but enhancing more intense moments throughout and putting emphasis on breadth almost in spite of their own rawness. “Odyssey” opens with keys and is an immediately more patient turn.

vokonis

No doubt its winding initial movement will draw some Elder comparisons, but Vokonis go to someplace more pastoral across the first half, and Wiberg‘s organ backs Johansson in the song’s midsection in a way that sets the stage for a linear build over the next several minutes, a solo arriving at 6:20 born of the layered ether, shifting into higher and lower gutturalisms, and effective right unto the oh-hell-yes “blech” that follows in using extreme metal as a tool rather than a crutch — that is, not aggressive for aggression’s sake, but to add to the scope of Odyssey (and “Odyssey”) overall. Unsurprisingly, “Blackened Wings” keeps the thread going, picking up at full speed and shoving through screamed/shouted verses into a more soaring chorus, a hook emerging just in time to be swallowed by the solo that caps as the track gives way to the more moderately-paced “Azure,” which informs that “Ashes and dust will be all that remains in the end” before a final scream over guitar and organ closes out side A in righteous fashion. Seems like Vokonis might need a full-time keyboardist — or at very least a laptop — if they’re thinking of bringing this material to life at anytime soon, but as a studio work, the complexity of design the band has brought to these songs, even as barebones as their structures can be, isn’t to be ignored.

So who is Vokonis, then? Are they the rippers on “Rebellion?” The mosh-crunchers of the second half of “Hollow Waters?” The conjurors of swirl who make “Through the Depths” both live up to its title and set a new height of achievement for the band at the same time? The “duh” answer is Vokonis are all of these, and that the identity of the group as portrayed in their sound has become that much richer over time. “Hollow Waters” and “Through the Depths” should be taken on their own, even in a digital, all-at-once context. Of course, they’re consistent sound-wise with the four songs preceding, and as noted, “Odyssey” does well in prefacing the grandeur to unfold later, but even the background screams buried in the mix of “Hollow Waters” and the rumble that bounces along with the drums beneath the guitar in the first half of “Through the Depths” — thinking before the charred screams hit around the four-minute mark — are details that earn a close listen through the sheer strength of their craft.

One does not necessarily think of Vokonis as a meditative or navelgazing band, but there’s no question this material has been considered, thought through, and built with a mind toward conveying the fluidity that comes across in the end result, and it deserves all the more consideration for that. It shows that the arc of growth Vokonis enacted even from their earliest demo work had not yet peaked even on Grasping Time, and that on performance and songwriting levels, their will is to keep pushing themselves forward. May they continue to do so for the duration, because as Odyssey readily proves, they’re only more able to create something special for each prior outing. As his first recording with the band, Ottosson deserves a mention for his play and how ably he fits in style-wise, but the fact of the matter is it’s the whole band who have made Odyssey the proggy pleasure piece it is, and likewise honed the multifaceted nature of who Vokonis have become.

Vokonis, “Blackened Wings” official video

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis

Posted in Questionnaire on March 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

simon ohlsson vokonis

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis

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

I play guitar, sing and mainly I’m a songwriter in the band Vokonis. That’s what I want to put forth the most I guess. That I write songs with my friends and are very lucky to have some people like what we do.

Describe your first musical memory.

It was probably my dad listening to Bruce Springsteen. I do not know if that’s frowned upon but I’ve been to some of his concerts as well and they’ve all been very good.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Iggy and The Stooges a couple of years ago. I had the pleasure of being able to rush the stage during Fun House and dance next to James Williamson. Iggy is probably my biggest “rock star”. So that alone ranks it above a lot of other concerts.

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

Probably around ten years ago when I lost my faith in god and religion. I was very Christian in my teens and as a lot of bad stuff happened I just couldn’t find it in myself or in the universe that god exists.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

To happiness. I don’t want to stand still musically. I get bored very fast if I don’t feel I make progress.

How do you define success?

To love yourself. To be happy with what I do and to surround myself with good people.

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

Most Adam Sandler movies. Grown-Ups in particular.

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

A 20-minute song. That is what we set out to do with Odyssey. It turned into a more traditional album instead but I’m still happy about it.

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

It adds spice and value to life. The fact that art isn’t appreciated in the same way by two people speaks a lot too.

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

The rest of the NBA season. I’m happy to have that going even if the pandemic is still rolling.

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialVokonis/
https://www.instagram.com/vokonisofficial/
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Vokonis, Odyssey (2021)

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Vokonis Set May 7 Release for Odyssey

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Goodness gracious that’s some gorgeous album art for the new Vokonis record. The album has been in discussion since before it was even mentioned here last Spring, and I’ll just say that yes, I’ve heard it and it’s the most progressive work the Swedish three-piece have done yet, building on 2019’s Grasping Time (review here) even as it basks in heavier heavy. If you’ve followed the band’s evolution to this point — or, I guess, if you haven’t — they won’t disappoint. Plus, Per Wiberg‘s on it!

I assume that, were the circumstances different, Odyssey would have been released last Fall. Better late than never. Expect more to come on this one, one way or the other.

Till then, this from the PR wire:

Vokonis Odyssey

Vokonis will release their fourth studio album ”Odyssey” May 7th 2021 via The Sign!

Vokonis will release their fourth studio album “Odyssey” in spring 2021. More dynamically diverse than ever, the 6 new tracks feature guest musician Per Wiberg (Opeth, Spiritual Beggars, Kamchatka) on Keyboard. Odyssey is Vokonis’ first true prog-record. A record for the new decade.

After the success of Vokonis’ critically acclaimed third album “Grasping Time” (2019), Vokonis immediately went into recording more material. With the goal set to further expand the prog landscape, Vokonis crafted recordings that are more dynamically diverse and forward-thinking than ever before. The result is “Odyssey”, the upcoming fourth studio album by Vokonis. Ranging from full-blown doom to melodically blissful passages, the new album features guest musician Per Wiberg (Opeth, Spiritual Beggars, Kamchatka) on Keyboard.

With tangible prog- influences combined with stand out choruses, the 6 tracks on “Odyssey” further explores the sound that Vokonis introduced on 2019’s “Grasping Time”. Jonte’s clean vocal lines are effectively blended with Simon’s aggressive bark, creating tons of depth as the sound shift from dreamy psychedelia to faze-melting sludge heaviness. The new tracks are backed up by the rhythmical patterns provided by the band’s new drummer Peter Ottosson who, since his affiliation in early 2019, has proved to be a spark plug of inspiration for the band.

“Odyssey” was recorded in Studio Soundport, Sweden, by Mikael Andersson. Mastered by Magnus Lindberg. The artwork for the album and its singles were made by Kyrre Bjurling (Grasping Time, Olde One Ascending Reissue). “Odyssey” will be released on The Sign Records on May 7, 2021. The album will be available on digital, vinyl, and CD format. Get ready.

Vokonis:
Simon Ohlsson – Guitar and Vocals
Jonte Johansson – Bass and Vocals
Peter Ottosson – Percussion – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialVokonis/
https://www.instagram.com/vokonisofficial/
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Stream Review: Vokonis, Live at Klubb Undergrunden, Sept. 18, 2020

Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

vokonis klubb undergrunden

My wife and I threw rock-paper-scissors in a best of three to decide which of us was going to put our son down for nap. She won. I had a run of victories that lasted for years but ever since then it’s been like the curse of the Bambino. I’m lucky if I make the playoffs.

But then I looked at my watch and saw it was 1:58PM and that in two minutes it would be time for Borås, Sweden, trio Vokonis to begin their live stream from Klubb Undergrunden in their hometown, and I called in the favor. Though she was plenty ready for a nap herself, the love of my life relented and took the kid upstairs to lie down.

A few minutes later, as Klubb Undergrunden Sessions II was underway with the progressive-heavy three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Peter Ottoson opening their relatively quick 27-minute set with the title-track of 2017’s The Sunken Djinn (review here), I got the call from upstairs.

He’d thrown up. Not uncommon but not unheard of; generally he’s not much of a puker, but of course timing is anything. As the band nestled into the stomp of the verse in “The Sunken Djinn,” with Ohlsson and Johansson sharing vocal duties as they’ve done more and more effectively since making their debut with 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here), I hit pause, grabbed some paper towels, and went to assess the damage.

It wasn’t so bad, and soon enough, I was back in front of the television, watching the multi-camera, pro-sound, pro-lighting cast of the trio playing “Grasping Time” off of 2019’s Grasping Time (review here) as I seemed to be doing so myself, but it goes to the ongoing discussion of how music and especially the experience of live music interacts with the rest of our lives in this pandemic era.

Having recently experienced a socially-distant live performance for direct comparison, I’ll say that the simple act of having to leave one’s house makes a huge difference.

I’ve never lived in a major city or particularly close to any relevant venues, so I’m fairly used to traveling for shows, but I would think if you were down the block from your favorite concert hall, the same would still apply. You have to pull yourself out of your own space to see a show (unless you own the venue, in which case, congratulations to you on living my dream) in a way that, watching a COVID-born stream, the whole point is to not.

When you’re at a show, you’re not thinking about doing the dishes. You’re not throwing pillowcases in the laundry. You’re not taking the fucking dog out for the 15th time because she has the world’s most expensive UTI and will invariably piss all over everything if you don’t. Even if you’re the type to text or engage social media while out and about — and by “type,” mostly at this point I think I mean “human” — you’re physically somewhere else.

Vokonis played five songs in this — again — fairly brief mini-gig, with “The Sunken Djinn” and “Grasping Time” giving way to “Antler Queen” and “I Hear the Siren,” before closing out with the quick energy burst of “Exiled”; the latter three tracks all from Grasping Time as well, which is unmistakably the band’s best work made public to-date, though as Ohlsson noted in April, their next offering is already well in progress.

I would imagine that, as different as it is for the audience of a stream, it’s no less a new world for the performers involved. Of course, in a shoot like this one there are other people in the room, working lights, the live mix and camera direction, but that’s hardly the same as a boozy crowd come to see a good show. Still, OhlssonJohansson and Ottoson were able to get into the spirit, headbanging a bit while issuing forth through a series of proggy turns and adrenaline-fueled hooks.

They have worked relatively quickly over the last several years to grow beyond the influences that sparked their earliest efforts — and that work has been successful — and even though Ottoson didn’t appear on Grasping Time, the dynamic between the trio came across as that of a band whose evolution was serving a greater aesthetic purpose. A band who, in stylistic terms, are going somewhere and exploring new ideas.

And so they are. “Exiled” capped with a quick “tack” from Ohlsson and it was over. My wife long since gone for her own nap, our son upstairs, blowing off his own but playing peacefully enough, I disconnected the stream, turned off the tv and sat for a minute to process. I’ve never seen Vokonis live — a planned trip to Esbjerg Fuzztival this year would’ve been the first time — and I came away from the stream feeling like my experience of it was afflicted by the rest of what was going on.

But here’s the thing with the stream: As the house had finally settled down — even the dog was in her crate — I happened to have another 27 minutes at my disposal. Not something that happens every day. So I just put it on, on my laptop this time, and watched Vokonis kill it once again so I didn’t come away feeling like I’d missed anything.

That’s something that, were I pulled away from an in-person show by some domestic consideration — it’s happened before; you get bad news, etc. — I wouldn’t have been able to do. Everything has its ups and downs. And in a time that seems perpetually to find new lows, I’ll take every 27 minutes of positivity I can get.

The stream is still up and you can see it below. Thanks for reading.

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Review & Track Premiere, Various Artists, Alice in Chains: Dirt [Redux]

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

dirt redux

[Click play above to stream Howling Giant’s “Rooster” from Magnetic Eye Records’ Dirt [Redux] Alice in Chains tribute. LP/CD/DL out Sept. 18 with preorders here.]

Says Howling Giant’s Zach Wheeler:

“To be honest, getting ‘Rooster’ was a bit intimidating as it’s one of their most popular songs. We wanted to pay tribute to Alice in Chains as much as possible while giving the song that special Howling Giant sauce. We changed a few things around, but tried to reinforce the melodies that make the song so memorable in the first place.”

Says Howling Giant’s Tom Polzine:

“When I was growing up in Buffalo, Minnesota, there was a local band called Blood Root Mother made up of some dudes that were probably four or five years older than me. I remember sneaking out of my house to see them perform at this rundown venue called The Vault. The Vault was run by some 20 year olds that skipped college in order to renovate that old antique shop into a dirty DIY venue. If dirty and uncomfortable was the vibe they were going for, they nailed it. Anyway, Blood Root Mother were tight as hell and I’ll always remember their cover of ‘Rooster’ as one of the most moving performances I witnessed from a bunch of local, lovable scumbags. The energy was so raw, and the volume was overwhelming. I think that witnessing those guys performing that song in particular is the reason I started playing in rock bands in high school, and why I still play today.”

Released in September 1992, Alice in Chains‘ second full-length, Dirt, is a generational landmark. It remains one of a select few records of its era — along with Nirvana‘s Nevermind, Pearl Jam‘s Ten, Soundgarden‘s Badmotorfinger, and maybe one or two others — that helped define the “grunge” sound for which Seattle, Washington, would become almost inextricably known. With an underlying-and-at-times-right-up-front theme of drug addiction and ensuing personal fallout, Dirt was grimmer and could be more aggressive than most of its still-commercially-viable major label contemporaries, and as a result always had some more appeal to metal fans than, say, Pearl Jam, who were strictly a hard rock band at the time. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell‘s now-classic riffs and vocals, Sean Kinney‘s inventive drums, the fluid bass work of Mike Starr and Layne Staley‘s voice that would prove inimitable despite the attempts of three decades’ worth of singers — these essential elements came together around a group of particularly memorable songs, some radio hits, some B sides, and of course, “Iron Gland” for good measure, and served as the proverbial lightning in the bottle and the standard by which the band’s output ever since has been judged.

In continuing its tribute series of full album releases by embarking on a Dirt [Redux]Magnetic Eye Records takes on a no less crucial album than when the label put together compilation tributes to Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix. There are some recognizable acts from the Magnetic Eye stable as well as others clearly given to celebrating the work itself, and those who remain loyal to the original versions of the songs while other groups prefer to bring their appointed track into their own sonic context. Like the original DirtDirt [Redux] of course boasts 13 tracks — it’s a whole-album tribute; it wouldn’t do to leave something out — though its runtime is longer than the original, at 63 minutes as opposed to 57. The tracklisting reads as follows:

1. Thou – Them Bones
2. Low Flying Hawks – Dam That River
3. High Priest – Rain When I Die
4. Khemmis – Down in a Hole
5. These Beasts – Sickman
6. Howling Giant – Rooster
7. Forming the Void – Junkhead
8. Somnuri – Dirt
9. Backwoods Payback – God Smack
10. Black Electric – Iron Gland
11. -(16)- – Hate to Feel
12. Vokonis – Angry Chair
13. The Otolith – Would?

Their take on “Would?” — tracked by Alice in Chains first for an appearance on the soundtrack of the film Singles then reused on the album — marks the debut recording from post-SubRosa outfit The Otolith, and arrives with no shortage of anticipation. Bookending with “Them Bones” as interpreted by New Orleans art-sludgers Thou, the atmospheric breadth brought to the finale is a standout on the release and, at that point, one more instance of a band making the track their own. Thou‘s blend of harsh and cleaner vocals notwithstanding, they largely keep to the original tempo and arrangement of the leadoff track, whereas Low Flying Hawks take the subsequent “Dam That River” — a hooky follow-up to the opener — and turn it into an ambient drone only vaguely related to the original.

dirt redux vinyl

And why not? There’s no rule that says a band has to do an impression rather than an interpretation, and as Dirt [Redux] plays out, the likes of KhemmisThese Beasts, Howling GiantForming the Void-(16)- and Vokonis bring their own spin. Khemmis could hardly be a better fit for the emotive doom of “Down in a Hole,” and the crunch These Beasts deliver on “Sickman” is an intense precursor to what L.A.’s -(16)- do with “Hate to Feel” later on. Feeling very much like the vanguard of an up and coming generation of progressive heavy rock, Howling GiantForming the Void and Vokonis boldly tackle their respective cuts, with “Rooster” getting a bolstered melody (no easy feat), “Junkhead” receiving a newfound nodder groove, and “Angry Chair” highlighting a rhythmic complexity that is both a late surprise and oh, oh, oh so very Swedish.

To complement these forays, Somnuri find a glorious and elusive middle-ground on the album’s title-track, the Brooklynite trio not giving “Dirt” a total makeover so much as an organic-feeling performance that captures the subtle spaciousness that was so much a part of Dirt‘s lonely feel in the first place — all those sometimes empty reaches of its mix. Earlier, Chicago’s High Priest offer perhaps the most impressive vocal included on the redux with “Rain When I Die,” with the as-yet-underrated, very-much-need-to-put-an-album-out group play to their own Alice in Chains influence. Ditto that Backwoods Payback, who bleed their love of the original through their raw interpretation of “God Smack,” finding a space somewhere between punk, post-hardcore and heavy rock that is theirs alone on this release and in the wider underground sphere. These cuts serve the vital function of bringing Dirt [Redux] its sense of homage, making the tribute a tribute, and giving a listener who might not be familiar with all the bands on the Magnetic Eye roster a chance to reorient before, say, These Beasts unfurl their pummeling rendition of “Sickman” or Low Flying Hawks taffy-pull “Dam That River” to suit their own whims.

One would be remiss not to point out that the 43-second interlude “Iron Gland” is here covered by Black Electric, which features Magnetic Eye Records‘ own Mike Vitali (also ex-Ironweed and Greatdayforup) on guitar. Their version is almost eerily reminiscent of the original, on which Slayer‘s Tom Araya sat in for vocals, and gives way to -(16)-‘s roughed-up “Hate to Feel” with a similar flow to the progression between the two tracks on Dirt proper. If you come out of this Dirt [Redux] with a hankering to listen to Alice in Chains, don’t be surprised. I’ll admit to having an attachment to the album that borders on the familial, and whatever they do with it arrangement-wise, I have nothing but respect for anyone brave enough to cover songs that have so much specific heart and style behind them. Inevitably a listener’s experience with Dirt [Redux] will depend on their own context with the original record as well as with the bands involved, but when all is said and done, it is a more than worthy inclusion in Magnetic Eye‘s [Redux] series — Black Sabbath would seem to be next — and it points to just how broadly Alice in Chains‘ influence has spread over the last three decades. You can’t really go wrong.

Various Artists, Dirt [Redux] (2020)

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Vokonis Premiere ‘Live at Studio Underjord 2019’ Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Last month, while no doubt restless during the process of making their new album during a time of ongoing global pandemic, increasingly progressive Swedish riffers Vokonis put up a two-songer stopgap called Live at Studio Underjord 2019 that — you guessed it — was recorded in 2019 at — you guessed it again — Studio Underjord. The studio, which in the past has hosted the likes of Skraeckoedlan, Domkraft, MaidaVale, Ocean Chief, Hazemaze, Alastor, The Tower, is set in Norrköping, and Vokonis come from Borås to the south and west. It’s about three-hours between the two, but last September, the band — no strangers to the place; they’ve done their last two LPs there — made the trip to put down live versions of “AntlerQueen” and “Sunless Hymnal,” both of which come from their 2019 album, Grasping Time (review here).

That record wasn’t shy in displaying the increasing breadth that Vokonis‘ sound has come to encompass, or the variety of influence they take from sludge, heavy rock, post-rock, progressive metal, and so on. Particularly, a dynamic of shared vocals between guitarist Simon Ohlsson and bassist Jonte Johansson — while not brand new by any means — became an increasing presence in their sound, and perhaps in addition to wanting to showcase how that comes across live, the band also wanted to get versions of the two songs to tape with Peter Ottosson on drums, whereas Grasping Time was recorded when Emil Larsson was still in the lineup.

So if you need reasons, there are a couple right there. I’m not sure you actually need reasons though, because whatever it was that had Vokonis riding the E4 up to Underjord, the fact remains that the songs are killer heavy and killer heavy is its own excuse for being. Indeed we get to hear Johansson‘s clean singing in the rolling “Sunless Hymnal” mixed in with some of Ohlsson‘s more shouting approach in “AntlerQueen,” and even some screams thrown in at the end, as on the record, and as the two songs appear in succession on the actual studio release as well, they flow together with no hesitation at all, as though they were written that way. Funny how that works out sometimes.

I’m not saying I’ve heard any rough versions of tracks or anything like that, but Vokonis‘ progression is ongoing with their new material, and they’re getting ready to explore some new ideas in terms of arrangement as well, so whatever else 2020 or early 2021 brings, it’s going to be worth your time keeping an eye out for news for what they have coming up. Until then, I’m happy to host the premiere for the video edition of Live at Studio Underjord 2019, because, well, see the paragraph above about “killer heavy.” Especially as someone who’s never gotten to see them live, I appreciate the chance to check this out.

I hope you enjoy:

Vokonis, Live at Studio Underjord 2019 video premiere

Vokonis play “AntlerQueen” and “Sunless Hymnal”, both from their latest album Grasping Time, live at Studio Underjord.

Vokonis are:
Simon Ohlsson – Guitar & Vocals
Jonte Johansson – Bass Vocals
Peter Ottosson – Drums

Vokonis, Live at Studio Underjord 2019 (2020)

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Days of Rona: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis

Posted in Features on April 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

vokonis simon ohlsson

Days of Rona: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis (Borås, Sweden)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

It’s been pretty varied. The crisis have affected us mentally. I personally think it’s been very hard to handle the way media and people online are handling this. I’ve suffered from anxiety from a young age and since I was a teen have been obsessed with being clean, washing my hands and not getting ill/sick. Over the years I’ve gotten better with therapy and just trying my best to put myself out there. So it’s been a setback for me personally.

We’ve had to reschedule a bunch of shows. Stockholm, Oslo and Esbjerg Fuzztival in Denmark. Hopefully this blows over soon and we can get back to playing live again. I miss it very much. It’s been a source of energy and a way to challenge my anxiety for these past years. I can’t imagine not doing it.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Sweden has been pretty much behind a lot of other countries. We’re not that affected by government restrictions yet. It feels like it’s gonna crash down soon though.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

It’s been a source of connectivity online for sure. I think it’s always going to be strengthening people. We managed to play a show just before all of this really broke out and that felt awesome. To be able to give some matter of relief to people in these troubling times gave a lot of perspective not really being offered online.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

That we’re still going strong. We try to keep motivated as we’re working on a new album. It’s been a great thing to be able to create right now. Not getting immersed in all of the negativity and trying to keep your head leveled above the water.

Due to us having to reschedule shows we’ve had a massive dent in the band’s economy though. Hopefully we’ll get out there again so the new album won’t be set back due to us not getting money. But know that over on the other side of all this, there lies a new Vokonis album!

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