Enslaved Begin Recording New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Pretty funny timing on the news coming in that Norwegian blackened progressives Enslaved have begun the recording process for their next album. Or at least the phrasing of the news release made it so: “Enslaved enter the studio again!” Thing was, I got this update from the PR wire over the weekend at Roadburn in the Netherlands about two minutes after I saw Enslaved bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson walking around at the fest. Looked at my phone, looked up and there he was. I had a chuckle and said to myself, “Well, I guess not all of Enslaved are in the studio at the moment.”

Anyway, fun coincidence there, but the good news is that hopefully before the end of 2017 we’ll get a follow-up to Enslaved‘s excellent 2015 studio offering, In Times (review here), which will make it a double-release year for the band, who also just put out the Roadburn Live live record. The more the merrier.

Here’s the latest:

enslaved

ENSLAVED Enter The Studio Again!

It’s been over two years since the release of critically acclaimed album In Times, and now Norway’s progressive metal legends ENSLAVED have entered the studio again to record their 14th, yet untitled full-length release. Aiming for both wilder and yet more progressive and melodic horizons, the band who celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, never ceases to surprise and challenge their fans; they will once again step up to the plate. The recordings are taking place at Duper & Solslottet Studios in Bergen throughout April, and will be mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. With its epic touch, the album promises to be original and refreshing – and to contain some surprising new elements.

“It is absolutely fantastic to be in the studio with these new songs”, states mastermind Ivar Bjørnson. “So many doors were opened with In Times and the times (sic) that followed; for us as a band, for me as a composer and I guess for us all on a personal level. I have never worked this hard to put together music for an album before, and that intensity continues into the studio where everybody is giving their everything, every hour of every day. We are a tighter unit than ever before, which is obvious sonically. The concept conjured by myself and old war-brother Grutle is the strongest we have worked with. Finally, I am proud that we have taken more risks than ever before, and one in particular – and it is yielding awesome results. What does that mean? Stay tuned to find out!”

The eye-catching cover and artwork is once again being created by renowned designer and painter Truls Espedal. More info will be revealed soon!

In the meantime, enjoy ENSLAVED’s latest album In Times that was released in March 2015 via Nuclear Blast, which blew away both fans and journalists. Secure your physical copy here: www.nuclearblast.de/238143

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Enslaved, “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” official video from Roadburn Live

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Roadburn 2017 Trip, Pt. 8: Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet

Posted in Features on April 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

weirdo canyon dispatch 2017

04.24.17 — 09.14 — Monday morning — Schiphol Airport Gate B15, Amsterdam

Yesterday, after the folding ritual was done for the last time for the 2017 Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, I sat for a bit in the office of the 013 by myself. I had put music on basically because it was quiet while Lee wrapped up putting stuff online and he’d gone to meet somebody, so I was on my own and it was even quieter. Sometimes you need a minute to process, or to breathe, or to do whatever it is you need to do to have your head right. That’s when I took the picture above. I knew it was going to be a long last day of Roadburn 2017, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.

No regrets. Fond memories.

I was up before the alarm this morning. First time that’s ever happened in Tilburg for me following Roadburn. The alarm, by the way, was set for 05.45. A shuttle would be arriving at the hotel circa 06.30 to bring me to the airport. After packing and going to sleep circa 2AM, I was up between three and four and never got back to sleep. I read the recaps of what looked to have been a crappy baseball game. I checked the Times to see if the world was ending yet. I dicked around the way one does when one is just trying to eat minutes.

Speaking of eating, you should’ve seen me pouring and stirring the protein powder into my coffee on the line for the Lufthansa check-in here at Schiphol. Can’t imagine it was difficult for anyone to pick out who was the American in the crowd. With his little battery-powered stirrer like something he bought from a Sharper Image catalog circa 1991. Thing cost me $8 on Amazon. Worth every penny.

A couple Roadburn types around the airport this morning. I’m pretty sure I saw the bassist from Pallbearer going the other way while I was on the people-mover. Another dude in an Ulver t-shirt with his buddy who got the fest hoodie with the John Dyer Baizley cartoon tits on it. Sundry others.

windmillsIn about an hour, I’ll board this death-trap-looking-thing and go to Frankfurt, which if I’m not mistaken is the opposite of the direction in which I ultimately want to go. It was the same deal connecting in Toronto to come to Amsterdam in the first place. Because that’s the kind of sense Boston makes. World class, khed. Local fuckin’ sports.

I’ll hope to sleep on the plane — definitely the second if not the first — and when I land, I’ll magically have back the six hours of day I gave up so willingly last Tuesday to make the trip out. Before that happens, there are almost too many people I need to thank, so I’m going to try to do that.

First, The Patient Mrs. always. So much love. I’m so lucky. Also Walter Hoeijmakers, Becky Laverty, Lee Edwards and all involved with the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch: the amazing, humbling staff of writers that includes Sander van den Driesche, Andreas Kohl, José Carlos Santos, Kim Kelly, Guido Segers, Ben Handelman, Jamie Ludwig, Dom Lawson, Cheryl Carter and Peter van der Ploeg, the artists Cavum and Kim Holm, the photographers Paul Verhagen and Niels Vinck, as well as Jaimy, Gijs, Miranda, Rian and all behind the scene at the 013 venue. What a group we’ve assembled over the last four years. I frankly have no idea what I’ve done to earn a place among any of them except consistently fuck up. Like I say, humbling.

Thanks as well to Jens Wassmuth, Dante Torrieri, Falk-Hagen Bernshausen and all in the photo pit for their kindness and professionalism. I hadn’t shot anything in a while and it was easier to step back into that process knowing I was among the most pro-shop group of people one could ever hope to find.

I was pretty beat this year. Significantly so. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’m about to lose my job. And there were times over the last few days where I felt like I was so out of it I wasn’t really doing justice to the experience. I tried my best. I really did. By yesterday I kind of felt like I had it right. I don’t know if I could’ve done a fifth day of Roadburn, but by the time yesterday came around I a little bit had my head back. Inclined to take what I can get.

Tomorrow will be Tuesday. I took the day off work. What’re they gonna do, fire me? I’ll make myself good coffee in the morning and a peanut butter protein shake for lunch, have a nice salad for dinner with The Patient Mrs., scritch the Little Dog Dio and get caght up on all the Obelisk stuff that’s fallen by the wayside while Tilburg happened. Lots of news to catch up on, and an interview for Wednesday and this and that. I might actually post some stuff tomorrow or I might just hold it all off. I’ve been social media-ing a lot and see the value in maybe taking a day and not. We’ll see how it plays out. I’m also going to shave my beard. Off. Gone. Done with it. Not much left by now anyway. I decided that in the van on the way to the airport this morning.

As I’ve done for the last however many years, each post in this series (minus the Hard Rock Hideout review) has derived its header title from the name of a song. They are as follows:

Trip Pt. 1: “Dos Soles” by Cavra. I got that record sent to me while I was at the airport in Boston.

Trip Pt. 2:: “Sanctuary” by Elder. A track from their new album that seemed fitting for having made it to Tilburg.

Day One Review: “Wound of the Warden” by SubRosa. Self-explanatory.

Day Two Review: “Death’s Dark Tomb” by Atala. I was arguably at my most ass-dragging and that seemed dark enough for the mood.

Day Three Review: “And Yet it Moves” by Slomatics. Like Roadburn itself, that song is so unbelievably heavy, and yet it proceeds along like the third day of a four-day fest.

Day Four Review: “God Particle” by The Doomsday Kingdom. I wanted to celebrate something rare, like this experience itself. That seemed to fit.

Trip Pt. 8: “Guess I’ll go Live on the Internet” by All Them Witches. It had been a minute since I put that record on. It’s always good for tired mornings. Plus the airport connection is absolute shit, so there’s an element of irony there too.

This will be the last post in the series, and before I bring it to an end, I want to say thank you one more time for reading. All the social media likes and shares and comments are awesome, but even just knowing that when something gets posted on this site someone might actually see it is validating beyond what I can tell you and so deeply, hugely appreciated. It’s been an interesting year and it’s going to continue to be one, but your support means a tremendous amount to me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So yes, thank you again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I’ll hope to talk soon.

All my best,
JJ Koczan

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ROADBURN 2017 Day Four: God Particle

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2017 banner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.23.17 — 22.26 — Sunday night — Hotel room

The last day of putting together the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch started with a panic when the office coffee machine was busted. At first I didn’t believe it and plugged the thing in to see if the sign that had been taped onto the front was bullshit, but indeed, it was not. Could’ve cried. Instead, went downstairs to the backstage area where they serve the meals and got coffee there. Survived.

Thus, the final issue of the 2017 Weirdo Canyon Dispatch came into being. Download the PDF version here.

What used to be known as the Afterburner, the traditional easing between a given Roadburn and the transition back to real life, is now basically just another day of the fest proper. They’ve dropped the name, and fairly enough so. Running across four stages this year, it’s hardly a means of becoming less immersed in the Roadburn experience at this point. If anything, it’s Roadscorch. The absolute last blast from the furnace that is this festival. My brain has turned into Roadchar.

I had no fewer bands I wanted to see today than yesterday or the day before, and a few others that I wouldn’t have minded catching had I been able to do so, so yeah, it was definitely Roadburn. It started early and went late and was packed for the duration. I did one more bounce between venues as I had earlier in the weekend — none at Cul de Sac for me today, but two at Het Patronaat — and was back and forth a few times between the Main Stage and the Green Room at the 013 proper, running past the merch area as well for good measure. Can’t be too careful. Wouldn’t want something to get by unnoticed.

It was a 15.00 start in the big room with Temple of BBV. I knew from seeing Gnod the other night (review here) that the culmination of their residency in a collaboration with Radar Men from the Moon was one I didn’t want to miss, so while it was early, I figured a head-first dive into willful prog oddity was well in order. I won’t like to you — it was a lot for three in the afternoon. Or three in the morning, for that matter. It was a lot, period. 10 people on Temple of BBV (Photo by JJ Koczan)stage, including two drummers, a near-constant throb and pulsations pushing outward into psycho-psychedelic reaches of the bizarre.

They were aggressively strange. On a strangeness crusade. They wore their strangeness like a badge of strangeness honor and as the room filled up slowly, people seeing to be hungover perhaps from the sensory assault Mysticum had provided the night before as much as from actual inebriation of whatever sort, the crowd had no choice but to be subsumed by what Temple of BBV were doing on that stage. Hair of the cosmic dog that gave you demonic space-rabies. Was it weird? Why, yes. Yes, it was.

I couldn’t help but try to remember when last I actually saw Pallbearer as their set got underway, also on the Main Stage. Turns out it was 2013 (review here). I’d also caught them at Roadburn that year (review here), as part of what was then the Afterburner in the Green Room. While I didn’t think it’d been that long at the time, the reason I thought of it was because of how much the Arkansas doomers seem to have stepped up their game in the intervening years. Their third album, Heartless (review here), is newly issued and fresh in mind, but live that material became heavier than it is on record and their presence in delivery was unmistakable. Since the last time I saw them, Pallbearer have become a headlining band.

No question they belonged on the Main Stage at Roadburn 2017. They not only held down that Pallbearer (Photo by JJ Koczan)spot well, but were in full command of their material and their sound, and with shared vocals across the front of the stage, they offered a richness to their doom that only underscored just how much they’ve made the genre work to their interests rather than working to the interests of genre. Heartless cuts like “I Saw the End,” “Thorns” and “Dancing in Madness” were high points in emphasizing their progression, but the churning heft of the whole set was dead on, whether it was those or “Fear and Fury,” “Worlds Apart,” or “The Ghost I Used to Be.” Remarking from the stage that playing Roadburn felt like coming home since it was where they’d done their first European show, they were welcomed as returning heroes and clearly rose to the occasion.

I know they’re like the hottest shit in the world and everyone knows it and Heartless is going to be everyone’s album of the year and blah blah blah so I’m giving away state secrets or anything, but Pallbearer fucking killed at Roadburn. I’ve seen them before and I was still genuinely surprised at how good they were.

Just for fun, I poked my head into the Green Room to catch a minute of Author and Punisher. A boy and his robots. The space was packed out so I didn’t linger, and instead sauntered back over to the big room again to watch Pallbearer finish and await the arrival of Les Discrets, who are also supporting a new album, Prédateurs, released just this week on Prophecy Productions. The moody vibes that the Parisian outfit proffered would make a lot of sense leading into Ulver, songs like “Virée Nocturne” having an element of the dark and urbane to them, progressive even beyond what one might’ve come to expect from their past work in post-black metal and Alcest-style melodicism. Guitarist/vocalist Fursy Teyssier, who also had a showcase of his visual art upstairs in the 013, had a quieter presence than when he led Les Discrets (Photo by JJ Koczan)the band when they played Roadburn 2013 at Het Patronaat (review here), but it worked for what they were doing.

In hindsight, it probably would’ve made narrative sense to stay put in the big room and await the arrival of the aforementioned Ulver. I didn’t do that. First, I went and grabbed dinner — chicken salad over lettuce and arugula with bacon and a bit of chicken/peppers in curry sauce; some bean sprouts in there, no corn, no onions, no celery; two plates, second void of curry and bacon — and was fortunate enough to sit in the company of Norwegian artist and Weirdo Canyon Dispatch contributor Kim Holm, and then I made my way back up to the Green Room to catch at least some of Valborg. I knew that I wanted to watch somebody from the Green Room balcony, and the underrated German martial metallers seemed like the perfect occasion.

And so they pretty much were. I watched as the space below filled up and when the German trio — whose new record, Endstrand, is also out on Prophecy this month (it came out April 7) — took stage, it was pretty clear the crowd knew them well. “Werwulf” from the 2016 single of the same name (review here) was like a riff-led wrecking ball that highlighted how perfectly paced Valborg‘s material is and the genre lines their songwriting so fluidly crosses between death metal, progressive synth textures Valborg (Photo by JJ Koczan)and goth atmospherics. They demonstrated clearly they can roll a groove with the best of them but seem to have little interest in heavy rock or anything quite so not-extreme, but wherever it was ultimately coming from, their sound was on its own wavelength and its complete lack of compromise notched a mark in the skull of everyone who was there to hear it, myself included.

I didn’t get to stay for Valborg‘s whole set because I knew Ulver were soon to go on the Main Stage. I worked my way off the balcony much to the delight of the person who’d been standing behind me while I leaned over the rail to take a couple pictures of the band and down around the back way to the Main Stage room — still kind of strange to me how the 013 works since it was remodeled last year; there’s a hallway with bathrooms there now that I think used to lead to the Bat Cave/Stage01, but jeez, don’t quote me on that. I’d have to look at the blueprints to be sure, and that would probably take hours because I’d have to find a YouTube video on how to read blueprints first. Sucks being useless sometimes. Most of the time, actually.

Anyway, I did manage to get myself one room over in time for the start of Ulver, and when the Norwegian more-post-everything-than-everything outfit got underway, I was really, really glad I’d already heard the new album which was the focus of their set: The Assassination of Julius Caesar (review here). Otherwise all that dark post-New Wave moodiness and nighttime ambienceUlver (Photo by JJ Koczan) might’ve thrown me for a loop. It’s usually safe to assume two things about Roadburn attendees. One, they’re open-minded. Two, they’re pretty well informed. Still, of all the men and women assembled at the 013 to watch Ulver play, I have to imagine there was at least one person who had no idea what they were in for, and so when the band broke out the laser light show and the electronica beats and the Depeche Mode gone prog sexytime vibes they were completely taken aback by all of it. Now that I think about it, it might’ve been fun to be surprised like that.

But when it comes to Ulver, part of the appeal is the band’s willingness to dismantle their own formula, or more precisely, to not have a formula in the first place, so it’s safe to assume that whether this hypothetical Roadburner knew or not what they were getting with the songs featured from The Assassination of Julius Caesar, they were still able to get on board. Still, one day someone’s going to trick Ulver into playing 2007’s Shadows of the Sun front to back — or at least doing live variations based thereupon — and that’s going to be incredible. One for Roadburn 2022, maybe?

I didn’t stay for all of Ulver either. Not for lack of patience or anything, but I could feel my Roadburn 2017 crunch winding down and knew I had to try to pack as much in as I could. That meant getting my ass to Het Patronaat to see The Doomsday Kingdom. Every year I’m lucky enough to be at Roadburn I let myself buy one piece of vinyl. This year it was the special edition 12″ The Doomsday Kingdom were selling at the merch stand. Why? Because Leif Edling, god damn it. The founding Candlemass The Doomsday Kingdom (Photo by JJ Koczan)bassist and crucial architect of what we know to be true and traditional doom metal — yes, I mean that — was making a live debut with this new four-piece at the church, and I knew I didn’t want to regret later not getting that record when I had the chance. It’ll probably get damaged in my luggage on the trip home. Still worth it.

Their set was likewise. Songs like “Never Machine” and “The Silence” offered classic doom very much of the style one might expect from Edling‘s long-established craft and methodology, but hell, I’ve got no problem with that whatsoever. It hasn’t been that long since Candlemass put out their 2016 EP, Death Thy Lover (review here), and they’re still doing shows as well, but before he took over lead vocals from mesh-shirt-clad frontman Niklas Stålvind — who’d been righteously belting out the material up to that point — for the set finale “God Particle,” Edling called The Doomsday Machine his “therapy band.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I sure was glad I stayed to watch their full set, because they were awesome. A couple first-show-type hiccups, but nothing major by any stretch, and after “God Particle,” they even came back out in made an encore of the metallic-galloping “Hand of Hell,” with Stålvind back on vocals, guitarist Marcus Jidell tearing into solo after solo and drummer Andreas Johansson fueling the big rock finish before coming out from behind the kit to take a bow with the band. If that was therapy, sign me up.

From Sweden to Boston. Come to Grief were on next at the church, and if I’d tried, I don’t think I’d have been able to come up with a more appropriate ending to my Roadburn 2017 than to watch the native Beantowner offshoot of Grief play a set of ultra-misanthropic extreme sludge. Tones of home. You Come to Grief (Photo by JJ Koczan)have no idea how hard it was not to shout out “Go Sox!” in a Boston accent before they played. You cannot possibly know. Fortunately, before I could muster the gumption to do same, guitarist Terry Savastano began to unleash maddening floor-shaking undulations of feedback. He, fellow guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Hébert, bassist Justin Christian and drummer Chuck Conlon would soon loose a set that spanned all the way back to the title-track from Grief‘s 1992 debut EP, Depression — which Savastano noted was the first song that band ever wrote — all the way forward to Come to Grief‘s new four-tracker compact disc, The Worst of Times.

“No Savior” and “JunkLove” from the latter (and later) release were featured, but at their core, wherever they were drawing material from, Come to Grief were a mainline shot of visceral abrasiveness. Intense, pummeling and straight from the gut, they crashed each riff with maximum intensity and left no mystery about the sincerity of their intent to kill. It was impressive the way one thinks of primitive humanoids bashing in each other’s heads as a sign of evolution at work. Like I said, the perfect finale to my Roadburn 2017 — one last raw scrub to get the unwanted pieces of myself gone before I get on that plane and go home tomorrow morning.

Did I just say tomorrow morning? Yuppers. It’s 01.40. Shuttle comes to take me to the airport in about five hours, as it happens. When I left Het Patronaat, in addition to looping through the merch area to pick up the aforementioned Come to Grief CD, I made one last run through the 013 hoping to find Walter and say goodnight and thanks, but no such luck. Tired, beaten, missing my wife and with my earplugs still in, I trod past the assembled throngs in Weirdo Canyon and back to the hotel, where packing still awaits and pictures want sorting.

So yeah, I’m going to go get on that.

I’ll have another post up at some point tomorrow, but in the meantime, thank you so much for reading and please find the rest of those pics after the jump here:

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ROADBURN 2017 Day Three: And Yet it Moves

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

roadburn-day-3-banner-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

04.22.17 — 22.23 — Sat. night — Hotel room

I don’t mind telling you I was a total wreck this morning. There we were, finishing up the third issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (get the PDF here), and holy macaroni, I just couldn’t hack it. I’d gone to sleep at a semi-reasonable time, circa 2AM — which is pretty good, considering — but woke up at around three and was up past 4:30. Just up. Weirdo Canyon Dispatch Saturday issue.Brutally, brutally awake. I could’ve cried.

Instead, I put my head down on the desk in the 013 office while we waited for the test-print of today’s ‘zine and was granted a generous reprieve from the folding process that followed. I folded three copies of today’s WCD: my own. After that, I made the most of my special dispensation and high-tailed it back to the hotel to sleep for another two and a half hours, at the end of which time I pounded water, a protein bar and ibuprofen and it was enough to temporarily trick my body into believing it was human. This weekend has been pure madness, and there’s one day yet to go.

By the time I got back to the 013, I knew I’d missed my chance to hit the photo pit for day-openers The Bug vs. Dylan Carlson of Earth, the somewhat cumbersomely-named collaboration between, well, The Bug and Dylan Carlson, but I still had plenty of opportunity to be assaulted by their combined volume of drone and beats, soundscapes thick enough to swim through and handed out with enough force to vibrate the plugs in my ears and the teeth in my skull. Really. I think I lost a filling. They were very, very loud.

Two experimentalists like that working together, even as a one-off, carried an air of being something special to start the day, and so it was. The Bug‘s rig, flanked on either side by bass cabinets with two more laid down in front in such a manner as to make Carlson half-stack look positively minimalist in comparison, shook the upstairs The Bug vs. Dylan Carlson (Photo by JJ Koczan)balcony where I set up shop for the duration, and the clear impression that came through was that although they used different means of expression — Carlson with his guitar, The Bug with his laptop and mixing board — their work together was way less of a “vs.”-type situation than the name led one to believe. They were very definitely on the same side, but while they played, spotlights slowly hovered over Main Stage crowd, feeding the air of suspicion and paranoia in such a way that was eerily appropriate for what they were doing.

Speaking of collaborations, over at the PatronaatRazors in the Night — AKA John Dyer Baizley of Baroness and Scott Kelly of Neurosis playing oldschool punk and hardcore covers — were just getting started. I stayed put in the big room, however, because I knew I didn’t want to miss a second of Oranssi Pazuzu. The Finnish progressive/psychedelic black metallers have been an increasingly steady presence at Roadburn over the last five years, and after their own slots at the church, they managed to pack out the Main Stage to an admirable degree. People stood outside the open doors for not the last time today in order to catch a glimpse of their malevolent, ultra-deep swirl.

As immersive as it was dark, I couldn’t argue. Oranssi Pazuzu, who released their fourth album, Värähtelijä (review here), in 2016, may have conjured the finest blackened psychedelia I’ve ever seen. It was so much of both, so chaotic and yet purposeful, that to Oranssi Pazuzu (Photo by JJ Koczan)consider it anything less than the work of masters would be completely underselling it. When I was done taking photos, I went out into the hallway to walk around to the other side of the room and I couldn’t believe it was still daytime. And more over, the sun had come out! Something so cosmically abysmal just seemed like it should be swallowing any and all light around it, but so it goes. Stately and ferocious, they cast their waves of of bleakness over a sea of nodding heads, and after years of missing them here, I was finally glad to have been clued in, even if I seemed to be the last one in the entire Main Stage space to have caught on. Which I probably was, because that’s the kind of hip I am. Which is to say, not at all.

Maybe it was partially a case of going easy on myself, but I once again didn’t budge from the Main Stage following the conclusion of Oranssi Pazuzu. Today was minimal back and forth, actually, which suited me just fine after two busy days of Roadburn 2017 bouncing from this venue to that one. I’d hit the Green Room twice before my evening was over, but was at the 013 the whole day, which after all the Extase and Het Patronaat yesterday almost made me feel insecure and restless — “Don’t you have somewhere you need to be, sir? Oh yeah, here,” and so on. Sometimes this festival plays tricks on your mind.

My reasoning in staying put was more than justified, though, with Warning coming on to play 2006’s Watching from a Distance in its entirety. I knew some of what to expect from a Patrick Walker performance after seeing him front 40 Watt Sun here in 2012, but of course Warning brought a presence all their own in addition to his melancholic emotionalism. They struck a hard balance between sonic weight and sheer heft-of-sadness, and yet as morose as they were, and as understated as their aura was on stage, they were never anything but engaging. Rare band, rare album, rare set. Warning (Photo by JJ Koczan)This Roadburn has had its share of special moments, and Warning fit that bill as well. There was something empowering about them, or at least validating, and as deep into their own headspace as they went, they never seemed to get lost there.

It’s not often you see a band play a full album and then want to go and put on that album directly afterward, but Warning doing Watching from a Distance had that effect. I can’t claim to know the record inside and out, but I felt fortunate to have had the chance to see the band bring it to life, which much to their credit, they did without losing the heart-wrenching resonance of the studio versions of the material.

Next door in the Green Room, the focus would soon be about an entirely different kind of crushing execution, as Belfast dual-guitar three-piece Slomatics made ready to take the stage. I got there about 20 minutes before they went on and was still too late to get a spot right up front. Should’ve figured. I’d heard people talking about how stoked they were to see them, and after being lucky enough to see them in Norway last September at Høstsabbat (review here), I also knew they weren’t to be missed. My timing being what it was, I still got there to see Jon Davis from Conan soundcheck the guest vocals he’d provide for closer “March of the 1,000 Volt Ghost,” and it was good to know that was coming.

Davis also released Slomatics‘ fucking excellent 2016 album, Future Echo Returns (review here), on Slomatics (Photo by JJ Koczan)his Black Bow Records imprint, so all the better to have him there alongside guitarists Chris Couzens and David Majury as well as drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey, who even before Davis showed up stomped out the most pummeling tones I’ve heard over the course of the last three days. “Electric Breath,” “Return to Kraken,” “And Yet it Moves,” “Supernothing” — this is the stuff of lumbering, rolling, molten doom supremacy, and as they’re five records deep into a tenure that one hopes continues into perpetuity, Slomatics know how to wield these weapons to glorious effect. I felt like I was going to pass out and ran downstairs to hammer down a quick dinner — chicken in some kind of tomato-based sauce with green and red peppers, jalapenos and cheese over lettuce; two plates in about five minutes — and was back in the Green Room in time to catch Davis‘ guest spot from the side of the stage and jump up to take a picture of the band when they were done playing. I never do that kind of thing, but Slomatics were nothing if not an occasion worth savoring.

Shit would only get more doomed from there. Like I said yesterday, everyone here makes their own Roadburn, and I knew how I wanted my night to go. I wanted it to go doom. That meant hanging out in the Green Room more for Ahab, which I was more than happy to do. The nautically-themed German funeral doomers were not a band I ever really expected to be able to see, and knowing how packed it got for Slomatics, I assumed much the same would ensue. I was right. Ahab probably Ahab (Photo by JJ Koczan)could’ve filled the Patronaat if the press of the crowd behind me half an hour before they even went on was anything to go by, but as it was they beat the Green Room into submission with their guttural, ultra-slow lurch and churning devastation.

It was by no means the same kind of grind that Memoriam were doling out on the Main Stage, but watching Ahab play was like witnessing the giant, five-foot-thick gears of some industrial revolution shipyard turning the assembled audience into powder. The very means of production brought to bear on all of our caved-in skulls. Yes, they were hyperbole-level heavy. Unremittingly so, and to a claustrophobic degree. I don’t know if it was during “Old Thunder” or “To Mourn Job,” but there was a point at which I had to remind myself that I’d actively wanted to be so brutally overwhelmed and so overwhelmed by brutality. Did that make the effect any less punishing? Not in the slightest, but thanks for asking.

There was only one place left to go to continue my downer trajectory: back to the Main Stage for My Dying Bride. Having the UK doom legends play 1993’s Turn Loose the Swans in full made an awful lot of sense after special sets in 2016 from Paradise Lost and in 2015 from Anathema and Fields of the Nephilim — I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Katatonia in 2018; never seen them and they’d seem to be next in line, despite not being British — and the drama unfolded early as frontman Aaron Stainthorpe hit the stage with violinist/keyboardist Shaun Macgowan for “Sear Me MCMXCIII.” Soon enough, founding guitarists Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw, bassist Lena Abé and drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels would join, and the full fray would be unleashed. Chances are I don’t need to tell you how influential My Dying Bride have been on the trajectory of the last two decades of doom, but suffice it to say I’m not sure I could’ve found a darker way to round out myMy Dying Bride (Photo by JJ Koczan) Roadburn 2017 Saturday night than to watch them deliver that level of scathe with that level of professionalism.

And no, I’m not just saying that because Stainthorpe wore a tie. With animation by Costin Chioreanu behind them, My Dying Bride were the consummate headliners. Mysticum were still to follow on the Main Stage with a production I’d caught in soundcheck earlier in the day that was probably the most elaborate I’ve ever seen in the 013 venue, but for me, My Dying Bride marked a culmination of what I wanted the evening to be, and so I knew my night was done. There’s always more to see at Roadburn. Always something you don’t get to. Always someone who, years down the road, you wonder, “What the hell was I doing that I missed that?” but sometimes when you’re in Tilburg, you’ve crafted your experience in such a way that makes sense at the time, and that was me tonight. Would’ve been hard pressed to find anything to top My Dying Bride anyway.

One day left in Roadburn 2017, which is something I know to be true because I only have two protein bars remaining — one for before the show, one for after. Tomorrow’s another early start to fold Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issues, so I’ll leave it there once again and say thank you for reading and if you’re so inclined, you can check out more pics after the jump.

Which is right frickin’ here:

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ROADBURN 2017 Day Two: Death’s Dark Tomb

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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04.21.17 — 23.22 — Friday night — Hotel room

Issue #2 of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch is available here. Get it while the PDF is hot.

Because no attendee of this festival can possibly be in two or five places at once, something with which every Roadburner must contend is the notion of self-curation. You look at the schedule and you pick your own path. I’ve said time and again that every Roadburn means hard choices, but make no mistake, Roadburn is meticulously put weirdo canyon dispatch #2together to enable those who are fortunate enough to be here to be able to find their path among one of the most packed bills in the universe.

Case in point, today was John Dyer Baizley‘s curated day. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Baroness fan. If you are, great. You certainly have plenty of company, especially here, especially this weekend. Just never been my thing. Yes, I’ve seen them. Yes, I’ve heard the records. Not my thing. My priorities, then, were inherently going to be much different today than many attendees. It was a light day for me. For many others, I very much suspect it was not. That’s cool. Like a good choose-your-adventure book, Roadburn 2017 accommodates any number of contingency plans.

Mine started early. I knew after watching them at Cul de Sac the other night (review here) that I was not done with California’s Atala. Today they opened Extase at 14.00. I left the 013 office mid-folding session and was already dragging ass as I have been the last couple days — I’ll explain why shortly — and headed around the corner to the smallest Roadburn venue, where I closed out last night with Backwoods Payback and to which I’d return twice again this afternoon and evening. Atala did pretty much the same set as the other night — reasonably so — but seeing it a second time gave me a better feel for the material that comprised it, whether it was the harshness in “Grains of Sand” and “Death’s Dark Tomb” or the textured hook of “I am Legion.”

But for the flashing strobe behind them, the Twentynine Palms residents were an easy band to watch again, drummer Jeff Tedtaotao and guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton both in YOB shirts while bassist Dave Horn represented Graveyard. Whatever the wardrobe, Atala were righteous again, but the light proved abrasive and hit me pretty hard, so I split after “I am Legion” and headed over to the Main Stage to catch the start of classic French mesmerproggers Magma. I was not the only person who had this idea, and like yesterday’s early headlining gigs from Crippled Black Phoenix and SubRosa, today it was Magma drawing an afternoon crowd into the big room. Soon Roadburn will just be headliners on the Main Stage. All sets headlining sets. Think it won’t happen? It’s already happening.

There was a point at which I was watching Magma, who were no less of a joy today than they were when they played in 2014 as part of the curated day helmed by Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, and trying to imagine what it would be like for a normal person to bear witness to their set. That is to say, what does a square make of the band who for the last 40-plus years have been led by drummer Christian Vander in telling Magma (Photo by JJ Koczan)stories of the planet Kobaïa in a made-up language, who are positively orchestral on stage and so deadly serious about what they do that to insinuate otherwise could only offend band and assembled audience alike? Where I finally landed was that said hypothetical square — how that person would even get in front of a stage where Magma was playing, I don’t know, but for the sake of argument let’s say they did — would probably think they were from another planet.

So in other words, the group’s desired effect would be achieved. Whatever you’re doing, Magma, it’s still working. Keep it up, you legendary weirdos!

Before they were done, my wanderer’s soul had me headed back toward Extase to get a spot up front for Ruby the Hatchet. You know how sometimes you just get a feeling there’s a place you need to be? That was me watching the Philly-area troupe today. Not that I couldn’t see them in the States at some point, and not that I haven’t before, but especially at Roadburn you just know some bands are going to bring everything they’ve got, and the sense I had was that Ruby the Hatchet would be doing precisely that.

To absolutely toot my own horn, I was 100 percent correct in that impression. Getting underway with the new song “Planetary Space Child” from their recently-finished third album, which frontwoman Jillian Taylor announced would be out this summer on Tee Pee Records — they’d also share a cut called “Pagan Ritual” from the record and one or two others the titles of which I didn’t manage to remember when I asked the band about them later outside a cafe in Weirdo Canyon — Ruby the Hatchet completelyRuby the Hatchet (Photo by JJ Koczan) owned that stage and that room. Their organ-laced post-Uncle Acid garage-psych-doom was nothing short of a thrill to behold, and watching them play I look forward all the more to hearing how the obvious growth they’ve undertaken since the release of their 2015 sophomore album, Valley of the Snake (review here), manifested itself in the studio — because it certainly did in terms of their live presence. They were a blast; no question the most fun I could’ve been having at that moment was watching them play.

And yet, I had to bow out. Speaking of feeling like you need to be somewhere. I couldn’t rightly figure out what the problem was, but I made my way to the back of the room and decided to head back to the hotel before Joy went on. Instead of turning right, though, I turned left, and wound up directed back toward the 013. What was going on? I didn’t know. And why was it that the smell of the barbecue cooking outside the venue made me want to take my own life? And why was it that I wanted to build an altar to the French fries being served in paper cones to the eager, smiling denizens of Roadburn 2017?

Suddenly it dawned on me that today was Friday and the last time I had a meal it was Monday.

Joy (Photo by JJ Koczan)Since then it’s been nothing but protein bars and powder in coffee. I was, apparently, starving. And this was a genuine surprise for me to discover.

Well, I didn’t get barbecue and I certainly didn’t get fries — because, you know, self-denial and all that — but I did go downstairs into the basement of the 013 where the crew dinner was set up and have an arugula salad topped with some pesto-covered fresh mozzarella from a tomato dish, other shredded cheese and hot sauteed spinach. Look. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like sauteed spinach saved your life before, but after two plates of this makeshift salad, I was pretty well convinced it had saved mine. And I was at least half-sure that shit came out of a giant can. Didn’t even care. I pounded as much as my ailing system could take and still made it back to Extase in time to catch a most-righteous pre-set drum solo from Joy‘s Thomas DiBenedetto.

One would not usually think of a drummer’s soundcheck as something earning audience response at all let alone rapturous applause, but the dude tore into it and the room was well on board — myself included. And no, it was just post-spinach euphoria on my part either, because once the rest of the San Diego three-piece was ready to roll, they were all-shred on all fronts. Guitarist/vocalist Zach Oakley punished both his whammy bar and his wah pedal thoroughly while ripping into choice leads and bassist Justin Hulson reminded me directly of the subdued presence of Anthony Meier from Radio Moscow — quiet, unassuming, and an incredibly adept player capable either of being the anchor while the guitar goes off or going off himself at a moment’s notice on a whim of winding basslines and classically rocking dynamic.

I dug Joy‘s third and most recent full-length, Ride Along (review here), plenty when it came out on Tee Pee last Spring, but like the best of the West Coast heavy psych set from Earthless on down through the Joy (Photo by JJ Koczan)aforementioned Radio MoscowMondo Drag, etc., they blew the record right out of the water with the energy and power behind their delivery. Head-spinning, really. I knew they were a band I wanted to watch today, but I didn’t know just how much I wanted to watch them until they were actually on stage handing Extase its ass like it was wrapped in a paper cone. Lesson learned.

Though today was a lighter day than yesterday in terms of what I needed/wanted to see, it did have probably my most mandatory performance of the weekend smack in the middle, which was SubRosa‘s mostly-acoustic “SubDued” set at Het Patronaat. I knew to get there early, so I scooted over from Extase as Emptiness were still pummeling the place with their blackened post-Goth and made my way toward the front in anticipation of what was to come. Sometimes in those instances one can wind up sitting in a spot for more than half an hour to watch 15 minutes of a performance before having to run off to the next thing. For SubRosa, however, I wasn’t budging. Clear my calendar! Hold all my calls! No email. No Facebook. No texts. Nothing. For a solid hour, I stood in front of the Patronaat stage and had my mind blown and my spirit lifted as SubRosa reinvented/revisited songs from their back catalog as dark, dramatic neofolk the likes of which seemed to offer nothing less than true Americana redemption.

Set of the weekend? How about set of the year? Every Roadburn brings some landmark moment — at least one — andSubRosa (Photo by JJ Koczan) for me, SubRosa‘s performance of “Mirror” was it. Lined up across the front of the stage, Rebecca Vernon led Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack in harmonies while tapping one of Andy Patterson‘s drum sticks on the mic stand. It was gorgeous and devastating. Patterson backed on percussion, and though bassist Levi Hanna had that song off, his still-plugged-in low end gave heft to the rest of the band’s material, including set-closer “No Safe Harbor,” which with bars of light shooting down from the rig above them proved just as heavy as their runthrough of For this We Fought the Battle of Ages yesterday on the Main Stage. It was stunning. Something genuinely special. In my notes, I wrote, “How stupid I am to every do anything that’s not this. Unreal. In a way that makes reality itself the facade, while delving into its own vision of truth.” I’m not sure what that means, but give me a few years to process what I saw tonight and I’ll get back to you on it. By then I should’ve come to grips with it enough to have it make sense.

My brain duly melted, I stumbled out of the church and across the alley to the 013. I had decided I owed it to myself to check out tonight’s set from artists-in-residence Gnod, but there was still a while to go before they went on. Amenra were on the Main Stage as they were last year, and fair enough, but my interests were elsewhere. I decided to make my way back to the hotel to get a jump on dumping photos from my memory card, which seemed like an especially dangerous proposition only because there was a decent chance I wouldn’t leave again, would miss Gnod tonight and end up calling it a day at like 9PM or whatever time it was. Risky move.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen that way. I did take a brief respite, and was tempted to put my pajamas on to go see Gnod, but wound up in the Green Room still in jeans and all in time to see the dual-bass/dual-guitar UK heavy psych bizarros start their pulsating set. Ultimately, I’m not sure I owed to myself at all in the sense of having in some way earned it, but it was cool to see anyway, and as Sunday opens with a collaboration Gnod (Photo by JJ Koczan)between Gnod and Radar Men from the Moon called Temple of BBV that I’d like to see, catching the former on their own felt like a solid precursor to that. Or, at very least, a molten, liquefied precursor. It got really weird, really quickly, and clearly that’s what Gnod were going for. No regrets for being there to watch it happen, except maybe not wearing my pajamas for the occasion. That might’ve been fun.

Tomorrow’s another packed day here in Tilburg, starting with the ceremonial Weirdo Canyon Dispatch folding session bright and early, so I’ll leave it there and say thanks for reading and if you’re so inclined you can check out more pics after the jump. Bing bong.

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ROADBURN 2017 Day One: Wound of the Warden

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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04.21.17 – 00.14 — Thursday night — Hotel room

The process of getting up and going to finalize and print out the first issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (download it here) probably couldn’t have been much easier than it was. I credit this entirely to Lee Edwards (of The Sleeping Shaman) and the 013 staff, all of whom expose me for the sulky amateur-hour schlub I am with their sheer professionalism. I continue to be astounded at how lucky I am to work with these people.

coven soundcheck (JJ Koczan)Whilst schlubbing and prior to folding my portion of the 1,000 copies of WCD, I caught a couple seconds of Coven‘s soundcheck, and so knew that was going to be a good time later in the day — not that Roadburn 2017 Day One was light on anticipation. Today actually was my busiest day here. It started intense and ended intense, with a fair bit of back and forth between, and I feel like I’m only being honest when I say I dragged ass for a decent portion of it, despite my best efforts to hyper-caffeinate and pound vitamins, but Roadburn only comes once a year. You stick it out as much as you can.

As such, I was over to Het Patronaat early to catch the start of Wretch. I’d rode in from the airport with the Indianapolis trio just by happenstance, and I knew it would be a quick stop through just to check out part of their set ahead of hoisting myself over to the Main Stage for the start of Crippled Black Phoenix, but the doom called me to the church and it was not to be missed. Before they got going, guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon recalled on stage when The Gates of Slumber played (they had canceled in 2010 owing to that goddamn volcano, only to make the trip a couple years later in 2012), only reinforcing how linked the two bands are, but that’s Wretch (Photo by JJ Koczan)not to take anything away from the presence bassist Bryce Clarke and drummer Chris Gordon bring to the rhythm section or what the new three-piece accomplished on last year’s self-titled debut (review here). Even if it’s grown out of another, it’s a new band.

They made that clear in cuts like “Icebound,” “Running out of Days,” “R.I.P.” and “Drown” from the record, and even managed to sneak in the Judas Priest cover “Winter,” as well as their take on Motörhead‘s “Sweet Revenge.” The hook of “R.I.P.” made it a personal highlight, and The Gates of Slumber‘s “The Wretch” was certainly a fit. I hear tell Wretch are recording a new single while touring the UK with Iron Void on this trip, so hopefully it’s not too long before we hear from them again. In the meantime, I rushed over to catch Crippled Black Phoenix on the Main Stage.

Call it an early headlining set from the by-now-long-ish-running UK avant rock outfit, whose blend of heavy indie, goth, melancholic rock and generally progressive undertone makes them a standout not only on this bill but also generally this planet. Crippled Black Phoenix (Photo by JJ Koczan)They’re simply like no one else. Supporting their latest album, Bronze (review here), they brought in a considerable crowd for it being so light out and managed to cast a balance between life-affirming and crushingly-depressive throughout. To wit, “No Fun” and “Scared and Alone” from Bronze were high points, the latter teased as being their last song without actually being it. They’ve become such an astoundingly different band than they were when they released their debut album, A Love of Shared Disasters, a decade ago, but have manage to lose neither their edge nor their will to push themselves forward. After being a dork for their work for so long, I felt lucky to finally see them play live.

I also knew that I was cool to stay put for the duration of Crippled Black Phoenix, because while much of Roadburn 2017 and indeed every single Roadburn involves bouncing around between stages, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa were hitting the Main Stage next, so I wasn’t going fucking anywhere. The string-laden outfit played the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn last month and they’ll play here again tomorrow at Het Patronaat for a special “SubDued” mostly-acoustic set, but today was a front-to-back performance of 2016’s For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here), and as that was my pick for Album of the Year last year when it came out on Profound Lore, they were my most anticipated band of the entire festival. I didn’t cry to miss them in New York because I knew I’d see them in Tilburg.

However, I kind of did cry when they played “Troubled Cells.” At least teared up at the end when they SubRosa (Photo by JJ Koczan)brought out the backing chorus which, if I’m not mistaken, counted Nathan Carson of Witch Mountain among its ranks. Could be wrong, but the Magma shirt was a dead giveaway. Earlier in the set, I’d gone up after taking pictures to the side of the stage to watch from there for a couple minutes, which is something I let myself do only once per Roadburn. Like Crippled Black Phoenix before them, SubRosa carried the air of being early headliners, and at least for me, they most definitely were. If you’d told me I had to go back to the hotel, pack up my gear and get on a plane home when they were done, I’d have been bummed to leave the rest of the fest behind, but I wouldn’t be able to say I didn’t get my fest’s worth out of Roadburn 2017 after watching SubRosa. Yes, they were that unbelievable. “Black Majesty.” Holy shit. I scurried to the merch area when they were done like the beaten fool I was. Gladly.

There was something of a break for me when they were done. My next stop was Cul de Sac around the corner for Harsh Toke. I’d been fortunate enough to catch the San Diego jammers when they played Roadburn in 2014 (review here), and I’d taken due advantage of the lesson of watching them then, which was “Don’t Harsh Toke (sort of) (Photo by JJ Koczan)miss Harsh Toke,” and so I didn’t want to. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, however. I’d made a quick stop at the hotel to drop off my newly-acquired SubRosa merch, my laptop, coffee thermos, Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issues and other detritus from the early part of the day, and though I got to the smaller venue with 20 minutes to spare, it was still too late to get up front and get a spot where I could see. I bought a patch for five euros, took what wound up being the last open spot at the bar — a seat, no less! — and tried to let my head get into the flow. Given their propensity for groove, it wasn’t much of a challenge to catch my breath and chill out for a few minutes at least until the why-haven’t-you-ordered-a-beer stares of the staff got the better of me. I tried and failed to snap a decent picture of the band on my phone and once more sent myself packing back over to the 013, where Wolves in the Throne Room were on the Main Stage.

Didn’t take long to remember what was so easy to appreciate about them, what with their textured blackened approach, which sounded almost orchestral in that huge space. I hadn’t been in the Green Room yet, so I poked my head in to catch a couple seconds of Esben and the Witch — was bummed to see the miniature photo pit from last year was gone; that thing had been a godsend — ahead of Coven starting on the Main Stage. I didn’t know it until about 10 minutes before they went on, but apparently one needed a special photo pass to shoot Coven‘s set. Whoops. Just about everyone else and their cousin Coven (Photo by JJ Koczan)had one, but I guess I missed that memo. I went backstage to try my luck at getting one and was told in no uncertain terms in which direction to fuck (spoiler alert: “off”), so I went out to the front of the house and waited for Jinx Dawson to emerge in her sparkly mask from the coffin that had been placed in the middle of the stage. Not a hardship, but I felt like a dope. Not like I’m shooting pictures for a magazine or anything. It’s just me on here.

Once Coven got going, they dug wholesale into the classic heavy Satanic-ritual pop rock that’s made them the generational influence that they have been, and came across like the blueprint Ghost wish they could follow. Dawson was in complete command of the crowd and the sense of dark worship and drama was palpable. The biggest crowd of the day so far? I wasn’t counting heads in the Main Stage area, but it might’ve been, just by eyeballing it. i thought maybe I’d pop back over to the Green Room to watch Suma get going, but once again my timing was off and the place was packed out before I could get through the door. Would seem to have helped nothing in terms of timing that I left my watch at home this year. Speaking of amateur hour. Woof. One day I’ll have my shit together. Clearly that was not today.

Having thusly flubbed my shot at watching Suma, I lumbered over to Extase in plenty of time to await the start of The Devil and the Almighty Blues, whose second album, II (review here), was still pretty fresh in my mind. That helped — that always helps — but the truth of the matter is that in the energy of their delivery and their instrumental chemistry on-stage, the Norwegian outfit blew the record right out of the water. I looked around from in front of the stage and saw a lot of familiar faces from Roadburns past. Different genres here tend to attract niche portions of the overall crowd, and judging from how the temperature The Devil and the Almighty Blues (Photo by JJ Koczan)jumped in Extase shortly after The Devil and the Almighty Blues went on, the secret’s out. They came out to “O Death” and the mesh of blues and heavy rock they unleashed seemed in direct response to that fact. They were flat-out awesome, and the kind of act that, as an American, I simply don’t get to see anywhere but here. It wasn’t the first time in the day I felt lucky and it wasn’t the last, but the chance even to catch part of their set gave me a new appreciation for what they’re doing sound-wise, and for a band I already dug, the way they brought their material to life only added to their appeal.

My plan for ending the night would require better timing than I’d had all day, but I was relatively certain I’d be able to pull it off if I played my cards right. It meant skipping out earlier than I wanted to on The Devil and the Almighty Blues, but the basic fact of the matter is that particularly as someone who lives in New England, I’m way, way overdue for catching the reformed Scissorfight live on stage. In the back of my head, I’ve been able to justify not going to their local gigs in Massachusetts or their native New Hampshire by saying, “It’s okay; I’ll catch them at Roadburn,” so there was no way I was going to let myself not do that. Plus, it’s fucking Scissorfight. The band wrote “Granite State Destroyer.” “Blizzard Buzzards Bastards.” “New Hampshire’s Alright if You Like Fighting.” Not exactly like one needs to make excuses to show up.

To get to the bottom line of it, my ultimate opinion of the four-piece live wasScissorfight (Photo by JJ Koczan) pretty much the same as of their 2016 Salt of the Earth Records EP, Chaos County (review here), which is that if you miss this band, you’re only denying yourself an outlet of pure, crushingly heavy joy. I’m not saying that as someone who never saw Scissorfight in their original incarnation. In fact, I caught them multiple times with their original lineup, and whether they’re playing old material or new, Scissorfight in 2017 is no less a beast than they ever were. Guitarist Jay Fortin — of whom I remain embarrassed to take pictures, knowing him as an amazingly talented photographer — still has one of the finest tones in New England. Frontman Doug Aubin is absolutely insane on stage as well as off, as he showed by jumping into the crowd several times and starting a rare Roadburn mosh. Paul Jarvis‘ bass is still the source of heft behind their maddening impact, and newcomer drummer Rick Orcutt fits into those grooves with an ease and swing that makes the songs his own even as he does justice to their original incarnations. Shit was so right on. New songs or old, Scissorfight were a steamroller of riffs and growls that flattened the Green Room, and though the lesson that those who whine about this or that person not being in the band anymore are missing out was one I already knew, such fervent reinforcement of same was a pleasure to behold.

Scissorfight are touring with Backwoods Payback, and the latter Pennsylvania-based trio would be my final stop of the night, over in Extase once again. I got there early enough to get a spot up front and watched as Jeff and Kyle from Atala — labelmates all on Salt of the Earth — bonded over mutual desert connections, and kind of parked myself and made ready to round out the night, taking the last of my notes on Scissorfight — they read like, “Duh, they’re killer” — and asking and being shot done to take a photo with Jamie Cavanagh from Anathema, who was working sound at the venue. I’d already told him earlier that I thought their new record is great, which I do, so whatever. There you go. My nerd-out moment for Roadburn 2017 Day One.

Guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Erik Larson compriseBackwoods Payback (Photo by JJ Koczan) Backwoods Payback at this point, and goodness gracious, what a band. What a band. Late last year, they snuck out the full-length Fire Not Reason (review here), but they were a different level of righteous on stage, and the balance of fury and melody in what they do remains underrated in US heavy rock. I get that they haven’t been the most active group in the States over the last, say, five years, but especially with Larson on drums, they were every bit as tight as that thrash band I saw last night at the Hard Rock Hideout and had a depth of character to offer in their songwriting that most acts just can’t compete with. Heavy, but emotionally resonant, punkish in their execution but with a touch of metallic aggression as well, they not only write a solid hook like that of “You Don’t Move,” but they give that hook a purpose and an underlying sense of humanity. I’ve missed seeing them play live, and though the last time I caught them — I don’t even know what year it was — was a while back and with a different lineup, what’s always worked at their core was exactly what made me so happy I was able to finish the first night of Roadburn 2017 by watching them play. Once again, the Extase was full. That little club has been a fantastic addition to this festival, and it’s where I plan to start my afternoon tomorrow, as it happens.

Plenty to do before then, however. Including sleep, which as we press on past 3AM local time seems like an increasingly good idea.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Live Review: Roadburn 2017 Hard Rock Hideout with Heretic, Distillator & Atala

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’d gotten to Cul de Sac early, so made my way over to one of the cafes right down the way in Weirdo Canyon to get an espresso. My I’m-out-of-practice-at-this mistake for the evening was not bringing my bottle of water with me to the show so I had it for taking ibuprofen and general hydrating purposes. But the espresso helped, anyway. The Hard Rock Hideout is the annual kickoff for Roadburn. Like the rest of the festival, it’s gotten bigger over the years — going from two bands to three, bringing in different kinds of acts and so on.

Generally it can be relied on to offer a healthy dose of thrash, which it did in Distillator and Heretic, while post-desert heavy rockers Atala opened up as one of several sets they’re playing this weekend. With half the point of the show being to ease people into the vibe before Roadburn 2017 gets going earnest tomorrow, I think a more diverse bill better suits that, but I’m sure one or two thrashers in the crowd might offer a general counterargument for more Slayer covers. Fair enough.

Here’s how it went down:

Atala

atala-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

Much of what they played came from the forthcoming follow-up to last year’s Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (stream here; review here), titled Labyrinth of Ashmedai and due out sometime in the coming months on Salt of the Earth Records, and songs like “Death’s Dark Tomb” and “Infernal” found them in raw form as compared to “I am Legion,” which is a standout of the new record with cleaner vocals, so they’ve only become more diverse in their sound, but that was very much the case when they moved into Shaman’s Path of the Serpent from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) as well, and in talking to guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton before the set, he was already moving on to the next release, which will work under still another mindset. Hard to hold progression against them, particularly when it suits their songwriting so well. They were loud enough to vibrate the monitor off the front of the stage at the Cul de Sac and the groove came thick from Stratton, bassist Dave Horn and drummer Jeff Tedtaotao for the duration. They were outliers on the bill for sure, but their appeal was cast in loud volume and psychedelic flourish, and it was plain to see they turned heads ahead of a set as part of Roadburn proper on Friday that I’d expect will be even more packed.

Distillator

distillator-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

Even before they closed out with a cover of “Metal Storm/Face the Slayer” after hinting at “Raining Blood” in a transition from their own “Suicidal,” native Dutch trio Distillator weren’t exactly shy about where they were coming from in terms of influence. The right and left sides of the stage found the three-piece flanked by fog and light machines and much to their credit they waited until the third song into their set, “Estates of the Realm” from the soon-to-be-released Summoning the Malicious, before firing them up. They whipped the crowd into a let’s-drink-like-we’re-Metallica-circa-’84 fervor, and though rethrash has never really been my thing, I’d have a hard time arguing with the tightness, intensity or effectiveness of their delivery, all of which were on point throughout their set, drummer Marco P. driving home the extremity one could also hear in the backing vocals Frank R. put behind guitarist Laurens H.‘s periodic falsetto yaps. They were right on for what they were doing, but out-thrashed the hell out of me as I had to go sit down on the step by the side of the room to be periodically kicked by those on their way to or from the can. I’d like to think that’s an effect of the travel I’ve done in the last day-plus, but yeah, probably more just that I’m old.

Heretic

heretic-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

Comprised of Thomas Goat, Tony Hellfire and Tom auf der Axe, long-running Eindhoven post-Misfits sleaze punkers Heretic are set to issue their next album, Underdogs of the Underworld, May 20 through Ván Records, and they headlined the Hard Rock Hideout as one of several representatives throughout the weekend from that respected imprint. Mesh shirt, devil spike, logo somewhere between Misfits and Motörhead and a song called “Black Metal Punks,” they, yes, hit all their marks as one might expect from an act of their experience. The room knew them better than I did, which wasn’t really a surprise, and were all about the scummer thrust, and by the time Heretic got to “Mr. Chainsaw” from 2015’s Alive Under Satan, the party was in full swing. It would stay that way as the time stretched on past midnight at Cul de Sac and what started out for many as a measured evening before digging into a few long days gave way to liver-destroying nihilism of fine beers and who knows what else. Clearly, Roadburn 2017 has gotten started. It’ll be back in action early tomorrow afternoon, and the launch that Heretic gave it was nothing if not riotous. “Maniacs are Go” is more than just a clever title.

Back at the hotel now. I ate my protein-bar dinner a bit ago and will be up early in the morning to go to work finalizing and folding the first issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch tomorrow, which I’ll also be posting and am excited to get out into the world. More to come on that and more to come as Roadburn 2017 starts tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day. I can’t wait to dig in.

Some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Roadburn 2017 Trip, Pt. 2: Sanctuary

Posted in Features on April 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

TILBURG FRIDGE MAGNET

04.19.17 – 16.56 – Wednesday – Hotel room, Tilburg

You may or may not know this about me, but I’m a sucker for a fridge magnet with the name of a place on it. They’re renovating the hotel this year and when I got in early this afternoon, I found the above Tilburg train-sign-style magnet among the innovations brought to the customer check-in experience at the new counter and pretty much had to make it mine. Long overdue, I’d say. The magnet, not the renovation. That seems to just be for the fun of it.

My connecting flight to Toronto was bumps and bruises the whole way, but merciful in duration. Short. In the Toronto airport I ran into Philly-based photographer Dante Torrieri of Useless Rebel Imaging and Pip from Relapse Records, both of whom would be on my flight from Toronto to Amsterdam. Air Canada bringing the crowd.

I’ve never slept so well on an airplane in my life. I was next to an older Canadian woman who very clearly might’ve enjoyed chatting, especially since I booted her friend from my seat — sorry — but no way. I was right out. In the airport I ate the protein bar that served as my dinner and I guess my body decided after that it was time for bed. They had Star Trek Beyond to watch so I put that on and just kind of crumpled over and slept. Then I did the same with Rogue One and Minority Report.

Sure, I woke up and everything looked like it was straight out of sci-fi, but that’s kind of how it is when you get to the Netherlands anyway. This place, these people, have their shit together. Right down to the automatic passport readers.

I couldn’t avail myself of those for whatever reason — I’ll just assume it has something with my country’s recent dip into xenophobic and reactionary populism — and so had to talk to border security at Schiphol. The guy took my passport from me and told me to get a new one. I got that one renewed in 2013 and look much different now than I did four years ago. Short hair, trimmed beard, lost a bit of weight, etc.

He scrutinized the shit out of me. I offered to show him my driver’s license and that seemed to be enough to get him to the point of letting me screw off through the doors into the baggage claim. The guy in Canada had been really nice about it. “Keep up the good work,” and so on. Will do, sir. I had a protein bar for dinner. Would you like to know what I’ll be having when I get back to Massachusetts on Monday? Because I’ve already given it some thought, not that I fetishize my food intake in really unhealthy ways or anything.

La la la.

Speaking of next Monday: No, I haven’t solved the how-am-I-going-to-get-to-the-airport-in-time-for-my-flight issue, but I have apparently managed to successfully slough off some of my stress about it onto The Patient Mrs., who has begun an investigation of shuttle services. My only question was how long the trip would take, but beyond that, whatever, book it. If I have to go to the airport after the show the night before, I will. I’ve never done that before. Might be fun. So long as the coffee bar is open ’round the clock.

The important thing for today though is I made it to Tilburg, and when I got here, the room was miraculously ready and waiting for me to check in. Thank you Walter, Roadburn, and Mercure for making that happen. I got my key, came upstairs, immediately put on pajamas and settled into what will be my home for the next few days. Lee Edwards of the newly-reactivated UK site The Sleeping Shaman, with whom I’ll be once again working on the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch during Roadburn, and I are sharing the room once again, and he came in a short while later and we chatted a bit, about music and the surreal turns the political realities of our two nations have taken in the year since we last saw each other.

He’s a great guy and it was excellent to see him, but I was fading fast. A two-hour nap, some brushed teeth and a hobo bath later, I feel almost human. That’s fortunate, because tonight is the Hard Rock Hideout at Cul de Sac, which will start shortly and go until it’s done. It’s just three bands, but the official start of Roadburn 2017 isn’t to be missed. It simply would not do.

So here we are at the beginning. I’m a little nervous for what the next few days will bring, to be honest, but looking forward as well. The next time you hear from me it’ll be the Hard Rock Hideout review, and then we’ll get into the actual coverage of Roadburn 2017 itself tomorrow and on from there. Thanks in advance if you get the chance to check any of it out.

Okay, time to go.

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