Tersdee Sabbath: “Fairies Wear Boots” Edition

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 31st, 2009 by JJ Koczan

In the interest of full disclosure, I put that “‘Fairies Wear Boots’ Edition” in the title just to sound more official. Truth be told, I’m just using New Year’s — like I’ve used several other holidays — as an excuse to post some bootleg Black Sabbath. This time it’s the aforementioned track from the renowned Paris 1970 show. The video rules, the song rules, you can’t really lose by watching it. Be sure to rock out to it later when you’re all boozed out. I know I will.

This is it for 2009, so before I go grab the evening’s first adult beverage, I’d just like to take a second to say thanks to all the attendees, bands, labels, stoppers by, comment-leavers and everyone else for making this year such an incredible start for The Obelisk. It’s been killer beyond belief for me and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well. Be safe tonight, enjoy yourselves, and we’ll see you back here next decade — IN THE FUTURE!

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I Promise, This is the Last “…of the Year”-Type Post

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2009 by JJ Koczan

After this, we’re done with 2009, but before January gets here and we all step one day closer to armageddoom, there are a couple experiences I want to share/rehash one more time, since they turned out to be defining moments of the year. There were a bunch of great shows and festivals, good times were had, but there was little that compared with Roadburn and Planet Caravan.

Flying to The Netherlands for the first time was cool enough in itself, but going with a purpose — specifically to see the Saint Vitus reunion — made it all the better. And bearing witness to acts like Ufomammut, Colour Haze (for the second time), Cathedral, Church of Misery, Wino, Firebird, Neurosis and about a million others only added to the excitement. But really, it was the communion with the gods that motivated me to get off my ass and finally get over there, and I can honestly say that Roadburn 2009 was the pinnacle of the year. I’ve mentioned it more times than I can even think of in reviews and interviews with bands, and it has shaped every opinion of shows I’ve been to since — usually to their detriment. Even seeing Vitus in Brooklyn, as killer as it was, didn’t stack up to seeing them at 013 in Tilburg.

By contrast, I drove 10 hours solid to get to Asheville, North Carolina, for Planet Caravan. The vibe was much more American, even though the bands weren’t necessarily — Orange Goblin being a notable import for the occasion — and although it couldn’t really compare to Roadburn in its inaugural state, there were no shortage of incredible acts to check out: Zoroaster, Clutch, Burst, Wino again, Kylesa and Pentagram all ruled, but it was YOB who, like Vitus, got me off the couch. Admittedly, a close second was catching the legendary awesomeness of Pentagram for the first time (I’d missed those shows they did in NYC), and knowing it was probably the only time I’d ever get the chance to see Burst made that all the more special. But true enough to what I expected going into it, YOB destroyed all in their path. Worth pulling out the earplugs for, worth the hearing loss residual.

I’ll stop short of waxing poetic or intellectual about the meaningful nature of these sets since, as Devin Townsend reminds us, “It’s just entertainment, folks,” but there’s something to be said about what you do with your time and the memories you make as you go along. Actually, there’s a lot to be said about it, but I think it’s mostly implied. In any case, of all the places I managed to put myself in 2009 — grad school, this chair (a lot), numerous record stores, etc. — I know as long as I remember anything, I’ll remember Planet Caravan and especially Roadburn.

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Coping with the Guilt of Not Going to See Clutch at Starland Ballroom Tonight

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2009 by JJ Koczan

If you look at the math, I should be there. It’s Clutch, it’s New Year’s, it’s Jersey, they’re performing the entire self-titled and filming it for a DVD, and I still have use of both my legs. Really there’s no excuse for my absence, and I can only imagine the heartbreak the band will feel at my not being there. I can just see Neil Fallon on stage now, gleefully bouncing his way through “50,000 Unstoppable Watts,” suddenly looking out on the already-melted Starland Ballroom crowd, realizing I’m not there, and — perhaps not mentioning it out loud, because he’s a professional — but maybe tearing up a bit. Little tear in his eye.

But, although the reasons for going are plentiful, the unfortunate rationality of sitting this one out seems to have won the day. I will not recommend you follow me in this course of action — if you’re lucky enough to have Clutch tickets for a New Year’s show, you damn well better use them — but here are my reasons for not seeing one of my favoritest bands rock in 2010:

01. Starland Ballroom.
I’m not even going to debate the matter. Last year around this time, Clutch played Starland and it was so packed I had to leave early. When Starland Ballroom fills up, it is not only a fire hazard, but one of the most unpleasant places to exist in the entire world. You know that scene in Rambo: First Blood Part II when the Russian guy comes after the not-Viet Cong have been torturing Rambo and cuts open his chest for no good reason? It’s like that, only with overpriced Bud Light. Plus, they charge $6 to park in their parking lot, which as far as I’m concerned is like paying the gorilla to rape you.

02. I don’t have a ticket.
And the show’s sold out. Might make things difficult if I suddenly decided to make the trip.

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Revelation: Discoveries Old and New

Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Released separately on the same day by Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records, Revelation’s …Yet So Far and For the Sake of No One provide a look at one of Maryland doom’s longest running legacies as it was 14 years ago and as it is today. Respectively. Hellhound had the original release of …Yet So Far back in 1995, while For the Sake of No One is the brand new follow-up to last year’s Release and finds the band at perhaps their most mournful yet.

And I do mean mournful. For the Sake of No One — which maintains the Revelation lineup of Steve Branagan (drums), John Brenner (guitar/vocals) and Bert Hall (bass) — starts off with the woeful one-two punch of “A Matter of Days” and “Offset,” both of which creep at a true doom slow pace that just makes you want to hang your head. “Canyons,” the longest song at 9:11, hits hard in both musical weight and emotional content. The groove is solid, and there’s an under-produced feeling that pervades (Brenner handled recording and mixing, as with Release) that only winds up adding to the cult vibe throughout. This is doom for doomers, folks. Novices or anyone craving timing changes or math-metal parts needs to find themselves another boat.

Things do pick up somewhat with the shorter “On a Promotory” in the middle of the album, and there are some surprises hidden on Side B that contrast the straightforward dirge of For the Sake of No One’s forward face. “The Whisper Stream” boasts the record’s best (and maybe most extended) solo from Brenner, a moment of upbeat classic rock in a swirling sea of doom. The last few minutes of the extended “Vigil” have a bumping bass line from Hall and a lead line that speaks to ‘80s style of rock, and the closing title track starts off eerily quiet, only to blindside with yet another cut of the massive doom that typified the album’s first half.

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The Last CD I Bought this Decade

Posted in Buried Treasure on December 30th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Unless that Blue Cheer disc shows up in the mail tomorrow, I just received the final album I will have purchased this decade. It was Trouble, by Trouble. I bought it off Amazon used, but as close to mint as anything I’ve seen, spent $30 of an Xmas gift card and $18 of my hard-earned on top of that to get it. Worth every penny, virtual and otherwise.

The 1990 release is widely regarded as the apex of Trouble‘s career, and with tracks like “Psychotic Reaction,” “At the End of My Daze” and “Black Shapes of Doom,” it’s hard to argue. The classic lineup of vocalist Eric Wagner, guitarist Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Barry Stern (RIP) captured a defining moment in doom which even 20 years later many bands still emulate without the same kind of effect on the listener.

Whatever they’ve done since — the lineup changes, naming their yet-to-be-released new album The Dark Riff, etc. — there’s no denying the presence of Trouble, and two decades on, the power of these tracks still speaks for itself. It is an acquisition most welcome, and a fitting end to 10 years of rampant expenditure without regard for credit rating, checking account balance or common sense.

Speaking of, anyone got a lead on a CD copy of the Saint Vitus live record on Hellhound? There’s a couple extra tracks they left off the Southern Lord reissue I’d like to get my hands on.

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Two Albums that Would Have Made the Top 10 if They Hadn’t Been Released Last Year

Posted in Buried Treasure, Features on December 30th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Every year there’s a last-minute sneak onto the countdown. Two years ago, Primordial‘s To the Nameless Dead came out in November and was my pick for album of the year. I stand by that, by the way. I guess the closest thing to that happening this year is Shrinebuilder, though they more or less had a spot waiting for them, it was just a matter of assigning the proper number when the time came. Last year, there were two late-released records that made my top 10 that I think are worth another mention as we get ready to close the books on 2009.

Namely, Beyond Colossal by Dozer and II by The Kings of Frog Island.

We’ll take them one at a time. For Dozer, who have since relinquished their crown as the kings of Swedish stoner metal to go on hiatus, Beyond Colossal was a further step away from their riff rock beginnings. Their fifth album overall — second for Small Stone — it was a heavy and aggressive exploration of sound that resulted in a collection of memorable tracks including “Empire’s End” and “Two Coins for Eyes,” both of which featured guest vocals from Clutch‘s Neil Fallon. But it wasn’t just his appearance that made Beyond Colossal special. The energy in “The Flood,” the dynamism of “The Ventriloquist” and even the bravery of quiet closer “Bound for Greatness” all shine both within the Dozer catalog and without.

For the UK‘s The Kings of Frog Island, II was an appropriately-titled second offering via Elektrohasch Schallplatten. While what I recalled of their first album was that it was fuzzy, stoned and riffy with psychedelic undertones, this one came and blew it away in almost every sense of the word. For the hair grown on the guitar tone in “Welcome to the Void” alone — the riff to which I can’t get out of my head just from thinking about it as I type — II has been a mainstay in my CD player throughout 2009. The transposed down-home blues of “The Watcher” and the darker, more sinisterly rhythmic “Witching Hour” are constant fixtures in the mental jukebox, and those are just the tracks I can think of off the top of my head. Once the record actually goes on, it’s simply a matter of being taken someplace else. Leicester, perhaps, where the band is from. Who knows.

Point is this, both Beyond Colossal and II have already shown that they can hold up for a solid year (which, as we all know, is a lot more than plenty of albums) without losing their appeal. If nothing else, that’s definitely worth some consideration. “Attention could be paid,” and so forth.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Post-Script and Honorable Mentions

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Man, that was exhausting. More exhausting than I thought it would be. A list that crossed about three weeks’ worth of posts and completely ran dry my synonyms! I mean, how many ways can you say, “Gosh, I really liked this album so I put it on my top 10?” I’m glad I didn’t decide to do a top 11. I don’t think I’d have one more in me.

You’ll also note there were no “Of the Decade” lists to be found on The Obelisk. That was on purpose. I didn’t want to do one. If you want to know what I think the best record was of the decade, I don’t have an answer for you. I’d probably say Lateralus by Tool, but I haven’t listened to it in about three years, so maybe it hasn’t held up. Anyway, I had enough trouble putting together a best of ’09 to worry about ’00-’08.

Speaking of, it’s time for a few honorable mentions. These aren’t in any order other than that in which they occurred to me: Paradise Lost, Snail, Pelican, Ichabod, Kylesa, Zoroaster, Birds of Prey, Naam, Black Math Horseman, Heaven and Hell, Dark Castle, Lo Pan, Candlemass, Black Pyramid, Church of Misery, Clutch, Iron Man, Lamp of the Universe, Ancestors, Helen Money and about three dozen more. Pretty much everything that didn’t suck. The podcast has a bunch, in case you missed it.

In all seriousness, this was a lot of fun, and agree or disagree, I hope you enjoyed reading, listening, watching the videos, etc. More to come.


The Top 10 of 2009: Number One…

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

It was a hefty mountain of shit guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt had to climb to get to the point of putting out a new YOB record. After breaking up the band following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, his follow-up act Middian was sued by a shitbag local act of a similar name, effectively disbanding them. Abandoned by his label, Scheidt reformed YOB with drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Reiseberg, signed to Profound Lore and put out what I consider to be the best album of 2009: The Great Cessation.

They had split after releasing what was their high water mark, and with a string of quality albums preceding — 2004’s The Illusion of Motion, 2003’s Catharsis and 2002’s Elaborations of Carbon — a legacy was well in place. YOB‘s massive stone/drone doom made for some of the best metallic psychedelia of the decade, and for them to come back, harness and focus all the aggression of their prior output with an even more expansive breadth, was easily the listening highlight of the year. Even with the noise and crash of “Silence of Heaven,” which was near-unlistenable (and intentionally so), The Great Cessation proved to be the strongest and most powerful slab of cosmic doom the band has produced yet.

As if I could ever get the cadence of opener “Burning the Altar” out of my head. As if the prolonged agony of the closing title track didn’t present something different to my ears every single time I heard it. YOB may have grown in esteem following their breakup (absence makes the hip grow fonder?), but they sacrificed none of their unearthly heaviness with their comeback, compromised nothing of their sound and approach, even limiting their live appearances to exactly what they wanted them to be. With constant progression and unflinching creativity, The Great Cessation was simply the best record released this year. Here’s looking forward to the next one.

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