Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Festival News - RPM Fest 2018

RPM Fest organizers have announced the 2018 full band roster for the late August music event. Held this year in Montague, Massachusetts, RPM Fest is an annual three-day outdoor heavy Rock, Punk, and Metal music festival that in 2018 features 50 bands, as well as camping, games, local beer and food, vendors, and more.

This year RPM Fest brings in national headlining acts such as Black Tusk, Tombs, Incite,Whores., and Acid Witch, as well as additional local and regional vendors and festival sponsors for the 2018 event.

Each year of RPM Fest has occurred in Western Massachusetts, and while the region is somewhat rural, it has been a hotbed for spawning nationally-recognized heavy music acts like Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. Since RPM Fest's 2014 start, West Mass has seen a heavy music resurgence, with its goal to keep fostering the local heavy music scene by showcasing some of the best underground bands New England has to offer.


DETAILS:

An Interview With Brigitte & Collyn From ABOLETH

I wasn’t even aware of Psych Doom Rockers – ABOLETH – before I heard their superb new album Benthos. So this band were a totally new discovery for myself.

When I heard the album I was blown away by the amount of different sounds held on the album and the incredible vocal performance of lead vocalist – Brigitte Roka.

The band call their sound “Dirt Metal” and that is a very apt description. As the album is quite dirty in places but with a soulful blues rock groove as well. Though Aboleth thrown in heavy Doom, Sludge and Stoner based riffs as well.

Aboleth are signed to Ulrich Wild record label – WURMGroup. Ulrich also produced and recorded their debut album. Another good reason why you should check this band out. As the album does indeed sound first rate.

I was asked to interview Brigitte (Vocals) and Collyn (Guitars) from ABOLETH. I wanted to find out more about the band and the recording of the new album.

Here’s what went down...

Hi Collyn and Brigitte. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Collyn: Things are amazing! We’re about embark on our first U.S. tour and we’re very excited. With me here is the incomparable Brigitte Roka, the voice, heart and soul of Aboleth…

Brigitte: Awww well thank ya! Yeah we’re great, super stoked for people to hear this album.



Before we discuss your new album. Can you give a brief overview of how the band formed and where it is today.

Collyn: I stole Brigitte from another band. They had a ‘bass player wanted’ ad up at my rehearsal space. One day I had some time to kill so I checked them out. As soon as I heard Brigitte’s voice I knew I had to work with her, so I sent her a message asking if she wanted to jam. Originally I brought her into the Ultra Electric Mega Galactic fold, which was still mostly instrumental at the time. But that splintered off into its own thing…

Brigitte: Then after forming Aboleth it took us a while to find a steady drummer who could tour. My friend Marco Minnemann asked if he could record the drums for our album after hearing us play live, so he’s the one you hear on the album. Then we finally found Bollet and as soon as we jammed with him we knew he was the guy. Now we’re on our first tour, we got our first album coming out, and we couldn’t be more excited!

How would you describe your overall sound. As you have included quite a few different elements for a seedy and heavy sound.

Brigitte: We’re metalheads who love the blues so our sound is stuck in a limbo between both styles. There’s definitely a grunge influence in there too, we’re all huge fans of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains so that comes through as well.

Collyn: We call it “dirt metal,” just because none of the other genre tags seem to exactly fit. There are elements of stoner rock, desert rock, and a dollop of old-school doom. But mostly we’re a blues band. Just a really heavy one.

You’re about to release your superb album - Benthos album. What can people expect from the album.

Brigitte: Raw, powerful vocals over heavy sludgy riffs. We tried to capture our live energy as much as possible, in fact two of the songs were even recorded live. The album has a lot of soul and grit, but also has some catchy tunes

Collyn: There are riffs-a-plenty, rippin’ slide guitar, virtuosic drumming, out-of-this-world banshee howls from one the best rock singers of the modern era, and a couple of acoustic numbers to sing by the campfire. If Led Zeppelin III comes to mind, well, it should.

What is the main theme of the album and why did you call the album Benthos.

Brigitte: No particular theme to the songs, but most of them are based on all kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones. We chose the name after I made the artwork. Benthos is another name for the ocean floor, so I thought it was a name that would fit the cover nicely. We also have a recurring marine theme in our visuals because our name is based on an eel monster



Who is releasing the album and what formats is the album being released upon.

Collyn: “Benthos” is being released by WURMgroup, which is the label run by Ulrich Wild (Pantera, Deftones, White Zombie) , who mixed and produced the album as well. On May 25th it will be available digitally and on CD. Vinyl plans are still in the works but we hope to be able to announce a release date soon.

What influenced you when writing and recording the album.

Brigitte: So as mentioned before the songs are inspired by different relationships and people in my life. I love music that people can emotionally and personally connect with, so I draw a lot from personal experience when I write these. I leave the demons and wizards lyrics to Collyn cause as much as I love that stuff, I’m not the best at writing it, haha!

Was recording the album an easy or hard experience.

Collyn: For me it was easy. I tend to work out my parts in pre-production. So a lot of what I did on the record is more or less what I played on our early demos, just better.

Brigitte: It was so much fun, especially the two songs we did live. There was a lot of writing and rewriting happening in the studio which was the biggest challenge, because to me there’s 30 ways to write the same chorus and sometimes it takes a while to get what you want.

Ulrich Wild produced the album. What was working with Ulrich like. As he’s worked with some pretty heavy bands during his career. Was it a daunting task working with Ulrich.

Collyn: We’ve both actually worked with Ulrich before. I played bass on two Otep records that he produced. And I introduced him to Brigitte before we even put Aboleth together, because I thought she had something special and wanted to get her name out there. Ulrich wound up consulting her to do some session work

Brigitte: It wasn’t daunting at all. He’s one of the most chill and stoic people you’ll ever meet. It was helpful to get his feedback in the process because he had us try things we wouldn’t have thought of, some of which worked and some didn’t. At the end of the day he was very determined to make it sound the way we want and make sure we were happy with everything

What does Ulrich bring to the Aboleth sound.

Collyn: Ulrich is a master at his craft and he’s also incredibly easy to work with. He brings great ideas to the table and brings the best out of every project he works on, instead of trying to force some signature sound upon everything. With this record, he kept a lot of the rawness and heaviness while making it sound huge. And sonically, nothing gets in the way of anything else.

What is the song-writing method in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Collyn: It’s highly collaborative. For “Benthos,” Brigitte and I would work out a riff or a chord progression in my living room, I’d send her home with a basic recording and she’d woodshed vocals and lyrical themes. A few of the songs I’d written on my own but she’d either take what I wrote and go in her own direction with it, or just make what I wrote a million times better.


You have a pretty extensive US Tour coming up within the next few days. What can people expect from these shows and will you be performing other dates later in the year. Or will you just be focusing on gigs closer to home.

Collyn: We‘re actually trying to play less gigs closer to home. L.A. is great place to be based, as a musician, but not a great place to play shows. There’s just too much happening on any given night, and club goers’ tastes are notoriously ephemeral. That said we have some great brother-and-sister bands here that we’d love to play more shows with. Void Vator, High Priestess, Sasquatch, Yidhra, Ironaut, The Freeks and Behold! The Monolith to name but a few. And I have to give a shout-out to our buddy Skum who promotes what is secretly the best metal night in L.A, every Wednesday at Skinny’s Lounge.

Brigitte: We really want to get to Europe too, as soon as we can. We want to keep the tour going after this one ends. But we’re stoked to play in all these places around the country where people are always so supportive of live music, a quality that is ironically lacking in the LA community. People can expect some raw gritty vocals, hair swinging all around, face melting riffs and general tomfoolery. No matter what your specific music taste is you’re gonna have a good time rockin with us, there’s no doubt about it

You’re also part of great bands such as Trash Titan and The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic. What’s the current state of play for both bands. Any new material on the horizon from both bands. Or are you focusing solely on Aboleth.

Collyn: I’d say both Trash Titan and UEMG are like herpes. Currently dormant, but you never know when they’ll bubble back up like an oozing open sore. Also there’s Sugar Fly, my funk/soul project, which has some of the most incredible musicians I’ve ever worked with. In fact they’re all so incredible and in-demand that we never have time to play together. But yes, Aboleth is my primary focus right now. It’s what I wake up thinking about. It’s what I go to bed thinking about. Not just what we’re doing now, but what we’ll be doing ten years from now. I think we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what this band can do.

Brigitte: I agree, this is barely the beginning. For me this is my only musical endeavour and my main focus in life, but I’m also busy with my double life as an illustrator and my upcoming graphic novel franchise “Sonarium”, which happens to be based on my life as a musician.

How hard is it for you being part of so many bands. Is this an easy thing to juggle and be a part of.

Collyn: Well it’s four bands, a full-time job, freelance session work and a three-year-old daughter. So yeah, I’m never not busy. But I’d never have it any other way. I can’t stand idle time, it drives me nuts. I mean I probably SHOULD take a vacation at some point, just for my own mental health. But I think one of the reasons this band works so well is that we all have similar drives and work ethics.

Brigitte: I was actually in the process of graduating from Art Center College of Design while making this record and preparing for tour. I literally graduated two weeks before the start of our tour, haha! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure workload-wise, because ACCD is the Hell’s Kitchen of art schools. It was freakin’ intense managing to do both, but I did it, and now I’m free to rock as I please!

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go do you have anything to say to your fans. Best of luck with the new album.

Brigitte: Thank you so much for having us and thank you for the support! I’d only like to say that if you like the album and would like to see us play, please spread the word and spread the hype to your friends and local promoters so we can come to your city! Thanks :)

Words by Steve Howe and ABOLETH

Thanks to Richard at Sheltered Life PR for arranging this interview. Thanks to Brigitte and Collyn for doing this interview.

Benthos will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via WURMGroup from May 25th 2018.

Links:

Aboleth - Benthos (Album Review)


Release date: May 25th 2018. Label: WURMgroup. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

Benthos – Tracklisting

1.Wovenloaf 05:26
2.Fork In The Road 04:24
3.No Good
4.Black Box
5.Glass Cutter
6.Sharktown Blues
7.Ode To Plastic
8.Vinny Gets Arrested 03:38
9.The Devil
10.Wytches

Members

Brigitte Roka – Vocals
Collyn McCoy – Baguitarist, Slide Guitar
Boll3t – Drums
Drums on Benthos performed and recorded by Marco Minnemann

Review

Benthos is the new album from Heavy Doomed Out Rockers - Aboleth. Consisting of the following members. The one thing that stands out from the start is the heavy vintage sounding vocals from Brigitte. Brigitte has such a commanding presence that it feels she's been around the Doom Metal scene for years. As Brigitte has a world-weary "seen it all" before attitude and when this is matched against the heavy pounding grooves that Colin and Mario (who recorded the drums for the album) conjure up, all hell break looks.

Opening track - Wovenloaf - opens with a heavy beat that soon allows to the heavy guitars and drums to finally appear. This album has many different sounds that make up its dirty hypnotic groove. "Dirt Metal" is what the PR blurb described Aboleth's music. Now I don't normally take any notice of these blurbs. However, you can actually describe Aboleth as "Dirt Metal". As their music has a heavy amount of sludgy swamp based grooves though merged with Blues Rock, Doom, Psych and Stoner Metal.

Perhaps influenced by ZZ-Top and Royal Thunder at times. Though that doesn't stop Aboleth creating their own distinctive sound that's dynamically powerful and quite soulful at times. Songs such as Fork In The Road, No Good, Black Box, Glass Cutter, Vinny Gets Arrested and Wytches are the other standout songs that leave the biggest impression on you.

The production is first rate is what you would expect with Ulrich Wild involved. Ulrich has worked with acts such as Deftones, Pantera and White Zombie in his now legendary career. Aboleth could have easily buckled under the pressure working with a big name producer but this gives them extra determination to play such a loud and vibrant confident sound.

The lyrics are superbly written with most of the songs having a few cool sing-along choruses along the way. The sound of Benthos is firmly rooted within the sounds of the Classic Rock/Heavy Metal scene and that opens the potential reach of Aboleth's music to be heard by a much wider audience.

The one thing that impresses the most on the album is the undeniable chemistry between band members who recorded the album. The mood can be quite seductive and that's down to Brigitte's powerful and hard rocking vocals. Though the heavy riffs help as well. Benthos is a powerful sounding album and Aboleth are a band you'll be hearing a lot more from in the future.

Words by Steve Howe

Thanks to Richard at Sheltered Life PR for the promo. Benthos will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via WURMGroup from May 25th 2018.

Links:


Monday, 21 May 2018

High Priestess - S/T (Album Review) and Video Premiere of Firefly


Release date: May 18th 2018. Label: Ripple Music. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

High Priestess – S/T – Tracklisting

1.Firefly 10:11
2.Despise 08:03
3.Banshee 04:08
4.Take The Blame 06:36
5.Mother Forgive Me 05:04
6.Earth Dive 06:40

Members

Katie Gilchrest - guitars, vocals, organ
Mariana Fiel - bass, vocals
Megan Mullins - drums, percussion

Review

High Priestess self-titled album sees the band play a heavy blend of Psychedelic Doom/Stoner Metal that walks a fine line between classic sounding Doom Rock and modern sounding Psychedelic Riffs. With razor sharp production, High Priestess impress from the very start with haunting melodies. The album is very progressive in places with the band creating songs running from six, eight and ten minutes in length.

Opening track - Firefly - sees High Priestess opt for dark progressive doom and gloom style of music. The psychedelic elements are slowly added with the heavy Stoner Metal vibes appearing with the vocals making a welcome appearance. The whole flow of the album is addictive and flows with absolute confidence. Maybe a little bit too much at times. High Priestess never outstays their welcome as the heavy progressive sounds will keep you entertained from the start. There is a twinge of Blues Rock contained on the album and is perhaps best encountered from the gloomy and wonderful lyrics the band have written for the album. Firefly is without question the standout track on the album.

Though the other tracks held on the album are just as good with Despise, Banshee and Earth Dive being the main ones to fully experience. The vocals on Despise and Banshee took some time for me to get used to. The clean vocals are superb though the higher pitched growls that appear almost throw the song off course but they soon won me around after a couple of more listens of actual song itself. High Priestess are not your normal Psychedelic Doom/Stoner Metal band as they like to experiment with their music and perhaps even play on the listeners expectations of what a Doom/Stoner Metal band should actually be.

The main strength of the album for me is the bass playing of Mariana. Mariana provides a heavy and thunderous backdrop for High Priestess to fully function from. High Priestess takes the best parts from the Doom/Stoner Metal scene that has appeared over the last thirty years or so and injects some much needed vitality and musical creativity.

This album is already starting to win plaudits from within the Doom/Stoner Metal community and it's richly deserved. As High Priestess provide a no-holds musical experience you'll find very hard to ignore. Ripple Music are releasing this album and it's good to see High Priestess signed to the label. As I don't know who else could release this album other than Ripple Music. You know what Ripple Music is known for.

Though this is High Priestess time to shine and they've created something truly special here with their debut album.

Words by Steve Howe

Thanks to Richard at Sheltered Life PR and Carl at Action PR for the promo. High Priestess debut album is available to buy now on CD/DD/Vinyl via Ripple Music.

You can check out the exclusive Video Premiere of Firefly from High Priestess spellbinding new album. Thanks to Todd and Matt over at Ripple Music.



Links:


Saturday, 19 May 2018

Mos Generator - Shadowlands (Album Review)


Release date: May 11th 2018. Label: Listenable Records. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

Shadowlands – Tracklisting

1.Shadowlands 04:34
2.The Destroyer
3.Drowning In Your Loving Cup
4.Stolen Ages
5.Gamma / Hydra
6.The Blasting Concept
7.Woman Song
8.The Wild & Gentle Dogs

Members

TONY REED / guitar, vocals, keyboards, assorted instruments
SEAN BOOTH / Bass
JON GARRETT / Drums

Review

Greetings all,

Shadowlands is the 7th full length from Mos Generator, who are one of Washington State’s best kept secrets. Those unfamiliar with the band have missed out on countless killer splits, records, and comp appearances. On Shadowlands the band delivers on their trademark groove heavy rock.

These guys know their way around a riff and a killer hook and have delivered eight masterfully crafted tracks of pure rock fury. The record is excellently recorded, not too clean and not too raw. Musically, the band is tight and rocking and they do a superb job of wrapping dark subject matter inside warm, fuzzy hooks.

The title track, Shadowlands, opens the record with a huge grunge rock punch and an amazing earworm chorus. The Destroyer follows with a feedback and drum filled opening to deliver a killer driving song. The band shows a little love with the Thin Lizzy inspired Drowning in Your Love Cup, which is a nostalgia filled rocker.

A long astral inspired instrumental opens the track Stolen Ages before kicking in with another rip snorting rocker with a killer chorus. Gamma Hydra is quite possibly the catchiest plea for science and reason you will ever hear. This is an amazingly catchy track that you will be humming for weeks, guaranteed. The uptempo rock of The Blasting Concept continues the aural assault. The band spends another couple of minutes at the Thin Lizzy altar with the 70’s rock inspired Woman Song. The record closes with the acoustic opening of the epic sounding, The Wild and Gentle Dogs. The songs opening acoustic lament devolve into an ominous and methodical instrumental close.

The almost effortless brilliance that is displayed by Mos Generator on Shadowlands is nothing short of awe inspiring. Mos Generator may just be the Foo Fighters it’s OK to like, If you dig Fu Manchu, Black Rainbows, Orange Goblin or the like and you aren’t familiar with this band, you need to be, and you need to do it right away. Shadowlands is a rewarding listen and these guys deserve all the accolades they should receive for this killer album.

- Todd S

Instagram @alltheghoststhathauntyou

Words by Todd Stealey


You can buy Shadowlands on CD/DD/Vinyl from Listenable Records now.

Links:

Thought Eater - Bones In The Fire (Album Review)


Release date: May 18th 2018. Label: Grimoire Records. Format: DD

Bones In The Fire – Tracklisting

1.Bones in the Fire (part 1) 04:31
2.Pantomimic Dances 06:35
3.Speak Through Dreams 07:30
4.Covenant 09:34
5.Bones in the Fire (part 2) 06:24
6.Umwelt 05:54

Members

Darin Tambascio (12 string bass)
Douglas Griffith (guitar)
Bobby Murray (drums)

Review

Thought Eater’s new album Bones In The Fire draws influence from bands such as Pelican, Russian Circles, Baroness and Mastodon. For this being an instrumental album, Thought Eater have to do something different to standout from the over-crowded Instrumental Rock/Metal Scene. They manage to do this thanks mainly to the impressive work of Darin Tombascio who wields a 12 string bass. Now I didn’t know a thing existed though that’s down to me not being a musician.

I was very sceptical about Thought Eater’s album as I didn’t think that a 12 string bass would work being main focus of attention. Though I was very wrong as Bones In The Fire is a complex and progressive sounding album that manages to strike the right creative balance of playing heavy sludge based sounds. Songs such as Bones In The Fire (Part 1) and Pantomimic Dances convince early on that Thought Eater know how to create heavy progressive riffs. The guitars from Douglas are another highlight as he’s influenced by the earlier sounds of Mastodon.

Bobby on drums does an impressive job here on the album as well. As Bobby’s drumming is what really allows Thought Eater’s music to be deliciously heavy and quite direct.

The album can be very psychedelic and trippy in parts so it’s not all about heavy sounds. Thought Eater manage to include elements of Jazz, Hard Rock and Middle Eastern style rhythms. The album truly becomes alive with the final three songs being the most exciting part of the album. As Thought Eater finally become more comfortable with their own sound and identity. Bones In The Fire (Part 2) and Umwelt are the two best songs on the album.

Bones In The Fire is an impressive album and Thought Eater have delivered the goods here. I don’t know if they could release another album such as this. As they may need something new to the overall dynamic of their music. Perhaps add a guest vocalist. As there were parts of the album that were screaming out for vocals. Though I respect the band’s vision for the album.

Overall, Bones In The Fire is an intelligent and superbly entertaining album.

Excellent and Highly Recommended.

Words by Steve Howe

Links:


v

Whooom - Bardo (Album Review)


Release date: April 13th 2018. Label: Self Released. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

Bardo – Tracklisting

1.Sidpa 19:20
2.Chikhai 22:24

Members

Bart Van Garderen - Bass
Tom Van Garderen - Drums
Ross MacLean - Guitar

Review

Whooom’s new album Bardo only consists of 2 tracks but the whole album runs for over 40 minutes. Bardo is a mixture of Psychedelic, Doom, Stoner and Sludge Metal vibes . Though you don’t get that impression from the first few minutes of the opening track – Sidpa. As the song opens with a slowly played ambient/post-rock/drone based sound. It takes an age for the heavy riffs to appear. When they finally appear, ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

As Whooom style of music is crushingly heavy with dense psychedelic sounds allowing the band to play a LO-FI kind of sound. Bardo doesn’t have the best production but I think that’s the point. As Whooom have always been about creating music that’s as real as possible. The album still manages to sound beautifully heavy and clear at the same despite the rough production. The album has an addictive edge and that’s perhaps down to the fantastic bass guitar played by Bart.

Bardo is highly progressive throughout the entire album. As Whooom are very hard to define. Yeah, they play Doom, Stoner, Psych and Sludge based music. However they play a lot of different other sounds as well. Whooom are creating their own style of music that’s perhaps heavily influenced by Black Sabbath and Ufomammut.

If you’re looking for an album that gets you away from the SLEEP juggernaut that’s causing a major fuss within the Doom/Stoner Metal community then I recommend you listen to Whooom. As they’re currently one of the most inventive bands you’ll hear within the Doom/Stoner Metal scene.

Bardo is 40 minutes of top-notch Doomed Out and Psychedelic Weirdness you’ll find very hard to beat. My advice, find the biggest pair of speakers you possibly can and let BARDO bring sonic destruction and devastation to those around you….

Words by Steve Howe

Links:


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Festival Review - Smoke Over Warsaw III: Cosmic Cruise



I’ll begin with a little history - or at least try and provide a little bit of context… I've been listening to heavy hard rock and underground metal since I was 14 years old (well there was that phase when I was 9 or 10 when I listened to Ugly Kid Joe and Guns N Roses, but I try to bury that in the dark places and file it under general childhood trauma). What I mean more specifically is this whole Stoner/Sludge/Doom thing as it's often referred to - I’ve always hated the label(s) personally.

It wasn't until I ended up living and working in Warsaw, Poland that I got into the DIY underground music scene. It didn't exist when I was in my early 20’s - very little existed at all when it came to the music I have populated my days with for over 20 years; anyway... Warsaw - Poland; not a place that I had expected to have my musical passions revitalised.

So how did this come about? And why am I mentioning it - well please bare with me… Back in 2013, a friend of mine had also recently moved to Warsaw to begin working at the same company as me. Our birthdays are within a few weeks of each other, and we share similar tastes in music. We were looking for something to do - a way of celebrating. He'd uncovered a “Stoner” show that was due to take place in Warsaw - I think it was a Sunday; a three or four-band bill at a place unknown to us called “Klub Fono”.

The headliner for this show was a then little-known band called "Stoned Jesus", we'd chuckled at the idea of this - Poland is still a somewhat religious country - we thought the name was funny. And we had absolutely no clue what it was going to be like; but figured screw it - better than sitting about doing nothing in the Warsaw heat.

We awkwardly navigated our way to a dilapidated venue in the middle of nowhere. I don't mean this in the traditional countryside sense - of nowhere - imagine the same concept but surrounded by what seems to be miles of upon miles of nondescript tower blocks, warehouse buildings - a concrete jungle with windows as far as the eye could see.

We attended the show - watched the bill along with around 50 or so other people. I do remember Stoned Jesus being excellent that night, but it didn’t come with any prediction of what was going to happen to that band... During one of the changeovers, I wandered outside for a smoke - and struck up a conversation with a man who turned out to be the promoter for the show, he spoke in exceptional English (a rarity for myself having lived in Poland for 6 months or so at that point) and we started talking underground bands - he introduced me to his Facebook page - "I did it - One man booking agency". Having enjoyed the show immensely - I liked his page, and Robert added me on Facebook - social media? Is it all bad?

During my time in Warsaw, I got to know Robert - and he’d hit me up when he was putting events on. Roberts the man behind "I did it”. He introduced me to loads of great bands, and a small group of “ex-pats” from our office started attending the shows he was putting on around Warsaw. 

In retrospect, I felt very lucky, I got to catch a lot of bands that are now rather well known long before they exploded, the likes of Mars Red Sky, Sunnata, Weedpecker, and 1000Mods - the last time I’d seen Robert before returning to the United Kingdom - he'd just put on a double headliner "Stoned Jesus/1000Mods" a show that took place at “Klub Hydrozagadka”, that I obviously was compelled to attend - at that point it was the largest show he had put on, especially considering the growth that “Stoned Jesus” had garnered over the subsequent years - each show had consistently brought more and more people to the various venues; each show was always better than the last. A relief from the daily grind that I genuinely missed this when I returned to the UK.

So lets fast forwards to today - Approximately 3 years later and Robert was going to put on his largest show to date (in terms of number of bands, and I'd started making music again, I kinda stumbled into music promotion - I don't consider myself a promoter, but the UK music scene is literally littered with people like myself, putting on shows for the love of music. 

Just like Robert all those years back). I was in the process of putting together the line-up for my second all-dayer. I was looking for that special headliner and having continued to follow Robert’s band (Sunnata) rise in the underground consciousness. I’d enjoyed Climb the colossus and thought it was a cool record, but Zorya had blown me away (it was far closer to the band I'd witnessed live at the release party for the first record).

Whilst booking Sunnata to headline Gizzardfest #2, he invited me over to his "biggest show yet"... I took him up on his offer, flights to Poland are cheap, and I wagered it'd cost around the same as attending a show in London, or Manchester - perhaps a little more, but nowhere the same as DesertFest or Roadburn; and I knew I'd catch stuff I'd never heard or been exposed to in any ways shape or form. Much as when I initially Witnessed "Stoned Jesus" playing to a small crowd.

Having also seen 1000Mods previously, and that they would be playing gave me one band I’d have confidence in that I knew I was going to dig. They'd been amazed by the Polish response the first time I'd seen them in Warsaw; so surely this was going to be something else...

As I organise my flights Smoke Over Warsaw III’s line-up is teased and expanded, I didn't know any of the other bands - complete ignorance - my preferred way to go into any music event. I’m a firm believer that live is the only way to experience a bands music for the first time. It’s a tasty looking line-up; Dogzilla, Sons of Nibiru, Diuna, Wedge, Kamni, Octopussy, Mother Engine, and 1000Mods.

So on Friday 13th April, 2018 - I catch a flight to Warsaw from my local airport, land in Warsaw, catch a taxi, check into my hotel, and head over the river to Praga (the region of Warsaw where the show was to take place) and wander to the venue; a journey very much facilitated by Google maps.

I've been telling myself for weeks at this point to just approach it like any other small show I'd attended over the years - don't expect too much… I shamble up outside “Klub Hydrozagadka” & “Chmury” the two venues where the show will take place, conveniently they’re next to each other. I find Robert stood outside - he’s looking slightly stressed - 1000mods are already 2 hours late, and Mother Engine hasn't turned up yet - the show is supposed to kick off soon...

Was I early? I'd been awake a long time by this point. Things were pretty quiet so I grabbed a beer and chatted with Robert and his crew for a while. About 30 minutes or so later, the 1000Mods crew arrived, they load in quick and professional and get to business sound checking. Followed shortly afterwards by Mother Engine arriving and going through the same load in motions. Everything's coming together; I've seen far larger bands turn up much later with far more equipment, and things still run smooth as hell.

While I’m stood about waiting, people are beginning to turn up - I catch Robert and Dani from 1000Mods having a little chat. Robert introduces me, and Dani instantly remembers my face from three years previous - blowing my mind in the process. I do the usual pleading for those guys to come to the U.K and grace us with a full tour, expressing that there’s a lot of love for their music. He’s humbled and expresses a desire to do so, but as with anything it’s got to work for them.

Dogzilla kicks off the event in an appreciated heavyweight doom style, as a literal horde of people begins to descend on the two venues'. A good well attended U.K. Underground show will draw a couple hundred people - Smoke over Warsaw III has completely sold out, 520 people - nearly double the audience of the last show I'd attended in Warsaw. I manage to squeeze into “Chmury” and check out Dogzilla's growling guitar tones, the sound is crystal clear; absolutely pure in its clarity. I instantly recognise that there’s not an earplug in sight, it's loud but not painfully so.

I'm here with the knowledge that I'll not likely be able to catch many of the bands on this smaller stage, it’s completely rammed already - but I was impressed with the small venue, it's on par with any of the 100 - 150 cap venues I've seen in the UK, but the quality of the sound is something else - I cannot stress that enough. 

Octopussy - Photo Taken By Zielińska Agata

I move over to the larger venue Klub Hydrozagadka in preparation to check out Octopussy, I've no clue what to expect - but I was definitely not disappointed! A hazy hard-rocking blues sound oozes out of the speakers - with rough and smooth harmonize vocals adorning the PA. It's good music and again the sound is great an absolutely solid performance. Whilst not my favourite genre - it's clear that they’re a talented bunch, and it's accessible to pretty much anyone who loves bluesy rock riffs, glorious in its smooth overdriven amp tones, and melodic vocals.

I’m now faced with a minor dilemma - get a good spot for Mother Engine, or duck out and check the smaller stage? I opt to try and secure a good spot.

I'd spent a good 30 minutes chatting with Chris and Christian from Mother Engine - the usual band geek stuff, talking gear, scenes and bands we dig; they'd sold me on their band, and their attitude - bare in mind I knew nothing about these German fellas from Plauen, and our conversation had ended up being struck up on the grounds of their lighting engineer needing a light for his cigarette and a sweet scent that couldn't be mistaken as anything but high quality weed being smoked by the bass player, Christian.

They informed me they played in Mother Engine, they were super nice guys, we spent some time talking instruments, at this point they explained that their hometown - Plauen is famous for its history as a luthier town - making instruments for generations. They have an insistence upon using their own backline - even the custom drum kit that's been built. Chris the guitarist plays a custom built guitar - it all sounds very cool to me as I mention my own tiny band and my love for D*A*M fuzz pedals.
Mother Engine - Photo Taken by Bartosz Kaszewski

I was enthralled by the fact that they really seemed to grasp tone and frequency - and they didn't have this whole "elite" everything must be valve amps mentality. These guys do have some nice equipment and run me over their history of playing together since kids, hashing out punk songs. So knowing that I'd potentially miss an ace smaller band I forwent it and threw myself to the front to check out their show.

I'll have to ask ‘Sons of Nibiru’ to forgive me, but there seemed to be some stage clashing, the kind of thing that happens from time to time at shows like this; I’ve no doubt the room was packed out for them.

It's at this point that it hits me - the crowd is a solid 50/50 split, neither gender appeared over represented and more than anything this didn't appear to be by design simply that as many women dig this music in Poland as dudes - I'm not mentioning this to wade into any gender politics codswallop; just a rare observation, especially considering the crowd reactions in Poland. Which I'll get to...

I place myself square and centre in front of the stage, observing them set up. The first thing that strikes me is - they have a small rig of lights and a lighting engineer. The stage is slowly being filled with a haze as they line check, each instrument - the drum kit with maple shells, covered in a beautiful walnut top if memory serves correctly, honestly sounds truly bombastic, custom equipment has its perks - he removes the felt from his cymbals - we're going to be floppy and extra resonant in the tings and dangs department it seems - interesting - the bass tone seems spot on - we'd spent some time discussing the importance of mids to bass tones when playing live. Sounds good overdriven, and clean. The guitar rings out with a massive amount clarity - it's tonally immaculate - much a result of the band and a decent sound engineer it's clean, hum-free - loud but not painfully so, whilst the sub still kicks you in the chest which is much appreciated.

They quickly set about what is going to be a three-song set - heh, a 45 minute - 3 song set, this is either going to be highly pretentious or unquestionably mind-blowing. They start neatly with a wonderful build-up finally breaking into some massive grooves and crazy timing changes that organically morph from one into the other - I'm immediately struck by how tight this four-piece is (bass/drums/guitar/lights) that's right - the music may very well be a three-piece affair, but there's an extra sparkle to the show thanks to their lighting engineer, they're all wonderfully tight. I'm not sure if they're playing to a click or not - I don't get the feeling they are, there's an organic feeling to everything they're doing - and if it's to a click it's the first time I've seen such a thing in the underground sounding so natural. I don't think they are though, which makes it all the better for me.

I'm entirely captivated by Mother Engine's set - they partially remind me of how I'd expect the Ozric Tentacles to sound if they'd never used synths and gone with pure guitar tones - it's a good trippy musical journey, the occasional solo enters the affair but never stays too long or falls into an egocentric twiddle fest. This is a 20 minute or so track and it feels like 5, I've seen bands do more egotistical fret molestation in their supposed 6/7 minute "epics" than these guys are doing in their epically arranged progressions, where everything really is there to make sense of the tonal progression.

Mother Engine have talked a particular talk, walked a walk, and all of it's been done without ego. These dudes just really dig playing and it shows. It shows on the faces of the band, and the crowd.

As they bring their set to a close they promise a faster shorter older song (Brett Hart) - the crowd laughs not believing they've only played 2 tracks. The track is indeed more upbeat and the lovely Polish energy of receptiveness begins to build - Polish crowds being the smiling energetic affairs they are, I'm shoved face first into some poor lass’s face where we butt heads - she just smiles accepting my apology, meanwhile the frantic dance is entirely just. Mother Engine rips raucously to a close, and are met with a thunderous applause and triumphant well earned cheers. I stand humbled and impressed by the best live show I've seen by a band in a long long time. Seems I should have paid a little more attention to what's been going off in Germany. 

Diuna - Photo Taken By Marcin Piwnik

I dip into the smaller venue to check out what’s happening before 1000mods hit the stage. I find myself greeted by Diuna playing a stoner cover of "Bite it you scum" by GG Allin, much appreciated by my ears, sadly they're closing out their set. The room’s packed and vibrant with energy.

By this time I've sampled a fair amount of the Polish IPA's on offer - each one pleasant, but I'm ready for the headliner - 1000Mods.

Here is a band that probably needs little introduction, but if you've not heard them before they're a wee stoner rock setup from Greece, there's a strong Kyuss influence to their music, but it's positively attained in an authentic manner, opposed to sounding like some kinda cover band gone square.

I stand more towards the back of the crowd, next to the sound desk - I know what's going to happen down at the front, I remember from the last time I saw them. I'm in no state to be holding people in the air, and expending such energy, running on fumes as I was - I'd likely be a danger to people, so I opt for this spot next to the sound booth and enjoy the experience.

They explode into rampant gaudy tones setting the place on fire with a wave after wave of energy, even back here the grooves are driving the women to dance raunchily - whilst boyfriends nod heads stoically. Hundreds of people come alive to the rhythm and beat that is unmistakably 1000mods.

1000mods - Photo Taken By Zielińska Agata

Much as the weather outside - a Warsaw tradition is that it always rains when 1000Mods play, and low and behold the weather broke into a thunderous storm to coincide with their performance. Inside the crowd is responding with an entirely euphoric release of energy and receptiveness so much so Dani feels the need to ask people to calm down so nobody gets hurt - I've not seen this kind of response to a band in a long time, and it's reassuring.

I was certainly enjoying the set, but shamelessly I was also waiting for Low to be played, even commenting to the guy next to me, his name escapes me but I remember he was a member of the band Red Scalp, that I was anticipating them playing Low - when they finally announce it - they're self aware that it's a fan favourite but from my visually obscured position, I'm only hearing them build up into the opening... a sort of strange teaser jam they seem to have cooked up, when Dani starts telling everyone they're having a few technical problems, this just adds to the tension they've already built with the impromptu jam, by the time they finally hit the first breaking riff the tension is beyond breaking point and 400+ people receipt in unison and glee to this final break - mirrored by the weather - a true climax of smiles, wildness and energy. Bodies surf the crowd, wave after wave and as the set comes to a close I'm satisfied.

I stumble outside into a thunderstorm...

Over at the smaller stage, the party is still raging, with Wedge playing a stellar set, and pumping the crowd in the small space to a fever pitch, they're massive grooves are a welcome change that is exceedingly well-paced after the desert vibes of 1000mods. With loud organs and crazy guitar tones I continue to watch the set until the bass player just walks off stage - I'm not sure if he's broken a string, got bored, or what but the rest of the band seem to carry on through what I thought was a build down to a close, I'm far too inebriated to coherently assess the situation, so having come to see what I came to see I head back to the hotel, bidding farewell to Robert and staff as they load out 1000mods.

Wedge - Photo Taken By Marcin Piwnik

Taxi booked, and sleep...

I'm reminded of why the Warsaw scene had such an impact on me in the first place through both venues and all the bands, the tonal quality was excellent - and required no earplugs; which made me contemplate a few things about the United Kingdom underground music scene - I've seen good and I've seen terrible, and I've played good and bad shows with excellent and terrible sound engineers - and perhaps those are stories for another time, but if there's one thing I've learnt from revisiting the Polish music scene; Maybe we don't need to be so loud.

If you’re looking for a weekend adventure, but don’t have the cash to attend the larger festivals in Europe or the UK, I can highly recommend anything that “I did it: One man booking agency”, is putting on in Warsaw. The sound quality really is world class, the acts have always been top tier, the crowds are super friendly and the bands have often usually never graced the UK. Flights, hotel, food and drink came in at around 300 quid for the entire weekend; and I was being frivolous in my spending, I could have shaved a hundred off it had I wish to cheapen the event for myself. All I know is that Robert hinted at something larger next year… And I’ve every intention of revisiting.

Words by Chris Hardwick

Thanks to Chris for this epic review. Chris is the Guitarist/Vocalist from Spaztik Munkey.