Friday Full-Length: Causa Sui, Euporie Tide

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Call it a watershed moment, or a point of arrival, or whatever you want, there can be no doubt 2013’s Euporie Tide put Causa Sui in their own echelon of progressive heavy psychedelia. And though for the multiple layers of melodic wash its 10-track/64-minute run enacted, it more than earned a headphones-on listen, the truest experience of the third proper studio full-length from the Danish instrumentalists was just the opposite: totally unencumbered, preferably outdoors, as open a space as possible. From 10-minute opener “Homage” onward, Euporie Tide was a record best heard when it had room to breathe.

Causa Sui made their self-titled debut in 2005 through ultra-respected purveyor Nasoni Records — if you see a copy of that CD around, let me know — and followed up via Elektrohasch Schallplatten with Free Ride in 2007. Those two endorsements, Nasoni and Elektrohasch — the latter imprint being run by Stefan Koglek of German heavy psych forebears Colour Haze should be considered pretty key when it comes to dogwhistling the aesthetic guidance under which Causa Sui were working at the time. Between 2008 and 2009, the band would issue the three-part Summer Sessions LP series — collected in ’09 as Summer Sessions Vol. 1-3 (review here; discussed here) by Elektrohasch — and in 2011, the first two installments of their Pewt’r Sessions collaboration with Ron “Pewt’r” Schneiderman of Massachusetts improvisers Sunburned Hand of the Man. The latter two offerings, Pewt’r Sessions 1  and Pewt’r Sessions 2, were also important as they marked the beginning of a new branch in Causa Sui‘s expression with the beginning of the “Impetus” series delivered through their own label, El Paraiso Records.

It was a productive time, but the fact that between their second and third studio long-players, Causa Sui basically spent six years jamming their collective ass off shouldn’t be lost as one makes their way through Euporie Tide, which, with its explorations working around more plotted courses in the serenity of “Echo Springs” and the funk-infused “Boozehound” alike, was nonetheless a beneficiary of all that open creativity in the years immediately prior. Now the foursome of Jakob Skøtt, Jonas Munk, Rasmus Rasmussen and Jess Kahr and working under the tutelage of Munk as producer, Causa Sui stepped beyond their influences in the krautrocking “The Juice,” the psych daydream interlude “Fichelscher Sun” and “Mireille,” the organ opening of which gave way to a fluidity of bass, meander-ready guitar and snare shuffle that seems to foretell a golden age of psychedelic jazz fusion just waiting to be realized. I’m still holding my breath for it, frankly, but however they got there, Causa Sui had clearly become masters of the form, and they bent their aesthetic to the whims of their craft accordingly and extended the richness of their sound to each and every resonant cymbal hit and fuzzy build. To listen to “Ju-Ju Blues,” which as it enters its midsection feels perilously close to coming apart at the seams, is to hear this mastery made flesh. Amid Echoplex swirl, keys and a head-spinning groove, Causa Sui not only charge forward from the apparent chaos, but make doing so all the more a payoff for the threat averted.

All of this led, like the sonic river that it was, inexorably to the closing duo of “Euporie” and “Eternal Flow.” Running at 10:55 and 9:25, respectively, the pair arrived preceded by the quick ethereal interlude “Sota el Cel,” and were an album unto themselves when it came to the level of front-to-back engagement and overarching fluidity. Causa Sui seemed to know it as well, which is likely how the two pieces wound up positioned in such a way, but regardless of that consciousness, the drifting keys and airy strummed guitar at the center of “Euporie” was an invite to get lost in the track itself just before a directed rhythmic pickup — a genuine chug — took hold that gave Euporie Tide one of its most standout instrumental hooks. The band would rightly ride that progression for a while before shifting back to more peaceful fare and eventually settling into a kind of sonic middle ground en route to the last crescendo wash that cut off suddenly into the silence at the start of “Eternal Flow,” the guitar of which entered as though nothing at all has just happened and began the movement anew. “Eternal Flow” never landed in the same kind of heaviness as “Euporie” before it, but as it passed the six-minute mark, there was a sense of an understated payoff taking place, gently, subtly, that didn’t so much shove the listener into raging waters as languidly float them downstream. That peaceful feeling gave Causa Sui their fadeout cue, and they didn’t miss it, capping the record not with some overbaked and unnecessary push, but a smooth transition for their audience back to a reality that might’ve felt just a bit warmer for the manner in which the hour before was spent.

Fortunately, Euporie Tide kicked off what’s continued to be a prolific time for Causa Sui. In 2014, they followed it with Pewt’r Sessions 3 (review here) and the Live at Freak Valley (review here) outing captured the year prior at the titular German festival. Touring as well, they answered the desert rock aspects of Euporie Tide with the jazzier and more pointedly proggy Return to Sky (review here), and in 2017, surprised with not one but two new releases, the 3LP Live in Copenhagen (review here) and the looser-feeling studio record Vibraciones Doradas (review here) that helped seal the meld of adventurousness and core riffing that, by now, is an essential hallmark of their approach and a facet of the influence they’ve had on other jammers who’ve come along in their wake. I wouldn’t speculate what 2018 might bring from them, but as they’ve grown on each release, they’ve never failed to show a different side of who they are as a band, and the character and individualism that’s brought to their work has made it an utter delight to take on, whether it happens in a wide field on a sunny day or with a set of earbuds on a train. However it happens, the important thing is it happens.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

So hey, next week is 2018, huh? The future. I probably said the same thing last year. Whatever. 2017 felt like the future too. Like a tragic future, plus baby.

Speaking of baby, I need to find some way to adjust my morning writing process because I keep falling asleep at the keyboard and it’s damn near impossible to get anything done as a result. I know. Big newsflash: Dude with two-month-old isn’t getting enough sleep. Other top stories: Sky is blue and sun expected to rise in east. Still. I slept late one day this week — I think it was Wednesday — and it was magnificent. Might try to work more of that into my life.

By the time you read this, I’ll probably either be on my way to having or will already have had a root canal today. Was originally supposed to be last week, but I postponed because I already had a doctor appointment that day and dammit, one’s enough for a day. Anyway, I’m gonna see if they’ll gas me because I’ve had trouble with novocain working in the past and I figure better to go nuclear generally. Maybe I’ll kill a couple important brain cells and not give a shit about politics anymore. That’d be a nice New Year’s thing. Start off 2018 with a clean slate and all that.

See? I keep falling asleep on the couch. God damn.

I’ve decided to do the Quarterly Review the week after next, since next week is New Year’s Day and no one will give a crap anyhow, but there’s still a lot going on. Here’s what’s in the notes thus far:

Mon.: Year-End Poll Results; King Buffalo EP review/track premiere.
Tue.: C.O.C. review.
Wed.: Maybe a review/track premiere of the new album from Manthrass? Could happen. Otherwise, maybe Weedpecker.
Thu.: Greyfell track premiere/review.
Fri.: Either that Weedpecker or maybe Mr. Plow, depending on how the mood strikes.

Also having some messed up dream-snippets on the couch. Before I was at a literary conference and Kurt Vonnegut collapsed at the podium. Just now I was watching a surgery. And just now I saw a bookstore worker push a cart down a flight of stairs. What the hell is going on in my brain?

Okay, time to put the computer down. Be safe on New Year’s. I won’t be up at midnight unless The Pecan is, but if you are, I hope you have a great and safe time. Forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Besvärjelsen Premiere “Return to No Return” Video; Vallmo out in February

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

besvarjelsen

Swedish five-piece Besvärjelsen make their full-length debut in Feb. 2018 with Vallmo on Suicide Records, and it’s an album that weaves its brooding self between heavy rock and doom as fluidly as its lyrics do between English and Swedish. The full-length follows two shorter releases in 2016’s Exil and 2015’s Villfarelser, and while both to some degree offered a look at the band’s stylistic swath — to wit, Exil had two tracks, one more upbeat and one moodier — the blend has become richer and as the first audio to be made public from the record, the new video for “Return to No Return” showcases the fullness of approach that has resulted.

Noteworthy immediately for the rhythm section of former Dozer/Greenleaf membersbesvarjelsen valmo Johan Rockner (bass) and Erik Bäckwall (drums), Besvärjelsen makes their impression no less with melody than with groove on “Return to No Return” and other album cuts like “Mara” and the folkish “Under en Svart Himmel,” vocalist Lea Amling establishing a strong presence backed by guitarists Staffan Winroth and Andreas Baier for a choral effect that, regardless of language, seems to beg for singing along when it comes to the also-plentiful hooks throughout the record. Soul abounds, and with just an undercurrent of danger in its execution, “Return to No Return” captures an important aspect of what ties together the disparate styles Besvärjelsen touch on throughout the LP. The atmosphere here is not to be overlooked.

When it comes to the video itself, I suppose it would be hard ultimately to overlook the atmosphere, since that’s so much of what’s going on. We see Amling in a murky forest, delivering lines to the camera. The rest of the band? Not so much. There are some flashing lights near the finish, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, heads up, but otherwise, it’s worth letting the track sink in and make its statement, which it does clearly and in righteous form.

I’ll hope to have more to come on Vallmo before the release, but for now, please enjoy:

Besvärjelsen, “Return to No Return” official video premiere

In 2014, from the ashes of bands like Afgrund, Dozer, Lastkaj and Greenleaf, Besvärjelsen was formed. By mixing influences from progressive metal, doom, punk, folk and rock n roll the band has created a sound unlike no other band at the moment. The band released their first EP ”Villfarelser” in 2015. The follow up EP ”Exil” was released in 2016. Both EPs were well recieved in Swedish media and the band got many songs played on Swedish national radio.

The band spent 2017 writing songs and recording what was to become their first full length album. The result, ”Vallmo”, is an album that shows many different sides of the band. From heavy doom riffs to catchy lyrics and melodies and, of course, beautiful guitar solos. The songs have previously only been in Swedish, but with ”Vallmo” Besvärjelsen is debuting songs in english as well.

Besvärjelsen is
Andreas Baier – guitar and vocals
Staffan Winroth – guitar and vocals
Lea Amling – vocals
Erik Bäckwall – drums
Johan Rockner – bass

Besvärjelsen on Thee Facebooks

Besvärjelsen on Twitter

Besvärjelsen on Bandcamp

Besvärjelsen website

Suicide Records on Thee Facebooks

Suicide Records on Bandcamp

Suicide Records website

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Crypt of the Riff Festival 2018: Full Lineup Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

First of all, I know nothing about the band, but I’ll give credence to any event that features a group called Goatschlager, because that, my friends is how you win at monikers. Second, that righteously-named troupe is just one of the reasons one might think about booking passage to the inaugural Crypt of the Riff Festival, set for May 18 in the Northern Irish capital of Belfast. Among the others? HornetsElder DruidzhOraMolarbearTwo Tales of WoeSo Much for the Sun and fest-headliners Garganjua.

That’s a packed lineup for a show that according to the poster starts at 7PM (multiple stages? all-nighter?), but with Garganjua at the top of the bill, due heft is assured. The Leicestershire, UK, doomers issued their four-song A Voyage in Solitude full-length in Jan. 2017 and brought together extreme sludge, post-YOB rollout, Paradise Lost and Pallbearer-style woefulness and flourish of Electric Wizard melody for good measure, making a home for themselves in in-between spaces nonetheless marked out by an engrossing and dark atmosphere.

If you didn’t hear it, that album is streaming in full at the bottom of this post. Plain Living Promotions, founded by Elder Druid guitarist Jake Wallace, posted the event info for Crypt of the Riff 2018 as follows:

crypt of the riff 2018

Plain Living Promotions presents: CRYPT OF THE RIFF FESTIVAL 2018

The lineup is finally complete for Plain Living Promotions presents Crypt of the Riff Festival 2018. On Friday 18th May some of the finest purveyors of heavy music from this country and beyond lay waste to the subterranean Crypt of the Riff.

So stoked to announce Garganjua (Leicestershire) as headliners. Still 5 months to go but that leaves plenty of time to invest in worthwhile ear protection and/or get tickets.

Full lineup:
Garganjua
Hornets
Elder Druid
zhOra
MOLARBEAR
Two Tales of Woe
So Much For The Sun
Goatschlager

Date: Friday 18th May 2018
Venue: Bar Sub, Mandela Hall, Belfast
Tickets: £8 online / £10 on the door
18+

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1780384045329089/
Ticket link: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/422378

https://www.facebook.com/plainlivingpromotions/

Garganjua, A Voyage in Solitude (2017)

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Snailking Begin Work on Third Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It’s entirely possible that by the time they get the pre-production finished, start and complete a recording process, mix, master, press up the inevitable vinyl and secure a proper release, Snailking will be a full four years out from having issued their second full-length in the form of 2014’s Storm (review here). That record was the Jönköping, Sweden-based cosmic doom trio’s follow-up to 2012’s Samsara (review here) and their debut on Consouling Sounds, and while it’s unclear at this time if the same label will stand behind the new offering, it should be interesting to hear what the YOB-influenced outfit have come up with this time around, since in the time since Storm guitarist/vocalist Pontus Ottosson has completely revamped the rhythm section behind him.

Now comprised of Ottoson, drummer Olle Svahn (who takes the place of Karl Jonas Wijk) and bassist Anton Eng (come aboard for Frans Levin), Snailking are marking the start of what could easily be a new era for the band by kissing the old one goodbye via making Storm and Samsara as well as the 2014 Live at the Kinky Star Club available from Bandcamp in name-your-price fashion, hoping to entice listeners and build funds up for the impending studio time. If you didn’t hear it, Storm is worth the price of admission for the 17-minute roll of “Requiem” alone, never mind the more aggro take of songs like “Premonitions” and “To Wander,” but whatever your poison, there’s plenty of space-sludge to go around.

They put word out like so:

snailking photo nicky hellemans

Finally some good news, Snailking is currently doing pre-production for our next full-length album! We feel like this calls for some kind of celebration so we’re giving away both our previous albums for free on our Bandcamp. We’re also doing a sale where you can find cheap t-shirts and CDs, all sales goes to financing the recording of the next album.

Snailking is:
Olle Svahn – Drums
Anton Eng – Bass
Pontus Ottosson – Guitar & Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/SnailkingSWE/
https://snailking.bandcamp.com
http://snailking.se/

Snailking, Storm (2014)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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High Reeper Post “Die Slow” Video; European Tour Dates Coming Soon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

high reeper

As Philly’s heavy scene expands, it’s cool to see bands coming up with a variety of sounds. Alongside psych rock acts like Ruby the Hatchet and Ecstatic Vision, High Reeper cast a gritty impression born of proto-doom riffing but presented with a modern edge in its production. The band, who self-released their self-titled debut (review here) earlier this year, signed to Heavy Psych Sounds to give it a wider/official pressing, and as has been known to happen in the best of cases, High Reeper have linked up with the label’s booking arm as well and will tour Europe this Spring. Right in the thick of festival season, as it happens. Funny how these things work out sometimes.

For many, the clip below for “Die Slow” will be their first exposure to High Reeper‘s Sabbath-fueled stylings, and with the five-piece headbanging away on stage, it’s just as light on BS visually as it is in structure — a good sense of what it’s all about and a propensity for following the riff? These are not things with which to argue. As the dates are announced, I’ll be interested to see particularly who they wind up hitting the road with — whether it’s a native European act or American compatriots. The label’s roster offers plenty of sound company to keep, of course, and whether it’s the likes of Killer Boogie, who also have a new record coming, or Texas rockers Duel, who’ve been abroad a couple times already — or hell, both — it seems like there’s a cool opportunity to put a killer package together.

Speculation on my part, of course. I haven’t heard anything or anything. When I do, I’ll post the dates, of course. Till then, you can check out the “Die Slow” clip below, followed as ever by more info from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

High Reeper, “Die Slow” official video

Die Slow is the first official music video of the upcoming High Reeper’s album !!!

The self-titled album will be released via Heavy Psych Sounds on March 16th

The US based rockers will tour Europe from 26th of April to 19th of May 2018 !!!

High Reeper’s self titled debut is an unapologetic punch to the face for fans of early ‘70s proto-metal. The sound and smell of leather, weed, boozing, gambling and death permeate the record from start to finish. Nine tracks that run from uptempo straight ahead rock, to slowed down, heavy, early doom. With a rhythm section throwing down grooves that are deeper than the darkest abyss and guitars big enough to put a hole in your chest, the record’s finale hits just as hard as its opening track. Vocals that soar above the guitars with laser like precision, while delivering a direct hit to your soul. Produced, engineered and mixed by bass player Shane Trimble at TTR studios in Philadelphia and at his home studio Delwood sound in Delaware. The production is laced with old school elements while still maintaining the focus of a modern release. Recorded in the fall of 2017, High Reeper is meant to be played loud and to be played often.

AVAILABLE IN:
LIMITED ORANGE TRANSPARENT VINYL
BLACK VINYL
DIGIPAK / DIGITAL

High Reeper is:
Pat Daly
Zach Thomas
Andrew Price
Napz Mosley
Shane Trimble

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

High Reeper on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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2017 Song of the Year: Bell Witch, “Mirror Reaper”

Posted in Features on December 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bell witch (photo david choe)

It could be a few years before the scope of Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper is fully understood. The single-song, 83-minute, Profound Lore-released third full-length from the Seattle-based funeral sludge outfit, it is a work as likely to digest the listener as to be digested by them, and in its level of vision and execution, it should be considered nothing less than a generational accomplishment within doom’s most extreme ends. Front-to-back, it casts itself into progressive depths of headphone- and hyperbole-worthy murk, departing from the ground that the two-piece established on their 2015 offering, Four Phantoms (review here), the preceding 2012 debut, Longing (review here), and 2011 demo (review here) into a downward-aimed ether that seems to plunge as much in emotionality as in tempo. On either level, its gravity is unmistakable, and with the production of Billy Anderson behind it, an analogy to what Sleep‘s Dopesmoker once brought to stoner-doom feels all the more appropriate to the level of statement bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/organist/vocalist Jesse Shreibman are making within Mirror Reaper‘s no-bottom plummet. Make no mistake: this is a definitive achievement — both for Bell Witch and for any and all who’d dare follow in their wake.

One has to note that Mirror Reaper arrived this Fall as the band’s first work since the untimely death of original drummer Adrian Guerra last year at age 36. Guerra, who’d left Bell Witch after Four Phantoms, was nonetheless an essential facet in making their earlier work what it was, and it’s entirely likely that Mirror Reaper‘s ultra-resonant sense of mournfulness stems indeed from a genuine place of grief. In the lyrics, lines like “Floods that sleeve the reach of the drought/To bleed evermore/Empty me/Empty me/Ash of the ocean,” and “An ice of pieces/Of what was once there/The skin of being/Flayed as though the air,” seem to be manifesting an emotional processing in raw form, and the weight of the indecipherable growling and folkish clean delivery — Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge guests again on vocals as he did on Four Phantoms — is all the more palpable for the instrumental flow it complements, shifting with seamless patience between crushing tones and harsh, lumbering crash, and stretches so minimal as to be barely there, the first of which occurs about 17 minutes in and carries through a subtle build that unfolds over the next eight or so minutes, introducing the first of Mirror Reaper‘s chants and barely giving the audience time to stare back at how far the two-piece have already come in the 10 minutes since they were growling and plodding past the eight-minute mark with unbridled, Hammond-inclusive brutality. That duality is telling, but still only the beginning of what Bell Witch will unfurl over the subsequent hour of Mirror Reaper, which continues to grow more vicious and more reverberating as it plays out.

Because of its extended runtime, the piece itself — that is, “Mirror Reaper,” the title-track — is broken bell witch mirror reaperinto two parts for the CD release. These are titled “Mirror Reaper (As Above)” and “Mirror Reaper (So Below),” where on the 2LP edition of the album, its four sides are simply “As,” “Above” and “So” and “Below,” in that order. I can’t speak to the differing experience of hearing Mirror Reaper across these varied formats, but there’s little question that it was meant to be taken in its entirety one way or the other. This is, of course, also its most challenging form, and there are times when its assault on its audience feels especially geared as a litmus test for how much one can take, but even as Bell Witch hone a tension of growl-accompanied crashes at around 35 minutes in, there’s more happening than extremity for its own sake. That is to say, Mirror Reaper is not just pushing boundaries of sonic decency as an exercise in trying to make itself a next-level effort in punishment. Its greatest asset, rather, is the sense of expressiveness behind each measure’s excruciating roll, and as it makes its way toward and past the its halfway point, there is as much about it that could be called poetic as there is atmospherically ranging. At 45:40, clean vocals and growls come together over full-boar plod and organ and Bell Witch seem to find a moment with all elements active at once, producing an entrancing effect that caps with an especially scathing scream and echoing-out tones before shifting again into a slow, minimal bassline — this is the break point of the tracks on the CD version — in preparation for the song’s next stage.

By this point it should be well clear to anyone who’s managed to take Mirror Reaper on that there will be no escape. This mournful chronicle of our times is no less likely than those times an seem to be to swallow the consciousness whole, and that’s no less true as the folk-style verses begin circa 53 minutes in, carrying past the hour mark and into a section of church-style organ that, just as the 69th minute becomes the 70th, is met by resurgent bass tone and the final swell of crawling volume that lands as the emotional apex, returning to the initial heavy progression but staying with the cleaner vocals instead of growls, tying the various sides of the entirety together with no less fluidity than Bell Witch have to this point put in the transitions from one movement to the next. The final five minutes or so of Mirror Reaper are given to drone folk and the closing lines, “The pendulum slows/Then stilled under the cold/In absence he flies/In presence we will writhe,” coming across with the bare emotional presence and melodicism of a half-speed Warning in search of peace that it may or may not have found or find, the last note of “writhe” held out over a sudden end, as though there were still more to say after everything that came before but that it was cut short for a gorgeous and poignant finish. And there may well be, about the nature of resignation, of grief, or of our ongoing and ever-developing relationship with our own mortality and that of those around us, loved ones and otherwise, but part of what makes Mirror Reaper so engrossing is that rather than posture and philosophize these issues, it sidesteps the need for distance and carries the audience with it through a more experiential representation. It puts you there. You don’t need to talk about it. You’re going through it together.

Again, I do not believe at this point it’s really possible to understand what Bell Witch have done with Mirror Reaper, but there’s no question in my mind that it is a pivotal work in setting a new standard for a style it’s essentially recrafting to suit its own purposes. There is not a level on which it doesn’t succeed in this effort, and because of this, because of its sheer scale and because of the cohesion underlying its impossibly darkened sprawl, there is no doubt in my mind that “Mirror Reaper” is the 2017 song of the year.

Honorable Mention

I’m a big believer in the context of full albums, so it’s always hard to pick individual tracks that are such standouts. Nonetheless, here are a few more to chew on, in no particular order:

Lo-Pan, “Pathfinder”
All Them Witches, “3-5-7”
Spaceslug, “Time Travel Dilemma”
Colour Haze, “Labyrinthe”
Alunah, “Feast of Torches”
Moon Rats, “Heroic Dose”
Argus, “Devils of Your Time”
The Flying Eyes, “Drain”
Avon, “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank”
Sun Blood Stories, “The Great Destroyer”

Some of these and a whole slew of others were included in the Year-End Spotify playlist that went up yesterday, so if you haven’t yet, make sure you check that out. And if there are any songs you feel like should be on this list or just something that really hit you hard this year, I’d love to know about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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Somali Yacht Club Post New Song “Blood Leave a Trail”; The Sea Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

In the swaying rhythm, melody and swirling lead in the back half of the newly-unveiled ‘Blood Leave a Trail,’ one can hear Ukrainian trio Somali Yacht Club working under the progressive heavy rock influence of Elder‘s Lore album as they follow-up their 2014 debut,  The Sun (discussed here), but there’s some dreamy psychedelic vibes underlying that spirit and that suits them no less well than the directed cohesion around which the track is ultimately based. The Sea, which is the album from whence “Blood Leave a Trail” comes, is set to release Jan. 28 via Robustfellow and Kozmik Artfactz both, and preorders have been made available for those who like to get these things out of the way early, before, you know, spending money on less important stuff like paying bills or buying food or whatever it might be. Priority goes to rock.

Hard not to dig this cover art, right? I don’t know who did it, but yeah. If I was the kind of guy to keep a list of awesome album covers throughout the course of a year and post it every December, I might just think 2018 had its first entry on same.

From the PR wire:

somali yacht club the sea

Robustfellow announce pre-orders for SOMALI YACHT CLUB’s sophomore album “The Sea”, out on January 28th.

Robustfellow Prods. announce pre-orders for “The Sea”, the long anticipated sophomore album of Ukrainian dream-toned psychedelic trio SOMALI YACHT CLUB.
After the release of their highly acclaimed first album “The Sun”, which demonstrated the band’s ability to create dreamy vibe, mix styles and immerse listeners into phantasmagorical sound landscapes, SOMALI YACHT CLUB expand their musical horizons with their next LP “The Sea”. Warm grooves, atmospheric psychedelia, rich fuzz, airy leads masterfully blend in one sonic canvas and show progression of the band both in terms of songwriting and lyricism.

“The whole album is built upon the story about love, friendship, hope, and trust”, vocalist and guitarist Ihor comments. “Our music gets darker, more sophisticated and deep with each song. Imagine the dark clouds that are sinking lower and lower and dark-blue waves that are rising higher and higher.”

From the 22nd of December, you can pre-order CDs, limited editions, t-shirts, patches, bundles and many more via Robustfellow Prods. The album release will be accompanied with a massive merchandise sale at this location. Vinyls will be available via Kozmik Artifactz (links below) in the beginning of spring.

1. Vero
2. Religion Of Man
3. Blood Leave A Trail
4. Hydrophobia
5. 84 Days
6. Crows

http://facebook.com/Somaliyachtclub
http://somaliyachtclub.bandcamp.com
http://twitter.com/somaliyachtclub
http://instagram.com/somaliyachtclub
http://facebook.com/RobustfellowProds/
http://robustfellow.bandcamp.com
http://twitter.com/robust_fellow
http://instagram.com/robustfellow_prods
http://facebook.com/kozmikartifactz
http://kozmik-artifactz.com
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com

Somali Yacht Club, “Blood Leave a Trail”

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