Beginnings are always so fragile… We are in the year 10 018. The universe we know is ruled by Emperor Padishah Sabbath IV. In this day and age, the most valued ressource in the universe is Spice, or Blend. Spice increases longevity, it enhances mind spectrum. Spice is essential to space travel. It has turnt space guild sailors into mutants, for it gives the power to fold up space and get transported anywhere in the universe without moving…

Among these sailors, Poland’s SPACESLUG invite you to join their third odyssey to the infinite – “Eye The Tide” – after they barely returned from prior explorations “Time Travel Dilemma” and “Mountains & Reminiscence”, in the year of our Lord 10 017.

This new trek goes across arid lands by the borders of immensity, where screams disappear and land on the ground for no one can hear them. This scheme may not sound joyful, yet you are in good hands with the Polish crew: from fragile beginnings on “Obsolith”, SPACESLUG weave intertwined, intoxicating vocals – your celestial cocoon – and astral pads that will lift you up in zero-gravity.

To travel towards these unknown lands, our space slug uses the riff as wave mechanics. Lulled by a cosmic fuzz swell, Shai-Hulud moves slowly, perfecting its itinerary through regular, repetitive patterns. Jan Rutka’s bass lines ripple and slide to set a bouncy pace. 

The path may feel monotonous and redondant at times, inasmuch as the time seems to be stretching on board. If it weren’t for the control of Spice by the Polish sailors. Notion of time is ultimately relative and SPACESLUG distort Space, stretch its sonic frame as if to intensify already storming waves (“Words Like Stones”), like meticulous spatio-temporal ellipses made of an indefinable power and abyssal darkness. They even exploit it, faking breaks (the fake end on “Spaced by One”) and huge dizzying falls (“I, The Tide”), or playing with contrasts and tones (“Vialys Part I, Part II”) and going from acoustic slackening to dark climaxes with an off-putting ease.

Oh, I forgot to tell you something. One can only find Spice on one planet as we speak: the one that gave rise to Weedpecker, Sunnata… and new virtuoso pretenders SPACESLUG. Through the coda of their trilogy from outer space, they rise to the top among their peers, offering a rather lengthy work that also appears to be brilliant, dense and matured – each song being a passageway to a unique world on the edge of doom, psych and drone. Godspeed.

ARTIST: SPACESLUG
ALBUM: “Eye The Tide”
RELEASE DATE: 20th July 2018
LABEL: Oak Island Records
GENRE: Psych doom
MORE: Facebook / Bandcamp

This isn’t an album review. There are some people that you wish you had met, and some other you only encountered in your dreams, where the dead are well and truly alive… (Disclaimer: what you are about to read is purely fictional!)

I’ve been going round in circles in this neighborhood for hours now, looking for the bar where I’m supposed to meet ORANGE GOBLIN‘s frontman. I was cursing in despair, when some geezer on the corner yelled at me – but I couldn’t get a word of what he’s jabbering about. I told him to piss off, and guess what, here was the pub! I couldn’t wait to sit down and have a chinwag with the founder of a foursome that could easily be described as worthy heir of Motörhead.

– Hey mate, you finally made it! A bit later and I would be pissed.

– Sorry, the area has changed a lot in twenty years and I got lost like a bloody tourist…

– Ahahah, no worries. So, you checked out the new album?

– I would never show up otherwise! Coming here to spout half-baked theories about songwriting, influences and all that shit? That’d be a proper screw-up, if you ask me.

– Ace, I’m happy you’re not one of those scribblers coming up with a puff piece.

We started talking about “The Wolf Bites Back” and all these little things that make it sound more accomplished than the previous records, when the old chap who bothered me earlier turnt up and collapsed on our table. Any French guy would have yelled at him, but instead Ben Ward gave him a seat and ordered him a pint. Looked like I’d have to deal with this guy coming out of nowhere anyway. As if my day couldn’t get any stranger!

– Ben, can we talk about the album title? It’s a bit revenge-sounding, like “watch out, we still around and kicking arses”. Which was already the case on “Back From The Abyss”, am I right? Is adversity the kind of fuel that makes you move forward?

– I don’t know if we’re about revenge, but it’s been hard to put this one on track (speaking of lines, our hobo is snorting a massive one from the other side of the table). We don’t tour as much as we used to and we all got day jobs now, so we get slowed down in our creative process a bit. But hey, I’m not complaining! It just explains the gap between two records.

– So after getting back from the abyss, the Goblin is still just as incisive! Haha!

I was barely paying attention to our old pal, when the latter grabbed a guitar and started playing songs I could even identify… until he started singing.

– Holy shit, this voice… He sounds just like…

– Lemmy, yeah I know. Crazy, huh? He does it all the time. Okay, not that I want to kick you out, but there are other press folks coming…

– No worries, if only I didn’t get lost, we’d have more time. Thanks a lot for your time Ben, until next time!

I’m still not sure of what happened after, but I’m pretty sure I heard Ben say “c’mon ‘Pa, we should go now, you almost got caught”. “For fuck’s sake, if I can’t even play my own songs in a pub now…”

As worthy heirs of of God himself, ORANGE GOBLIN are back on top form with “The Wolf Bites Back”, one of their biggest and most balanced albums to date. ‘Pa would be proud of them.

ARTIST: ORANGE GOBLIN
ALBUM: “The Wolf Bites Back”
RELEASE DATE: 15th June 2018
LABEL: Candlelight Records
GENRE: Rock’n’roll
MORE: Facebook / Website

(ILLUSTRATIONS : Razort) Mine de rien, gravir plusieurs fois cette colline pour aller manger du riff caillouteux nous a beaucoup épuisé la veille (mais ô combien comblé de joie !), nous arrivons donc tranquillement en ce deuxième jour plus chaud pour TALEA JACTA, un duo de rock expérimental doux et introspectif. Ne connaissant pas le groupe, je me dis qu’ils auraient mieux mérité de passer en pleine nuit, car c’est très chatoyant pour les tympans. Le groupe suivant se nomme GREEGO, un duo basse/ batterie avec beaucoup d’amplis sur scène et qui tabasse pas mal, et me rappelle vaguement Unearthly Trance en plus redondant et moins accessible. Ça s’écoute de loin, posé sur une serviette au bord de la piscine. La basse est aussi lourde que le soleil. Et ce dernier finit d’ailleurs par avoir raison de nous : nous retournons au camp faire le plein d’ombre et de repos car la soirée s’annonce physique.

Nous sommes réveillés en panique, 10 minutes avant le début de NAXATRAS. Mais les Grecs ont beau commencer leur superbe set, nous n’en loupons pas une miette grâce à l’acoustique exceptionnelle de la ville. Une fois devant la scène, le son est toujours aussi beau. Les membres sont en short et lunette de soleil, enchaînant les tueries avec le sourire. Leur dernier opus “III” (qui figure parmi les plus belles sorties de l’année selon moi) est mis à l’honneur avec un superbe backdrop. Tout est exécuté à la perfection, avec une propreté remarquable. Nous finissons la sieste sous les arbres et le soleil couchant, un cidre frais à la main. Jamais les vacances n’ont été aussi suaves et mélodieuses. De l’amour en riff, vous dis-je.

Le groupe suivant n’officie pas dans le même registre, et nous fait nous dresser instantanément sur nos pattes. En quelques riffs THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX nous réveillent efficacement. C’est violent, rapide, rock’n’roll (et même thrash par moments). Nous sommes fin prêts pour la suite de la soirée, qui promet d’être survoltée. Nous nous rapprochons pour l’une des plus grosses attentes du festival, d’autres barbus venus eux-aussi de Grèce…

Pour ceux qui n’ont jamais vu 1000MODS sur scène, je dirais que c’est comparable à un gros moteur vrombissant. Je ne sais pas comment ils règlent leurs amplis Orange, mais dès premières notes de “Above 179”, la scène tremble et les basses se répandent dans le square et le reste de Moledo. Elles continuent leur bout de chemin durant un show à mon sens mille fois meilleur que celui du Hellfest, car moins blindé de monde, plus rempli de fans, et une setlist qui comporte beaucoup de titres de “Super Van Vacation” – que tout le monde chante et connaît sur le bout des doigts. Moments forts sur “Vidage” et “Road to Burn”, que je peux enfin hurler en chœur. Quelques slams commencent çà et là, mais ne sont pas dérangeants car adaptés à l’ambiance kyussienne sulfureuse, le public restant vigilant et bienveillant. Ambiance toujours 200% cool, son massif, public comblé : c’est une sacrée réussite et un des meilleurs shows du week-end !

Puis viennent les trois barbus et (partiellement) chevelus de KADAVAR qu’on ne présente plus. Comme d’habitude, ça tue, ça tape fort, ça séduit et le concert est encore une fois meilleur qu’au Hellfest, où ils avaient donné une prestation incroyable, sinon une des meilleures du festival… Malgré quelques problèmes avec la guitare et un chant en retrait au début, c’est un show d’une énergie nucléaire qui est déployé avec un superbe light show, notamment sur le passage expérimental qui précède “Purple Sage”. Reverb et larsen à outrance, lumières violettes, silhouettes cachées dans la fumée… on se croirait de retour dans les années 70, mais les titres du dernier album sont aussi là pour nous écraser la tête avec leur son plus moderne et gras, nous rappelant que Kadavar est assurément un des meilleurs groupes de notre époque.

Alors que nous venons de prendre deux mandales dans la tête, une dernière tuerie arrive à grands pas. EARTHLESS est synonyme d’endurance et de technicité. Je n’ai jamais vu un concert déployé à une telle vitesse, avec autant de facilité et de notes à la seconde. En fait, c’est un concert de solos et de riffs sous caféine. Ça groove méchamment, alors je me glisse au premier rang pour en prendre plein la tête, mais les gens sont beaucoup trop saouls, ça se bouscule dans tous les sens, alors je retourne bouffer du riff de loin, hypnotisé par les lumières de la scène. Pas mal de titres du dernier bijou “Black Heaven” et bien sûr des jams des anciens albums, ainsi qu’une cover de taille de Led Zeppelin : “Communication Breakdown”, que j’écoute en descendant une dernière fois de la montagne, la fatigue ayant eu raison de moi. J’entends ainsi le son séduisant des BLACK WIZARDS depuis le camp et m’endort un sourire aux lèvres, dans cette forêt hostile en bordure d’une petite ville portugaise pleine de surprises et de joie de vivre.

Cadre hors du commun, concerts incroyables, public chaleureux, détendus et respectueux, prix plus qu’abordables, foodtrucks sympas et variés, ambiance vacances dans le nouveau Woodstock européen du Stoner : c’est le cœur débordant de joie que je peux affirmer que Sonic Blast Moledo est un des meilleurs endroits sur Terre, et ce malgré une organisation totalement bancale, voire improvisée. Ça fait un bien fou aux oreilles, à l’âme, et aux yeux. A l’année prochaine Portugal, c’était de la balle !

Forget about thrash and bullet belts: we like it filthy and muddy here. German sludge mongers EARTH SHIP are back with a killer new video for “Whiplash”, which we are chuffed to premiere right now at The Heavy Chronicles.

These past few days, the band has been feeding the Internet with some live/road footage (“A Handful Of Flies” off the new album and their all-time tune “Silver Decay“), just to get our minds ready for their return to the Pelagic Records stable after a brief collaboration with Napalm Records back in 2016.

This “Whiplash” video is taken off their new album “Resonant Sun”, coming October 5th in all decent record stores. Expect some high-octane sludge and rumbling grooves, powered by guitarist’s Jan Oberg’s merciless vocals. Yet EARTH SHIP have remained in the underground for too long, despite an impressive ability to craft absolute anthems of the genre – a bit like bastard offspring of Bison, Mastodon and Red Fang. But this is something we’ll discuss in an upcoming review… 

Find EARTH SHIP on Facebook, Bandcamp and Pelagic Records.

BRANT BJORK is releasing his thirteenth solo album, “one more” you’d say. He stopped counting, and so have we, because what matters most is that Brant Bjork keeps treating us to his modern, heart-warming and unique 60s and 70s-infused soundtrack for a while. So when it comes to more personal questions, the Blues – his Blues – prevails. Every project in which Brant Bjork has taken part got instantly cool, certainly because he’s an inherently genuine artist. New album “Mankind Woman” is no exception: even though it is filled with nods to classic rock, the energy sticks to our time 100%. The fire and power that drive him not only come from the depths of his soul, it also has to do with outside factors such as Trump’s America – something he couldn’t disagree more with. In the end, in this retro-modern, personal and committed soundtrack, we found Brant Bjork’s own “What’s Going On”.
We’re at the beginning of September. A warm night breeze reminds me that the summer isn’t over yet, making this overseas conversation with the Low Desert Punk even smoother. The new album release is an excuse to discuss music in general, as well as his own vision of the art. And when such a learned man speaks, you listen and ponder. Everyone should do that. Lucky readers: The Heavy Chronicles unveils this in-depth interview with the desert rock pionneer in its entirety. (COVER PHOTO: Aija Svensson)

You have taken part to the Stoned & Dusted Party on Labor Day, a gig that was obviously close to your heart. Can you tell more about this party, for those who were born on the wrong side of the globe?

Brant Bjork: We decided years ago with my friend and manager that we wanna start having a yearly event out in the desert. A kind of a more organized desert generator party that we used to have back in the 80s and 90s. We tried to take a piece of that concept, put it together and bring it up to date. But it’s just all about going to the desert, playing rock music with friends, with beer, wine & good food. And have fun. That’s the whole point.

The desert remains at the center of your artistic and personal life. Do you still have the same connection with it? I mean as a kid, you had no place to gig and had to find a spot where nobody would bother you… What drags you in the middle of nowhere nowadays? 

BB: I spend a lot of my artistic time in the desert but I also spend a lot of my personal time in Venice Beach, L.A. This is were I live full-time with my family. But you know, the desert has changed in a lot of ways, just like a small town evolves over time… (thoughtful) I think it’s an interesting question you ask, as people mostly want to remind the romantic part about the desert back in those days, all these parties and music… But a lot of it was pretty scary and sometimes dangerous. And sometimes just bad things happened. People mostly forget that. It wasn’t the best environnement for security and safety, but it was an intense environnement to music, drug use… and freedom. Now the desert is just about the natural beauty, the peacefulness, and this is what Stoned & Dusted is all about. We removed the teenage angst, the danger, the fightings, the weapons… We removed all that and and we can now smoke a joint, have a glass of wine or a beer, just listen to good music and really enjoy it.

“A lot of these desert parties back in the days were pretty scary and sometimes dangerous. And sometimes just bad things happened. People mostly forget that.”

Photo: Kip Dawkins

A lot of your songs have become instant classics, but I particularly like the eponymous song on your previous album “Tao Of The Devil”. It perfectly summarizes the sound you have been crafting since your solo debut, like a dark blue lament over tantalizing rhythms. It’s an invitation to find our own Tao, as well as introspection…

BB: You’re certainly not wrong. Your opinion, it’s pure, I mean how you feel it, see it, hear it… This is your authentic reaction and that’s awesome. However, I do agree with you that when it comes to my solo music the blues is at the center of it. I’m not looking to play pure blues, I wouldn’t consider myself as a blues musician, but when it comes to my songs, my expressions, the blues is at the heart of it.

Many fans like to see you as the “Godfather of Desert Rock”, yet when it comes to personal subjects, I would rather describe you as a shaman. Do you relate?

BB: Yeah, I’d probably be more confortable with the shaman than the godfather of anything else, really. A shaman makes good sense, it’s someone who journeys, goes within and helps others.

And heals others …

BB: Right. I wanna help other people discover themselves, not just discover me. I mean, my music inspires people to play music and that’s a beautiful thing, you know. They should play their own music and I’m happy to inspiring them to do that.

We are talking about exploring our soul, as well as the desert and its vastness. In a way, could the desert help explore this secretive part of us ?

BB: We basically all are an extension of our environnement. When I discover an artist, the first question I ask myself is where this person is from. It allows me to understand the environnement of what this art came from. The desert, for me growing up, was just this huge open area… There wasn’t a lot of distraction but a lot of forced meditation, because you’re just in this secluded area, and it landed itself to creativity. I started out with skateboarding and punk rock, and I got burnt out on that. Then I decided that music is where I want to be and where I want to explore. The desert helped me to take my time. I just went deeper and deeper into myself and in any music I was attracted to, like jazz, blues, funk, Jamaican music and, of course, all the great music from the 60s and 70s.

“I decided that music is where I want to be and where I want to explore. The desert helped me to take my time.”

Photo: Karl Hahn

You have recently signed on Heavy Psych Sounds and announced the reissuing of almost all your discography on vinyl and digital. How did you get involved in that process?

BB: You know, I’ve been making records for a long time and when you do something to this long, you start to see opportunities like record labels better overtime. When they’re interested working with this kind of music, that’s a reward for me. I look at Gabriele (Fiori, Heavy Psych Sounds owner) and his label and I feel he’s providing a service for artists like myself. It was a no-brainer for us to work with him. And the idea was not just about putting out new music, it was also to go back and reissue and celebrate my catalog. That was something I wouldn’t be confortable doing with just any label. I’m always interested in doing it with the personal of a label that’s really focused on this kind of music, and who is really supporting this kind of movement. We’re excited to go back and I’m pretty sure we’re planning to re-release all my back catalog and new music as well, yes.

Let’s talk about your new album “Mankind Woman”. First single “Chocolatize” fits right in this 60s and 70s inspired “modern classic” vibe you’ve been talking about… What is the vibe you wanted to project?

BB: Well, the record kinda projects its own vibe. I worked really hard not to try squeezing this record too much or put it in some particular place. I allowed it to make itself, so I was just as excited to see the result as anybody else. All recordings represent a time and space, you know. It’s 2018 and there is a lot of heaviness in the air right now, especially in USA, and I think the record reflects that. I think when we’ll listen back years from now, we’ll be able to remember what were the energy and vibration like during this time. When I listen to a song from 1968, and I think about that this person created this in 1968 and I’m really lucky to be able to listen to it today.

You talk about the heaviness in the air in the USA: is this album political in a way? You never talked about it so openly before. As an artist, do you think the time we live needs to do something ?

BB: That’s really interesting… Well, ALL my records are political. Every record I’ve ever made is political. It’s not always blatant or direct in my creativity that I relate to politics, but they are definitely involved in everything I do. It’s a motivating factor. I mean, even a song that I wrote 25 years ago for Kyuss, “Green Machine”, is a political song. It’s about what’s happening right now. A lot of the music on this record is a little more direct because there is lot of political heat, there is a political fire burning and you know, things just get spitted out in such a way… If you look back and study my catalog – during the Bush years for example – I was really frustrated so if you’re listening closely, you’ll hear what I’m saying. Sometimes you have to read between the lines, but it’s all there.

“A lot of the music on this record is a little more direct because there is lot of political heat, there is a political fire burning and you know, things just get spitted out in such a way.”

A good reason to dive in your discography! So this record should be considered as a snapshot of the heat going on?

BB: Let me be clear: I’m an artist. The definition of politics is really abstract. The way we dress is politics, the way you walk to the store is political. A politician who is actually involved is gonna have an entirely different prospect of the term, what it means and how to behave. But me not being a politician and being an artist, I have my own idea of what politics is and could be. That’s probably why it’s so hard for towns and cities, states and countries to get well run. It’s difficult because everybody has it’s own idea of what politics are! Spirituality is all part of my records too. But yes, this record represents my feelings on what’s going on in my immediate world right now.

The album title sounds like an ode to all women. Before I listened to the record, I thought there was a reference to the Weinstein affair or maybe a word against this President – who is more likely to grab women by the pussy…

BB: I’m referring to all of it and none of it simultaneously. During 8 years we had this wonderful president, Barack Obama, he was the first Afro-American president in America, which was a tremendous gift and also an amazing victory. In our democracy, every 8 or 4 years, we change our leaders. Hillary Clinton was set and I think a lot of Americans were really prepared for our first woman president. Some might suggest that she might not be the best “woman option”, but I think we’re all shocked and stunned that she lost. I think some of us figured out where the mistakes were made, and how the mechanics didn’t lead to victory… but she lost. It’s sad that we lost the opportunity to follow up the first Afro-American president with our first woman president. We were so close to a wonderful jump and lead forward in an evolution as a country. But instead not only she loose: she lost DONALD TRUMP. I think a lot of the country is still in a state of shock and you know, I’m one of those men who loves women. They are gods gift to men (laughs).

Women are indeed a recurring topic in your discography.

BB: Man, I love women. I recognize them as the smarter of the two species. I don’t feel their pain but I try to understand it because, you know, could you imagine being a woman in America and watching Hillary Clinton loose to Donald Trump? Seriously??? I mean the thing he says…

It’s ugly.

BB: It’s just ugly, it’s terrible. So “Mankind Woman” was a celebration of women as a song, and if you read the lyrics, it’s my description to my belief that women actually run the show. And a fool like Donald Trump who would think he’s actually in charge of running things… It’s just a testament of how ignorant he really is. I didn’t plan on it being the name of the record but when came the time to find a name, people very close to me suggest this would be probably it and I couldn’t find a reason why not…

“It’s sad that we lost the opportunity to follow up the first Afro-American president with our first woman president. We were so close to a wonderful jump as a country. (…) “Mankind Woman” is a celebration of women, and if you read the lyrics, it’s my description to my belief that women actually run the show. “

Photo: Gaël Mathieu

You never played or recorded with women. This probably would be a good reason for a new project?

BB: I worked in the studio with women many times. I haven’t had women in my bands, but I wouldn’t be opposed to that. My wife might be! (laughs) She might be a little like “Hey what are you doing with all this beautiful women travelling around the world, huh ?” But I’m open to the idea for sure.

About bandmates, one guy is recurrent: Bubba Dupree, who was credited on your last two records. Is he a confidant more than just a bandmate? 

BB: Yeah, 100%. I have been a fan of Bubba’s guitar playing for many years even before we were friends, and then we became friends, and then bandmates. I think every great artist is likely to have a partner that you’re able to bounce ideas off, work together. He’s in a lot of ways my left hand now, we are really able to work close… and I’m that for him. I’m very lucky to establish this relationship and it’s probably the result of searching, working hard and being patient… If you pick the wrong person, it could be the opposite as a result. But Bubba IS the right guy ! We are not looking to be rock stars, I’m not looking to be famous, we are not looking to get rich: we are looking to make great music. That’s the house we try to build. A house made of great music.

According to your experience, what makes a good song ?

BB: It’s conviction. I’ve studied music my whole life. I never went to school for music, I don’t even read it but like Bob Marley said : “it’s not education, it’s inspiration“. You know ? I understand that. That’s kinda how I look music. That’s not to suggest you shouldn’t learn music and study it – everybody has its own way – but for me, it’s about inspiration. I hear a lot of music that is crafted, manipulated, exploited, and that doesn’t always move me, because I don’t hear any human element. I don’t hear conviction. Nowadays, it’s getting harder to find music that has the human element, because technology enables people to put beats and “songs” together… It’s really an extension of convenient technology. A song is a human expression. Great songs are timeless ; they get passed down to generations because someone actually spoke their truth, spoke their heart. I think that’s what make a great song and that’s what people hear.

“Great songs are timeless ; they get passed down to generations because someone actually spoke their truth, spoke their heart. I think that’s what make a great song and that’s what people hear.”

I find that most of the time, the role of a drummer is highly underrated compared to others band members. According to you, what is precisely the role of drums in a good song?

BB: Behind every good band is a drummer. I once saw a documentary about jazz and there was this comment from Branford Marsalis who went up to Elvin Jones (who played for John Coltrane) and asked him “How do you play with such intensity like that with the rest of the band?” and Elvin Jones said, “You gonna be willing to die with the motherfuckers!”. The way Brandford Marsalis told the story is great because he confessed he first laughed but then, he realized Elvin Jones was fucking serious! If you have a drummer that is willing to die with the band, then you’re on the way to making some good music, man!

You’re a talented drummer ; you must still kick some beats at home. Any chance to see you behind the kit on a new project?

BB: Yeah, I got a couple of different kind of projects where I’m playing drums, so… yeah that could happen.

Dave Grohl recently released “Play” – a 23-minute track where he performs seven different instruments. It seems to be more of a challenge than anything else, but would you be interested in such an experience?

BB: I made recordings where I played a lot of different instruments: drums, piano, bass, guitars… One time George Clinton said “just because you can play all the instruments doesn’t mean you should”. When I first started making solo records – “Jalamanta” is a perfect example – I made all of it and played all the instruments, because I just did not have the time to gather musicians or couldn’t afford them (laughs). Being a solo artist all these years has allowed me to assemble musicians that I wanna play with, because I love playing with musicians. That’s what I wanna do. Period.

Thirteen solo albums means a lot in today’s industry. You have built a varied discography, blended many genres and atmospheres, while shaping your own sound. This is a testament to your freedom – a common thread in your records. Is that what being punk really means?

BB: Yeah. My motive as a musician has not changed since I was 12 or 13 years old. When I was a kid, I loved The Ramones, Black Flag, The Sex Pistols… The music was important to me because it lit my fire, you know. Then I used that fire to smoke a joint, I started to listening to a lot of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and a lot of sixties music… I started exploring what was inside of me and looking for musical truth, you know… So yes, when I say “Low Desert Punk”, I mean, I’ll always be a punk rocker for sure.

At last, it was damn hot this summer in Europe. Maybe too hot for any metalhead. Mister Cool, as you were born in the heat of California, any advice for your fans to survive in the desert or when it’s hot as hell?

BB: That’s funny! When you’re a dedicated punk rocker or a heavy metal guy, wearing your boots, your leather jacket, you guys have your hair all done… (laughs) When it’s fucking hot outside and you have a hard time getting in your costume, stay inside, man! And come up at night, you know!

Have fun at night!

BB: Right, we’re skateboarding at night! We were used to bring a light and go skateboarding at 10pm during the summer. We found a lamp out in the street and we stayed around that lamp ‘til the morning. You have to get used to do your shit at night!

Thank you very much, we hope to see you in France in November during your European tour. It was an honor and a pleasure talking to you about music and your album.

BB: My pleasure!

New album “Mankind Woman” is out now on Heavy Psych Sounds

Brant Bjork on tour this fall:
05.10.18 CAN Calgary @ The Palomino
06.10.18 CAN Edmonton @ Free Mason Hall (DJ SET ONLY)
07.10.18 CAN Edmonton @ The Starlite w/ Earthless
09.10.18 CA San Diego @ Spacebar
10.10.18 CA Los Angeles @ The Redwood w/ Nebula
11.10.18 NV @ Vamp’d
12.10.18 CA Pioneertown @ Pappy & Harriets w/ Nebula
13.10.18 CA Long Beach @ Alex’s Bar w/ Earthless
16.10.18 MEX Hermosillo @ Pizza Del Perro Negro w/ Sgt. Papers
18.10.18 MEX Merida @ Pizza Del Perro Negro
20.10.18 MEX Mexico City @ Pizza Del Perro Negro/Rabioso
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
02.11.18 NO Drammen @ Union Scene
03.11.18 SW Stockholm @ Debaser Strand
04.11.18 SW Göteborg @ Sticky Fingers
05.11.18 SW Malmö @ Kulturbolaget
06.11.18 DE Hamburg @ Fabrik
07.11.18 NL Amsterdam @ Melkweg
08.11.18 BE Leuven @ Het Depot
09.11.18 UK London @ Garage
10.11.18 FR Paris @ Petit Bain
11.11.18 NL Tilburg @ O13
12.11.18 DE Wiesbaden @ Schlachthof
13.11.18 CH Zürich @ Rote Fabrik
14.11.18 CH Martigny @ Caves Du Manoir
15.11.18 IT Turin @ Spazio 211
16.11.18 AT Innsbruck @ Hafen (Heavy Psych Sounds Festival)
17.11.18 DE Munich @ Feierwerk
18.11.18 AT Vienna @ Arena
19.11.18 DE Dresden @ Beatpol
20.11.18 DE Berlin @ Festsaal Kreuzberg

Au début, je voulais résumer mon report en une phrase : “SONIC BLAST… Pour le croire, il faut le voir.” Et puis je me suis rappelé que c’était mon rôle de vous le faire voir au travers de mots, alors commençons. Après avoir traversé le désert aride espagnol et bravé des montagnes gigantesques et semi-calcinées, les portes de la petite ville de Moledo do Minho (au Nord du Portugal) se sont ouvertes à nous, au bord d’une mer glaciale, perdue dans une vallée incroyablement fleurie. (ILLUSTRATIONS : Razort)

Plus d’une heure à le chercher, et nous trouvons enfin le camping. On nous a dit “C’est à peu près par là” en désignant une forêt de pins et de ronces à peine débroussaillée. On n’y croyait pas. Un camping à la sauvage, dans le sable, improvisé. Un point d’eau, des douches froides mais gratuites, un seul point info ouvert quelques heures pour poser les bracelets… Mais dans quoi avons nous atterri ? Pas le temps de se questionner, trop subjugués par la beauté des lieux, la plage et son coucher de soleil que nous nous empressons d’aller voir comme si c’était le premier artiste du séjour. Le lendemain, le ciel bleu, le soleil et un vent doux sont au rendez-vous. Nous découvrons des rues pavées, tortueuses, qui grimpent sur une grande colline débouchant sur la Pool Stage, la première scène qui – comme son nom l’indique – est au bord d’une piscine, dans un complexe qui… bah on ne sait pas trop ce que c’est.

Une seule entrée/sortie difficilement identifiable, une bibliothèque en guise de point presse, des toilettes cachés au sous-sol, un balcon en béton pour pouvoir admirer le premier groupe de cette première moitié de journée : SOLAR CORONA. Trio de rock psychédélique instrumental, les Portugais sont accompagnés exceptionnellement par un saxophoniste, ce qui me rappelle d’emblée la musique des génies ECSTATIC VISION. Look ultra 70’s, moustache et chemises colorées, solos lointains qui résonnent dans l’air, tout y est. Bercés par cette agréable découverte, nous continuons de découvrir les lieux et de nous familiariser avec son public, radicalement différent des autres pays. Aussi bavards et festifs que les Espagnols, les Portugais semblent bien plus calmes, détendus et chaleureux que n’importe qui d’autre. L’ambiance est très cool, peut-être aussi grâce à l’orientation musicale et idéologique du festival. Le soleil commence à frapper fort, et nous nous rendons compte que nous avons oublié un accessoire essentiel : le maillot de bain. Sur le chemin du camp, nous sommes surpris par quelque chose d’assez exotique : motos, voitures, camions, festivaliers, et habitants passent tous par les mêmes ruelles étroites. Ca devient progressivement un bazar sans nom dans toute la ville. De magnifiques jardins, véritables oasis de plénitude, encadrent ce monde mécanisé et attirent également notre oeil.

Si bien que de retour au festival, nous arrivons pour la fin du set d’ATAVISMO, qui pour ma part ne me convainc pas trop : des sonorités trop “pop latino” sur un morceau qui commençait pourtant très bien, dans des tons desert rock. Le fait de voir des musiciens en chemise à fleurs et lunettes de soleil doit aussi jouer sur la perception de leur performance. Pris d’une mini crise d’agoraphobie, je pars explorer la ville pour prendre l’air. Il y a beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup de monde sur cette première journée (le festival affiche complet), et le soleil n’arrange rien !

Au loin, alors que j’essaye de trouver mes repères dans une foule de plus en plus compacte, j’entends les sonorités si belles d’ASTRODOME mais ne réussis pas à en profiter. Je me remémore alors leur superbe prestation au Sidéral Bordeaux Psych Fest en avril dernier. Ils avaient ouvert avec leur set quasi-instrumental, noyés de lumières et formes géométriques hypnotisantes, dans une salle à peine remplie… Je me dis que d’autres doivent mieux profiter que moi, qui suis en panique total pour trouver un coin où me poser. Pour les mêmes raisons, il m’est impossible de voir les seigneurs jammeux d’ELECTRIC OCTOPUS. Je suis au contraire très loin, quelque part dans la ville, lorsque que je remarque quelque chose de fabuleux qui réussit enfin à calmer ma crise : le son est présent PARTOUT. Situation géographique, relief, ou architecture de la ville en cause, toujours est-il qu’il est possible d’écouter les concerts avec une précision sonore époustouflante, où que l’on soit. Je m’assoie donc sur un petit muret, admire la vue et me laisse porter par les solos groovy et oniriques du poulpe portugais (qui, d’après les applaudissements, en met plein les oreilles à l’assemblée). Au-delà, des montagnes verdoyantes, des arbres dansant des slows, la mer qui chante en chahutant. Même le soleil me paraît désormais agréable dans ce vent frais qui remonte de la plage. 

Aller-retour express au camping avant de découvrir la Mainstage, encore plus surprenante que la piscine. Dans un petit square herbeux, entre deux toboggans et trois balançoires, au milieu des habitations et des jardinets remplis d’énormes courgettes et autres légumes méditerranéens, la lumière ambiante tourne au rouge. Les festivaliers, après quelques minutes d’attente, pénètrent calmement dans ce lieu étonnant, en compagnie de leurs enfants pour certains, d’une pinte pour d’autres. Tous trimbalent leurs serviettes de plage et leur bonne humeur… Ambiance Club Med sur coucher de soleil, douceur et joie de vivre sont au rendez-vous alors que commencent les si gentils BOURRINS ANGLAIS DE CONAN. Peut-être est-ce l’euphorie de les revoir (ce groupe figure parmi mes préférés et parmi mes plus grosses baffes scéniques), mais je dirais de ce concert qu’il a été un des plus étranges de ma vie. Ni bien, ni mauvais, juste… bizarre. Voir Jon Davis en lunettes de biker débarquer sur scène, tenter de hurler dans un micro mal réglé, et en compagnie de deux nouveaux musiciens inconnus au bataillon m’a laissé très dubitatif au début. Le vent ballotant les enceintes, le son reste aléatoire, distordu. On reconnait difficilement les titres. Les growls de l’ancien bassiste sont absents et manquent cruellement à la performance. Un batteur au look thrash metal tape comme un bourrin, parfois des notes qui ne sont même pas censées être là… Tout semble accéléré quand il faut que ce soit lent, et lent quand il faut que ça soit accéléré. Bref, on a du mal à se plonger dans la musique habituellement noire et introspective du groupe. Je suis cependant super content de réécouter le classique “Satsumo”, titre trop rare. Deux nouveaux morceaux font également leur apparition, mais c’est difficile de juger dans de telles conditions. Dommage.

Si le coucher de soleil a ruiné l’ambiance de ce premier concert de Mainstage, il a en revanche sublimé celui des italiens de UFOMAMMUT. Qui n’a jamais vu le trio sur scène ne peut pas comprendre ce que ça fait de passer sous une ponceuse géante, noyé dans les infra-basses et les samples ésotériques ramenés d’on-ne-sait quelle galaxie lointaine. La Rickenbacker verte à paillettes brille de mille feu face au soleil rouge qui disparait progressivement dans l’Atlantique. Je réalise alors enfin où je suis : Sonic Blast Moledo est un lieu unique dans l’espace-temps. Une sorte de Woodstock version Stoner Rock, perché en haut de cette montagne qui tremble désormais sous les titres à rallonge du mammouth volant. Seul bémol : les trois barbus aiment un peu trop les rappels et se mettent trop en avant, ce qui contraste avec le caractère intimiste de leur musique et en devient presque agaçant. Dommage aussi pour les vidéos projetées en fond, complètement effacées par la lumière naturelle. Mais tant pis : on est au Portugal, bordel !

La nuit tombe, un vent marin assez froid se lève. Nous descendons chercher de quoi nous couvrir et remarquons que même tout en bas, au milieu des pins, le son de la Mainstage est incroyablement limpide. Aucun bruit alentours ne vient perturber les festivités (malgré une route et un chemin de fer traversant la ville). Nous entendons donc de loin le show survolté de NEBULA, complété d’un superbe lightshow qui nous attire tels des papillons de nuit. Nous finissons devant pour les deux derniers titres, et alors que nous commençons à peine à nous remettre des émotions de cette première journée, la pétée ultime surgit. Elle se nomme CAUSA SUI. Des jams de folie, des vidéos kaléidoscopiques, des lumières ultra psychédéliques, et une pêche d’Enfer soufflent tout à chaque morceau. Les Danois mettent tout le monde d’accord, c’est un pur moment de délire.

Comment rendre cet instant encore plus magique ? Allongez-vous dans l’herbe avec une Super Bock à la main, laissez vous porter et admirez les étoiles. Ces étoiles incroyables qui scintillent et forment des connexions neuronales célestes sublimes. Elles seront d’ailleurs mon seul et unique spectacle pendant toute la durée du set de SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT. Comme en 2015 au Hellfest, je reste étendu au sol pour faire une sorte de “sieste dans la Valley” mais sous la Voie Lactée. Une expérience qu’on ne peut vivre qu’une fois. Les Allemands nous emportent dans leurs titres merveilleux influencés par entre autre le bouddhisme et l’hindouisme. Bien reposés par ce moment en dehors du temps, nous voici déjà face à la dernière baston de la journée.

Un autre groupe allemand vient clôturer la Mainstage, dans un tout autre registre. Même eux n’en reviennent pas de jouer ici ce soir, et le chanteur remercie tout le monde avant de commencer à nous aplatir la tête avec sa guitare. C’est parti pour MANTAR, véritable ovni sludge/black metal/hardcore tombé dans “un festival de hippie” comme le dit si bien Hanno. “Je sais que c’est la fin de la journée, vous êtes fatigués, mais c’est vendredi soir, on fait la fête, on se bourre la gueule !” Le duo déborde comme d’habitude d’énergie et vient déchaîner une foule qui commençait timidement à pogoter tout à l’heure. “Cross the Cross” déclenche un cataclysme, “Astral Kannibal” détruit tout sur son passage, et les remerciements si doux et chaleureux du charismatique et maigrichon chanteur/guitariste laissent un sourire constant sur le visage des derniers rescapés. Il est temps d’aller se coucher sous les étoiles. Même la lune a gagné un sommeil bien mérité.

MANTAR : in Turkish, it means “mushroom”. Well, it doesn’t sound too heavy. A strange monicker for the prolific and rather intriguing German duo – who released three albums in five years. The first two records gave us a taste of the two friends’ ability to deliver outstanding and über violent outings. I was thrilled to discover their third full-length “The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze”, after I finally got over what’s probably the less friendly side of their music: vocals. For Hanno’s relentless shrieking perfectly tallies with MANTAR’s spirit, as well the musical power that stems from its thematics.

Fire has always been at the very center of their music. Whether it’s about its purifying use (“Death by Burning” on the first album), its undeniable potency (“Ode To The Flame” on the second one) or a will to burn it all (the new one), the fire element is the duo’s obsession. And they are certainly not to blame. Our preposterous society is on the brink of chaos and run by greedy duffers, so when everyone will realize, some won’t be left unharmed. “The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze” will be the soundtrack of this apocalypse, giving formerly tied down people the strength to burn up, overthrow this superficial world while wreaking bloody havoc and getting rid of the oppressor. Purification by the stake, like the ancients used to do a long time ago…

MANTAR managed to come up with a unique sound, that I won’t bother to describe here. Hanno and Eric may not be born virtuosos, yet their common love for punk and violence – plus some hard work – has been the key to this incredible outfit. Rarely (never?) a guitar/drums duo has blended such efficiently melody-laden instrumentals, jouncy riffs, fast-paced drumming and deathly vocals. In the middle of these uncharted territories, the lost listener can only refer to the previous records to grasp the beast. Even though a bass-free formula could seem limited sonically, yet the German are going further in songwriting, getting more straightforward, like a heavyweight’s hook in your face, with some fine, catchy choruses on top of it. 

With this third record, MANTAR refine their end-of-world anthems, and if only a spark was needed to set this global mess ablaze, the duo would be glad to pour some gasoline on it. Burn it all: that’s what they want, and we’re now ready to follow them in their fury.

ARTIST: MANTAR
ALBUM: “The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze”
RELEASED: 24th August 2018
LABEL: Nuclear Blast Records
GENRE: Blackened sludge punk
MORE: Facebook / Bandcamp 

If you don’t get the drill about an album titled “Cosmic Blues” – first outing from Italian heavy-mongers BLACK ELEPHANT on fine fuzz dealer Small Stone Records – then you’ll certainly need to mug up on their basics.

Speaking of basics, the Savona-based outfit knows them inside out. With eight years spent on the Italian stages, these guys undoubtedly love the Riff and can’t help showing it through their fuzz-laden 70s heavy and hard-hitting grunge. Expect the usual jammy trips sprinkled with some “phunky” breaks that, while your body still slumped in a deckchair, your jouncy ears won’t help noticing. 

Over the span of 7 minutes, “Helter Skelter” is a perfect example of their groovy, psychedelic whipsaw. However, BLACK ELEPHANT might well pour kilotons of fuzzy, lava-hot solos into your ears, what’s hold our attention is definitely the boogie side of this record, as the cosmic parts are way too formulaic, not to say boring, and show a few shortcomings in the songwriting and psychedelic build-up (“Baby Eroina”, “Cosmic Blues For Solitary Moose”). For it takes more than you’d think to sound like Geezer.

Oddly enough, the band wins us over when they use their wah-wah pedals. When they go straight to the point, they nail it. Again, the final part of “Helter Skelter” delivers everything and more to make your butt shake, with a rhythm worthy of some rhymes from Zack De La Rocca.

Next song “Chase me” takes less than 2 minutes to lay the foundations of that funky urge – which we’d have loved to hear more on that slightly unaptly titled “Cosmic Blues”. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough highlights like this to make the whole album stand out of the crowd. Today, riffing (and doing it well) doesn’t do the job anymore, especially when you’re part of the hypertrophied 70s-inspired heavy rock scene. 

So let’s hail the funky thrill, and bid farewell to that sonic gum that is being relentlessly chewed and stretched: we need some groove and dead-raising boogie! That would be our advice to BLACK ELEPHANT, if they want to avoid being outrun in the future. 

ARTIST: BLACK ELEPHANT
ALBUM: “Cosmic Blues”
RELEASED: 20th July 2018
LABEL: Small Stone Records
GENRE: 70s heavy rock
MORE: Facebook / Bandcamp / Small Stone Records

(Disclaimer: the band and ourselves disclaim all responsibility for any speeding while listening to this album in a car). Savannah’s trio BLACK TUSK – whom we love here at THC — are releasing their sixth album titled T.C.B.T. (“Take Care of Black Tusk”) on their new home Season Of Mist this summer.

After the band stormed into the scene with The Fallen Kingdom (2007), I can’t help but bringing up the tragedy that struck the band, with bassist Jonathan Athon’s passing in 2014. Recorded before Athon left us, Pillars of Ash (2016) wasn’t only the best tribute to their friend, but it was above all a total firestorm. Barely two years later, they release its follow-up T.C.B.T. with Corey Barhorst on bass. One could wonder if too many releases could be redondant, and if BLACK TUSK should maybe take things down a notch (just like their buddies Kylesa and Baroness). People have no idea – for Black Tusk are anything but a band easy to label… or stop.

Now let’s talk about music. Imagine a sonic orgy where Dead Kennedys’ punk side meets Motörhead’s heaviness and Slayer’s light-speed riffage in a NYHC pit. There you are. So now, the new album. T.C.B.T. is BLACK TUSK’s best one (and my fave!) hands down – something I tend to say about each one of them. While the songwriting has kept evolving over the years, Andrew’s riffs are inexhaustible and tusk-sharp as ever – not to mention Corey’s grooves, James’s deathly pounding, and what makes Black Tusk more volcanic than a bunch of Lemmy groupies: vocals! The three fellas share all of it and give their all, in the purest hardcore style. This dynamic is what makes BLACK TUSK stand out of the crowd. ‘You can’t go full on and stay the distance’ some will say. With their fine songwriting skills, the trio injects a few breathers into the mixture, making you enjoy yourself even more, like this zen intro on “Scalped” that contrasts with the evil stampede that follows. 

T.C.B.T. is a one-shot deflagration that provides a pure adrenaline shot. Taking Care of BLACK TUSK has never been that cool, making this album another banger in your stereo!

ARTIST: BLACK TUSK
ALBUM: “T.C.B.T.”
RELEASED: 17th August 2018
LABEL: Season Of Mist
GENRE: Swamp sludge
MORE: Facebook / Bandcamp
 

Cette année encore du gros lourd, de la débilité, de la noirceur, mais aussi un peu de diversité et d’éclectisme sont au programme de ce cru 2018 du MOTOCULTOR ! Et à l’image de son grand frère Hellfest, le festival semble prendre des chemins radicalement différents du Metal habituel pour nous proposer, comme depuis déjà quelques années, des artistes parfois méconnus mais tout à fait incroyables à ne pas louper. Dépêchez-vous car il ne reste plus que 20% des pass en vente ! 

Nous retrouverons notamment des légendes françaises de la coldwave : TRISOMIE 21 et RENDEZ-VOUS, pour danser sur des beats désabusés mais non dénués de lourdeur et de cynisme. Après avoir clôturé en beauté le Hellfest 2017, c’est – sans surprise – que l’instoppable PERTURBATOR viendra écraser avec sa synth-wave en pleine métamorphose les derniers survivants du week-end.

Dans un registre plus saturé mais tout aussi électronique, les punks toulousains fluorescents de PUNISH YOURSELF viendront tout casser, au même titre que les pères fondateurs fous du metal industriel MINISTRY et leurs cousins suisses THE YOUNG GODS.

De la noirceur il y en aura, que ce soit dans le black/death satanique et kitch des autrichiens BELPHEGOR, la lourdeur et l’opacité des riffs post-hardcore de THAW (sortes de demi-frères polonais de CELESTE), ou les tristes – mais très belles – odes sludge de nos parisiens préférés HANGMAN’S CHAIR.

Du côté positif de la Force, nous retrouverons les joyeux NASHVILLE PUSSY avec leurs riffs hard rock puant le Jack Daniel’s. Les désormais bien connus STONED JESUS seront également de la partie pour nous faire voyager avec leur stoner grandiose venu d’Ukraine, au même titre que le superbe post-rock américain de PELICAN.

Le tout dans un enchainement de violence black, death, thrash, punk, folk et hardcore habituel. Et la bonne humeur, évidemment.

MOTOCULTOR FESTIVAL 2018 
Du 17 au 19 août à Saint-Nolff (Bzh) – Billets en vente ici
Retrouvez le festival sur son site officiel, Facebook et Twitter

 

Dans une soudaine envie de se rafraîchir, on se dit que durant ce début d’été quasi caniculaire, il était pas plus mal d’aller assister à la date la plus cold du mois. Alors, CHELSEA WOLFE et EMMA RUTH RUNDLE : reines de glaces ? Pas que mais toujours est-il qu’on y va comme on fuit le soleil d’été qui nous brûle l’épiderme.

On commence en douceur avec EMMA RUTH RUNDLE qui vient nous présenter son oeuvre en configuration acoustique, toute seule comme une grande. A peine perdue au milieu de la scène, Emma s’arme juste de sa guitare sèche ou de sa Gibson pour délivrer à son public très attentif un répertoire complètement dark folk plein de douleurs et de regrets rentrés. La limite de ce dispositif, c’est qu’il met en lumière le relatif manque de variété de registre de la jeune femme, particulièrement dans son jeu de guitare qui ne bénéficie pas des ornements de la configuration groupe. Mais la grande maîtrise technique qu’elle utilise dans sa voix lui permet de retranscrire plutôt bien la dynamique en variant l’intensité de son jeu. Au premier rang, on est vite captivé par son timbre qui nous parvient parfois à nu quand elle s’éloigne de son micro. Touchant. A plusieurs reprises, on ressent même la présence fantôme de son groupe, l’accompagnant, du moins par l’esprit, dans son voyage acoustique. Le public est captivé.

Le parcours de CHELSEA WOLFE est étonnant. Après des débuts très underground dans un genre dark folk, la jeune femme muscle le son sur son deuxième album. Mais c’est avec le single “Feral Love” sur Pain is Beauty qu’elle gagne en notoriété, notamment grâce aux trailers de la saison 4 de Game of Thrones sur lesquels figure le titre. On aurait pu se dire que la voix du succès et de l’indie-pop était toute tracée et pourtant, avec Abyss c’est un retour à des sphères très noise qu’on la retrouve en 2015. Puis c’est la sortie d’Hiss Spun en 2017 et une orientation encore plus lourde voire metal. Chelsea fait selon ses envies et c’est tant mieux car un public grandissant répond tout de même présent. Chelsea Wolfe, la Shannon Wright des années 2010 ? Peut-être bien (écoutez Shannon Wright !).

Cette direction est l’oeuvre de Chelsea mais aussi de Ben Chisholm, collaborateur depuis les débuts (ce soir à la basse). Ce multi-instrumentiste est d’une grande aide dans la direction sonore du projet Chelsea Wolfe, et l’orientation doom provient d’un de ses side-project avorté. Sur scène c’est encore plus flagrant. Ce soir, le groupe joue fort. Et lourd. Le bourdonnement de la basse et omniprésent, la Gretsch de Chelsea n’est pas là pour jouer du rockabilly et à la batterie, la frappe de Jess Gowrie est ample et puissante. Les morceaux d’Hiss Spun sont joués en version musclée, et les quelques incartades dans les disques précédents subissent le même traitement. On se souviendra particulièrement de l’enchainement “After The Fall” / “Dragged Out”, de Demons joué avec une rage post-punk, ou de la caisse claire martelée telle une enclume de “The Culling” qui laisse tout le monde pantois.

Mais cette furie sonore ne doit pas cacher une grosse maitrise sonore pensée en amont. Sur “16 Psyche”, le mix précis développe la formule Chelsea Wolfe : un tapis de fréquences basses et médium, une batterie puissante avec du delay, la guitare de Bryan Tulao qui diffuse des entrelacs de larsens et d’effets au timbres noise, et enfin le timbre soprano de Chelsea qui vole au dessus du fracas. On peut même entendre le petit traitement « radio » sur la voix pour la détacher encore plus. Les compositions très dynamiques à base de quiet/loud font le reste. Tout est clair, calé, puissant et beau à la fois.

Le tout s’enchaine sans pause ni communication, le concept est épuré et immersif. L’heure et quart bien tendue du concert nous prend et nous étouffe pour nous relâcher groggy dans la chaleur parisienne et dans la nuit noire. Merci Chelsea.

Le troisième et dernier jour au HELLFEST, c’est soit on se laisse aller à écouter son organisme fatigué et mis à rude épreuve et on pionce en loupant les premiers groupes, soit on la joue warrior et on tanne ses potes pour être devant le premier groupe à 10h30… (PHOTOS : Gaël Mathieu et Gaël Hervé)

Etant donné qu’il était inconcevable de louper les ex-Texas Chainsaw et désormais DUST LOVERS, je me retrouve à faire la queue à l’entrée avant l’ouverture du site… Contrairement au reste du public qui n’a visiblement pas réussi à sortir de sa tente. Tant pis pour eux parce que les quasi-locaux Dust Lovers, comme à leur habitude, vont nous balancer leur voodoo rock en pleine tronche, que l’on soit 10, 100 ou 2000 devant la scène. Faisant la part belle à leur excellent dernier album Film Noir, et malgré un son qui manque de puissance pour vraiment terrasser la foule, nos amoureux de la poussière auront bien secoué la Valley. Et il n’est que 11h…

Il n’y a malheureusement guère plus de monde pour assister au set des français de POGO CAR CRASH CONTROL – sorte d’ovni sonore du dimanche sur la Warzone, car assez éloigné du garage rock nordique du reste de la journée. Peu importe, leur noise barré et destructuré me fera tout de même remuer la couenne sous le soleil déjà bien haut. Le genre de groupe à voir, tout autant qu’à écouter, les gamins éructant violemment à tout bout de champ. C’est ce qui s’appelle un réveil en fanfare.

Maintenant que je suis bien alerte, c’est LUCIFER qui se présente. Non, pas le démon en personne, quoique… N’ayant pas écouté le groupe avant, les seuls commentaires que j’ai pu récolter ne m’incitaient pas à la découverte (chanteuse très présente, clichés par palettes). Pourtant à l’affiche d’autres festivals, et bien plus haut, la curiosité du jour est finalement un bon groupe de doom à tendance revival, porté par la voix claire de sa frontwoman Johanna Sadonis. Mais soit le cadre était trop grand soit le créneau inadapté, toujours est-il que les réactions du public restent… léthargiques.

Au rayon curiosités, ce sont les lituaniens de AU-DESSUS que j’ai envie de voir, puisque loupés aux Blackened Orgies l’hiver dernier. Si j’ai un peu de mal à rentrer dans leur post-black et leur univers si particulier, très sombre et suintant le désespoir, les enchaînements de passages atmosphériques et planants avec des séquences d’une violence absolue me garderont auprès d’eux jusqu’à la fin du set, à ma grande surprise. Le genre de découverte que seul le Hellfest est capable de créer !

Point de retour à la joie, le doom traditionnel façon pachyderme de WARNING entame ses premières notes. Entre ode au Sabbath et son descendant Cathedral, les Anglais arrivent à me captiver par le son le plus lourd et écrasant de ce dimanche. Warning joue de façon tellement carrée et avec une forte présence scénique de son chanteur qu’il est difficile de ne pas être conquis par leur set, qui est consacré à la quasi-totalité de leur album Watching From A Distance, bien meilleur sur scène donc.

Rejoignant la lumière, je fends la foule pour voir un groupe loupé tant de fois ces douze dernières années, les LORDS OF ALTAMONT ! Le rock garage des américains m’accompagne depuis environ quinze ans et je suis ravi d’entendre les bouillants “Cyclone” et “Live Fast”. L’énergie déployée fait virevolter la Warzone qui se met à chahuter et danser au rythme du frontman Jake Cavaliere, déchaîné, qui balance son orgue tout au long du set. Et c’est avec un énorme sourire aux lèvres que je repars à la fin du concert, heureux d’avoir vu les Lords.

La joie et la béatitude seront de courte durée, le programme annonçant GRAVE PLEASURES et leur néo-cold wave à tendance gothique. Si les ex-Beastmilk ont énormément évolué depuis leurs débuts post-punk, nous avons droit à un set endiablé et déroutant pour le public de la Valley qui sort juste de Warning. Si les ambiances sont censées être sombres, mélancoliques et froides, aujourd’hui les Finlandais assurent un set bien rock, dansant et plus vivant que jamais. Une bonne surprise tant leurs albums peuvent dérouter ! 

C’est à ce stade de la journée que la fatigue accumulée depuis le début du festival commence à peser sérieusement. Je sèche donc le concert de The Bronx pour l’évènement desert rock de cette édition : la reformation de NEBULA. Le Hellfest s’est fait une spécialité de nous offrir l’exclu d’une reformation d’un groupe culte de la scène stoner (Kyuss Lives!, Hermano) et c’est l’un des derniers dinosaures de la scène du désert que nous avons la chance de voir aujourd’hui. Le public blinde la tente et c’est l’effervescence lorsque la bande à Eddie Glass entre en scène. Leur rock gras mais loin des poncifs du genre fait mouche immédiatement, et fait vibrer la Valley lors d’un set porté par un son impeccable ! Leurs chansons teintées de blues psychédélique n’ayant pas influencé beaucoup de rejetons talentueux (mis à part les italiens de Black Rainbows), il souffle comme une brise de légèreté sur une scène en mal d’inspiration. Un vrai moment de bonheur.

Faute d’avoir pu accéder à la Warzone pour le set des légendes du punk français les Shériff, je retourne sous la Valley voir la sensation hype et ovni du jour, ZEAL & ARDOR. Si leurs albums ne m’attirent absolument pas, l’occasion de juger sur pièce est trop belle. Mêlant des sonorités et des genres aussi opposés que le gospel et le black metal, le set est accrocheur et son frontman suisse Manuel Gagneux a so bien travaillé sa setlist que le public présent ne sait sur quel pied danser. Bien plus intéressant sur scène, ce projet mérite d’y jeter une oreille attentive, sans à priori ni attente. Mon running order étant quasi exclusivement axé Valley cet après-midi, j’attendais de pied ferme BARONESS, encore jamais vus en concert. Mais il est écrit que je ne verrai pas de concert de Baroness sous sa forme traditionnelle : en raison d’un problème familial, le batteur a dû rentrer d’urgence aux States et, pour ne pas annuler sa présence, le groupe choisit d’offrir un set acoustique. Si beaucoup de monde vit le set différemment, ça reste pour moi une immense déception.

Ayant bêtement perdu ma place devant la Mainstage pour Alice In Chains, je me rabats sur les Norvégiens de GLUECIFER à la Warzone. N’ayant initialement pas prévu d’aller les voir, je ne m’attendais pas à aussi bon. Je retrouve instantanément le sourire grâce à leur rock garage bien speed et tout en énergie, et voir le public se masser et s’éclater est la meilleure preuve de l’effet du groupe sur son auditoire ! Une belle surprise et pour le coup, presque un regret de ne pas avoir vu le début du set.

Le jour ayant fortement décliné, c’est le signe que la fin de la journée et du festival approchent. C’est aussi le moment où les têtes d’affiche montent sur les planches. En l’occurrence, les fers de lance du rétro rock KADAVAR. C’est encore une fois le genre de groupe qui transcende sa musique sur scène. Aidés par un son énorme, le trio dévaste la Valley comme personne aujourd’hui, forçant chaque spectateur à remuer de tout son corps au fil d’un set où les trois musiciens se donnent au-delà de leurs limites. Moment le plus épique ? “Purple Sage”, what else ?! Après un tel set, je n’ai qu’une envie, les revoir. Et ça tombe bien, ils seront en tournée dans toute l’Europe cet hiver.

Le festival aurait très bien pu se terminer sur ce concert, cela aurait été une superbe conclusion. Difficile alors de rentrer dans celui des fraîchement reformés HELLACOPTERS. Non pas que le set soit mauvais, comment le pourrait-il quand l’un des ses fondateurs est aussi celui d’Entombed ? Non, juste que passer après Kadavar et une série de groupes dans la même veine qu’eux est un sacré handicap. Les Suédois livrent pourtant une heure de hi-energy rock’n roll, et malgré la concurrence de la Dame de Fer sur la scène principale, le public est présent et s’agite comme un beau diable.

Il est l’heure de clore la Valley. C’est aux Belges d’AMENRA que revient cette lourde tâche, et c’est une autre sorte de claque qu’ils nous délivrent. La puissance de leur musique, aussi tortueuse que torturée, nous fait immédiatement penser à leur homologue d’Outre-Atlantique passés la veille – Neurosis, pour ceux qui n’auraient pas suivi. Loin d’être une copie conforme, le côté atmosphérique (aussi malsain soit-il) associé à la pesanteur de leur son en font un digne héritier, et le set s’achève dans une communion silencieuse avec un public subjugué.

Je repars pour un tour de montagnes russes émotionnelles, allant festoyer avec mes Norvégiens préférés et bel et bien terminer cette treizième édition. C’est déjà le quatrième passage de TURBONEGRO au Hellfest, mais ils collent tellement bien au côté rock festif et débridé du festival qu’on ne serait pas mécontent de les voir tous les ans. Toujours aussi radieux, le Duke Of Nothing s’amuse avec le public, lançant des mots en français entre les morceaux, et c’est une fiesta endiablée qui prend place dans la fosse de la Warzone. Mêlant quelques nouveaux morceaux à ces classiques, ce sont ces derniers (“Get It On”, “All My Friends Are Dead”, “The Age of Pamparius”) qui déclenchent le plus de mouvements, avant le final participatif sur “I Got Erection”, véritable hymne à l’amour qui accompagne les festivaliers jusqu’au petit jour une fois quitté le site.

Ce Hellfest s’achève donc sur un de joie et de bonheur mais aussi la traditionnelle déprime post-fest. Cette édition était superbe. L’orga nous a prouvé une nouvelle fois que l’éclectisme est bel et bien son leitmotiv, et le public a répondu présent à chacun des groupes qui, initialement, pouvait faire tache sur l’affiche, ce qui est donc un succès.

Rendez-vous l’an prochain pour la quatorzième édition, à laquelle on peut déjà compter cinq groupes annoncés le dimanche soir : Mass Hysteria, Carcass, Dropkick Murphys, Manowar et ce qui sera le dernier concert en France de Slayer. Vivement juin 2019 !

On the second day of Genesis, our preacher Lord Ben decided that they had enough of a foretaste and it was about time to put his believers’ ears to the test. The Saturday at HELLFEST 2018 opened the path to hip-hop on the Valley stage and nu metal revival on the Mainstages. So, did cobblestone get smashed to pieces? Story will tell… (PHOTOS: Gaël Mathieu)

Now that I’ve properly got into the groove of Hellfest, today gets off to a flying start with BLACK RAINBOWS. Well renowned among the European stoner rock community, the Italian trio are opening the Valley stage for 30 minutes of invigorating riffage. No fuss given, Gabriele Fiori’s gang go pedal to the metal and, as the tent gets filled, we realize that their songs not only are cut out for the stage, but they are perfect on bigger stages like today at Hellfest. Now for a good start! 

Here’s a band whom we mentioned bazillions times here on THC, and who are making their second Hellfest appearance: Sweden’s very own MONOLORD. Their show in Nantes this winter reached the top of my “gigs of the year” list, so you bet I was looking forward to seeing them. Can you imagine that the trio only needed three songs to win the crowd over, when others do that within a 2-hour set? After barely one song to warm us all, the drony sounds of their “Rust”steamroller echo across the tent, crushing us all before a 15-minute final on “Empress Rising” follows through the Valley’s absolute destruction. We want more!

No encore for the Swedish, so I head off to watch GET THE SHOT on the Warzone. ‘Yet another US hardcore outfit to start the day…’, you say? You have no idea. We’re talking about Tabernacocore ©, guys. Closer to thrash crossover than traditional hardcore, Get The Shot discharge their infectious fury while crowd surfers relentlessly fall from the sky… until their frontman comes and joins the fun! A big slap in the face, the Warzone way!

Now is the time for Greece’s stoner rock torchbearers 1000MODS to take over the Valley. I’ll spare you an unbearable suspense: this was the best Valley show of the whole weekend. Then what? This band is purely and simply the Mediterranean version of Fu Manchu, releasing even more warmth through each note of their groovy, sexy rock, helped by catchy melodies and infectious riffs. This is one stunning performance, getting us increasingly addicted throughout the set. Closing on “Vidage” and the endless “Super Van Vacation”, the Greek delivered the most enjoyable performance I’ve seen in years. I already loved their albums, and I just fell in love with this band, already waiting for them to return to France!  

Prepare for a different kind of vibe on the other side of the site, with hardcore breakthrough kids TURNSTILE! Blending Snapcase’s energy and vocals with Fugazi’s melodic songcraft, Turnstile make Get The Shot sound like a doom band. With over twenty tracks in just about 35 minutes, the Baltimore punks get out of stage ten minutes before the end of the show, leaving us more washed out than after a 2000 rpm laundry. If hardcore fans were looking for a new torchbearer, they just found it.

We just spent the morning going through a sonic whirlwind, and each band literally outdid themselves, so I feel like it can hardly get any better this afternoon. This is the time the promoters chose to check if the most eclectic metal festival also has the most eclectic crowd. New Jersey’s electro hip-hop punk duo (in no particular order) H09909 get down to it straight away. Definitely not the usual Valley vibe, yet the tent is packed and everyone’s going apeshit! I may not spin their tunes at home, I must admit that they set the Valley on fire! Hats off!

I stay to watch a band who has caught my interest lately: DÄLEK. This alternative hip hop project blends so many influences that listing them would be longer than the queue at the merch. Far from an inaudible hubbub, we’re being treated to 3-star gastronomy here. I like the dark vibe and Godflesh-like sound… unlike most people who’re starting to leave the tent. What a shame, this was a stellar concert. 

No time for Terror (who are Hellfest regulars), I head over Mainstage 2 for the long-awaited return of Ice Mothafuckin’ T and BODY COUNT, who pretty much beat a record for attendance at the Warzone in 2015. The show kicks off on a cover of “Reign In Blood”, creating a sudden wave of crowd surfers for starters. The setlist gives prominence to the last two records, with the likes of “There Goes the Neighborhood” and “Cop Killer” cranking at full blast throughout the site. I know the experience was radically different from the back of the crowd, but I guarantee you this was one hell of a show overall, making everyone ask for more. 

As mush as I’d like to mingle with the crowd to reach the Valley, DEFTONES just started on Mainstage 1 and I’m definitely not in a hurry, getting all nostalgic now. Chino Moreno may have drastically aged, yet the sound and vocals haven’t changed in twenty years, and we’re thrilled to hear “My Own Summer” or “Around the Fur” like in the good old days.

Enough nostalgia, it’s time for a young and completely unknown act on the Valley: the new misdeed from Faith No More frontman Mike Patton and former Slayer David Lombardo. Sir Patton released so many nutty (and sometimes inaudible) side projects that you can be apprehensive of DEAD CROSS‘ performance. It may be hardcore-laden, it may actually do the job on a festival stage, Patton still shifts from clear singing to primal screams in a blink of an eye, Dead Cross doesn’t unleash passions. Most people will say “they were alright”, because, you know, it’s Patton. It wasn’t a heart-stopper though. They didn’t even play the last quarter of an hour… Must work harder, as teachers would say.

At the other side of Hellfest, CRO-MAGS defo have nothing to prove. NYC hardcore pioneers return to Clisson for the first time since 2009, and they haven’t lost a bit of their legendary fire. They cause a Force 7 circle pit that could have swept everything away in its path and make the cobblestone fly. A successful return for Jon Joseph’s gang! 

This second day is coming to an end, yet post-hardcore/sludge forerunners NEUROSIS are yet to commence hostilities on the Valley stage. This is quite an event as they never come to France. The crowd is scarce at that time of the night, and well, them who are missing don’t get the vote. I’m hardly getting into”Given To The Rising”, but the rest of the set happens to be a trip in the depths of my soul, with a mind-blowing and massive finish on “Through Silver In Blood”. After such a sonic journey, I can think of anything and head off to bed, my mind and ears filled with Neurosis’ devastating anthems. 

The Hellfest promoters play the sonic oddities card this year, and today proved that non-metal music – whether they’re far from the punters’ jurisdiction or not – can definitely be part of a metal festival’s lineup while being largely acclaimed by the crowd. Tomorrow will prove it again, to be continued.

 

This was the lucky 13th edition for Europe’s most colorful metal festival HELLFEST – as for me the ninth, and my first as a reviewer. I was honored to cover this loud weekend on behalf of The Heavy Chronicles, with a Friday stamped by the dusty Valley seal and a lineup just as muddy as the weather in 2007! (PHOTOS: Gaël Mathieu)

But before we get to what matters most, let’s talk about the site’s innovations. The promoters have managed to add facilities such as impressive water arches to hydrate festival-goers and a huge bar in front of the Main Stages, decorated with a gigantic erupting planet that provided a great show at night. The pavement in front of the three outdoor stages may have caused debate, but in the end, no one missed the dust.

The Valley stage and its heavier than thou lineup are in the spotlight today, with Brittany’s sludgers FANGE kicking off the hostilities. They don’t seem any impressed by the size of the stage and hammer the poor crowd – who’s for the most part hangover from Thursday’s revelries – with their highly aggressive, greasy, massive and filthy onslaught. The sound is still being run in at this stage of the day, yet Fange don’t care and keep on poundering with an unprecedented fury, winning over the Valley crowd. 

After such a muddy beginning, I exceptionally stop by Main Stage 1 to see MOS GENERATOR. The Seattle rock veterans were called last minute to fill in for Electric Mary, which is a golden opportunity to reach a wider audience. Thirty minutes is rather short, yet Tony Reed delivers a show worthy of a headlining act, helped by a top-notch sound. The trio is making the fans happy, incidentally, the people who happened to be glued to the barrier shake their butts. Now for a healthy rock’n’roll start, and a good sign of what this weekend is going to be.

A team meeting prevents me from attending SONS OF OTIS‘ set at the Valley. Their Sabbathian riffs can be heard across the site and to the press tent, compelling me to run and witness their mighty heaviness. We take off, get suddenly crushed by a wall of riffs, then carried away by the Canadian who just made a huge impression among the attendees.

Another Canadian outfit takes the Valley stage: kings of sleaze DOPETHRONE. This is a band I’ve kept missing on stage, so I was really looking forward to this performance, but the band invested Paris streets last night for Stoned Gatherings’ very own Fête de la Musique (France’s Music Day) and I was worried that they wouldn’t be in shape for this show. Breaking news: Vince fried his guitar amp yesterday and is forced to play on someone’s else gear, and let’s say it… it sounds terrible. Because of it, the drummer is having a hard time playing together with his frontman/guitarist. Unable to recognize any song, I’m gutted. The show isn’t completely fucked, but I feel absolutely frustrated of this first experience with the band and really hope I’ll be able to catch them soon for round II.

I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone at the Temple, with Switzerland’s SCHAMMASCH. I can hardly get into it despite their sludgy, morbid vibe – I mean, broad daylight is not the better setting for a starter. However, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the rest of the crowd! On the Valley stage, France’s CELESTE make the most of an unexpected 40-minute mid-afternoon slot to strike us with their depressive post-blackened-sludge-hardcore. They may be a proper oddity, but they totally deserve to be here, treating us to an addictive maelstrom of hopelessness. Time for a Warzone foray to witness the one-off and long-awaited reunion of SEVEN HATE, a French melodic hardcore punk (or ‘punk on wheels’) of the ’90s. The sound is neat, and the band have the time of their life and sounds like they never went on hiatus fifteen years from now.  Their catchy melodies and choruses haven’t aged, Seven Hate treat us to one hell of a “back to the future” set.

Bongzilla on the Valley stage or CONVERGE on Mainstage 2? I’m curious to see the Boston crew on a bigger stage in front of a lazy crowd waiting for headliners, with their asses stuck on camper seats. I actually wish that those seats were shattered up in the air and people would run away, terrified in front of the untamable US gang led by Jacob Bannon’s shrieks and Kurt Ballou’s epileptic riffs. Such a brutal performance would have torn the Warzone apart, but this main stage set of the 30-year outfit actually does the trick just fine. 

A little bit more Mainstage for me (I’m breaking a record!) with JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS. It’s not everyday you see such a music icon and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and reducing Joan Jett to her all-time classic “I love rock’n roll” would be unfair – she founded a girl punk group when she was 15! This is why she picked her songs carefully, going from punk to 80s FM rock, with an obvious cheerfulness. Delightful! 

Back in the Bayou now, with NOLA’s sludge godfathers CROWBAR taking over a packed Valley for their fourth Hellfest appearance. Kirk Windstein and the gang give the filthy, hard-hitting goods, bogging us down into their swampy grooves, and damn we like it. We would follow his screams until the limbo, as he imposes the foursome’s hits like a lords upon his lands. 

What can possibly happen after a ride into NOLA’s muddy waters? Stand and wait. Wait for what? The mighty coming of Japan’s veterans CHURCH OF MISERY! This happens to be a wise move, as the Valley is now overcrowded. Despite the constant lineup shifts, one thing that never changes with COM is the power of their sonic onslaughts. Tonight’s show isn’t just an onslaught, it’s simply the best show of the day, hands down. From sludge to doom, Tatsu Mikami and his band get deeper and deeper into sleaziness and insanity, ripping our guts to pieces. A Sabbath-worthy slaughter.

There are few chances that we’d see a better performance today, so we could easily go to bed if needed. No way. Hollywood Vampires are next on the bill! Just kidding, I’ll let Alice Cooper’s cover band to nostalgics, for us heavy fiends are awaiting for the absolute masters of the genre: EYEHATEGOD. Hellfest has been treating us to a proper, crescendo-going sludge lineup today. More dirt, more heaviness, more shrieks, more moshers and crowd surfers: NOLA’s bosses are here and delivering. The air is filled with electricity and the crowd couldn’t go more apeshit. Football supporters would chant: “here, here, it’s NOLA!!!”. I’m too knocked out to yell, and stay put while digging the vibe.

Even if this filth-laden lineup has got me knackered, I wouldn’t miss CORROSION OF CONFORMITY for anything in the world, for two reasons: I didn’t really like the new album (!), and, well… Pepper Keenan. I have to be here. More than just putting on a killer show, COC kicks all living asses around at 1 in the morn’, through a masterful and flawless array. At last, the last two songs on the setlist make me want to listen to the new album more carefully. What a perfect way to end this first day on the Valley! 

Last but not least, A PERFECT CIRCLE are closing the Mainstage 2. I havent seen them since their London show in 2000, and well, the new album hasn’t won me over that much, so I don’t have much expectations. The setting is stunning, band members standing on luminous platforms at different levels on the stage. We can barely see MJ Keenan’s face, as per usual. The beginning of the set give Mer De Noms star billing, but when the new ones kick off, I can’t help but switching off. Time to let myself go in Morpheus’ arms now, see you tomorrow!

ASG. Three letters for “All Systems Go”, a shorthand known to any skateboarder who used to rewind those vids showing extra-skilled tricksters slaying the curb. ASG embodied the Volcom state of mind. Their music was meant to break rules and frontiers between genres, like a soundtrack for those living on a board. Through taking part to several “Vans Warped Tour”, the band established their reputation among the kids and beyond. The band now returns after a 5-year hiatus with Survive Sunrise – which eponymous track have been tickling our ears since April. Second excerpt “Execution Thirst” rubbed it in, auguring a proper summer record that would fit in between your suncream, dusty holed Vans and warm beer…

It all started well. The album unveiled two catchy, sun-drenched singles that don’t break any ground, just as the artwork once again designed by the Malleus collective.

Then there’s the rub. ASG always claimed that the blend of influences was the essence of their sound. As it happens, they display pretty much all of them in this new album. This is too much. We don’t know whether they’re taking their cue, or merely copying-pasting. Survive Sunrise is not a bad album per se, and will arguably delight bloggers lacking inspiration: from formulaic track-by-tracks where one will be proud to spot that Baroness riff, Torche-sounding track, or that guitars are very *addsludgebandnamehere* to conclude that it rocks… and that’s it. This is worthy of a TV sports commentary. Well-executed but dull.

Beyond the tactical and technical matters, the whole album is trite, depth-free and provides a feeling of déjà-vu. Mutual inspiring within the same music scene can lead to going round and round in circles, and even running out of fuel. 

Did we have too much expectations for a band who used to be fresh to death and audacious? As one former football player once said: “Quality without any result is useless. Results deprived of quality are boring.” This sums up how we feel about this new ASG album. 

ARTIST: ASG
ALBUM: “Survive Sunrise”
RELEASE DATE: 15th June 2018
LABEL: Relapse Records
GENRE: Stoner rock
MORE: Facebook / Bandcamp

 

Cackling right back at us again through the haze, like some kind of crazed witch astride a hot-rod fueled with liquid depravity, DOPETHRONE return with their fifth full length. Put simply, the cheekily-titled Transcanadian Anger (a possible Darkthrone reference perchance?!) sums up this much-loved Montreal trio’s drug-guzzling sound perhaps more perfectly than ever before, with a record that slots right into any well-bolstered sludge collection like a beer and a blunt on a hot, sticky summer’s afternoon.

After building up a consistently solid rep for banging heads and blues-grooved filth mongering on their red-raw debut Demonsmoke and the sublime Dark Foil, it was never in doubt that DOPETHRONE would have what it takes to become a worldwide leader in underground sludge metal. But yet it was the gloriously anthemic rifforama of III that cemented these French-Canadian bruisers in our hearts here at THC. The stopgap EP 1312 followed a fourth full length effort in Hochelaga, which was an altogether darker, slower burn all being said. But with no more a wink and a smirk, frontman Vincent Houde and bassist Vyk Riffbanger have knuckled down together with new drummer Shawn and fired the mighty ‘Throne back to their triumphant best this fifth time around.

Opener ‘Planet Meth’ wastes no time in cracking skulls and cranking out yet another hook-laden scuzz fucker of a tune, slipping and sliding between dirty groove after dirty groove beneath Vince’s demonic scowl. It’s a pounding start to a deliciously riffy affair and as this driving surge of an opener eventually collapses upon its own grimacing, tiranical darkness, a train quietly rumbles down the track, headlong into ‘Wrong Sabbath’. This one’s more of a mid-tempo swagger through fields of gently torched marijuana and that Bongzilla-via-Blue Cheer vibe that Vince’s guitar seems to ooze out so effortlessly. The chorus itself is more a snaking riff than a vocal hook, but either way, you could still barbecue all the gazelle carcasses you want on the back of this brooding, smouldering rager.

Wanna hear a song about a killer bulldozer? Well, who the fuck says no to that! With a full bong and a tank fulla gas, ‘Killdozer’ flies into life, easily one of the fastest, dirtiest instant classics DOPETHRONE have committed to tape yet. If that hasn’t wet your chops enough as you swig that cheap bourbon ever more hungrily, the one-two jaw-breaking combo of ‘Scuzzgasm’ and ‘Tweak Jabber sure as shit will. With the former a delightful ode to “an orgasm you wished you never had” slowly meandering across open plains of succulent fuzzy sludge and Vince’s trademark rabid but sincere blues, the latter slams back into you like an overdriven tidal wave of beer spewing from the glands of an angry, ship-eating sludge whale. Heads will bang, including yours.

‘Snort Dagger’ is so slow and heavy it’s virtually comedic as to just how knuckle be-draggen it’s possible to get and the sneakily-titled ‘Kingbilly Kush’ is actually ZZ Top’s ‘Tush’ given the full spliff-n-riff treatment to genius effect. But it’s DOPETHRONE closing up the coal shed with the grimly rolling drums and gut-tugging basslines of ‘Miserablist’ that reminds you of just why you came here: to get your brain warped with volume on one side and fried in acid on the other. A truly scorching finale.

DOPETHRONE don’t over extend themselves. They don’t grow up. They don’t do a quiet night in. They don’t fuck with the formula they’ve refined as their own and they don’t turn their sludge-quaking, drug-addled amps down for no-fucking-one. That’s why they’re up there with the best in today’s fuzz business whilst as ever appearing to be having a shitload of fun doing it with us all live on stage. Based on this drunk, stoned, blazed-up rampage, it’s fair to say that DOPETHRONE certainly remain full of Transcanadian Anger, but yet it also still feels as if they’re only just getting started.

ARTIST: DOPETHRONE
ALBUM: “Transcanadian Anger”
RELEASE DATE: 25th May 2018
LABEL: Totem Cat Records
GENRE: Slutch metal
MORE: Facebook / Bandcamp

This was the lucky 13th edition for Europe’s most colorful metal festival HELLFEST – as for me the ninth, and my first as a reviewer. I was honored to cover this loud weekend on behalf of The Heavy Chronicles, with a Friday stamped by the dusty Valley seal and a lineup just as muddy as the weather in 2007! (PHOTOS: Gaël Mathieu)

But before we get to what matters most, let’s talk about the site’s innovations. The promoters have managed to add facilities such as impressive water arches to hydrate festival-goers and a huge bar in front of the Main Stages, decorated with a gigantic erupting planet that provided a great show at night. The pavement in front of the three outdoor stages may have caused debate, but in the end, no one missed the dust.

The Valley stage and its heavier than thou lineup are in the spotlight today, with Brittany’s sludgers FANGE kicking off the hostilities. They don’t seem any impressed by the size of the stage and hammer the poor crowd – who’s for the most part hangover from Thursday’s revelries – with their highly aggressive, greasy, massive and filthy onslaught. The sound is still being run in at this stage of the day, yet Fange don’t care and keep on poundering with an unprecedented fury, winning over the Valley crowd. 

After such a muddy beginning, I exceptionally stop by Main Stage 1 to see MOS GENERATOR. The Seattle rock veterans were called last minute to fill in for Electric Mary, which is a golden opportunity to reach a wider audience. Thirty minutes is rather short, yet Tony Reed delivers a show worthy of a headlining act, helped by a top-notch sound. The trio is making the fans happy, incidentally, the people who happened to be glued to the barrier shake their butts. Now for a healthy rock’n’roll start, and a good sign of what this weekend is going to be.

A team meeting prevents me from attending SONS OF OTIS‘ set at the Valley. Their Sabbathian riffs can be heard across the site and to the press tent, compelling me to run and witness their mighty heaviness. We take off, get suddenly crushed by a wall of riffs, then carried away by the Canadian who just made a huge impression among the attendees.

Another Canadian outfit takes the Valley stage: kings of sleaze DOPETHRONE. This is a band I’ve kept missing on stage, so I was really looking forward to this performance, but the band invested Paris streets last night for Stoned Gatherings’ very own Fête de la Musique (France’s Music Day) and I was worried that they wouldn’t be in shape for this show. Breaking news: Vince fried his guitar amp yesterday and is forced to play on someone’s else gear, and let’s say it… it sounds terrible. Because of it, the drummer is having a hard time playing together with his frontman/guitarist. Unable to recognize any song, I’m gutted. The show isn’t completely fucked, but I feel absolutely frustrated of this first experience with the band and really hope I’ll be able to catch them soon for round II.

I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone at the Temple, with Switzerland’s SCHAMMASCH. I can hardly get into it despite their sludgy, morbid vibe – I mean, broad daylight is not the better setting for a starter. However, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the rest of the crowd! On the Valley stage, France’s CELESTE make the most of an unexpected 40-minute mid-afternoon slot to strike us with their depressive post-blackened-sludge-hardcore. They may be a proper oddity, but they totally deserve to be here, treating us to an addictive maelstrom of hopelessness. Time for a Warzone foray to witness the one-off and long-awaited reunion of SEVEN HATE, a French melodic hardcore punk (or ‘punk on wheels’) of the ’90s. The sound is neat, and the band have the time of their life and sounds like they never went on hiatus fifteen years from now.  Their catchy melodies and choruses haven’t aged, Seven Hate treat us to one hell of a “back to the future” set.

Bongzilla on the Valley stage or CONVERGE on Mainstage 2? I’m curious to see the Boston crew on a bigger stage in front of a lazy crowd waiting for headliners, with their asses stuck on camper seats. I actually wish that those seats were shattered up in the air and people would run away, terrified in front of the untamable US gang led by Jacob Bannon’s shrieks and Kurt Ballou’s epileptic riffs. Such a brutal performance would have torn the Warzone apart, but this main stage set of the 30-year outfit actually does the trick just fine. 

A little bit more Mainstage for me (I’m breaking a record!) with JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS. It’s not everyday you see such a music icon and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and reducing Joan Jett to her all-time classic “I love rock’n roll” would be unfair – she founded a girl punk group when she was 15! This is why she picked her songs carefully, going from punk to 80s FM rock, with an obvious cheerfulness. Delightful! 

Back in the Bayou now, with NOLA’s sludge godfathers CROWBAR taking over a packed Valley for their fourth Hellfest appearance. Kirk Windstein and the gang give the filthy, hard-hitting goods, bogging us down into their swampy grooves, and damn we like it. We would follow his screams until the limbo, as he imposes the foursome’s hits like a lords upon his lands. 

What can possibly happen after a ride into NOLA’s muddy waters? Stand and wait. Wait for what? The mighty coming of Japan’s veterans CHURCH OF MISERY! This happens to be a wise move, as the Valley is now overcrowded. Despite the constant lineup shifts, one thing that never changes with COM is the power of their sonic onslaughts. Tonight’s show isn’t just an onslaught, it’s simply the best show of the day, hands down. From sludge to doom, Tatsu Mikami and his band get deeper and deeper into sleaziness and insanity, ripping our guts to pieces. A Sabbath-worthy slaughter.

There are few chances that we’d see a better performance today, so we could easily go to bed if needed. No way. Hollywood Vampires are next on the bill! Just kidding, I’ll let Alice Cooper’s cover band to nostalgics, for us heavy fiends are awaiting for the absolute masters of the genre: EYEHATEGOD. Hellfest has been treating us to a proper, crescendo-going sludge lineup today. More dirt, more heaviness, more shrieks, more moshers and crowd surfers: NOLA’s bosses are here and delivering. The air is filled with electricity and the crowd couldn’t go more apeshit. Football supporters would chant: “here, here, it’s NOLA!!!”. I’m too knocked out to yell, and stay put while digging the vibe.

Even if this filth-laden lineup has got me knackered, I wouldn’t miss CORROSION OF CONFORMITY for anything in the world, for two reasons: I didn’t really like the new album (!), and, well… Pepper Keenan. I have to be here. More than just putting on a killer show, COC kicks all living asses around at 1 in the morn’, through a masterful and flawless array. At last, the last two songs on the setlist make me want to listen to the new album more carefully. What a perfect way to end this first day on the Valley! 

Last but not least, A PERFECT CIRCLE are closing the Mainstage 2. I havent seen them since their London show in 2000, and well, the new album hasn’t won me over that much, so I don’t have much expectations. The setting is stunning, band members standing on luminous platforms at different levels on the stage. We can barely see MJ Keenan’s face, as per usual. The beginning of the set give Mer De Noms star billing, but when the new ones kick off, I can’t help but switching off. Time to let myself go in Morpheus’ arms now, see you tomorrow!

How not to be completely elated when kicking off the third day at DESERTFEST LONDON, with a resounding performance of one of the hypest doom bands of the decade at the spectacular Roundhouse, MONOLORD. Given the legendary headliners that will play the Chalk Farm Road venue, and the absolutely tantalizing lineups of the Underworld and Black Heart, it’s gonna be a long day going back and forth between venues, but hey, Given the what is a good festival if not peppered with a bit of challenge (okay, dilemna)? Let’s roll now! (PHOTOS: JOHN WHITE)

The mood is sorrowful and low, quiet even perhaps, as CHRCH kick into session upstairs at the Black Heart. Shrouded and crawling about the stage like some sort of ghostly wanderer, Eva Rose is thoroughly engrossing and enchanting as vocalist of the Sacramento funeral doomers as they slither into their Unanswered Hymns. The riffs themselves here are incredible, but the under-towing melodies highlight a beauty in modern doom that’s so difficult to perfect. As ‘Infinite Return’ quivers and quakes into life, nobody talks, nobody claps and bodies gently sway as this huge writhing unit of human pain doesn’t so much crush the Black Heart as seep slowly over it like a morning mist in a graveyard with a haunting sense of longing. This is frankly a towering performance and I personally cannot wait to see what this band does next.

3/5 of CHRCH right before their show at Desertfest

Our boys from Boston ELDER already feel like so much of a part of the fabric of Desertfest that we scarcely notice they’re on the bill this year, we just take having the kaleidoscope visuals-backed being present as the norm these days! But this is a very good thing to assume and a short hop on the tube down to the Roundhouse and we’re just in time to watch DiSalvo, Couto and Donovan kick out the jams from ‘Reflections on a Floating World’ before you can say “Heavy Psyche O’Clock”. The now-fourpiece mob from Massachusetts are as ever backed by an insane lights and visuals show which adds almost as much to their progressive landscapes as the band do themselves. Always a firm favourite with the Desertfest faithful, the swollen crowd behold thee Elders as one of our very own as they smash through the likes of ‘Sanctuary’ and the titanic ‘Compendium’. A rather muddy sound mix threatens to mar their overall impact, but Elder still catapult the Roundhouse into the outer galactic. 

Oh Fuzz Yeah! This is what we’ve been waiting for! LA trio and stoner rock royalty NEBULA are back after far too-long an absence to kick us into the hazy afternoon with some seriously stiff riffage. Opening up with the likes of ‘To the Center’, ‘Perfect Rapture’, ‘Clearlight’ and the timelessly simple lyrics of ‘Smokin Woman’, it’s clear that the stoner anthems Nebula wrote many sand dunes ago have stood time’s many tests. Eddie Glass looks like the coolest rock star in the world has just woken up and crawled back off a beach somewhere with his bedraggled hair, tye-dyed shirt, cheap sunglasses and a beat-up Strat hanging off one shoulder. Although it’s fair to say that Mike Amster (drums) and Tom Davies (bass) aren’t yet at their tightest as a unit, these Californian heroes sure still have the jams to blast us into the cosmos. Glass’ riffs and licks slay us with round after round of pure dirty volume as the Roundhouse dances and boogies our asses into the early evening to ‘Sonic Titan’ and ‘Fall of Icarus’. With Glass snapping an E-string towards the close of the set, the trio somewhat limp through ‘All The Way’ with slightly less superfuzz in the tank and the initial buzz from the start of their set dissipates, but this has still been a blast from the past that we’ll lap up once again in the present.

Okay, it’s now time for THC’s most anticipated and absolute heart-stopper of a show of that whole Desertfest weekend. Vancouver’s sludge powerhouse BISON‘s latest album “You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient” has effortlessly risen to the top of our 2017 releases, being their most accomplished to date. ‘Are we done with superlatives yet?’ you say. Not quite. The Underworld crowd has been clearly witnessing some Doom of the highest order today, but BISON were the most primal instinct-stirring performance of the day. Like a storm cutting a swathe through that poor old Camden, the tree fellers fling sludgy, post-hardcore-drenched log after log in front of a mesmerized crowd. Brilliant is an understatement.

Now we just need a big fat headliner to see us all on our merry way and MONSTER MAGNET‘s Desertfest London debut is just the tonic. Dave Wyndorf and co are on top form as the ultimate entertainer on the stoner scene sprints around the stage fit, healthy and super-sexily, just like back in the good old days. Opening up with ‘Dopes to Infinity’, the mighty Magnet plough on through a greatest hits set punctuated with newer cuts like the humongous newbies ‘Mindfucker’ and ‘Rocket Freak’. The New Jersey five-piece sound huge and bang on form here tonight inside the amazing theatre of the Roundhouse, even if it’s not quite packed out partly due to a few hundred of us being down the road at the Underworld watching Weedeater’s second set of the weekend. As Dave points to the rafters and squeals away into the night, there’s a strong sense that this is yet another defining moment in Desertfest history, with Wyndorf’s cocksure frontman swagger backed up by Garrett Sweeny and Phil Caivano’s banging riffs and Bob Pantella’s titanic presence behind the kit. With Dave whipping the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy, Magnet gun this gig like it’s the last day on earth, which even if it was, would still be a great day in our eyes. I’ll certainly not leave behind my memory of nearly three thousand Desertfesters screaming along every word to ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ and of course the anthemic ‘Space Lord’ any time soon, and hopefully neither will the five gents in black too.

So that’s it, it’s all over, party finito… Or is it? Dutch awesome foursome DEATH ALLEY have other ideas with a special after show set at the Underworld and oh yes it’s absolutely ‘Black Magic Boogieland’ time! Douwe Truijens’ snake-hips and white cowboy boots shake rattle and roll the night away throttled forward by Oeds Beydals dazzling fret work on the six strings as they work in newer numbers like ‘Headlights in the Dark’ and ‘Murder Your Dreams’ from new album ‘Superbia’ alongside the older material. This is one hell of a way to end the party as a crowdsurfer or two take to the skies as Death Alley ram the crowd with blast after blast of retro psyche action – it’s simply an absolutely deadly performance from perhaps the ultimate party rock band in the world right now, tailor made for a festival after party. Truijens actually sets fire to a cowbell during ‘Stalk Eyed’ before Death Alley close down Desertfest in style with a great Iggy Pop ‘Search and Destroy’ cover and of course a fucking massive dose of ‘Supernatural Predator’ to see us all off sweaty and raving into the night.

When all’s said and done, that was one beast of a weekend. Hats off to all involved from organisers Jake Farey and Reece Tee, right through to the people looking after us, selling us merch and pouring us pints. It’s an honour to see this scene and festival flourish in the warm Camden sun. As for the formula I mentioned, well, it just keeps on delivering the results. So same again next year? Shit yeah! And we’ve no doubt that 2019 will kick even more rump than ever before, so rest up, put your feet and your liver on ice and stay heavy Camden.

On 23th September of 2016, the undertakers decided to close down and write the epitaph on their own tombstone. Divergences of opinion among the band got the better of GRAVEYARD‘s creative force. Yet on the fringe of Hell, the gravediggers weren’t quite done with their history. Not only the corpse had to be resuscitated, but reviving and injecting the creative fury of Hisingen Blues had become vital.

Also, welcoming new drummer Oskar Bergenheim on board was a sine qua none condition to carry out the necromancy. Just listen to the frantic rush of the aptly titled “It Ain’t Over Yet” and you’ll get the drill. As if they intended to ward off the blues wanderings of their previous album, GRAVEYARD sound as strong and powerful as ever, invoking the Heavy Metal Thunder of the 70s’ most legendary hard rock outfits. 

A rejuvenated and leading rhythm section is indeed what makes that Peace falls right in with the band’s celebrated predecessors. Groove-laden and energetic tracks à la Grand Funk Railroad will spark the interest of those enticed by the return’s hype. Well-balanced, the album carries on the mortuary atmospheres instituted on songs like “Longing” on Hisingen Blues, while putting minds of the golden era’s fans at rest. “See The Day” reeks of chrysanthemum on All Saints day, while “Del Manic” buries us six feet under. Meanwhile, more classic-sounding pieces such as “Walk On” or “The Fox” deliver the right dose of vintage GRAVEYARD you’ve been craving.

When the ecstatic drum-pummeling doesn’t electrify you, you get carried away by some hoarse vocals crying out the heart’s wounds, like the band’s final testimony. More alive than ever, Joakim Nilsson and Truls Mörck put every inch of their heart and soul into each and every word they sing. Whether it’s a mournful crooner on  “Cold Love” (stunning!), a lycanthrope screamer on “Please Don’t” or an evil soul singer on “Low”, Peace is the perfect range showcase for both vocalists.

So, can we hope that GRAVEYARD’s revival will last? The band seems invigorated by their own death and rebirth. Peace may not be as enticing as Hisingen Blues was, yet the fire runs through it and the overall performance outshines any other album released before the hiatus. Because their mature, groovy and powerful blend of blues, pop and rock is a stadium-filler, the missing link between Mountain and Grand Funk Railroad. Through death, ad vitam æternam. Amen.

ARTIST: GRAVEYARD
ALBUM: “Peace”
RELEASED: 25th May 2018
LABEL: Nuclear Blast Records
GENRE: Classic rock
MORE: Facebook 

Ouch. Well that was one epic first day and my feet and head certainly seem to know as much! But, this is DESERTFEST LONDON and there’s no time for wimping around and so a sloppily cooked breakie is downed and it’s on with the show! (PHOTOS: JOHN WHITE)

A bit of cock rock to kick us off? Oh go on then! And with the ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL at the helm this ship is good to sail. Johnny Gorilla’s sweet, tasty licks are chock fulla rock and as thick as his mutton chops as they cackle over the Ballroom PA and rock this hazy crowd immediately into second gear. The hilarious Hastings mob’s Motörhead by way of Status Quo motorcycle riffing swagger is a winner each and every time and the perfect tonic for this afternoon’s gin n’ grin.

CHURCH OF FUCKING MISERY! Do you need any more of a review than that? Oh OK, Claire says we do so I better get to it… The Japanese masters of boogie doom simply take the Electric Ballroom in the palms of their hands and crush it into a tiny pile of cake crumbs. Line-up changes? Line-up schmanges. Being surrounded by three new Churchgoers is no distraction at all for Tatsu Mikami and co who blast through ‘Il Padrino’, ‘Make Them Die (Slowly)’, ‘Candy Man’ and a frankly monstrous ‘Born to Raise Hell’ before you’ve even had chance to catch your breath. Are Church the best doom band ever? Probably not quite, but this is sure as shit the best fun we’ll have all weekend.

“Mankind is not kind, maaaaaan!” It can only be ‘God Luck and Good Speed’ and with Dixie and Shep at the helm, the Ballroom’s stench of weed grows ever stronger. North Carolina veterans WEEDEATER still pack a mighty large punch as pints fly and heads bang along to the stoner caravan of boogie doom through the likes of ‘Wizard Fight’ and ‘$20 Peanut’. A wild-eyed Dixie is on the form of his life and after coming offstage he wastes no time at all in getting to know each and every punter at the Black Heart. What a ledge.

Italian trio BLACK RAINBOWS are an utter revelation over at The Underworld. The high octane three-piece blast through an hour of chugging heavy rock with those heady vocals from Gabriele Fiori ensuring wall-to-wall stoner boners in the pants of every one of us in what has to be said is a very healthy crowd considering that Weedeater are playing across the street. Alberto Croce’s huge drums clatter through proceedings like a truck through an applecart and Giuseppe Guglielmino creates huge sonic bass surfboards for the rhythms to glide away on. This ain’t no ground that’s never been broken before by the likes of Nebula and Fu Manchu, but it’s some of the best fun, good-time rockin’ of the entire weekend.

‘Sons of Thunder’?! They’re opening with ‘Sons of Thunder’?!! Well I’ll be! HIGH ON FIRE are here and as soon as Matt Pike cracks out a black-toothed grin and lets the riffs begin to build slowly, by the time they hit the breakneck ‘The Black Pot’ and ‘Carcosa’ it’s pretty apparent that this is almost certainly the most intense headliner Desertfest has ever had on show. What happens next is an al-guns blazing greatest hit set from the one of undisputed kings of modern day metal: ‘Waste of Tiamat’, ‘Rumours of War’, ‘Blessed Black Wings’, ‘Bastard Samurai’, the riffage just never ceases. Des Kensal is a machine behind the drums, assaulting the audience and throttling Matt Pike and bassist Jeff Matz forward into stoner-thrash oblivion. The guy’s barely human and an hour or so later, I’m outside the Ballroom begging for someone to help me grow a new ribcage.

High On Fire barely need to use the PA at all tonight as their sheer tour de force pulverises the Electric Ballroom. If you were there, then you laid witness to one of the heaviest bands of all time absolutely killing it at the festival they arguably helped to ignite many moons ago. Ending on the unholy trinity of the smouldering ‘Bastard Samurai’, the armoured car assault of ‘Fury Whip’ and the astonishing ‘Snakes for the Devine’, HoF leave little in their wake except broken pint pots, t-shirts, dreams and eardrums as they complete their rout. A true phenomenon that continues to bludgeon all in their path.

Phew! What a day! Now it’s just a case of making the quick hop over to the Black Heart to sink more beers and talk a load of rubbish with complete strangers outside in the street, but hey that’s what Desertfest is really all about now isn’t it! See y’all tomorrow!

Stoner rock’s absolute icons SLEEP caught everyone off-guard on 4/20 by releasing their first album in 20 years, The Sciences, without any promo or exclusive stream, nor any forerunner media hype.

Something we’ve been wondering, is whether their legend status is a transposition of our own idealization: a nonchalant trio that pushes forward their weed-driven lifestyle by crafting the epitome of stoner doom. Let’s be honest: how many of us have had the chance to see SLEEP on a stage since they put out Dopesmoker? I was lucky enough to get overpowered by their Hellfest performance back in 2013, yet a lot of people have only been experiencing their music through the first records. So, is SLEEP’s influence on modern heavy music a myth or a reality? Are four songs – let’s put the eponymous track and the newly and superbly arranged version of their “Sonic Titan” classic aside – enough to revive their own story? I will spare you the wait: it’s a yes. Why? Simply for the said four tracks set such a high standard that only the trio can deliver, (re)establishing themselves as the absolute godfathers of shaman-like heavy. The three dudes haven’t (only) spent the past two decades smoking dope, as their participation in OM, High On Fire, Neurosis has been constantly determining the way they write music together: refined and more coherent, heavier, trippier… in a word, better.

I mean, first track “Marijuanaut’s Theme” is pure ecstasy! This heady, repetitive and stunning pattern has chances to become a stoner reference for the years to come. It doesn’t intend to outdo every other release of the past two decades or show whose is bigger. It simply embodies SLEEP’s influences, imagery, main themes and – last but not least – their sound.  “Marijuanaut’s Theme” is a torchbearer for the entire underground culture and a timeless anthem to be. 

Once foundations are laid (i.e. “we are the doom lords so stop ripping us off, this is useless”) and after the epic and ambitious “Antarticans Thawed” that binds nature and shamanism, it is time for the magical trio to get back to business with an obvious tribute to the king of ‘rifftual’ maker (“Giza Butler”) where SLEEP bows to one of the greatest geniuses of the Rock’n’Roll history. Final instrumental “The Botanist” is almost too quiet for a wrap, but if you let yourself carried away by Matt Pike’s riffs, then it’ll feel definitely too short… Needless to be into the magic herb to enjoy SLEEP and The Sciences, you just need to let yourself go to their sound and the mighty rhymes invoked by Al Cisneros to get into a spiritual trance.

Like a comet visiting the Iommosphere, SLEEP came up into our universe before being off to another planet, leaving the tangible proof of its existence through an album that reminds us all who are Sabbath’s only worthy heirs. Praise Iommi!

ARTIST: SLEEP
ALBUM: “The Sciences”
RELEASED: 20th April 2018
LABEL: Third Man Records
GENRE: Stoner doom
MORE: Facebook / Website

DESERTFEST LONDON, much like the music it showcases, is a formula. Every year you pack the same bag, hop on the same train or flight, see all those friendly and familiar faces outside the Black Heart and massively overspend on merch and beers. Now into its seventh year and going from strength to strength, the UK’s premier stoner, sludge, doom and psyche fest is back once again and packing in even more stages, riffs, pints, beards, battle jackets and excited punters than ever before. But it’s a fantastic formula; a formula that each and every time works, every time. So the sun’s out, the beers are chilled, the bands for t-shirt bingo have all been painstakingly selected. It’s time to do a Desertfest! (PHOTOS: JOHN WHITE)

Those ever-loveable and dry-witted Suffolkwits OLD MAN LIZARD kick things into gear at the ever timely hour of 2pm downstairs in The Underworld’s dank darkness. Jack Newnham’s powerful but jerky and dynamic riffs couple with Gav Senior and Dan Beales’ robust rhythmic grooves as the British trio swagger through a solid set of chunky but intelligent heavy rock. A strong opening act for this weekend of volume, OML seem to ooze with more and more confidence with every gig that passes their way. With the chunky yet funky likes of ‘Trees Fall Down’, ‘Snakes’, ‘Return to Earth’ and ‘King Kong’ on display, the ‘Liz deliver a Taint-esque muscular performance that yet somehow defies most of the regular genre pigeonholes. I think we can consider this packed out crowd suitably warmed up!

THE BLACK WIZARDS may have an overly simple name, but these Portuguese rockers play their country-folk-layered heavy psyche with both huge passion and outright finesse. Guitarist/vocalist Joana Brito is the undisputed focal point, her wild hair thrashing through the aircon-cool Underworld atmosphere atop her sickly sweet guitar solos and soaring vocal lines. A few early guitar issues for Joana aside, who requires a full guitar head replacement after just one song, The Black Wizards peddle through 45 minutes of heady, acid-torched Californian-desert jams in the vein of Blues Pills, Radio Moscow and Earthless. Solid, but perhaps not quite the most spectacular band we’ll see all weekend, these noble Wizards groove us away into the middle of the afternoon Camden glow.

Greek powerhouses PLANET OF ZEUS are slamming the first crowds at the maze of nooks, crannies and balconies that is KOKO with wall after wall of heavy riffing euphoria. Their head-banging metallic jams and feel-good choruses feel big enough to grace any stage from club to stadium today as a healthy number of voices from the audience join Babis Papanikolaou’s energy-laden performance behind the mic. Ever the Gods of the groove, PoZ look like they’re having the time of their lives up there as t-shirts fly from behind the merch stand and into a throng of waiting tote bags and cargo short pockets.

It’s almost too packed to squeeze into a now rather sweaty Underworld for a flutter of the BLACK MOTH‘s wings, but we manage it. Harriet Hyde leads the Leeds-formed rockers through dose after dose of in-the-pocket riffage and elevated vocal plains. With new(ish!) guitarist Federica Gialanze adding a seemingly heavier weight to the likes of ‘Moonchild’ alongside the quirkier bounce of the older numbers on show, Black Moth are greeted to their ever warm hero’s welcome in blackened belly of the capital.

“Turbocharged bangers” is pretty much the only way to sum up the onslaught that is ZEKE. With Dayne Porras’s ridiculously rapid-fire drumming near-deafening all within a 5-mile radius, Blind Marky Felchtone’s barked snarl is as iconic as ever as the revitalised foursome rampage through an hour of punk-as-fuck noise at the KOKO. Yes it’s a simple formula and yes it’s so breakneck you can barely comprehend the breaks between songs let alone head-bang along to the groove, but Zeke’s monster truck approach, plus Marky and new whippersnapper guitarist Kyle Whitefoot’s near-constant ligament-defying guitar solos are every bit as exhausting to watch as they appear to be to play.

Another mad dash up Camden High Street brings us back down once again to The Underworld where stoner rock heroes FREEDOM HAWK are kicking out their sweet brand of rhythmic desert rock. This is music for putting your Camaro top down to and chugging a few cold ones on your way to the diner as T.R. Morton’s sickly Ozzy-like vocals penetrate the groove of the Hawk’s trippy, hazy fuzz riffs. It’s not rocket science in formation, but few bands this weekend will be able to match Freedom Hawk for their genuinely wholesome stoner vibes. The crunchy romp that is ‘Blood Red Sky’ is a particular highlight as well as the more freshly cut chug of ‘Solid Gold’.

KOKO is packed to the rafters for one of the few true lords of doom: Wino and his latest incarnation of THE OBSESSED. As ever the force of the riff is strong with the trio who now also feature Reid Raley formerly of Rwake on four-string rumbles and Brian Constantino on drums. Blending new material like ‘Sodden Jackal’ and ‘Be The Night’ from the sublime new album ‘Sacred’ with older smash hits like ‘Hiding Mask, ‘Way She Fly’ and ‘Streetside’ makes for a formidable setlist as Wino’s pinched snarl dominates over the weighty bass crunch. The sound isn’t as clear here now as it has been for some of the other bands on the same stage today but that doesn’t stop us all going fucking mental to the epic that is ‘Skybone’ and the closing shot of ‘Mourning’

The night is wearing on and many beers have clearly been quaffed by the Camden faithful who all go accordingly ape for our boys from New Orleans, EYEHATEGOD. You know the fucking score with the kings of sludge: ’30$ Bag’, ‘Blank’, ‘Shoplifter’, ‘Agitation! Propaganda!, ‘Medicine Noose’, ‘ Revelation/Revolution’, ‘Sisterfucker’ and of course the mesmerising ‘Take As Needed For Pain’, it’s all here and it’s all just as good and filthy as it always is. A revitalised (although apparently still high!) and more closely-cropped Mike IX Williams is on top pit-whipping form as he snarls over the din of Gary Mader and Jimmy Bower’s riffage. They might be a man down tonight without Brian Patton present on rhythm guitar but that doesn’t stop EHG being just as potent as ever.

The upstairs at the KOKO has finally been opened, meaning the usual caverns of places to sit down and sneakily watch the bands can be appreciated by all of us with street-weary feet. Headliners GRAVEYARD are here and are as ever their ever energetic, bouncing retro selves. Marvellous tasches and elaborately patterned shirts are out in abundance, as are the Swedish foursome’s penchant for catchy licks, psychedelic grooves and Joakim Nilsson’s glorious, earnest vocal hooks. This might perhaps not be the hugest-sounding set of today after the enigmatic Eyehategod but the sincerity of choice cuts like ‘The Fox’, ‘Ain’t Fit to Live Here’ and ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ remind us all of just why we fell in love with these Scandinavian masters of the vintage sound revival.

WHITE HILLS might have had a little bit of a switcheroo with Ego Sensation now behind the kit as one half of a stripped-back, bassless duo tonight but that doesn’t stop her and guitarist Dave W being just as crazy weird and psychedelic as ever at the Black Heart. I wished I’d seen more of this but I was approaching a personal record for most bands seen in one Desertfest day and couldn’t stop just yet!

NAPALM DEATH never change do they? The grindcore legends shut down proceedings at the Electric Ballroom in style, ploughing a packed crowd with buzzsaw riffage, devilishly rapid short sharp shocks of furious punk carnage and a socio-political rant or two as ever from Barney. With Planet Earth now successfully scorched, it’s off to stand outside the Black Heart to get thoroughly sozzled and count how many Sleep tees we can see. The answer? Billions and billions.

Poland’s sons of Doom DOPELORD have been on the road to support their new album Children Of The Haze, which was released in January 2017 and can be counted among the strongest releases of the past year. Thanks to Stoned Orgies, the Polish stopped by Nantes in the middle of a 6500 km tour, and agreed to do this interview despite the ten-hour drive (and the fact this was their very first – and absolute killer –French performance). Let’s get back on this fabulous album, life on tour and the side effects of having too much cheese.

You’ve had a lot of praise on your new album “Children Of The Haze”, were you expecting such a positive feedback ?

Piotr (bass & vocals): I don’t think we’d expected anything, we wanted to be as good as possible, but the reviews are always nice things, even if we don’t do things to get good reviews or for others. It was very pleasant to read so many good reviews.

I’ve been listening to the record endlessly since it’s out, biggest stoner/doom slap in the face in a while…

Piotr: You need to listen to more recent good bands too, man! It’s very nice from you, thanks man.

You’re not really active on social medias and give very scarce info about your influences or lyrics. 

Piotr: When we’re on tour, there are a lot of information to tell people where we play, etc. So that’s the way we use social media. But you’ll find our influences in every interview, it’s quite obvious what influences us (just when one of them decides to roll a couple of spliffs, to make sure I understand what influences them…).

So what elements do you inject into the music?

Piotr: Just everyday life, experiences you get from living.

Tomasz (drums): Electric Wizard were so tired of questions about old horror shitty movies, they put online a subpage with the whole list of them, it’s like “you want to talk about this? Well here they are, watch all of them”. But it’s just ridiculous horror!

Piotr: I’m not into those movies at all. Pavel was, but nowadays he says those movies are hard to watch and stopped after he watched tons of them, he realize it’s like…well, there are better movies than that. (everybody is laughing out) It’s like porn or kung fu movies, you just watch them for the action, right? You don’t get anything else out of them. Kung fu movies are funny with all those strange noises and impossible kicks, in horror movies you just wait for the gore and in porn, err well, it’s porn!

I must say that I only recently noticed that the Polish scene was blooming! We hear a lot about the Swedish, Greek, French and Italian scenes, yet Poland has a lot to bring on the table, with bands like you, Belzebong, Sunnata, Weedpecker… 

Piotr: Major Kong!

Major Kong, of course, who will play here in june.

Piotr: It’s a very good time for music in Poland, not only for stoner and doom but also metal, black metal, there are many good bands out right now. It’s pretty strange, because in the 90’s only Vader and Behemoth were famous outside of Poland. So all the other Polish bands who wanted to do an international career made the same thing, thinking that they would gain attention abroad, but they were ten years late and had nothing new to offer. However, the whole Polish music is getting attention now, even “avant-pop” is getting popular.

Would you like to recommend any other Polish band(s) to our readers?

Piotr: You dig Weedpecker and Major Kong, so here is the former member of Weedpecker (pointing at Grzegorz). Outside stoner, you can try nearly everything in post-metal. THAW, who played at Roadburn this year, are very interesting. Sons of Nibiru is putting out a new record!
Grzegrorz (guitar): Spaceslug too.

Do you know each other and how do you interact with those bands?

Grzegrorz: We once share our rehearsal room with Belzebong, Weedpecker and Major Kong, it was a real struggle to play in there with everybody around!
Piotr: We know each other quite well and try to help each other as much as we can.

Since the album went out, I have to admit that I’ve kept hassling Vinz (Stoned Orgies promoter in Nantes) to invite you here…

Piotr: So thank you, it was YOU! It’s all your fault if we had to drive 10 hours! We won’t forget that mate…

It’s just crazy and I realize how lucky we are to see you tonight. I assume you all have day jobs. Would you like to prioritize the band over day jobs at some point?

P/G: Some of us have jobs – a complete strange stuff for our drummer, he doesn’t understand the concept of “job” – some of us are looking for one, but it’s always about balancing between working and the band.

Is it complicated for you to play beyond the Polish or German frontiers?

P: It’s difficult to book a whole tour, not gigs. From the beginning we get attention and get mails from promoters to book gigs and when I’m talking to other bands, it appears that we’re very lucky. The music we play, this genre being more popular, we don’t have problems. Or maybe we’re THAT good! Seriously, it’s difficult when booking a whole tour, because you have to say to your boss “I won’t be there for the next 2 ou three weeks, see ya”. But we manage to do it!

How do you feel about the venues on this tour ?

P: There are different points of view. We’re obviously not that kind of band playing big clubs or first class venues, sometimes we have to play in a basement, a record store like recently, sometimes it’s a bar with no one in there… Ups and downs, but most of the proper venues are really good so we’re ok with that.

I’m asking that, because sometimes, French people don’t realize how lucky we are to have promoters hosting bands in such good conditions.

P: It’s not a matter of country, there are good and worst venues in every country. It depends on the promoter and the people running the venue. If the people know what’s important, then everything is ok. There are lot of stuff to consider: the stage, are the PA ok, is there enough room for the drum kit and those stuff, is the least a venue can do. But sometimes it not that good, as it can happen in Poland or Germany.

So far what do you think of our venue, La Scène Michelet?

Together: It’s very nice! There’s also the backstage part, man, and it’s so good! People are cool, the food is good…
T: …And the cheese! Hmm, I can’t get enough cheese!
G/P: You are witnessing the only man on earth made of liquid cheese. He could live only with cheese!
T: If the venue is run by musicians, then everything should be ok.

Do you know Machete, who are opening tonight? They’re a band from Nantes who played at Hellfest on the Sunday two years ago… Talking about that, you must have heard of the festival before. Any plans to play there? 

P: Man, it’s not that easy. We’d really love to play Hellfest, beautiful festival with incredible bands on every style.
T: If we could, we’d play Brutal Assault, Hellfest, Maryland Deathfest, Stoner Doom Festival, everything, everywhere!
P: Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But I think when you really want something and work hard enough to get it, you can do it!

Last word you would like say to our readers ?

G : We’re happy to be here for our first gig in France.
T : KEEP THE CHEESE WORK! I’m getting so fat here.

Big thanks to Piotr, Grzegorz et Tomasz for taking the time to do the interview !

Find DOPELORD on Facebook
 New album “Children Of The Haze” is still available on Bandcamp

This was the release party for French doom torchbearers Hangman’s Chair new album Banlieue Triste.  Team Ghost were first, delivering a dull show, overall inconsistent for some reason. Then Hangman’s Chair get on stage, happy to be here, and effortlessly put on an awe-inspiring, “call me daddy” performance, making the whole crowd bow in front of their majesty. I was looking forward to seeing them on a stage after the release of their previous record This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive. It’s now done, and like a dude once told me at Hellfest on a Monday around 3am: “I have no regrets”.