In 2011 Boston quartet Morne tore up the Atmospheric Doom template with sophomore album Asylum (Profound Lore): a dark, brooding masterpiece with strong Crust influences, it garnered favourable comparisons with the likes of Neurosis and Agrimonia whilst acknowledging their own identity. Fourth studio album To the Night Unknown (Armageddon/MORNE) is the band’s first recorded output for five years, and it kicks in with fizzing tension. Continue reading
When your primary musical focus consists of playing in At The Gates, Skitsystem, or Martyrdöd, any and all accompanying projects are going to be subjected to some level of scrutiny. “Yeah, but it’s not Slaughter Of The Soul, is it?” you may hark, but Sweden’s Agrimonia have never been ones to rely on paying lip service to their associated Death Metal and Crust Punk outfits. Five years removed from their last record Rites Of Separation, Agrimonia have presented us with their most ambitious, thematic and musically realised record, Awaken (both Southern Lord). Continue reading
Swedish extreme metallers At The Gates have been keeping themselves busy on the road, and venturing into new areas on each stop. Their venture took them to Knotfest in Devore, CA where they played to a packed second stage area on the Saturday of the two day event.
It has been over a year since they released At War With Reality, their first new album since 1994’s Slaughter of the Soul. Being away from the music scene under this moniker since the band stopped, guitarist Martin Larsson spoke about how different their writing approaches were, versus prior to their abrupt stop years ago.
“The actual writing [is] not much difference, but the collaboration is so much easier. Now we’re so spread out. In the 90s we were all in Gothenberg…um I wasn’t so nevermind…basically Gothenburg.”
“But now the drummer’s [Adrian Erlandsson] in London in the UK and three of us are in Gothenberg, and the bass player [Jonas Bjorler] is about three to four hours away in Sweden. With the internet and email and files to Dropbox and what have you, usually what happened on this album is Anders [Bjorler] made a demo and then once he’s satisfied, in a second we can all listen to it wherever we are and comment on it. Ideas bounce back and forth over the internet.“
“I think we spent the better part of a year just sending ideas back and forth and doing demos. We had such a full idea of the album already when we went into the studio. I think that’s the big difference – the whole collaboration is so much easier.”Photo Credit: Hillarie Jason
During the time away from the band, the various members were at various times involved in a number of other bands and projects. Frontman Tomas “Tompa’ Lindberg was involved in The Crown, Disfear, Skitsystem, Nightrage and Lock Up; guitarist Anders Bjorler was with The Haunted and now his solo project; bassist Bjorler is with the Haunted; and Erlandsson with Nehain, as well as his stints in Cradle of Filth and Paradise Lost. Larsson himself is currently playing with Agrimonia when At The Gates has down time.
Have doing other projects re-energized the members of At The Gates towards adding a new spark into the band? “Maybe in a way yeah. I guess doing other stuff always gets you excited to do At The Gates, I suppose. A lot of outside influences and ideas or whatever, so I guess so,” he said.
When it comes to the touring side, Larsson explained how they balance out who will be touring with what band and aligning schedules to make it work in the long run.
“With the other bands it’s first come first serve, so it’s an easy rule to follow. Whatever band gets the booking first has the privilege. All of us do regular stuff on the side or At The Gates is on the side. Mostly Tomas and Jonas have regular proper jobs. They work part-time during the week. We mostly play weekends. We’ve done that for this year since the album came out. We’ve done a couple of tours. We did a US tour for three weeks in March. Right after this we have a week in Australia and a couple of dates in Japan. It’s mostly weekends.”
“There’s a lot of travelling just doing weekends. I feel like I’ve been jet lagged constantly for about a year, but playing is such a pleasure. You don’t mind it at all. We’re privileged that we get to do this and that people still want to see us.”
Since the band has reformed, At The Gates has found themselves touring new territories they were unable to visit the first time around. Larsson spoke about some of their target areas they wish to hit.
“I’m a bit of an explorer myself. I always like going to places I haven’t been before. We’re going to South Africa in March. I’m stoked to do that. I’d like to play more in Eastern Europe and Asian countries. We’ll take it gradually.”
He spoke about their visit to China, one of the newest frontiers for many artists in recent years.
“We played China twice. Things haven’t really happened in China metal wise, but they’re starting to. First time we were there we played to 100 people, and the second time 200 people. There’s a progression. Things are happening. It’s exciting. It’s like when we started 25 years ago.”
Aside from their upcoming US tour with The Haunted and Decpaitated, he also unveiled another upcoming tour stop on a cruise. “The cruise in the Carribbean – 70,000 Tons of Metal. We’re playing that. This is the first time under that name. We did the Barge to Hell ones, which is kind of the same. That one had even more focus on the extreme metal. I guess this one is all around metal. It’s going to be great.”
Lastly, he talked about the possibilities of a new At The Gates record and whether it was realistic to talk about one yet. “No. I’m not saying we’re not gonna but we don’t know. The only plan we have at the moment is not quitting. So we’re going to take it as it comes. We’re already booked until August. Once this goes down we’ll just sit down and see.”
“We’re not going to push it. If there’s more music – fine. That’s good. I’d like it there to be more music but we’ll find out.”
Amebix has a free download and streaming of Arise! – The CVLT Nation Sessions available here.
AMEBIX Arise! – The CVLT Nation Sessions Track Listing:
01: Plagues – The Moor
02: Plagues – Axeman
03: Abstracter – Fear of God
04: Drug Lust – Largactyl
05: Coltsblood – Drink and Be Merry
06: American – Spoils of Victory
07: Agrimonia – Arise!
08: Okus – Slave
09: Larvae – The Darkest Hour
These days the London borough Camden is mostly just a tourist trap; full of tourists, and overpriced beer. It is, however, still home to some quality venues, and is the perfect place to let Desertfest UK take over for a weekend of stoner rock in all its forms. Special thanks go out to Jessica Lotti Photography for sharing her images of the weekend with our readers.
Opening the proceedings over at the Electric Ballroom is Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan. Boasting some decent rock star shapes on stage, front man/guitarist Óskar Logi Ágústsson clearly has an affinity for the late 60s/early 70s, delivering a boogie-filled set full of riffs and jams Jimi Hendrix and Cream would be proud of. A nearly full Ballroom is bouncing long before their set is over.
Over at the Jazz Café’s Prog stage, London five-piece Sumer aren’t afraid to show off their love of Tool. Clearly a talented bunch with a talent for combining thick riffs, vocal melodies and subtle dynamics all into one crunching ball. Unfortunately, while they fill the stage with numbers there’s not a lot of stage presence. But their debut album, The Animal You Are, is well worth checking out if you like your post/progressive metal.
The Black Heart boasts not only the best range of beers and ales Desertfest has to offer, but also the sweatiest venue. A tightly packed and perspiration–drenched throng squeeze in for the excellently-named Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus. The Swedish quartet deal in retro-psychedelic stoner and deliver an enjoyable set of classic rock, but their secret weapon is the wailing vocals of Karl Apelmo. Not a million miles away from the Scorpion Child’s Aryn Jonathan Black, he lifts decent music to something a lot more impressive.
Next up are Ten Foot Wizard, who deliver one the best sets of the weekend. Sporting some glorious Hawaiian shirts, the Mancunians take an already hot and sweaty venue into even wetter territory with their blend of dirty, fuzzy riffs and good time rock’n’roll. The band clearly know how to have fun on stage and that translates into one of the liveliest crowds of the entire festival. Mixing riffs of Clutch and early Queens of the Stone Age with a dirty groove of Alabama ThunderPussy, chuck in some megaphones, Theremin solos and songs about tits, and you’ve got a winning combo. TFW are a hoot and far better than their (fairly decent) debut record Return to the Infinite suggests.
After such a party, returning to the cool and spacious Ballroom for Brant Bjork is something of a comedown. The set is full of quality tunes drawn mainly from his latest album, Black Power Flower, but the chilled out desert rock vibe, combined with a fairly static performance from Bjork – with his Low Desert Punk Band in tow – is kind of underwhelming. Bjork’s solo material is severely under-rated, but the former Kyuss drummer’s laid back style fails to really the get juices flowing.
Opening Sunday is Belgian psychedelic rockers Moaning Cities at The Purple Turtle. Sporting funky dance moves and the only sitar of the weekend, this Belgian outfit combine hypnotic atmospheres with 60s psychedelic pop and still manage to make a lot of noise. Trippy, intense, loud, and not a bad way to start the Sabbath.
Over at Koko, we’re treated with back-to-back instrumental bands with Karma in their name, but very different approaches. German four piece My Sleeping Karma do their best to create an atmosphere; employing eerie visuals [which unfortunately didn’t seem to be working right for much of the set] with soundscapes that create a nice audio-visual experience that’s easy to get lost in. It’s almost the opposite of Karma to Burn’s approach. The US power trio only deal in thunderous noise, punching their way through sonically crushing set that pounds your eardrums repeatedly for 60 minutes. There’s no subtly, but it is invigorating and gets and keeps the crowd’s attention throughout. This is how instrumentals bands should be done; Guitarist William Mecum is a one man riff machine that’s few on words but has stage swagger that makes up for the lack of verbatim, while drummer Evan Devine is an absolute powerhouse.
It’s not all quality however. Despite hailing from Hampshire, XII Boar really, really wish they were from the deep south of the US. The trio’s bland brand of cowboy metal is a concoction of groove, whiskey-soaked “YEAAAH!”s and unsubtly-recycled Pantera riffs. The kind of racket you’d expect at a keg party in a Bam Margera video, it’s really, really, really dumb fun at best, and a poor man’s Hellyeah at worst. The Underworld, meanwhile, has been wasted as stage dedicated to originally NWOBHM bands such as Quartz and Angel Witch along with a bunch of thinly-veiled tribute acts. Londoners Amulet fall unashamedly into the latter category. Sporting tight denim, bad moustaches and the Iron Maiden riff-book, Amulet definitely aren’t cool, but they clearly don’t care. An over-abundance of enthusiasm and a decent selection of riffs & solos ripped off from the likes of Maiden, Diamond Head and Angel Witch means by the end of the set it’s hard to dislike them. Painfully original, but harmless fun.
Back at the Purple Turtle, there’s a double bill of Doom. Despite some initial sound troubles, Sweden’s The Order of Israfel combine classic Black Sabbath-esque 70s doom with an almost Thin Lizzy-like appreciation of twin leads and guitar solos to create something evilly epic on a medieval scale. The Wounded Kings, by contrast are a bit of a let-down. Despite being chronically heavy on riffs, they’re surprisingly light on songs. They might be able to rattle the foundations of the building with the same kind of Earth shattering reverb as Electric Wizard, but vocalist George Birch is lost in the mix and things never really go as far as entertaining.
It wouldn’t be a proper stoner festival without the riffs of the mighty Matt Pike, and with Sleep he delivers spades of them. The stoner legends were under-appreciated during their original run but a rammed Koko goes crazy for ‘Dragonaut’, while new song ‘The Clarity’ get a rapturous response. More involved in their own playing than the audience, the band stomp through barely ten songs with no encore in an hour and a half set, but there no complaints. The likes of ‘DopeSmoker’ and ‘Holy Mountain’; manage to be both crushingly heavy, yet at the same time hypnotizing. An appropriate ending for a weekend of Black Sabbath-and-bong worshipping.
WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE
With Roadburn having just ended last weekend, the season for European music festivals is here Joining the ranks of it’s better known sister festival in Germany, Desertfest UK is fast becoming one of the best events in the world. The event will take place from April 24th-26th at stellar venues in London such as: The Electric Ballroom, Koko, The Underworld, The Black Heart, The Jazz Cafe and the Purple Turtle Especially if you pray to at the altar of the riff almighty, the subsonic tones of sludge and just a rocking good time in general, this fest is for you. The weekend passes are already sold-out, further proving the attraction these line-ups will bring.
Friday kicks things off in the early afternoon with up and comers Torpor leading off. Likely the best afternoon band of any day of the fest will be Floor at the Electric Ballroom. Following them will be The Atomic Bitchwax, and headliners Electric Wizard and the mighty Red Fang. The Underworld is host to grimmer acts such as Dopethrone, Agrimonia, Black Cobra, Minsk, and Noothgrush. Also not to be missed on Friday are comeback kings End of Level Boss. They are always super fun live!
Saturday has a super doom and sludge infection in the form of Vintage Caravan, Sex Swing, Pale Horse, Black Pyramid, Lo Pan, Anthromorph, Obake, Ten Foot Wizard, Hang the Bastard plus Brant Bjork And Low Desert Punks. EyeHateGod continues their return to Europe, promising another brutal set.
Adding to the awesomeness of Saturday is the fests first prog stage, led by Amplifier, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, I am The Morning, Landskap and others. This is really momentous for the fest and hopefully it becomes a regular thing in years to come.
Sunday will bring things to a boil with more underground bands Amulet, Quartz Cancer, Sallie, Witch Hazel, SSS, The Wounded Kings, and Angel Witch amongst many others. Of course the headliner Sleep might be half the draw for the weekend, as well as Ufomammut, Karma To Burn, and Acid King. With official after show every night of the fest, this promised to be a non-stop jamming party the whole time.
Agrimonia are masters of capturing raw energy on record and none more so than on their upcoming album Rites of Separation. Ghost Cult caught up with two of the five crust revellers, Christina (vocals/keyboards) and Pontus (guitar/backing vocals), to put their latest musical ventures under the microscope. Continue reading