Total Coverage: Borderland Fuzz Fiesta Night One, Tucson, Arizona, 02.26.16

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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No sleep, no food, no stopping. Heavy rock and roll waits, but why be impolite? I landed in Phoenix after a two-hour flight from San Francisco that put me back on Mountain Time, two hours behind the Eastern Seaboard. Totally livable. I can’t and won’t account for the frayed neurons playing havoc with the various cortices in my brain, but the two-hour drive through the desert from Phoenix to Tucson in my rental car was just enough open spaces to set the mood for Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016, my playlist along the way curated to the best of my admittedly limited ability.

I swung through the Arizona Riverpark Inn to engage in a ceremonious dropping off of stuff. Wasn’t time for much else. It was after 5PM by then and doors at 191 Toole seven minutes up the road were at six. Places to be. A quick hobo bath in the sink would have to do, and I was off, greeted by brothers Joey and Wayne Ruddell, of the band Fuzz Evil and the organizers of Borderland Fuzz Fiesta, as well as Todd Severin of Ripple Music, Bucky Brown who writes for Ripple Effect, Randy Blood, Mark Aceves of Zed and others. Luminaries all. Voices put to names and faces from social networking, I was glad to be in good company. The vibe was relaxed and would remain so for the duration.

To follow-up on Elder canceling earlier this week owing to injury and Fatso Jetson taking their place — they rolled in with the dudes and ladies of Yawning Man, who headline night two — psych rockers 3rd Ear Experience called in sick with food poisoning. That left seven bands on the bill, which proved to be plenty enough to riff the evening into oblivion or something close to it and effectively wash away months’ worth of humdrum adultism, stress for work, real life, and so on. It was, I don’t mind saying, much needed.

The esteemed Lance Gordon and his Mad Alchemy crew would be working an oil light show for the entire night, six projectors going resulting in unparalleled psychedelic gorgeousness accompanying the bands while they played. Here’s how it went down, front to back:

Big Mean

big mean 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Among other things, Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 would mark my first real exposure to local trio Big Mean, named presumably for both beard and riffery. Actually, the three-piece take their moniker from guitarist/vocalist “Big Mean” Maheen who started the band as a solo-project circa 2013. They released their first EP last year and dug into thick, straightforward grooves to start off the show, not without a harder bluesy edge, but still fluid enough to help set the vibe for the evening as they played on one of the two stages, located on the floor next the main stage. The crowd filtered in, and for a moment it seemed half the people there had cameras, but it was an all-ages show, so some genuine kids would show up throughout the course of the night, and Big Mean gave the evening a suitably unpretentious start, some raw volume — the cargo train going by on the tracks behind the venue, for example, could not be heard over them — and a spacier guitar finish that saved their best nod for last. They were way more of a band than a solo-project, and solid at that. Left no room for complaint.

Dead Canyon

dead canyon 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I can’t say Phoenicians Dead Canyon were a complete surprise, as I did check out their 2013 The Lonesome Company Demo to pick a track for the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 mixtape, but the three subsequent years since that release have clearly brought some changes in their sound. Somewhat slicker thank the openers in their presentation, they got tighter as they went on, guitarist Frank Davenport and drummer Josh Bodnar sharing vocal duties over Roger Willams‘ thick bass tone, resulting in a sound that seemed like it would very easily translate to a long-player. I don’t know if they’re there yet, but they came across like a band with an album out, with touches of classic swing in Bodnar‘s drums and a very distinct sonic identity in development. They kept momentum between their first couple songs with a steady kick drum and stick clicks, stopping for the first time after three cuts, and even then not for long — there was shuffling to do. And they did it right on, with starts and stops that stood them out even on a night chock full of riff-led fare. They’d end the Arizona contingent of the lineup, but represented their home state well.

Zed

zed 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

San Jose four-piece Zed reportedly have a new album due out in August or thereabouts on Ripple Music, and much of what they played came from it. On a weekender with shows in Palm Desert and San Diego in addition to Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016, they also had a fill-in guitarist in the form of Tim Narducci of SPV heavy rockers Spiralarms, who took the place of Greg Lopez alongside guitarist/vocalist Pete Sattari, bassist Mark Aceves and drummer Rich Harris and was well at home running through “Please” from 2013’s Desperation Blues and new cuts like “Royale” and “Blood of the….” (I didn’t quite catch the full title). More aggressive than either Dead Canyon or Big Mean, they reminded me a bit of Dozer live, perhaps not as raging, but still two guitars pushing energetic material that doesn’t so much ask you to follow along as it does shove you in the direction it wants you to go. In any case, they were duly tight, Sattari showcasing punker roots reset in a thicker-riffed context, and if I hadn’t known beforehand that they weren’t playing with their permanent lineup, I wouldn’t have guessed. They closed with the more brooding “The Mountain” in grand style, a subdued feel at first flourished by lead interplay getting larger as it went. Zed sounded like a well-kept secret, and made me look forward to their record.

Funeral Horse

funeral horse 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Look. I like weird bands. I make no apologies for it. As such, Houston’s Funeral Horse were exactly what I was hoping for. First line of my notes? “Can’t spell Funeral Horse without ‘fun.'” They were that, guitarist/vocalist Paul Bearer big on personality in leading the trio of himself, bassist Jason Argonaut and drummer Chris Bassett through “There Shall be Vultures” from their 2015 LP, Divinity for the Wicked (review here) as well as “Until the Last Nation Falls” from 2014’s Sinister Rites of the Master (review here) and “Scatter My Ashes over the Mississippi” from their 2013 debut, Savage Audio Demon (review here), along with what may have been a new song or two, all the while running a cohesive balance between blown-out stoner punk and heavy metal. Very clearly up for a good time but not at all a joke. On a personal note, I was already looking forward to having them at The Obelisk All-Dayer in August, but their ability to freak out the room at 191 Toole and actively not give even the remotest of fucks only made me more stoked to see them again. Bearer auctioned off Argonaut before “Scatter My Ashes” — I think the final bid was $20, including the bass — and their whole set was just a blast, a touch of ’90s noise rock more prominent in their sound than I’d previously realized. I was way into it, but hey, I like weird bands.

Fatso Jetson

fatso jetson 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Fatso Jetson‘s set came in two parts. For the first, they played as a five-piece fronted by Sean “The Captain” Wheeler of desert punkers Throw Rag. Wheeler sat in for opener “Trouble Maker,” as well as the mega-boogie “Golden Age of Cell Block Slang” from 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here), their most recent full-length, and “Swollen Offering” from 1998’s Toasted, trading lines back and forth with guitarist Mario Lalli and also backed by guitarist Dino von Lalli, Mario‘s son. Dino was freshly in the band last time I saw Fatso Jetson, three years ago at Desertfest London (review here), but that dynamic between father and son has clearly taken shape, which came out further in the jammier second part of the band’s set, sans Wheeler. Atop the somebody-should-build-a-statue-in-their-honor rhythm section of bassist Larry Lalli (Mario‘s cousin) and drummer Tony Tornay, Mario and Dino alternated leads between frenetic shredding and airier effects, backed each other on rhythms in “Magma” and “Dream Homes” and shared vocals as they pushed “Orgy Porgy” to what felt like it should’ve been well past the breaking point. They may have been a last-minute replacement for Elder, but Fatso Jetson owned the room immediately — locked in from the start and only built momentum as they went. Yeah, they had that split with Farflung (review here) last year, and one with Yawning Man before that, but it’s been too long since they put out a proper record. As they showed in their finishing jam playing off of “Too Many Skulls,” their chemistry is so dead on that it deserves to be captured one way or another. It’s like the whole planet doesn’t even know it’s waiting for them to out-rock it. They were phenomenal.

Blaak Heat

blaak heat 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Los Angeles by way of New York by way of Paris by way of who knows where else three-piece Blaak Heat — who’ve also dropped the “Shujaa” from their moniker in their many travels — had their work cut out for them headlining the floor stage. Playing between Fatso Jetson and Dead Meadow probably counts as the evening’s least enviable task, but the three-piece flourished. They’ll release their third album, Shifting Mirrors, in May through Tee Pee Records (Europe gets it in April), and aside from closing out with “Shadows (The Beast Pt. II)” from their 2013 sophomore outing, The Edge of an Era (review here), everything they played was new. This was particularly encouraging. I’d heard “Anatolia” on the aforementioned mixtape, but in songs like “Shifting” and “Zeta” (likely partial titles), they affirmed their progressive leanings in winding rhythmic complexity, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier an emergent frontman presence and new bassist Henry Evans (ex-Spindrift) and drummer Mike Amster (also Sinner Sinners, Boarchucker and ex-Abrams) seamless in their execution. It was noted on stage that Amster was just back from Europe — as in, the same day — and while I’m sure having just come from a time zone upwards of eight hours ahead of that in Arizona was taking a toll, it didn’t stop him in the slightest from nailing the heavy psych frenzy and stretches of undulating groove. As an initial impression, mostly their new stuff seems like it’s refusing to settle or be tamed. “Sword” (again, presumably a partial title) was a tornado in the desert, a fitting answer to Fatso Jetson‘s own riffy torrents, less jammy perhaps, but furious in its purpose and instrumental focus. I’m going to look forward to that album, “Shujaa” or no.

Dead Meadow

dead meadow 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It’s been half a decade since I last saw Dead Meadow. That was Roadburn 2011 (review here). In the interim, the shoegaze-psych pioneers issued a studio full-length, Warble Womb, in 2013 and toured vociferously to support it. Now 16 years removed from their self-titled debut, Dead Meadow are both massively influential and completely underrated. Once they took stage, there was never any doubt. Drummer Mark Laughlin‘s stiff-armed swing rolled out the swim-in-this-tone bass of Steve Kille and the guitar of Jason Simon, and Simon‘s quiet vocals set a particularly molten vibe. It’s fortunate Mad Alchemy was around, since Dead Meadow are essentially the aural equivalent of a liquid light show. It took me a couple songs into their set to realize what was going on, but it marked a fascinating turn for Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 to have Dead Meadow end the night. After Fatso Jetson and Blaak Heat, each more furious than the last, Dead Meadow were a sharp turn toward the laid back, and rather than drive the evening’s momentum over this or that edge, they melted the entire evening down and gave everyone an opportunity to bask in the warmth. Through cuts like “I Love You Too,” “The White Worm” and “Good Moanin’,” they were a gentle easing out for the night, all fuzz righteousness and non-aggro heft, effects wash and mellow-out. I wouldn’t try to make rash predictions or anything, but that’s a spirit I’d expect Yawning Man to echo at least in part in closing out Night Two, giving the festival a kind thematic cohesion that resonates as much conceptually as sonically. Either way, Dead Meadow — who’ve already toured South American and the West Coast in 2016 — were a trip into raw psychedelic bliss, which is a trip I just about always welcome taking, and in rounding out the night, they expanded the palette and minds alike. I’m going to try very hard not to let another five years pass before I see them again.

Before Dead Meadow went on, solo act Leonhardt went on near the merch area for a quick set of solo acoustic material. Another last-minute addition, his inclusion demonstrated a growing reach on the part of the fest stylistically. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did more of that kind of thing in the future.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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En Route to Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 in Tucson, AZ

Posted in Features on February 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sfo silver balls

02.26.16 – 9:39AM Pacific – SFO International Airport

Last time I was at SFO I was in exactly the same area of the airport. That was July. I was out here for work, trying to make the most of the trip and succeeding to various degrees. This time I’m just passing through on my way to Phoenix. I was on a 6AM Eastern flight out of Boston, will leave here at some point soon to go to the Phoenix airport, where I’ll pick up a rental car and drive about two hours from Phoenix to Tucson, where Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 is happening tonight and tomorrow.

The flight plan has me getting into Phoenix at 2:30PM. Show starts in Tucson at 6:30PM. With the drive, I’m not sure if I’ll have time to check into my hotel before the show, but I should probably get something to eat. This is more difficult than it used to be; gone are my days of blueberry muffin travel subsistence. Long-ish story. In any case, I’ve been up since 12:30AM Eastern, having gone to bed around nine, so I’ll need something sooner or later. Slept a bit on the plane here. Loading up on caffeine now. Still feels like Thursday. I love traveling.

Amidst all this nonsense of swapping time zones and the pilot on my flight saying he hoped being early today may have made up for anytime in the past year that a United flight was late — as it happens, my flight to SFO last July was delayed five hours for an apparently irreplaceable flat tire; seriously, they had to get another plane — the good news is I’ll spend the next two days doing something I’ve done far too rarely thus far into 2016, which is enjoying live music. The lineup for Borderland Fuzz Fiesta is so solid it’s ridiculous, and because I’ll be writing about the fest over the weekend, posting a review of tonight tomorrow and one of tomorrow on Sunday, I’m going to forego the usual closing-out-the-week ritual and kindly ask that you stay tuned for more to come over the next couple days. Once I get past that whole “driving through the desert on next to no sleep” thing, I’ve got a really good feeling about the whole weekend.

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 135+ of 2016’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

tomorrows dream 2016

If 135-plus releases sounds like a lot, you’re right, it is. I must be out of my god damn mind. To put it to scale though, last year, I did a feature every couple of months called the Quarterly Review that throughout the course of 2015 resulted in no fewer than 200 separate album writeups. 135 is a lot, but it’s not everything. It’s still January. It couldn’t possibly be everything.

The basic fact of the matter is there’s so much out there right now that anyone claiming to even hint at totality of coverage is either clueless or lying. I don’t come close to catching it all. I do the best I can to do as much as I can. I know you’ve heard this all before.

Over the last seven or eight months, I’ve been keeping track of albums, EPs, singles, etc., slated for 2016 release. Some of these are independent, some through labels, some names familiar, some names new. I’ve tried to mix it up as much as possible, and I reserve the right to add to the list over the next couple days anything anyone might suggest in the comments. Last year’s list turned out to be a resource I used throughout the entire time, so, fingers crossed, I’ll be doing the same this go around. Thanks in advance for your participation in making it more complete by leaving a comment.

Ordered Alphabetically by Artist

1. Alunah, TBA

alunahThe Birmingham doom-rollers seem to be on this list every year, but I have it on good authority — namely, Alunah posted about it on the social medias — that they’re writing and entering the studio with an eye toward a late-2016 release for the follow-up to their 2014’s excellent Awakening the Forest (review here), their third full-length and debut on Napalm Records. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
 

2. Ancient Warlocks, II

I don’t even know how many pressings STB Records has been through of Ancient Warlocks‘ self-titled debut (review here), but the follow-up has been finished since September and is reportedly due sometime this Spring. Primo fuzz is expected from the dual-guitar Seattle outfit. Ancient Warlocks on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

3. Asteroid, III

Since their late-2015 reunion (announced here), Swedish trio Asteroid have been added to the lineup for Desertfest in Berlin and just this past week re-signed to Fuzzorama Records — which also released their last full-length, 2010’s II (review here) — for an upcoming release they’ve appropriately-enough dubbed III. Much more to come. Asteroid on Thee Facebooks, Fuzzorama Records.
 

4. Atavismo, TBA

Not much more to go on here than the band alluding to a forthcoming LP being put together, but frankly, I was so enthralled with the Spanish group’s late-2014 debut, Desintegración (review here), that that’s enough to make me excited at the prospect of a next installment from them. Keeping my hopes up it gets here before December. Atavismo on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

5. Banquet, Jupiter Rose

Picked up last fall by Heavy Psych Sounds as part of a torrent of signings from the label, San Francisco’s Banquet make their debut next month with Jupiter Rose, following their 2015 single, Run to You / Mother Road, which was released by Who Can You Trust? Records and boasts soulful West Coast heavy ’10s thrust. Banquet on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

6. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom

When I starting keeping notes for this list, this album was pegged as the debut from Beelzefuzz-offshoot Righteous Bloom, but word came down in December that band had reassumed its former moniker and that Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom would be issued in the early part of 2016 via The Church Within as the follow-up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). Whatever name the progressive doomers release it under, I can’t wait to hear it. Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks, The Church Within Records.
 

7. Bellringer, TBA

bellringerThere hasn’t been any sort of official announcement of a debut LP from the Mark Deutrom-led Bellringer, but over the course of the last year, the Austin-based former Melvins/Clown Alley bassist has unveiled a number of singles (posted here), and if he keeps it up long enough, he’ll get to an album one way or another. As a fan of creative weirdo heavy rock, I’m looking forward. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

8. Blaak Heat Shujaa, TBA

As of this past April, L.A. desert psych rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa (aka Blaak Heat) were in pre-production for their third full-length and second for Tee Pee Records behind 2013’s expansive The Edge of an Era (review here). The album may or may not be done, but whenever it arrives, it’ll do so with extra interest due to the inclusion of Tom Davis (ex-Nebula) on bass. Blaak Heat Shujaa on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
 

9. Black Black Black, TBA

I feel like Brooklyn post-hardcore heavy rockers Black Black Black caught a bum rap because of their name, but the band’s blend of melody and intensity was not to be ignored on account of moniker or anything else. No solid release date yet, but last I heard, Aqualamb Records, which issued the artbook version of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) would have a sophomore album released in similar style in the first half of this year. Black Black Black on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb Records.
 

10. Black Cobra, Imperium Simulacra

You’ll note several records on this list have a release date of Feb. 26, and it would seem only fair to put Black Cobra‘s fifth outing and first for Season of Mist, Imperium Simulacra (review here), at the head of the bunch even if it didn’t wind up there by alphabetical happenstance. Not by any means the San Francisco duo’s rawest outing, but definitely their most stylistically expansive, and with plenty of their trademark destructive gallop to boot. One you probably don’t need me to tell you that you should hear. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
 

11. Black Cowgirl, TBA

Last time Pennsylvania heavy rockers Black Cowgirl were heard from, they said one simple thing: “2016.” That was October. Well, it’s 2016 now, and if we’re talking new releases, an LP from them would just about be their debut. Their 2012 self-titled (discussed here) on Kozmik Artifactz paired newer songs with material from their 2010 demo (discussed here), so a straight-up album feels due. Maybe this is the year. Black Cowgirl on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

12. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

Black Rainbows Stellar ProphecyIf this one’s fresh in mind, that’s because it was just announced last week that Rome trio Black Rainbows would release their new album, Stellar Prophecy in April on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s a quick turnaround for them from 2015’s Hawkdope (review here), but as that album was a marked step forward in their sound, I’m even more eager to hear where they go next. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

13. Black Shape of Nexus, Carrier

It’s an establish Spring release date for the new Black Shape of Nexus, whose brand of sludge crosses a threshold of thoughtfulness without falling into post-metal cliche. The German outfit’s last record, 2012’s Negative Black (streamed here), was plenty punishing, and I’d expect only creative progression on Carrier, though wouldn’t dare guess at the form in will take. Black Shape of Nexus on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
 

14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule

Toronto’s Blood Ceremony enter into their recently-announced fourth full-length, Lord of Misrule in something of a stately position. Since 2013’s The Eldritch Dark, their influence has only spread further across North America and beyond, so the question as the new LP makes its way out via Rise Above on March 25 is how they can stand out from the crowd formed at least partly in their wake. Blood Ceremony on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
 

15. Boris with Merzbow, Gensho

So you get your Boris record, then you get your Merzbow record, then you play both at the same time, and that’s your collaborative release. The intermittent pairings from Boris with Merzbow have always been unflinchingly creative and bold in their experimentalism, and going by the teaser posted last week, Gensho will be no different when it arrives March 18 on Relapse. Expect who the hell knows what. Boris on Thee Facebooks, Merzbow website, at Relapse Records.
 

16. Borracho, TBA

In mid-2015, Washington D.C.’s Borracho took part in a Ripple Music split with Geezer called The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here). A bolt title, but it found them continuing to refine their sound as a power trio following 2013’s sophomore LP, Oculus (review here). No solid word of something due as yet, but a recent update from the band said they’d be hitting the studio next month. Borracho on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

17. Brimstone Coven, Black Magic

Out this week on Metal Blade, Brimstone Coven‘s debut album follows a well-received self-titled EP compilation (track stream here) that came out last year, and should prove interesting to see how the West Virginian doomers have grown since that material was recorded in 2013, just a year after they formed. I can’t claim to have heard it yet, but it seems like one that the doom converted should be all over. Brimstone Coven on Thee Facebooks, at Metal Blade Records.
 

18. Causa Sui, Return to Sky

causa suiDanish heavy psych instrumentalists Causa Sui posted an album teaser late last week for Return to Sky, and though it only showcased two tracks, it showed their tonal warmth intact and their will to explore as vibrant as ever. To be released through their own El Paraiso Records, my only hope is they don’t get saddled with pressing delays in the Spring, because really, the sooner it gets here, the better off we’ll all be. Causa Sui on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
 

19. La Chinga, Freewheelin’

An awaited follow-up and Small Stone debut brings Freewheelin’ (review here) from Vancouver heavy rockers La Chinga on March 20. The new album reignites the hard-driving, classic-minded methods of their 2013 self-titled (discussed here), but refines the songwriting as well to affect a more memorable impression. The beginning of a big return year for Small Stone. La Chinga on Thee Faceboks, Small Stone on Bandcamp.
 

20. Church of Misery, …And Then There Were None

Unquestionably one of the most anticipated albums of the year. And Then There Were None brings Church of Misery founder Tatsu Mikami to the US from his native Japan and finds him teamed up with members of Blood Farmers, Earthride and Repulsion in a completely revamped lineup from that which appeared on 2013’s Thy Kingdom Scum (review here). Rise Above recently announced a March 4 release. Church of Misery on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
 

21. Cities of Mars, TBA

Swedish trio Cities of Mars caught attention with the big riffs and steady swing of their debut single (review here), and announced back in October that they’d have a new EP out in March via Suicide Records. Still somewhat in their formative stages, they’ve presented a sci-fi thematic and it will be interesting to see if they stick with it or move toward something else. Cities of Mars on Thee Facebooks, Suicide Records.
 

22. Cloud Catcher, TBA

The progressive Denver newcomers are set to hit the studio in Spring to record their sophomore LP and the follow-up to 2015’s Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), so it might be summer or even fall by the time it gets issued, depending on timing of the recording, what label picks them up, etc., but it’s one to keep an eye out for anyway. They’ve shown a willingness to hit the road as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so again sometime after their Spring tour in Feb./March. Cloud Catcher on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

23. Comacozer, Astra Planeta

When Sydney trio Comacozer signed with HeadSpin Records last July, it was announced they’d be recording in October for a debut full-length to be titled Astra Planeta that would be due this Spring on the label. That process has been delayed somewhat, but there’s still no reason to think they can’t get the record out this year. Their 2015 EP, Deloun Sessions, found them pushing more into tense, moody atmospherics, and it was a shift that suited them well. Comacozer on Thee Facebooks, HeadSpin Records.
 

24. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeanceOut this week on Napalm Records, the third album from UK destroyers Conan, Revengeance (review here), finds the trio revamped around founding guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, with longtime producer Chris Fielding adding a striking, effective counterpoint on bass and vocals and drummer Rich Lewis adding to the tectonic roll on drums. Happy to report, it still sounds like Conan, only perhaps even deadlier. Conan on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
 

25. Conclave, TBA

I don’t think Massachusetts four-piece Conclave — whose members trace their pedigree back to outfits like Warhorse and Grief — are ready to make the name of their full-length debut public yet, so I’m not going to say it, but I’ve heard the album and it’s full-on death-doom punishment that should bring a satisfied grin to even the most discerning of purists. Their debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), was grim and brutal in kind, and the album only pushes further into the dark. Conclave on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

26. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Since the North Carolinian legends first announced they were reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, the question has been whether or not a new album would surface. Last October, they signed to Nuclear Blast while on tour with Clutch and The Shrine (review here), and followed that tour with a headlining run in December. I expect we’ll hear from them a lot in 2016 as they record the first outing with this full four-piece since 2000, and that’s just fine by me. Corrosion of Conformity on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
 

27. Cough, TBA

Richmond doomers Cough entered the studio last August to begin tracking their first full-length since 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here). I haven’t seen any announcement as to when it will be released, but it was finished in September, and we’ll see if it winds up coming out through Relapse, which would be expected, or if part of the delay has been in finding it a new home. That’s sub-speculation, mind you. I’m figuring on release news any minute now. Will let you know how that goes.Cough on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

28. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolatorI was very glad I got to see Connecticut’s Curse the Son this past fall (review here), both because I dig what they do and because it gave me a sneak peak at the songs that will show up on their new album, Isolator, when it surfaces in March via Snake Charmer Coalition. Expect big, tone-led vibes a la 2012’s Psychache (review here), but with some new edge thanks to the addition of bassist/backing vocalist Brendan Keefe alongside guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore and drummer Michael Petrucci. Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks, Snake Charmer Coalition.
 

29. Dali’s Llama, Dying in the Sun

Perpetually underrated CA desert rockers Dali’s Llama will release their new album, Dying in the Sun, early this year. I’m not precisely sure when, but sooner or later it will come out, and when it does, I have full faith it will be a stirring reminder of just how overlooked the band continues to be as they’re now well past their 20th anniversary. The upcoming full-length was mastered as of December, so look out for an update hopefully sooner than later. Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks, Dali’s Llama Records.
 

30. Darsombra, TBA

Drone/noise/visual two-piece Darsombra toured across the US in 2015 across 109 different cities. That is no easy feat, and I can’t even imagine how an experience like that might play into the writing from Brian Daniloski and Ann Everton on the band’s next full-length, which, when they finished the last leg of that massive and ambitious run, they said was in the works. I’d like to find out, though, as Darsombra continue to aspire to inner peace through cosmic noisemaking. Darsombra on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

31. Dead Feathers, Dead Feathers 10″

Expected out Feb. 19 via HeviSike Records, the self-titled debut EP from Chicago heavy psych rockers Dead Feathers has been subject to some considerable pressing delays. The band was signed last Spring initially for an Aug. 2015 release that has continued to be pushed back, presumably as a result of so much interest in pressing vinyl at the moment. Still, the tracks have been streaming for a while now, so anyone looking to quench their thirst can do so readily on their Bandcamp. Dead Feathers on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
 

32. Deadsmoke, Deadsmoke

DEADSMOKE DEADSMOKEAs announced a couple weeks ago, Duna Jam veterans Deadsmoke will issue their self-titled debut via Heavy Psych Sounds on March 25. The Italian sludgers have plans to tour Europe in May as well, and should they happen to pop on a late-spring or summer festival or two along the way, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Heavy Psych Sounds‘ spree continues. Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

33. Deamon’s Child, Scherben Müssen Sein

The German title of Deamon’s Child‘s second album, Scherben Müssen Sein, translates to “shards must be.” I’m not sure what it means, but I am sure that the trio’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) was an intriguing and offbeat brand of noise rock-plus, so I’ve no problem getting down with the idea of another outing from them, though given their breadth I wouldn’t necessarily expect the second LP to be a carbon copy of the first. Deamon’s Child on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

34. Deathkings, All that is Beautiful

Hailing from what I’ll assume is the darkest underbelly of Los Angeles, Deathkings issue their sophomore LP, All that is Beautiful, on March 18 as the follow-up to a 2015 split with Boston’s Rozamov (review here). I’ve got a track stream slated for this week from these guys, so I’ll save more for that, but suffice it to say that it’s surprising music so grueling can come from a place where it never rains. Deathkings on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

35. Devil to Pay, A Bend Through Space and Time

Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay and their label, Ripple Music, have set a tentative “Summer” release date for the band’s fifth album, A Bend Through Space and Time, but as the recently unveiled “Your Inner Lemmy” showcased, the songwriting that has long served as their chief appeal is ready to roll on the new collection. That song surfaced early as a timely tribute to Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, so it might be a while before more solid details come down the wire, but whenever it shows, it’ll be welcome. Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

36. Dream Death, Dissemination

A second post-reunion album is always a tricky prospect. A band wants to continue to acknowledge what they were when they started out, progress from their last outing, and get over that hump of songs that may or may not have been written years prior and onto something fresh. How will Pennsylvania’s Dream Death tackle this issue on their forthcoming Dissemination, due out March 4 via Rise Above? Probably by being heavy as hell and sounding completely fucking miserable. Just a guess. More info here. Dream Death on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
 

37. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or dieAnother Feb. 26 release, Sci-Fi or Die, the fourth long-player from Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack, has been in the works for at least the last three years. I’ll be hosting a full-stream of it sometime between now and the release (which I’m stoked for), so keep an eye out for that, but these guys have deserved more attention for a while now one way or another, and the follow-up to 2010’s Must Destroy! (review here) might be the record that gets it for them. Droids Attack on Thee Facebooks, Droids Attack website.
 

38. Drug Honkey, TBA


Various announcements have floated around over the last year and a half or more from Chicago death-churners Drug Honkey, and I’m not sure at this point whether their next release will be an EP of or a complete album or what. Their last full-length was 2012’s Ghost in the Fire (review here), which was inhumane in its onslaught, abrasive in loud or quiet parts, and swirled out an otherworldly sense of terror. So yeah, something to look forward to in a new one. Drug Honkey on Thee Facebooks, Transcending Obscurity on Bandcamp.
 

39. Duel, Fears of the Dead

In addition to boasting a cover that has immediately made my list of the year’s best, look for hard-driving heavy rock swing on Duel‘s debut LP, Fears of the Dead, due out Feb. 12 on Heavy Psych Sounds. The Austin, Texas, four-piece have newly announced European tour dates that will start March 9 and run through April 2, and I’ve little doubt their brash ways will find favor among the beer-soaked good-timers abroad. Over here, I’m just looking forward to hearing the album. Duel on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

40. Egypt, Endless Flight

We know it’s awesome. It was streamed here last month in its entirety. The real question with Egypt‘s sophomore outing is whether it’s a 2015 or a 2016 release. Vinyl’s still forthcoming last I heard, but the CD hit in December. What counts? For what it’s worth, I’m clearly thinking of it as a 2016 outing, but whatever format you might prefer, think of this as a note to remind you that you should check out. Because it’s awesome. We knew that. Egypt on Thee Facebooks, Egypt on Bandcamp.
 

41. Eight Bells, Landless

Out Feb. 12 on respected purveyor Battleground Records with tapes through Tartarus, Landless casts a severe and progressive glance at the scope of atmospheric heavy and offers an individualized take developed even from what the Portland, Oregon, trio brought to their 2013 debut, The Captain’s Daughter. Doom, black metal and a stately sort of psychedelia intertwine over the album’s span, and it seems all the more likely the band will turn heads with their approach on tour with Voivod (dates here) starting Feb. 6. Eight Bells on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records.
 

42. Electric Citizen, Higher Time

Before Electric Citizen posted the new track “Evil” in a RidingEasy Records sampler last month, word on the street was the Ohio heavy ’10s rockers were looking to add a full-time keyboardist. That search doesn’t seem to have panned out, but their Higher Time is hotly anticipated anyway as the answer to their 2014 debut, Sateen (review here), which showed the Sabbath worshipers how Sabbath worship is done. Electric Citizen on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

43. Elephant Tree, TBA

elephant treeFull disclosure: I know way more about Elephant Tree‘s upcoming Magnetic Eye Records debut LP than I’m putting in this post. Like that it rules. And why! Stick around. Later this week, I’ll have a track premiere from the album up with a review, but the follow-up to their 2014 debut EP, Theia (review here), has already made it into my best-of-2016 consideration and my best-debuts-of-2016 consideration, and I know it’s only January, but right now it’s the one to beat in the latter category. More to come. Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
 

44. Elevators to the Grateful Sky, Cape Yawn

Sicilian four-piece Elevators to the Grateful Sky signed to HeviSike Records last month, and while a March 11 release date for the band’s second album, Cape Yawn seems like a quick turnaround, until I hear otherwise it’s what I’m going with. The band released their debut, Cloud Eye, on Transubstans in 2013, but should fit well with HeviSike‘s growing and diverse roster, being growing and sonically diverse themselves. Elevators to the Grateful Sky on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
 

45. Faith in Jane, TBA

I have it on zero authority that Maryland heavy rockers Faith in Jane are working on a new release — I know they jammed with Wino earlier this month, and that’s cool — but having had the chance to see the trio play last September at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m including them on this list anyway just because they’re one to watch out for. Deep blues vibes roughing up some of the West Coast’s ’70s fetishizing; way heavy and way swinging. Not technical, but intricate, and thoroughly grooved. Lots of potential there.Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

46. Fatso Jetson, TBA

They’re due, right? Sure, the last couple years have brought splits with Farflung (review here), Herba Mate (review here) and Yawning Man, but we’re coming up on six years since Archaic Volumes (review here) was released in 2010, and I’m dying to hear what a new Fatso Jetson album would sound like with Mario Lalli and son Dino, who’s joined the band in the interim, going head-to-head on guitar. Whenever it’s ready, so am I. Fatso Jetson on Thee Facebooks, Fatso Jetson website.
 

47. Fever Dog, TBA

Could be later in the hear, could be in 2017 that it shows up, but the next offering from Californian desert psych rockers Fever Dog is reportedly now in the writing stage, and given the effectiveness with which 2014’s Second Wind (review here) demonstrated their willingness to mess around with structure and sound alike, their third outing should find them at an important stage in their development. Still young and significantly underrated. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

48. The Flying Eyes, Poison the Well / 1969 7″

the flying eyes poison the well 1969It’s another year for me and you. Another year with nothin’ to do. Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are covering The Stooges‘ “1969” (baby) on their new single from H42 Records, mashing it up with “Poison the Well” from their 2011 second album, Done so Wrong (review here). Might be a stopgap on the way to whatever’s next, but should be an interesting listen anyway. The Flying Eyes on Thee Facebooks, H42 Records.
 

49. Foehammer, TBA

Virginia soul-bashers Foehammer released my favorite EP of 2015 in the form of their Grimoire/Australopithecus self-titled (review here), and I’m eager to know how they’ll expand on the outright brutality of that offering over the course of a full-length, or if they will at all. Entirely possible they’ll just kill, kill, kill the whole way through, and that’s also something I’d like to see them pull off. Either way they go, count me in. Foehammer on Thee Facebooks, Grimoire Records, Australopithecus Records.
 

50. Fog Cult, The Dying Sun

Initially self-released by the band last year, The Dying Sun is the second full-length by Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, weedian rockers Fog Cult, and it’s set for a vinyl issue via Black Farm Records sometime this year. Not much fixing what isn’t broken about large-scale nod riffs and sludge vibing, but a track like “Altars of the Night” manages to evoke early Alice in Chains-type harmonies without falling into post-Creed cliche, and that in itself is something remarkable. Streaming in full now on their Bandcamp. Fog Cult on Thee Facebooks, Black Farm Records.
 

51. Foghound, The World Unseen

Might be May before it shows up, but The World Unseen will serve as Maryland heavy rockers Foghound‘s debut on Ripple Music. It’s their second offering behind 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) and a meaner, leaner take on their sound. The turns are tighter and the groove is more aggressive, but they still sound like they’re having a complete blast. More to come this Spring. Foghound on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

52. Fuzz Evil, TBA

They’ll be playing the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta next month, which I’m proud to say I’ll be attending, and I hope to have a better picture of the debut album by Fuzz Evil‘s arrival date by the end of that if not before. The Arizona band, which shares brothers Wayne and Joseph Rudell with Powered Wig Machine, offered up a split with Chiefs in late 2014 (streamed here) and has piecemealed a track or two since, but the full-length was sent off to mastering in November, so it seems like it’s just a matter of time before it shows up. Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks, Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp.
 

53. John Garcia, TBA

john garciaAmong the several Garcia-related releases that 2016 might have on offer — he appears no fewer than in three separate entries on this list — the former Kyuss, Slo Born, Unida, Vista Chino, Hermano, etc., vocalist has announced intentions toward a follow-up for his 2014 Napalm Records self-titled solo debut (review here) and an acoustic record, the second of which he reportedly began recording this month. The more the merrier, quite frankly. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

54. Geezer, TBA

According to The Obelisk’s deep-running investigative team — by which I mean I looked at their Thee Facebooks page — New York heavy blues trio Geezer are heading into the studio in a couple weeks to record their next full-length. In 2015, the band offered up the already-noted split with Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here), via Ripple Music, and they’ve set about refining their chemistry on-stage as they hone their fluid mix of languid vibes and smoked-out shuffle. Looking forward to this one. Geezer on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

55. Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management

First announced here with a track stream in November, the second album from Chritus Linderson-fronted doomers Goatess, titled Purgatory Under New Management, is due out this March of Svart, which also released the Swedish outfit’s 2013 self-titled debut (review here). I haven’t heard much about it since that track stream, so it may or may not be pushed back, but whatever, I’m just glad they did a second record either way. It’ll be out when it’s out. Goatess on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
 

56. The Golden Grass, TBA

Bring on the good vibes. The sophomore LP from sweet ’70s-style rockers The Golden Grass will be the band’s first for Listenable Records after releasing their self-titled debut (review here) via Svart in 2014. They finished mixing earlier this month, so once it’s mastered it seems like it’s really up to the label’s schedule as to when it will be out. Spring or summer would be my guess, which suits the warmth of their harmonies just fine. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
 

57. Gozu, Revival

After issuing two albums through Small Stone in 2010’s Locust Season (review here) and 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Boston four-piece Gozu have aligned themselves to Ripple Music for the release of Revival, their LP overall. Recorded this past fall, it is easily the band’s tightest and most aggressive outing to-date, but their soulful, melodic core remains, and it is all the more identifiable as their own for that. More to come. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

58. Graves at Sea, TBA

I know I’ve used the phrase “More to come” several times already in this post — like right now, in the last entry — but while the full-length debut from reactivated West Coast sludge-doomers Graves at Sea was announced as being completed and ready for release by Relapse back in October, legitimately, more info on that prospect is coming up, so keep an eye out. That’s all I’m at liberty to say at the moment. I may have already said too much. Graves at Sea on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

59. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadowOh fuck yes. How good is the new Greenleaf? So good. You know how 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) kind of reset the band and gave a more stripped-down, stage-ready take? Rise Above the Meadow takes that, pushes it forward exponentially, adds some Dozer-style edge to the mix and presents it all with ferocious energy more common to bands on their second album rather than their sixth. Out Feb. 26. Will be a top 10 record in December, no question. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

60. Heavy Temple, TBA

There have been many changes in Philadelphia trio Heavy Temple since they offered up their self-titled debut EP (review here), or at least a couple involving the lineup of the band. Either way, it’s a revamped trio that last summer discussed a second extended-player for 2016. So far as I know, record label is still to be determined so far as I know — the first EP came out on Ván, which is an immediate endorsement — but they’ve been gaining traction in Philly and they seem to have ambitions beyond that city’s limits, so I can’t imagine someone won’t get on board with it, if they haven’t yet. Heavy Temple on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

61. Hermano, TBA

In addition to taking part in Hellfest 2016 in Clisson, France, this June, Hermano have put out word of an impending full-length to be released at some point this year. The John Garcia-fronted outfit also featuring bassist Dandy Brown (who will also play the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta solo) last released an album in 2007, which was Into the Exam Room, a striking, mature, engaging heavy rocker that not only showcased Garcia‘s vocals in creative arrangements, but them memorable songs to top and a variety of moods in which to work. Even nine years later, that record was enough to make me look forward to a follow-up. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Borderland Fuzz Fiesta.
 

62. Hexvessel, When We are Death

Out this week as their first release for Century Media, Hexvessel‘s When We are Death pushes beyond the confines of psychedelic folk rock (not that there were so many, particularly as regards their prior output) and into more solidified rock territory, an edge of gothic theatricality making itself felt alongside a stylistically amorphous late-’60s cultistry that doesn’t want to be defined nearly so much as to enthrall. I’ll have a review up one of these days soon, but I feel like I’m still getting to know the record, and that may be a permanent condition. Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks, Century Media.
 

63. High Priest of Saturn, Son of Earth and Sky

Here is yet another of Feb. 26’s many releases. I haven’t heard it yet, but given the traditionalism of the Norwegian outfit’s first LP and the fact that there are only five tracks on Son of Earth and Sky, it seems fair to expect High Priest of Saturn are letting their material flesh out a bit on their sophomore offering through Svart. Announced just a couple weeks ago, it’s been in the can since 2014, so it may not be all that long before a follow-up makes an appearance as well. High Priest of Saturn on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
 

64. Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie

I dug Argentinian heavy psych trio Hijo de la Tormenta‘s 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and last year, they followed it up with a quick live two-songer called En Vivo en Buenos Aires that found their sound no less engaging on stage than on record. The upcoming El Manto de la Especie was recently announced here, and should hopefully be together and out sometime in the first half of this year. Hijo de la Tormenta on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

65. Hollow Leg, Crown

hollow leg crownFloridian sludgers Hollow Leg also appeared on this list last January, but the difference is not only has their third album been recorded, but it’s been given a solid March 4 release date by Argonauta Records. So I feel a good deal more comfortable saying it’s definitely going to be out, since it exists, has artwork, tracks, a teaser and all that kind of thing. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, Argonauta Records.
 

66. Holy Grove, Holy Grove

There’s been a buzz around the Pacific Northwest’s fertile ground over the last couple years for Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove, and on March 18, the soul-rock four-piece will make their full-length debut via Heavy Psych Sounds. The only other release from them I know about to-date is 2014’s Live at Joonior’s (review here), a two-track sampler, so for a lot of listeners outside the band’s regional homebase, this will really be their first experience hearing them. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

67. Holy Serpent, TBA

The hot tip is look for it in August on RidingEasy. Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent shroom-doomed their self-titled debut (review here) last year, and they’ll be going for a fast turnaround on the follow-up in 2016. No audio, info or art or anything like that yet, but I’m told it’ll be late summer, so that’s what I’m going on. Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

68. Inter Arma, TBA

So far, both Inter Arma and Relapse Records have been pretty tight-lipped on specifics when it comes to the Virginian genre-melders’ second LP for the label (third overall), but we know it was recorded by Mikey Allred, that it’s done and due out this summer, and that they’re starting their touring cycle for it even before it comes out. That’s not nothing. Given the laudatory response to 2014’s single-song EP The Cavern, I’d expect this one to get considerable attention both in the pre-release hype and the post-release exclamatory stages. Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

69. Joy, Ride Along!

Announced just last week, Ride Along! will be West Coast jammers Joy‘s second album out through Tee Pee, following the psych spellcasting of 2014’s Under the Spell of… (review here). A few notable guests show up, but I’m looking for the band to distinguish themselves further this time around, find their niche within the post-Earthless sphere of instrumental Cali heavy. They showed some genuine personality on the last one, hope they keep it up. Out April 29. Joy on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
 

70. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

king dead woe and judgmentBrooding atmospheres, a kind of post-metallic anxiety and moments of outright physical exertion are spread across Woe and Judgment (review here), the first LP from Pennsylvanian trio King Dead. The band released the album digitally last year on the sly in order to self-finance a vinyl pressing, and after succeeding in that endeavor, they’ll have the record out officially in April or thereabouts. King Dead on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

71. Lightsabres, TBA

Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres began its association with HeviSike Records with a tape release for 2014’s sophomore album Spitting Blood (review here). The genre-spanning garage psych project linked up with STB for 2015’s Beheaded, but returns to HeviSike for the follow-up fourth long-player, which is due out March 4 with preorders starting this week. Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
 

72. The Linus Pauling Quartet, Ampalanche

Unlike most offerings on this list, Ampalanche by Texas noise rock weirdos the Linus Pauling Quartet is actually out now. Vincebus Eruptum released the vinyl on Jan. 15. It’ll be out digitally in April as well though, and there’s a big ol’ zip file on my desktop waiting to be reviewed — several, actually but bear with me — so sometime between now and then expect to hear more about the album, which is the band’s first full-length since 2012’s Bag of Hammers (review here), despite a slew of singles between. Linus Pauling Quartet on Thee Facebooks, Vincebus Eruptum Recordings.
 

73. Lo-Pan, TBA

I don’t know what Lo-Pan‘s secret plan is, but I know they were in the studio last week, so whether it’s a new album, a single, an EP, split or whatever, they’ve got something going. It would be a relatively quick turnaround from 2014’s Colossus (review here), but they’ve since added guitarist Adrian Zambrano (also Brujas del Sol) to the lineup, so a burst of creativity isn’t necessarily out of the question. Whatever they’re up to, they’ll be on the road as ever this year, touring with Black Cobra and Bongzilla this spring. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
 

74. Lord, Awake

As of last September, chaotic Virginian five-piece Lord were mastering their Awake album with an eye on a 2016 release. I’ve been keeping a relatively close eye, and I haven’t heard anything about a meteor crashing into the final tapes (or hard drive) or anything, so I’m just going to assume and hope that it gets out this year. Lord‘s last full-length, Chief (review here), came out in 2011 and they also issued the Alive in Golgotha EP (review here) in 2014. Lord on Thee Faceboks, Heavy Hound Records.
 

75. Lord Fowl, TBA

More wishful thinking than nailed-down guarantee, perhaps, but Connecticut’s Lord Fowl are due to give an answer to their 2012 Small Stone debut and second album overall, Moon Queen (review here). Last I spoke to the band was the middle of last year and they were writing, but in October, they entered the studio to begin the recording process, so hopefully that means it’ll be out sooner than later. Lord Fowl on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
 

76. Low Flying Hawks, Kofuku

low flying hawks kofukuNot exactly out of nowhere — apparently out of Los Angeles, or somewhere thereabouts — but Low Flying Hawks‘ forthcoming Magnetic Eye debut, Kofuku, did seem to show up as a sudden blip on the radar. Notable for working with such Melvins-related characters as producer Toshi Kasai, drummer Dale Crover, and bassist Trevor Dunn, the band effectively blends moody post-rock atmospheres with weighted, hypnotic grunge, keeping things dark as seen in their recent video for “Ruins.” Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
 

77. Mantar, Ode to the Flame

I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised when Germany’s Mantar signed to Nuclear Blast late last year. Their sound is so raw, so unabashedly extreme in its intent on their 2014 debut, Death by Burning (review here) — which was released by Brutal Panda and Svart both — and something tells me that with a title like Ode to the Flame, their second LP won’t offer much letup in intensity, but having seen the band live (review here), they are unmistakably a force. Mantar on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
 

78. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

The third album from Bordeaux-based heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky feels like a logical step forward from 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), but it is very definitely a step forward, in its atmospheric complexity, in the depths of its arrangements and the breadth of its tones. Songs like “Mindreader” and “Under the Hood” exemplify how much the band has progressed since their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and though it comes preceded by the newly-released Providence EP (review here), that’s really just the beginning of the story about to be told. Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
 

79. Merchant, Suzerain

Finished recording as of Jan. 11, Suzerain will serve as the debut full-length from aggro tone-bearers Merchant, who announced their coming with a 10-minute single called Seismic (review here). Their principal task will be to distinguish themselves from the pack of Melbourne’s crowded heavy underground, but I’m looking forward to finding out how they go about it and where their apparent potential will take them. Merchant on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

80. Merlin, Electric Children

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin gave a taste of Electric Children back in November with a track premiere for “Bad Trip” and the album itself will see release on March 11 through 4One8 Records on CD. Vinyl will be through Poisoned Mind, who also issued the band’s Christkiller LP (review here) in 2014. To say they have a flair for the dramatic might be understating it, but Merlin do well to keep a reliable core of songwriting underneath. Merlin on Thee Facebooks, 4One8 Records, Poisoned Mind Records.
 

81. Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light

mondo drag the occultation of lightReady for release on — you guessed it — Feb. 26, The Occultation of Light is the third full-length from psych-prog traditionalists Mondo Drag, second via RidingEasy, and it gives a more updated take on their sound than did last year’s self-titled (review here), which was recorded in 2012 with a different lineup. They seem poised to really establish themselves with this record, which was announced in November, and from where I sit, the record is strong enough to do it. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

82. Mondo Generator, TBA

Nick Oliveri oversaw some lineup changes last fall for Mondo Generator, but to go with that and their European tour, it was announced that the band was working — as a trio now — on their fifth full-length for an eventual 2016 release. That’s not to say it’s showing up tomorrow, but if they were writing in the fall, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that they could have something out before the year is done. Oliveri‘s last release was the 2014 solo album, Leave Me Alone (streamed here). Mondo Generator on Thee Facebooks, Mondo Generator webstore.
 

83. Monkey3, TBA

For Swiss instrumentalists Monkey3‘s Nov. 2015 European tour, the band specifically noted they would be playing out new material as a “preview.” I don’t know if that means their next album is recorded or if they were trying stuff out on stage before they went into the studio, but, now signed to Napalm, the band will hopefully in 2016 have a follow-up out for 2013’s The 5th Sun, which was their fourth long-player. Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

84. Monobrow, TBA

Last time Ottawa’s Monobrow mentioned their new LP was Nov. 24. They said, “new album slowly coming together.” So there you go. They reportedly took more time after a Dec. 5 show with Public Animal to work on it, but there’s been no solid word of a release date or even recording date as yet. It’s in progress. Their 2015 single, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon (review here), presented a less bombastic feel than, say, 2014’s Big Sky, Black Horse (review here). We’ll see which impulse ultimately wins out in their sound. Monobrow on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

85. Mos Generator, TBA

Among the safest bets one might place this year is that Washington’s Mos Generator will release something, but the band, led of course by workaholic guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, premiered an acoustic take on Easy Evil” back in September that was to be included on an unplugged release through H42 Records, and their last album, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), came out in 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if in addition to continuing to road-dog across the US and likely beyond, they didn’t also find time to punch out a new studio LP. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
 

86. Mothership, Live over Freak Valley

mothership live over freak valleyTrue, Mothership released Live over Freak Valley on Jan. 15. You got me. The reason I’ve still got them on this list, however, is because I’m wondering if the Texas heavy rockers might keep the momentum they’ve got on their side after their recent tour with C.O.C., Saviours and Brant Bjork going by jumping back in the studio and belting out a follow-up to 2014’s Mothership II (review here). Even if it’s later in the year, crazier things have happened. Mothership on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

87. Mountain God, TBA

Early last year, bleak Brooklyn atmosludge extremists Mountain God offered their single-song EP, Forest of the Lost (review here), which followed their prior 2013 demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (review here). They’ve been writing all the while, and it seems likely they’ll manage a release of some sort this year as well. Whether that’s their debut full-length, which I’m hoping creeps as much as it shrieks — or at least a little — or something else, I don’t know. Mountain God on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

88. Mountain Tamer, Mountain Tamer

These West Coast stoner rockers were picked up by Argonauta Records last month after their Mtn Tmr Demo (review here) offered psychedelia-via-neo-grunge thrills and classic-minded swing. More to come on this self-titled debut from the Santa Cruz trio, which will be out on Feb. 12. Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks, Argonauta Records.
 

89. Naxatras, II

Sold out in numerous CD and cassette editions following its release in April, the live-recorded self-titled debut from Greek heavy psych rockers Naxatras continued to earn praise throughout the rest of last year. The Thessaloniki-based trio will reportedly release a single as a 10″ before their second long-player surfaces, but both have been recorded and seem like they’re ready to roll out as soon as they’re pressed. I wouldn’t mind if they did a CD re-press of the first album either, but no word on that as of yet. Naxatras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

90. Neurosis, TBA

It’s done, it’s in the can, it’s mastered, and it pains me that a new Neurosis album exists somewhere on this planet and I haven’t heard it yet. It’s a downright tragedy. The post-metal progenitors also recently announced a deluxe anniversary boxed set of all their albums to-date (not including the new one) called Strength and Vision, but as ever, their eyes are forward even as they’re celebrating their 30 years as a band. But seriously, if I don’t hear that record soon, I’m gonna cry. Actual tears. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
 

91. Om, TBA

The Al Cisneros-led trio Om were recently in the studio, and while I can’t say for certain it was for a new album to follow-up 2012’s brilliant Advaitic Songs (review here), I sure as hell hope so. Om are another band who were on last year’s list too, so take this for what it is, but I think it’s safe to say Advaitic Songs is one of the strongest albums of the decade so far, and a subsequent outing feels due. Om on Thee Facebooks, Drag City.
 

92. Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä

Oranssi Pazuzu VärähtelijäEffective, trance-inducing psychedelic black metal isn’t easily done, and when someone does it as well as Oranssi Pazuzu on Värähtelijä or as Deathspell Omega on Fas – Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, it tends to get noticed by a very specific subset of the heavy metal literati. No doubt the same has been and will continue to be the case for the Finnish blackened hypnotists leading up to the Feb. 26 Svart/20 Buck Spin release of Värähtelijä, their fourth album, but the hype is legitimate, and the record crosses vast expanses over the course of an encompassing 69 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to argue with consensus. Oranssi Pazuzu on Thee Facebooks, 20 Buck Spin, Svart Records.
 

93. Pale Divine, TBA

Pennsylvanian doomers Pale Divine take their time. Nothing wrong with that, and anyway, it’s only been four years since their last album, Painted Windows Black (review here), came out a full five after 2007’s Cemetery Earth, so, you know, no rush. In 2016, however, they’re coming closer to marking 20 years since the release of their first demo, 1997’s Crimson Tears, which in many ways established the course of their sound, so if a new full-length were to happen this or next year, it would seem only appropriate. Would also be their first since adding Ron McGinnis (Admiral Browning, Bailjack, etc.) on bass several years ago now. Pale Divine on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
 

94. Picaporters, TBA

Buenos Aires-based trio Picaporters posted a new track called “War is Over” on their Bandcamp a while back that will feature on their upcoming album, which is listed on that page as being released on Aug. 1, 2016. Last I heard it was due to be ready in January, so I’m not actually sure when the follow-up to their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), will actually be out, but the doomers have leaked a couple songs from it at this point and it sounds right on. Best I can say is keep an eye out. Picaporters on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

95. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression

The immortal badassery of Iggy Pop notwithstanding, his Post Pop Depression probably wouldn’t be in this site’s field of vision were it not for the involvement of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme as guitarist and songwriting collaborator. Announced to much fanfare on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as being released March 18, the record is intended as a sequel to the Pop/David Bowie collaboration Lust for Life, and since Homme does a pretty mean Bowie I’m sure it’ll be just fine. I thought it was hilarious that the first song released from the album was called “Gardenia.” Iggy Pop website, Queens of the Stone Age on Thee Facebooks.
 

96. Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision

Though they’re still in the process as well of overseeing reissues of their 2015 Black Magic Man EP (review here) — the latest is vinyl through Taxi Driver Records with a bonus Sam Gopal cover that follows a CD through Twin Earth Records — Italian cult rockers Psychedelic Witchcraft have signed to Soulseller Records for the release of their debut long-player, The Vision. It’s due in Spring and can be reasonably expected to generate much fanfare, at least if the response to the prior EP is anything to go by. Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks, Soulseller Records.
 

97. Radio Moscow, TBA Live Album

radio moscow (Photo by Tony Wold)Freshly returned from a South American tour, Radio Moscow will head to Australia for a run next month with Kings Destroy and Holy Serpent before they get around to issuing the double-live album they recorded last month in Los Angeles. And then after that, they’ll probably go tour somewhere else, because that’s how they do. The live record arrives at a particularly choice moment, though, since the material from their fourth LP, 2014’s Magical Dirt (review here) translates particularly well to the stage. Also they’re one of the best live bands in the world. That helps too. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks, Alive Naturalsound.
 

98. Red Fang, TBA

I’m twofold intrigued at the recently-announced prospect of Red Fang‘s fourth full-length. Maybe even threefold. First, automatic interest on the basis of their prior work. They’ve certainly earned that. Second, though it would be a mistake to call 2013’s Whales and Leeches (review here) anything other than a marked success, it was put together in a hurry and it sounded like it, so I’m wondering if they’ll be able to stretch out this process more. Third, it’s Ross Robinson producing, and given the commercial breadth of his work across genres, I’m eager to hear what he brings to a genuine heavy rock band. Could be a whole new take on the sound, one way or another. Red Fang on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

99. Rozamov, TBA

Now veterans of Psycho California and tours across the US, having opened for Slayer in their hometown and spread their darkened gospel along the Eastern Seaboard, don’t you think it’s time Boston’s Rozamov put out an album? I know I do. I was in the studio with them for a check-in last August, and what I heard in progress sounded utterly punishing as a follow-up to their split with Deathkings (review here), and that holds true on the five tracks of the finished product as well, but it’s high time it came out. Side note, they recently announced the arrival of new drummer Tranxidis. Pretty sure that’s more recent than the recording though. Rozamov on Thee Facebooks, Rozamov on Bandcamp.
 

100. Salem’s Pot, TBA

Bizarro riff worshipers Salem’s Pot will have a new full-length out, reportedly, in June 2016. It will be their sophomore LP behind 2014’s …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here), which garnered praise for its atmosphere and riff-rolling methods alike, stoner for stoners and all that. I was fortunate enough to catch the band’s set last year at Roadburn (review here), and they offered thrills in bulk, unabashedly basking in pill-popper groove but keeping a spirit of underlying violence in the material as well, as much drug as droog. A new 7″ titled The Vampire Strikes Back is also due Feb. 15. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

101. Samavayo, TBA

Not certain of the timing on the new full-length from Samavayo, who will also play Desertfest Berlin this April, but their 2015 Setalight Records split 10″ with The Grand Astoria (review here) was much-dug around these parts and efficiently presented a diverse take from the Berlin natives, between instrumental stretch-out and more traditional hooks and structure. Their last full-length, Soul Invictus, came out in 2012 as the third in a series of three albums each year (it was their fourth overall), so maybe they needed to catch their breath. Samavayo on Thee Facebooks, Setalight Records.
 

102. Serpents of Secrecy, TBA

This West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland collaboration between former members of Sixty Watt Shaman — drummer Chuck Dukehart and bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (both also of Foghound) — and King Giant guitarist Todd Ingram did right last summer in picking Ontario-based vocalist Al “Yeti” Bones as the singer for their debut record. Maybe not so much geographically, but no question Bones (formerly of Mister Bones and The Mighty Nimbus) has all the burl their riffs could ask for, and I haven’t heard the album yet, but I’m sure they’re asking for plenty. Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks, their website.
 

103. Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death

After issuing their Betrayed by Time EP (review here) via Heavy Slab Records last year, Virginian doombringers Sinister Haze have signed on with STB to issue their debut full-length, Laid Low in the Dust of Death. The trio played Psycho California this May, touring out and back, and also had a two-song self-titled cassette out in 2015 that they took with them on the road, but no word as to whether any of that material will make it onto the album. In fact, no word on if the album is an album. I’m just kind of going by what STB says they have coming up in the next few months. Presumably more info will surface before the release arrives. Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

104. -(16)-, TBA

Blunt as ever, Los Angeles/San Diego sludge metallers -(16)- pulled no punches on Dec. 31 when they rang in the New Year by saying, “We will be releasing a new album in 2016.” They finished recording in December, and I’m relatively sure that whatever the new album is called, it’ll be released by Relapse — using the logic of, if you were the label, why wouldn’t you want to put out a new -(16)- album? — but other than that, there’s no info. They said it’s coming this year. Seems like they’d be the ones to know. -(16)- on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

105. Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror

skuggsja a piece for mind and mirrorIf you know, then you know. I was pleasantly surprised that the Skuggsjá collaboration between Enslaved‘s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik was doing anything at all, let alone putting out a studio release of their commissioned work for the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution. A Piece for Mind and Mirror was recently given a March 11 release date through Season of Mist, and while it may be a few who latch on to the combined vision of Bjørnson and Selvik, that’s going to be a lucky few indeed. Skuggsjá on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
 

106. Slabdragger, Rise of the Dawncrusher

If I’m not mistaken — and to be sure, I probably am — this is the last release on this list coming out on Feb. 26. Slabdragger‘s sophomore LP, Rise of the Dawncrusher is being delivered via Holy Roar, and it comes some six years after their debut, Regress. I remember being at Desertfest in London circa 2012-2013 and hearing people talk up Slabdragger as having significant boot-to-ass potential. Listening to Rise of the Dawncrusher, it’s pretty easy to hear what might’ve given them that impression. Slabdragger on Thee Facebooks, Holy Roar Records.
 

107. Slomatics, TBA

Yes. Bring on new Slomatics. The sooner the better, the louder the better. The riff-bashing Belfast trio signed to Jon Davis of Conan‘s Black Bow Records last November, and quickly set about reissuing their first two albums, 2005’s Flooding the Weir and 2007’s Kalceanna, and that’s super, but as someone who caught on relatively late to the glories of the band’s 2014 album, Estron (review here), there’s no way I’m letting the next one get by me. Slomatics on Thee Facebooks, Black Bow Records.
 

108. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis

Stockholm heavy rockers Snowy Dunes left a resonant impression with their 2015 self-titled debut, and on Jan. 13, they unveiled a completely improvised 19-minute track called “Atlantis, Part I” digitally as a precursor to their second LP, Atlantis, which is reportedly set to release next month as they head out on tour with countrymen riffers Skraeckoedlan. The extended piece is impressive in building on the boogie rock of the debut, but how much its atmosphere will ultimately play into the record itself remains to be seen. In any case, a good band who don’t seem like they’ll be under the radar of Europe’s heavy rock scene for much longer. Snowy Dunes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

109. Soon, Vol. I

I’ll readily admit my ignorance when it comes to indie rock, so I haven’t heard of The Love Language, Bitter Resolve or Grohg, which are the bands from whose lineups the ungooglable Soon draw, but after checking out a couple demos when the March 4 release of Vol. I was announced, I dug the sound anyway. Someone else might have a completely different context for hearing it, but to me it just sounds like interesting, wide-ranging excursions into sonic heft. It’s pretty rare something like that isn’t going to find welcome, as far as I’m concerned. Soon on Thee Facebooks, Temple of Torturous.
 

110. Spidergawd, III

spidergawd iiiFor the last two years, Norwegian four-piece Spidergawd have been churning out high-grade heavy rock and roll with a vitality that few could come close to matching. 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) fleshed out elements of psychedelia from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and with Spidergawd III, the approach continues to be refined and honed to an even finer point on hooks like “El Corason del Sol” and “The Funeral.” Reportedly out now, so go get it. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records, Crispin Glover Records.
 

111. Spirit Caravan, TBA

By now I’m sure they’ve played “Be the Night” (live video here) at more than just the Vultures of Volume II fest, which was where I saw it, but either way, the first new material from a reunited Spirit Caravan — also kind of a The Obsessed hybrid with Ed Gulli on drums — reignites the collaboration between bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who since they got back together in 2014 have been reminding audiences of just how vital that one-two punch of tone is to what heavy rock has become over the last decade and a half, in Maryland and beyond. Hope they get a record together, hope it gets out in 2016. Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
 

112. Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown

Back to business for Swedish heavy rockers Spiritual Beggars. The Michael Amott-led troupe recently revealed that they will offer their ninth long-player, Sunrise to Sundown on March 18 (March 25 North America) through InsideOut Music. Turns out they’ll also have a 7″ out concurrently via H42 Records, and they’re set to tour in Europe beginning the week after the album comes out, hitting Desertfest Berlin and more. This will be their third album with vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, but for me, the band is even more about the blend of Amott‘s guitar and the keys of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass). Doesn’t get much more classic than that. Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks, InsideOut Music.
 

113. Stone Machine Electric, TBA

The recently-released jammer EP, The Amazing Terror (review here), was intended as a precursor to the next full-length from Stone Machine Electric, which is reportedly now in the process of being recorded. On Jan. 11, they also asked their audience if they’d get behind a crowdfunding campaign to support a vinyl release, so it might be a while before the album actually shows up, but given the response they received, it seems fair to expect a pressing on wax. Stone Machine Electric on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

114. Suma, The Order of Things

2016 makes it 15 years since Swedish aural devastators Suma got their start, and it’s been six years since their last album, Ashes, was released, but that album continues to gain a following, having been snagged for a re-release on Argonauta Records just a couple weeks ago. The Malmö four-piece were on the US West Coast this month to record The Order of Things with the venerable Billy Anderson — who also helmed Ashes and 2006’s Let the Churches Burn — and they managed to sneak in a couple shows playing with, among others, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Now that is a fucking bill. Suma on Thee Facebooks, Suma on Bandcamp.
 

115. Summoner, TBA

Been a quick three years since Boston neo-prog heavy riffers Summoner released their second album, Atlantian (discussed here), and pushed ahead of the already sprawling, richly arranged approach of their 2012 debut, Phoenix. Well, I saw the band last month, and I’m happy to report they haven’t fallen apart or anything in the interim. I have it on good authority — by which I mean they told me — that they’ll be recording later this year, and while that may or may not mean a 2017 release, I thought it better to serve early notice of their impending third LP. So heads up on that. Summoner on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
 

116. Sunnata, Zorya

sunnata zoryaAnnounced just after the New Year for an April arrival, Zorya will serve as the second album from Warsaw-based Sunnata, who delivered their debut in 2014 with Climbing the Colossus. I haven’t heard it yet, but the band effectively blended heavy rock groove with progressive ideals on the first outing, and I see no reason to expect anything but a step forward along the same lines this time around. I’ll take it. Sunnata on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

117. Sun Voyager, TBA

Time for Sun Voyager to do this thing. The New York heavy psych rockers put out one of 2015’s best short releases in their Lazy Daze tape (review here), but after putting themselves on the hook last month in announcing their first album release, it’s time to make that a reality. Like a reality I can listen to. And groove out on. Because that would be awesome. They were also working on a split single with The Mad Doctors for King Pizza, and that’s all well and good so long as it doesn’t delay the full-length. Sun Voyager on Thee Facebooks, King Pizza Records.
 

118. Swans, TBA

Sometimes it’s too easy to be greedy. Since getting back together at the start of the decade, Swans have released three albums — 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), 2012’s The Seer and 2014’s To be Kind (review here) — as well as older LP reissues, limited-edition live recording, and so on. They’ve toured the world over and have a fourth post-reunion album due out this year, but even so, when Michael Gira said last summer that the next Swans would be the last Swans for the time being — he didn’t even say forever — it was hard not to feel sad. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Swans on Thee Facebooks, Young God Records.
 

119. Teacher, TBA

It took Seattle duo Teacher about 49 seconds to get me interested in hearing their forthcoming debut LP. Really less than that, because by the time the vocals kicked in on the recently-posted teaser clip, I was already on board. Whenever it comes out, the album will be released by Devil’s Child Records, which is quickly making a name for itself in the Pacific Northwest with offerings by Mos Generator/Sower and Year of the Cobra. No release date yet, but it sounds like the band are sneaking into a niche of natural, unpretentious swing, and I hope that’s exactly how the record goes. Teacher on Thee Facebooks, Devil’s Child Records.
 

120. Ulver, ATGCLVLSSCAP

Ulver‘s good-luck-making-a-word-of-this-acronym new album ATGCLVLSSCAP came out last week. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of 2016’s most anticipated. Really, anytime this Norwegian post-genre leviathan breathes, it’s an event, and as ATGCLVLSSCAP draws on live-recorded improvisations and explorations, but I’m not sure it’s proper to call it a live record in the is-everybody-having-a-good-time-tonight sense of the phrase. Info is plentiful and descriptive, but vague on the actual nuts and bolts of the makings, and that’s likely not an accident. Mystery is part of the fun. Is everybody having a good time tonight? Ulver on Thee Facebooks, House of Mythology Records.
 

121. Uzala, TBA

uzala live at roadburn mmxvI know, I know. Uzala just put out Live at Roadburn MMXV (review here). Hell, I know that. And that vinyl is reportedly coming soon, but I’ve got the Boise trio on this list because I’m holding out for a studio follow-up to 2013’s Tales of Blood and Fire. I’m not saying it has to happen immediately, or really at all. I’m just saying I’d greatly prefer it if it did. That last album still gets fairly regular plays around here, so it only seems reasonable to call it haunting, and the live record had two new songs on it, so maybe there’s more in progress. Uzala on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

122. VA, Brown Acid: The Second Trip

How could RidingEasy Records not do a second Brown Acid compilation of lost heavy ’70s freakout and heavy singles, how could they not call it Brown Acid: The Second Trip, and how could they not release it on April 20? The whole thing seems so inevitable it’s astounding. Look for forgotten cuts by Sonny Hugg, Buck, Glass Sun, Ash, the awesomely-monikered Iron Knowledge and a whole host of others you can pretend you knew about beforehand. RidingEasy Records website, on Thee Facebooks.
 

123. Venomous Maximus, TBA

Like several others on this list, Texas’ Venomous Maximus will take part in the Obelisk-presented Heavy Metal Parking Lot 3 at SXSW (info here). They’re no strangers to awesome bills, having toured this past fall alongside High on Fire to support the release of their second album, Firewalker (review here), which was released on Shadow Kingdom. Looking back on my notes, I’m not sure where I heard they had a new release in the offing, but it would be awesome to see them recapture the momentum they had coming out of their first album, 2012’s raging Beg upon the Light (review here), and a quick turnaround certainly wouldn’t hurt that. Venomous Maximus on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
 

124. Vista Chino, TBA

Maybe most of all the entries posted today, this one is wishful thinking. I saw a couple months back that Vista Chino — the John Garcia and Brant Bjork post-Kyuss Lives! incarnation that wound up with Mike Dean of C.O.C. on bass in a lineup rounded out by guitarist Bruno Fevery — were confirmed for Hellfest in France this summer, and couldn’t help but think about the possibility of a follow-up to their 2013 debut, Peace (review here). Doesn’t seem likely with everyone working on their respective projects, but I’m still hoping those guys get back in the studio someday. Cool they’re playing out at all, if nothing else. Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

125. Vodun, Possession

Preorders are up now for the debut album from London ritual-psych purveyors Vodun, and the Possession vinyl will also mark the first physical offering from Riff Rock Records, the new label spearheaded by Groan bassist Leigh Jones. Clearly someone who knows how to make an entry, Jones brought Vodun on board and issued a digital single last year for “Minos Army” (video here), the band tearing through influences in the metallic, heavy, Afrobeat, psychedelic and beyond. I haven’t heard the full-length yet, but it’s out March 25 and I feel safe guaranteeing that nothing else in 2016 will sound quite like it. Vodun on Thee Facebooks, Riff Rock Records.
 

126. Vokonis, TBA

After releasing an impressive demo last year called Temple (review here) under the moniker Creedsmen Arise, Swedish riffers Vokonis swapped out bassist, swapped out monikers, signed to respected purveyor Ozium Records and set a February entry to hit the studio and record their debut album. They’ve gotten a good response so far, but I think we’re only seeing the beginning of what they can do. Look for more throughout the year. Vokonis on Thee Facebooks, Ozium Records.
 

127. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wightGerman trio-turned-foursome Wight make a bold shift with their upcoming third full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, digging deep into full-on psychedelic funk on tracks like “Kelele,” “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” and the opener “Helicopter Mama,” which came out last year as a 7″ single (review here) to herald the change in direction from their jammy 2012 LP, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). It’s a fine line to walk, but Wight do right by dancing all over it instead. They’ve also got a limited tape, Live in Athens, due March 7, on which a good portion of the new album is played. Wight on Thee Facebooks, Wight on Bandcamp.
 

128. Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark

Word came out last month that Canberra three-piece Witchskull had inked a deal with STB Records. The Aussie band check in with a particularly classically metallic take on heavy rock and doom, as evidenced by their 2015 debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, which will serve as their debut vinyl on the NJ-based imprint. Haven’t heard a solid release date for it yet, but “early 2016” was the ballpark figure given, so I guess anytime between now and summer would be a possibility. Witchskull on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

129. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

If Wo Fat‘s Midnight Cometh is not near the top of your most wanted list, you are fucking up. Unless you’re going alphabetically with your list, as I am with mine, in which case their position at #129 makes sense. In whatever organizational method, the coming sixth long-player from these Texan fuzz forerunners deserves the utmost consideration. Their first for Ripple Music after two on Small Stone (info here), Midnight Cometh boasts all the riffy jamming and heavy grooves we’ve come to love from the three-piece, but refines the vocal approach markedly, giving the band even more of a sense of command of the material. Sure to be a highlight of the year. Expect it this summer. Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

130. Worm Ouroboros, TBA

Sorry to say I missed out completely on Worm Ouroboros‘ second album, Come the Thaw, when it was released by Profound Lore in 2012. I’d dug their 2010 self-titled debut (review here), but the next one, yeah, just kind of got by me. Never to late, you might say, and I’d have to agree. Maybe I can sneak in a purchase before the band are finished in the studio for their third record, which they were set to begin recording this month. In any case, will do my best to see that the same doesn’t happen with the new LP as happened with the last one. Hence putting them on this list. What, you thought it was for you? Worm Ouroboros on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
 

131. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone

Always fascinating, always changing, UK progressive doomers The Wounded Kings have managed to deliver high-quality material seemingly no matter who is in the lineup. For the forthcoming Visions in Bone, founding guitarist Steve Mills reunites with former/founding vocalist George Birch, who hasn’t been in the band since their 2010 second album, The Shadow over Atlantis (review here). Haven’t seen an official release date yet, but they’re touring in March to support the record, so one might reason a Spring arrival. Not saying I’ve heard it, but the record kills. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks, Candlelight Records.
 

132. Wretch, TBA

By the last update, The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch were starting to record their debut album in December. I don’t know whether that was a long-term process or a couple days in and out of the studio, but I’m betting that at some point in 2016 we’ll find out. Having had the opportunity to see the Indianapolis trio last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m glad to report that the ultra-downer vibes that pervaded The Gates of Slumber’s final album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), have found a new home and that frontman Karl Simon seemed as soulfully, Sabbathly miserable as ever. Wretch on Thee Facebooks.
 

133. Yawning Man, Live at Maximum Fest

yawning man live at maximum festivalThe last couple years of these lists have featured Yawning Man, more specifically the perpetually-in-the-making next studio offering, Gravity is Good for You, but as that may or may not get out this year, it seemed fair to include them for the Go Down Records live outing, Live at Maximum Fest anyway. Put up for preorder in Nov., it was recorded back in 2013 and features the founding lineup of guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez; an allstar roster of desert rockers if ever there was one. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Go Down Records.
 

134. Year of the Cobra, TBA

Somehow, I think it probably won’t be out until later in the year, but if you caught onto Seattle duo Year of the Cobra‘s 2015 EP, The Black Sun (review here) when it was released by Devil’s Child or DHU Records, then you’re probably already hip to the fact that the follow-up LP will be released by STB Records and is set to be recorded by a certain legendary West Coast producer of heavy who used to be based in the Bay Area but has since set up shop in Portland, Oregon. Not naming names or anything, but as you already know, it should rule. Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

135. Young Hunter, TBA

I have been dying to hear the next full-length from Portland-by-way-of-Arizona mood rockers Young Hunter since long before I hosted the premiere of the track “Nothing Shakes the Void” (posted here) back in Oct., and I’m going to continue to be dying to hear it until I actually do, so there. Very, very much looking forward to it, hoping the stars align and whatever else needs to happen happens so it can get out in the early part of the year. We’ll see how it pans out, but last I heard they beat their crowdfunding goal to press it, so something should show up from that. Not soon enough, in any case. Young Hunter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

136. Zaum, TBA

The mystical, Eastern-influenced doom trafficked longform by Canadian outfit Zaum has offered immersive vibes across the band’s debut LP, 2014’s Oracles (review here), and their 2015 split with Shooting Guns (review here) and that’s enough to make me look forward to their second album without reservations. The New Brunswick duo started out with a firm idea of what they wanted their sound to do, and I’m hoping they continue to follow that vision where it takes them on the next offering. Summer release expected. Zaum on Thee Facebooks, I Hate Records.
 

137. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunriseFirst made public three years ago via the track “Come Through the Water” (posted here), which will also appear on the album, Zun began as a collaboration between guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini, the album Burial Sunrise also brings in John Garcia as a lead vocal contributor, Mario Lalli, Harper Hug and a host of others (detailed here) for an atmosphere of subdued desert rock that’s unmatched in recent memory, in the desert or out of it. I mean that. This one is essential. Out March 25. Zun on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

What’s that you say, 137 releases isn’t enough? You want more? Okay.

Well, I’m pretty sure I just put up news about a new album from Iron Man vocalist Dee Calhoun due in Spring. That’s one. And fucking King Buffalo. Their record will be out not at all soon enough.

And while you’re hawkishly keeping an eye out for the stuff listed above, why not also watch for word from Bongzilla, whose reunion is now well underway, as well as The Body, who have a new collaborative release with Full of Hell coming out, Ice Dragon, who spent the better part of last year curiously silent, and All Them Witches, who probably won’t have a new LP out but are always putting together singles, jams and so on for those aching for a digital fix?

There is a “slim but real” chance of a new Clamfight record in the fall. I’ve heard murmurings indicating Elder are working on a follow-up to 2015’s glorious Lore, and since Baby Woodrose are playing Freak Valley, is it possible they could blow our minds with a new album as well? Conny Ochs has a new one on Exile on Mainstream, Mount Desert could easily follow-up their 2015 two-songer that made such a splash, and EYE — oh EYE! — I’ve been waiting for their new one since last year, so hopes are high it’s out soon. And I didn’t include them because the album already came out in Europe, but The Shrine make their Century Media debut with Rare Breed this week in North America.

Other names to watch for in no particular order or likelihood: Argus, Serpent Throne, Them Bulls, War Drum, Black Lung, Worshipper, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, 3rd Eye Experience, Switchblade Jesus, Seedy Jeezus, Horsehunter, Bright Curse, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Black Moon Circle, Bison Machine, Fogg, Electric Moon, Arc of Ascent, Beastwars, Thera Roya, Svartanatt (late Spring), Red Wizard (on STB), and Ripple Music‘s second chapter of The Second Coming of Heavy split series with Supervoid and Red Desert.

Still not enough? Check back soon. Just in the time I was putting this list together, I got emails about new releases from Nicklas Sørensen of Papir, Mr. Bison, Instant Boner, Duckhunters, Lord Summerisle and Sonic Mass — and others. Point is there’s always more to come.

What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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The Top 20 of 2015 Readers Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

top-20-of-2015-readers-poll-results

Happy New Year, and thank you. Thank you to everybody who took time out of what I’m sure was a crazy December to cast a vote in the sixth-annual year-end poll. It’s hugely appreciated, and I’m thrilled to note that with a final tally of 388, we not only beat last year’s number of contributors (355), but did so by a wider margin than last year beat 2013. That means a lot to me, so again, thank you for taking part.

I’ve spent the last month watching the results come in as votes are cast, checking the back end of the poll at least once a day, and more than any time I’ve ever done this, 2015 had a clear runaway. I’ll talk about it a bit in the lists, but let me first say that, as has happened every single time a poll’s results go up, the numbers change a bit over the next day or two as things are checked and rechecked. There won’t be any major shifts, but keep an eye on it anyhow.

Below, you’ll find two lists. The first is the weighted tally, working off a point system put together by Slevin that I barely comprehend in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. The second, and more suited to my caveman brain, is the raw votes. There are always some subtle differences between the two.

In addition to those, after the jump there are all the lists submitted over the course of the month. They’re alphabetical order.

Enough disclaimers. Here goes:

Top 20 of 2015 — Weighted Results

elder lore
1. Elder, Lore (858 points)
2. Clutch, Psychic Warfare (527)
3. High on Fire, Luminiferous (433)
4. Kadavar, Berlin (404)
5. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (368)
5. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence (368)
6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper (355)
7. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (320)
7. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues (320)
8. Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower (307)
9. Monolord, Vænir (284)
10. Torche, Restarter (232)
11. Ghost, Meliora (211)
12. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron (208)
13. With the Dead, With the Dead (189)
14. Baroness, Purple (182)
15. Snail, Feral (179)
16. Ufomammut, Ecate (167)
17. The Sword, High Country (155)
18. Golden Void, Berkana (152)
19. Dopethrone, Hochelaga (133)
20. Kylesa, Exhausting Fire (132)

Honorable mention to:
Fuzz, II (131)
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors (130)
Weedpecker, II (123)
Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire (116)
Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind (113)

Basically what I see in the above is a lot of agreement. People liked Elder and they liked Clutch. Both were picked often and both placed highly on the lists in which they were included, but it’s worth looking at the drop between the two — 858 to 527 is significant. As with every year it’s been done this way so far, the two lists are pretty consistent, the weighted tally and the raw votes, but the order is different, and this list gauges not only how widespread a given record reached, but how deeply it resonated with those who heard it. A couple well-placed ties add two extra picks to the top 10, and from there things hold pretty steady through number 20, though again, the placement at the bottom of the list is jumbled some compared to the raw votes as well. Speaking of…

Top 20 of 2015 — Raw Votes

elder lore

1. Elder, Lore (207)
2. Clutch, Psychic Warfare (138)
3. High on Fire, Luminiferous (128)
4. Kadavar, Berlin (114)
5. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence (112)
6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper (107)
7. Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower (103)
8. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (99)
9. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (94)
9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues (94)
10. Monolord, Vænir (82)
11. Torche, Restarter (71)
12. With the Dead, With the Dead (64)
13. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron (62)
14. Ghost, Meliora (61)
15. Ufomammut, Ecate (57)
16. The Sword, High Country (52)
17. Baroness, Purple (50)
17. Golden Void, Berkana (50)
18. Snail, Feral (46)
19. Dopethrone, Hochelaga (43)
20. Fuzz, II (42)
20. Kylesa, Exhausting Fire (42)
20. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors (42)

Honorable mention to:
Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire (41)
Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag (38)
Weedpecker, II (38)
Weedeater, Goliathan (37)
The Machine, Offblast! (35)
Goya, Obelisk (34)
Bell Witch, Four Phantoms (33)
Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind (33)
Spelljammer, Ancient of Days (33)
Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake (32)
Sacri Monti, Sacri Monti (32)
Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland (31)
My Sleeping Karma, Moksha (31)

Everything else was under 30 votes. As I alluded above, Elder’s Lore ran away with this one. Within 24 hours of the poll going live, it was ahead by a decent margin, and that margin only increased as the month went on. Granted there were more people than ever taking part in this year’s poll, but it’s also the first release ever to pass 200 votes in this tally, beating out even the formidable likes of YOB’s Clearing the Path to Ascend, which topped last year’s list at 138. That’s an accomplishment in itself, but either way, there was no question what was the Album of 2015, and of course, that’s an assessment with which I agreed as well.

One more time, thank you to everybody who participated, and thanks as always to Slevin for his diligent behind-the-scenes efforts, without which this poll and this site simply would not exist. The man is a hero and should be venerated as such.

Happy 2016 to everybody. I hope it’s a fantastic year for you personally and that your days are filled with good music.

Please find all the lists after the jump, and enjoy. If you find any glaring mathematical errors on the above or there’s something you feel needs to be checked or is missing, let me know in the comments.

Read more »

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 20 short releases of 2015

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

The Sunburst EP by Valley continues to resonate, as do splits from Goya & Wounded Giant and King Buffalo & Lé Betre. plus Derelics‘ IntroducingTime Rift‘s demo, the Carpet 7″, Watchtower‘s EP, Eternal Black‘s debut demo, Dorre‘s half-hour single One Collapsed at the Altar, and Mount Desert‘s two-songer all deserve serious consideration, as well I’m sure as many others.

Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post-Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.

 

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GIVEAWAY: Win Canyon of the Skull’s Self-Titled EP on CD

Posted in Features on December 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

canyon of the skull

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Austin two-piece Canyon of the Skull self-released their self-titled debut EP at the end of October, and I presume the reason they didn’t call the two-song/35-minute offering a full-length album is because they’re reserving the right to make their next outing longer. Fair enough. Comprised of two massive, bleak instrumental dirges, “The Path (of Bear and Wolf)” (17:18) and “Canyon of the Skull” (18:03), the EP takes its blackened cues from an abiding rawness in the guitar of Erik Ogershok that shows itself particularly in the latter reaches of the title-cut. canyon of the skull canyon of the skullBeyond that, what guitarist/bassist Ogershok and drummer Adrian Voorhies ply throughout is a vicious nod, the longform and semi-exploratory pieces each unfolding with an overarching groove that feels culled from the darker regions of their region’s signature and at times surprisingly extreme take on doom metal.

Where the balance will ultimately lie between one side and the other, I’m not sure the band are interested in establishing so firm a definition, since as wide as the two included tracks range, they do so freely and without seeming forced. You can take my word for it or listen to the tracks yourself below and make up your own mind, but either way you decide to roll, you’ve got a chance now to win Canyon of the Skull‘s EP on CD if you enter by leaving a comment on this post. I’ve never had trouble getting rid of free music and I don’t expect this time will be any different. Thanks to all who enter, and good luck.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Canyon of the Skull, Canyon of the Skull EP (2015)

Canyon of the Skull on Thee Facebooks

Canyon of the Skull on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2015

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 20 debuts of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

I’ll note right away that this list started out as a top 10. When it came to it, it didn’t seem fair to cut it off. Too much left out. It gets to a point where you look at your list of honorable mentions and it’s like three times as long as your list itself and you realize maybe you should up the numbers and give a few more records their due. So yeah, a top 20 it is.

The temptation with a list like this, especially since it’s dealing with bands working on their first full-length albums (EPs are counted separately), is to think of it as indicative of future movement overall, to try and measure some overarching trend from some of the best outings of the year. I’m not sure that’s a fair approach either to the bands who made these records or to everyone else who might come after, but if we step back and look at what’s presented in the list below, we see veterans resurfacing in new incarnations, new, young groups coming together with classic ideologies, a bit of heavy extremity, psych melding with pop, heavy rock going prog and much more.

What all that tells me is that notions like “underground” and “heavy,” these vague terms that get applied so liberally, are constantly expanding. Whatever their individual sound might be, these bands all pushed ahead an overarching stylistic progression in whatever they’re doing, and like the best of debut albums, they held promise for further growth beyond this already impressive output. It’s less about which seems like an immediate landmark, touchstone, whatever, than it is about what sets up and effectively begins that development going forward, though striking a chord in the present never hurts either.

To that end, here we go:

brothers of the sonic cloth brothers of the sonic cloth

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2015

1. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
2. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland
3. Cigale, Cigale
4. Kind, Rocket Science
5. Fogg, High Testament
6. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden
7. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns
8. With the Dead, With the Dead
9. Demon Head, Ride the Wilderness
10. Sacri Monti, Sacri Monti
11. Stars that Move, Stars that Move
12. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over
13. Sunder, Sunder
14. Ecstatic Vision, Sonic Praise
15. Bison Machine, Hoarfrost
16. Serial Hawk, Searching for Light
17. Cloud Catcher, Enlightened Beyond Existence
18. Khemmis, Absolution
19. Sumac, The Deal
20. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, The Devil and the Almighty Blues

Honorable Mention

By way of honorable mentions, first I have to give a nod to Foehammer‘s self-titled debut EP, which would be on this list probably in the top five if not the top three were it not for the fact that, as noted, it’s an EP. Its list will come. The 2015 release of Horsehunter‘s self-titled on Magnetic Eye was killer as well, but since the album initially came out in 2014, it didn’t seem fair to include it in the list proper.

Releases from Killer Boogie, Snowy DunesSweat LodgePlanes of SatoriDoctoR DooMLasers from Atlantis and Lords of Beacon House (I heard the EP, not the LP) also provided thrills a-plenty, and while I recognize that sounds like sarcasm, please rest assured it’s not. I’m sure there are others, and as always, I reserve the right to tweak mentions and numbers over the next however many days, weeks, years, etc.

Notes

There wasn’t much mystery to this one for me. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth held onto that top spot for most of the year, and it seemed like no matter what came along, the wall of sound that Tad Doyle and company built on that record simply would not be torn down. As oppressive in tone as it is in atmosphere, it was a long-awaited debut that produced devastating results the ripples from which I expect will continue to resonate well into 2016 and beyond.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth is one example of a veteran presence finding a new home, as several did this year. See also, Sumac with former members of IsisEcstatic Vision with players from A Life Once LostWith the Dead with members of Cathedral and Ramesses coming together for the first time, Kind drawing its lineup from the likes of RoadsawMilligramRozamov and Elder, and even groups like Sunder, who previously released an album together under the moniker The Socks before abandoning that project in favor of the current one, as well as Sacri Monti, with a member from Radio Moscow in tow, Cigale, who had two members from SungrazerStars that Move which sprang from Starchild, and Death Alley with members of MührGewapend Beton and The Devil’s Blood showcased how one band flows out of another and out of another, and so on.

That Death Alley debut had charm worthy of its title — which was also my favorite of the year — and showed the potential of that band to set up a real stylistic range going forward. I hope they continue to expand, get a little weird and freaked out and keep that core of songwriting and forward drive that makes Black Magick Boogieland so propulsive. For new bands, Cigale‘s self-titled was beautiful, but would later become tinged with tragedy following the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets earlier this year. Not to mention friends and family, his is a significant loss for European psychedelia as a whole, and while that was inarguably one of the low points of 2015, the album itself remains a gorgeous statement.

Young acts like FoggDemon HeadBison MachineSunderCloud Catcher and even Sacri Monti showcased varied takes on classic heavy, some more into boogie and jams and some looking for something a little rougher edged. Cloud Catcher‘s progressive take was a particularly pleasant surprise, while Sunder‘s psychedelia teemed with melody and a cohesive presence born out of what could’ve been unhinged otherwise. Between these, the heavy riffing of The Devil and the Almighty Blues and Serial Hawk, the formative fuzz of Chiefs, the resonant doom of Khemmis and the righteous traditionalism of Crypt Sermon, the notion of genres and subgenres as an ever-expanding universe seemed to be playing out on a weekly basis.

This, invariably, leads to new extremes, which in turn brings me to CHRCH. Like Foehammer, whose EP is in honorable mentions, the Unanswered Hymns long-player from CHRCH was a bright spot especially for how little light it seemed to let escape its abyssal grasp. They’re an easy bet for a band to catch on because they’ve garnered a formidable response already, but what sticks out to me most about them is the sense of pushing established parameters into fresh territory. What they’ll do in the months and years to come of course remains to be seen — they could break up tomorrow; it happens — but where a group like Primitive Man are almost singularly based on extremity of pummel and brutality (not to take away from them), CHRCH have the space in their sound for a multi-faceted progression, and that’s a huge part of what made Unanswered Hymns so encouraging.

I know there were many more debut LPs than these released this year, and even more debuts that were EPs and demos of note and things like that. The reason I single out debut albums for a list is because it’s among the most pivotal offerings a band can make. You’ll never get to release a second debut record. Some bands never live theirs down, some never attain quite the same level again and struggle with it for decades. Either way, it’s no small thing to get a group together and bring it to the point of putting out a first long-player, and that accomplishment in itself, regardless of the results, is worth highlighting.

No doubt I’ve left a few excellent offerings out. I hope you’ll let me know in the comments what debut albums landed hardest with you in 2015. In any case, thanks for reading.

 

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