The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Abrahma Recording New Album Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

abrahma

It seems like a really long time since Abrahma released their second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), but the truth is it’s only three years. That record, also their second for Small Stone behind 2012’s Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), also followed its predecessor by three years, so actually the pace is pretty consistent. Maybe it just feels like a long time to me because I’ve been talking about their third album since Oct. 2016. Maybe I just can’t fucking do math. I don’t know. Point is: hasn’t actually been that long.

And in that time, I don’t even know how many players founding guitarist/vocalist Sebastien Bismuth has been through. At least one full lineup, and I think another one minus a guitarist? In any case, today’s news that Abrahma will record their third long-player — which had the tentative title In Time for the Last Rays of Light when it was first announced but may or may not be called something else by now — will be recorded next month at Orgone Studios in Bedfordshire, UK, with Jaime Gomez Arellano (Orange Goblin, Ghost, Paradise Lost, etc.) at the helm would seem to indicate that the current five-piece incarnation of the band will be the one captured on tape. Fair enough, and here’s looking forward to what comes out of the session, since while it hasn’t actually been that long since their last one, I’ve still been anxious for new Abrahma for three years running.

The band sent the following down the PR wire:

ABRAHMA LOGO

Long time without news from us… But after many up and down we’re delighted to announce that our third album Will finally be recorded in July with Jaime Gomez Arellano at Orgone Studios.

This new album Will contain 7 songs and some surprises…

It took 3 years to give birth to this album and we really hope you’ll enjoy the fruit of this long work…

Stay tuned for more info….

Tracklisting:
– Lost.Forever.
– Lucidly Adrift
– Eclipse Of the Sane pt.1: Isolation Ghost
– Last Epistle
– Wander in Sedation
– Eclipse of the Sane part.2: Fiddler of the bottle
– There Bears the fruit of Deceit

Sébastien Bismuth – Vocals, Guitars
Florian Leguillon – Guitars, Vocals
Benjamin Carel – Guitars, Synths & Effects
Romain Hauduc – Bass, Vocals
Baptiste Keriel – Drums, Vocals

www.abrahmamusic.net
www.facebook.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
www.twitter.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC

Abrahma, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (2015)

Tags: , , , , ,

Live Review: Emerald Haze 2017 Night One, Sept. 1, 2017

Posted in Features, Reviews on September 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

09.02.17 – 00.30 – Friday night/Saturday morning – Sid’s house

First night of an inaugural edition of a festival. I couldn’t help but be affected by a kind of ambient level of anxiety in the room, though I’ll say as well that the hypercaffeination factor probably didn’t help in that regard. It was a cloudy day in Dublin with just a bit of a chill in the air and 10 bands on the bill, and before I put myself in the darkened recesses of the Voodoo Lounge for the evening, I sat at the coffee shop and could see the sundry black-t-shirt-clad weirdos who’d be attending the fest. They were easy enough to pick out.

The show got underway at 19.00 with Elder Druid on The Obelisk Stage, which even though I’m here and have seen it in-person still seems more than a little unreal, and was just about nonstop from there until Wild Rocket finished on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage after midnight, so there was plenty to see. I did the best I could with the back and forth and tried not to look like too much of an ass taking notes in between. Here are the results of that effort:

Elder Druid

elder-druid-photo-jj-koczan

Well, if you want to get things rolling, you might as well get someone that rolls, and Elder Druid have that part down. The Northern Irish sludgers weren’t heretofore unknown to me, having checked out their 2016 debut EP, Magicka (review here), and they broke out riff after sludgy riff for the early crowd filing in. It hardly seemed like a coincidence they were starting off the show. Although they’re from up north, like a lot of the representation Irish heavy would get throughout the night to follow, they were young and hungry, and looking to establish themselves as a force to the audience assembled. Aggro vocals over Southern-style riffs aren’t necessarily uncharted territory, but for a newer group, they worked quickly to find their momentum and held people in check for the duration, sounding full and mean through the Voodoo Lounge soundsystem with pro-shop lighting flashing behind them. They were angrier than a lot of the vibe would be for the rest of the night, but definitely drew people right into the thick of it with their set. They’re about to release their debut album, Carmina Satanae, on Oct. 6, and I hope I get to dig into it, because it was a fast half-hour from them to start the night.

Blaak Heat

blaak-heat-photo-jj-koczan

Talk about a band who deserves more respect than they get. I suppose that’ll happen when your stuff is so head-spinningly complex, full of frenetic rhythmic changes, blinding turns, obscure Eastern-inflected scales and progressive melodies, but still. Playing as a five-piece and sharing three members with Abrahma in percussionist Sacha Viken, guitarist Nicolas Heller and bassist  Guillaume Theoden — which left just guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier and drummer Mike Amster in the lineup from when I last saw them — they opened with “Sword of Hakim” and “Al-Andalus” from their new 7″ The Arabian Fuzz (review here) and proved once again how absolutely underrated they are and have been basically since they started. I had talked to them earlier in the day and Bellier said they had new stuff in the works, demos and whatnot (which I’d love to hear, though he doesn’t seem the type to send something unfinished, even just to check out), and while their 2016 full-length, Shifting Mirrors (review here), was the farthest they’d yet reached, the new single proves they’re still progressing, still pushing themselves, and I hope that will continue, because the results have never been anything less than stellar. They might be underrated, they might deserve more respect than they get, but clearly they’re chasing something within themselves sonically and that journey seems to thrive on the validation from the creativity that results from its undertaking.

Zlatanera

zlatanera-photo-jj-koczan

They were the first act upstairs on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage, and like much of what followed them in the smaller room, they played a more straightforward vibe and did well representing the native Irish scene. I hadn’t quite realized the shape the evening would take until I actually looked at the schedule, with international bands exclusively downstairs and Irish acts upstairs, but it made sense, and it was clear to see who the locals were once the double-guitar five-piece got going. As had Elder DruidZlatanera drew a good early crowd, and though I was kind of in and out for their set as I wanted to catch the end of Blaak Heat back downstairs — conflicts, conflicts, conflicts; back and forth is life at a festival — when I went back down I could still hear them from the back of the bigger room, so they were clearly doing something right. Light on frills, but their sound filled that upstairs room perfectly.

Abrahma

abrahma-photo-jj-koczan

Parisian progressive heavy rockers Abrahma kept the theme — and the lineup — rolling from Blaak HeatViken moved behind the drum kit at the back of the deep downstairs stage, and Theoden and Heller switched sides from left to right as founding Abrahma guitarist/vocalist Sebastien Bismuth took the center spot. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch Abrahma live once before, in the Netherlands for Roadburn 2015 (review here), but neither Theoden nor Viken were in the band at that point, so it was half like seeing them for the first time anyway, even knowing how dynamic a frontman Bismuth is onstage. And he is. They said earlier this summer they’d be recording a new album this Fall as a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), and I hope they get there, because they seemed to be pretty locked in when it came to their presentation, right down to a pleasant-as-hell-surprise cover of Type O Negative‘s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)” from October Rust. Unexpected, to be sure, and twice as daring without keys, but Bismuth led the charge through a two-guitar interpretation, and it’s worth noting that even after the show that song continues to be stuck in my head, where I hope it will stay for, I don’t know, ever? In all seriousness, I’m very, very intrigued to hear where their new (original) material takes AbrahmaReflections in the Bowels of a Bird added to much to their sound even compared to the preceding 2012 outing, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), that I can only wonder what the next step in that process will be. One to look forward to for 2018, at the very least.

Mount Soma

mount-soma-photo-jj-koczan

I was really hoping they’d be good, because I bought one of their shirts even before they started playing. Long story. Not really, but a boring story, so we’ll call it long and leave it at that. Being there to catch Mount Soma‘s mix of melodic and nasty heavy meant again trodding upstairs in my plodding-old-man kind of way, and again, when I got there, I found the native Dubliners, like Zlatanera before them, giving a right-on impression of Irish underground heavy. The scene representing itself to itself: here we are. Obviously I’m an outsider and no expert to start with, but the understanding I’ve come to is that while the UK has been in something of a boom the last decade or so, that’s kind of overshadowed what’s actually happening here in terms of outside bands coming to tour and native Irish acts garnering wider attention. Efforts like Emerald Haze, particularly backed by the county of Dublin as this event is, are crucial in making that happen, and I didn’t quite realize until I watched Mount Soma that while it’s great to see the international acts downstairs, perhaps even more attention has gone into curating the Irish groups playing here, because a huge part of the message of this festival is that Ireland’s scene is coming into its own, and while there’s still growing to do, the bands are clearly willing to take that responsibility on their shoulders. Mount Soma proved it with volume and force. No regrets on buying that shirt, to be sure.

The Cosmic Dead

the comic dead (photo jj koczan)

The spaced-out Scots started late. Like, way late. Would you expect anything less of The Cosmic Dead than the bending of time? If so, then perhaps you’ve never heard them before, because that’s kind of what they do. Also, bending space. Also, melting brains. In any case, late start or no, once they got going, the Edinburgh four-piece freaked the royal fuck out — immediately and thoroughly. Killer. All the way. No doubter. Front to back. Green lights flashing. Synth blaring. Low end righteousness under wash of swirl. Melt. Melt. Melt. Space. Space. Space. Right frickin’ on. Like a frequency check for your consciousness. A litmus to see how much jam your brain could take before turning into powder. Every level, they were a lysergic win to behold, and while the running theme for the night was holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-lucky-enough-to-be-here-to-see-this, The Cosmic Dead only underscored the point that, holy crap, I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be here to see this. I’d already purchased every CD they had for sale and though I didn’t have enough cash, by the time they were done — they had the lights turned out on them because they were running long (that late start coming back to bite them in the collective ass) — I wanted to go back out to the merch area and pick up a t-shirt too. There were times as they were dug in when each member seemed to be on his own out there, floating without gravity and purposefully so, but when they locked step, whoa. Chills up the spine. Hair standing on end. Pick your cliché and roll with it. Whatever you got, The Cosmic Dead earned it. When they were done, they hung their guitars and bass from the ceiling. Room: conquered.

King Witch

king-witch-photo-JJ-KOCZAN

To the best of my knowledge, they were the only band on the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage not from Ireland or Northern Ireland, but while they shared a hometown with The Cosmic Dead in Edinburgh, the four-piece King Witch, whose metallic roots came through clearly in the guitar work of Jamie Gilchrist and the vocals of Laura Donnelly, the straight-ahead groove anchored by bassist Joe Turner and drummer Lyle Brown fit them right in with the likes of Mount Soma and Zlatanera before them. Donnelly was, one should note, the evening’s only standalone frontwoman, and she provided melody and force in kind from the stage. They were going even as The Cosmic Dead were still setting up downstairs, so were easy to hear from the start, and while once more I was up and back down again and back up again, King Witch‘s doom-tinged approach was a welcome preface to some of what tomorrow’s even more extended lineup will bring.

Church of the Cosmic Skull

church-of-the-cosmic-skull-Photo-jj-koczan

I have to admit, on paper it looks a little strange. Granted, it was one of 2016’s best debut albums, but still, UK seven-piece cult proggers Church of the Cosmic Skull only have one record out in the stellar Is Satan Real? (review here), so to find them headlining the bigger of the two stages could’ve been taken as something of a surprise. Until about 10 seconds in. I’d watched them soundcheck earlier in the day, and even that did little to prepare me for the righteousness of their presentation. Whether it was the interlude samples timed to videos between their songs or the harmonies between guitarist Bill Fisher, vocalists Caroline Cawley and Jo Joyce, bassist Sam Lloyd and Hammond organist Michael Wetherburn, or the brought-to-life memorability of cuts like “Mountain Heart,” set and album closer “Evil in Your Eye” or personal highlight “Watch it Grow,” they were nothing less than a celebration. A joy to witness. Really. Wetherburn‘s Hammond had been onstage all night, and when they finally broke it out, it was like Chekhov’s gun earning its place. Between that, the cello, and Fisher‘s rainbow guitar and stately manner as a chapeaued otherplanetary-cult leader waiting to take the whole venue away on some spaceship hidden behind a comet — pass that Kool-Aid, I’ll give it a shot, carbs or no — there was no place Church of the Cosmic Skull would have worked except at the top of the bill, and the room, which was the most packed it had been all night, knew it. I felt greedy for thinking to myself I hope I get to see them at some point again in my life, especially when they pulled out what I’m pretty sure was a new song during the middle of their time. They didn’t miss a cue in the harmony arrangements, but that did nothing to undercut their tonal presence or the push in Loz Stone‘s drumming, and as positive and affirming as they were, there was just enough evil underlying their work to be truly sinister. Right on.

Electric Octopus

electric-octopus-photo-jj-koczan

In order to prepare myself for seeing Electric Octopus live, the other day I undertook the considerable task of listening to their 2017 offering, Driving Under the Influence of Jams, in its nearly-four-hour entirety. And well, I knew they’d jam. And they jammed. What I didn’t realize was that when I went upstairs to catch them in that, they’d be so funky that they literally had people dancing in front of the stage. Think you can funk out improvised space rock? Because Electric Octopus sure as hell can, and the Belfast-based trio of bassist Dale Hughes (who was pulling double-duty, having also played in Elder Druid at the start of the show), guitarist Tyrell Black and drummer Guy Hetherington were a party unto themselves. I’d say outside world be damned, but the truth is, they seemed to feed off the fun the crowd in front of them was having, and it became this awesome conversation, the band playing the music being danced to and then taking the energy from that dance and translating it back into the music. There was something classic and open about it, but still molten and psychedelic at the same time. Wild Rocket, who’d follow, were more directly galaxial in what they were doing, and ditto that for The Cosmic Dead earlier, but Electric Octopus had their own personality that came through in their play and in their chemistry, and while there was nary a hook to be had in their instrumental explorations, their energy was infectious all the same. I didn’t dance. I don’t dance. I didn’t dance at my wedding. I don’t dance. But I grooved and had a hell of a time doing so as Electric Octopus made me want to go back and download every single thing they’ve ever put out, which is convenient because it’s all name-your-price on Bandcamp. They also had three CDs for sale. I bought all three and I’ll rank them among the wiser purchases I’ve made since becoming unemployed this summer.

Wild Rocket

wild-rocket-photo-JJ-Koczan

Okay, so first thing. If you haven’t heard Wild Rocket‘s new LP, Disassociation Mechanics, do that. In fact, you’ll note that of the 10 bands who played Emerald Haze 2017 tonight, they’re the only one I’m directly linking to on Bandcamp, and that’s not a coincidence. What a blast they were. Only fitting to have a Dublin outfit close out the evening, and Wild Rocket made sure everyone had a final chance to be launched well beyond the atmosphere. Even the dudes from The Cosmic Dead came upstairs and were throwing down at the front of the stage, and that seemed appropriate enough to the proceedings. Certainly well earned. I had seen them last year in Norway at Høstsabbat (review here), but with a little bit more of an idea of what I was getting this time around, it was a pleasure to watch them flatten the Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage and give the night the best kind finale it could’ve possibly asked for. How much further out could it go than to have MooseJonBres and Niallo trip so far there was no coming back? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Point is, go listen to that fucking Wild Rocket album. I mean it. The review’s pretty much over anyway. Only thing left to reiterate is how well the band did in giving the city of Dublin one more excellent showing of its own homegrown scene, because they were nothing if they weren’t world-class all the way, and unquestionably ready for export. Did you go listen to the record? Did you hear “Into the Black Hole?” Yeah. Good.

It’s well past 2AM as I finish writing this and there are still pictures to sort through and a full 15-band lineup for tomorrow, so I’m going to leave it there for the time being. I’ll have this posted hopefully before the day starts up again, but hell, it might be tight. We’ll see how it goes. Would you believe me if I said I was anxious about it? Thought so.

Thanks for reading. More to come and more pics after the jump here.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: Emerald Haze 2017 Announces Full Schedule

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Can I be brutally honest for just a second here? Just a second — won’t take long. I’m not worthy.

I’m sorry. I’m just not. I look at the lineup that’s come together for the first Emerald Haze on Sept. 1 and 2 in Dublin, I see this site’s name on a stage that will be shared by the likes of The Cosmic Dead, Abrahma, Lord Vicar, Sólstafir, Iron Void, Blaak Heat, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Elder Druid, Gourd, WitchSorrow, Gorilla Pulp and Ten Ton Slug, and I have to just shake my head. I’ve done nothing to deserve to be so honored as to be associated with these people. Nothing. I didn’t earn this. I’m not worthy. Seeing a logo for The Obelisk on the posters below, I feel like I’m getting away with some kind of scam.

Again, I’m sorry, but that’s how I really feel about it. This show is so god damn sick. They need me as a part of it the way they need a hole in the head. If you had told me eight-plus years ago when I started this site (1:) that I’d still be doing it in eight-plus years and (2:) that I’d be co-presenting shows in places like Dublin, Ireland, I’d have immediately and rightly told you to screw off. There’s unbelievable and then there’s absurd, and from where I sit, this falls definitively into the realm of the latter.

My flight’s booked. If you’re going, I’ll see you there. Please let me know if you’d like me to tell you all of this in-person, because I am 100 percent ready and willing to do that at any point. What I can’t do is even begin to properly express how grateful I am to be involved in this.

Okay. That’s my piece.

Full schedule for Emerald Haze 2017 follows here:

Emerald Haze 2017 – Full Schedule

Friday, Sept. 1
Doors – 6.00

The Obelisk Stage
7.00–7.30 Elder Druid
7.45–8.15 Blaak Heat
8.30–9.00 Abrahma
9.15–10.00 The Cosmic Dead
10.30–11.20 Church of the Cosmic Skull

MFB Stage
8.00–8.30 Zlatanera
8.45–9.15 Mount Soma
9.30–10.10 King Witch
10.25-11.05 Electric Octopus
11.20–12.20 Wild Rocket

After Party DJs Til Late – On The Rox

Saturday, Sept. 2
Doors – 2.30

The Obelisk Stage
3.30 – 4.00 Gourd?
4.15 – 4.45 Ten Ton Slug?
5.00 – 5.45 Iron Void?
6.00 – 6.45 Witchsorrow?
Break
7.20–8.00 Dread Sovereign
8.15–9.15 Lord Vicar
9.45–10.45 Sólstafir
11.00-11.40 Gorilla Pulp

After Party DJs Til Late – Voodoo Lounge

MFB Stage
3.45–4.15 Korvid
4.30–5.00 Vulpynes
5.15–5.45 Crowhammer
6.00–6.30 The Magnapinna
6.45–7.15 Death The Leveller
Break
8.00–8.30 Mother Mooch
8.45–9.40 Nomadic Rituals

Subject to change

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cheapstock Vol. 4 Set for Sept. 9-10 in Barcelona; Belzebong, Libido Fuzz, Blaak Heat, Cachemira & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I hope you’ll pardon me if I step back from the precipice of yet another here’s-me-daydreaming-about-being-independently-wealthy-and-spending-my-days-countryhopping-from-one-awesome-European-fest-to-the-next post — I don’t even know how many there have been at this point; frickin’ countless; this isn’t even the first one today — to note instead that along with the more familiar names included in the lineup for Barcelona’s Cheapstock Vol. 4 like Libido FuzzBelzebongBlaak HeatCachemiraLewis and the Strange MagicsAbrahma and Witchthroat Serpent, there are a slew of others with whom I at least am less introduced. EveUdolPazMad MaciusKamadeva, and so on — most of the bottom half of the bill is new to me, and I think that’s awesome. It’s my favorite kind of homework. More music to explore. Whether or not you can make it to the fest, I hope you’ll likewise take advantage of the checklist below.

Cheapstock Vol. 4 — including a bong giveaway and a Kyuss tribute for the aftershow — is put on by Solo Bongs Records and takes place Sept. 9 and 10 at Pineda de Mar in Barcelona, Spain. Doesn’t that sound nice? I think so.

Here’s all the info, including directions how to get there:

cheapstock vol 4

We are glad to announce the fourth edition of the Cheapstock festival, Cheapstock Vol4 is an outdoor festival for lovers of cosmic environments, heavy riffs and loud sounds. As new this year the festival will last two days and will feature camping for the 2-day pass.

We repeat site, in the football field of the foundation, this is the LINE UP for Cheapsock vol4:

Belzebong (Stoner, doom), first time in Spain! Only show!
BLAAK HEAT (Psych, Progressive, Stoner)
Witchthroat Serpent (DOOM)
Libido Fuzz (Heavy Psych/ Stoner)
ABRAHMA (Psychedelic/Atmospheric Heavy Doom Rock)
Cachemira (70’S Retro Rock / heavy psych)
MadMacius (Garage Punk)
Lewis and the Strange Magics (Heavy Psych Occult)
Nerobambola (experimental Jazz, math psychedellic duo)
EVE (Progressive, psych-doom, Rapsodia)
Electric Valley (Stoner)
Kamadeva (Heavy Psych, Stoner)
UDOL (Psych, Doom, Sludge)
Paz (Doom)

Afterparty
BASTARDS OF KYUSS (Kyuss Tribute)

Stands:
Branca Studio
Doom in aeternum
Anskar Tattoo&Piercing
+Tbc

Foodtrucks:
El alma-zen de los montaditos.
+ TBC

Cheapstock does not disgust anyone or anything, so you will be able to attend being under age or accompanied with your pet (or with your faithful bong). As it’s tradition, we’ll giveaway a fucking bong!! Courtesy of maxupixu smokers.

Tickets: https://entradium.com/entradas/cheapstock-vol4-pineda-de-mar

Arrival:
By Train, R1 Pineda de Mar, there will be a carrilet at the station that will take you directly to the festival compound and back.
By Car, by c32 exit 122, until we reach nii and continue direction girona until the exit of the motorway
By Bus, Pineda de mar train station and carrilet to the venue.
For the most adventurous to say that there are about 25 minutes walking from the pineda de Mar station.
BUS NIT:
To get back to bcn at night you need to take the n82
by Solo Bongs
Collaborate jäger music

https://entradium.com/entradas/cheapstock-vol4-pineda-de-mar
https://www.facebook.com/events/432927297064092/
https://www.facebook.com/cheapstockfest/
https://www.facebook.com/solobongs/
http://solobongsrecords.bandcamp.com/

Belzebong, Greenferno (2016)

Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors (2016)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Emerald Haze 2017: Individual Day Lineups Announced; Sólstafir & Church of the Cosmic Skull to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It says something about the adventurous nature of the inaugural Emerald Haze festival — set for Sept. 1-2 in Dublin, Ireland and co-presented by The Obelisk — that it will be headlined by Sólstafir and Church of the Cosmic Skull. The former, a genreless Icelandic outfit, specialize in a highly individualized brand of melodic melancholia. The latter are an almost brand new UK outfit whose debut, Is Satan Real? (review here), came out last year and was rife with proggy flourish in keys and vocal arrangements. Both are legit choices, but neither is quite what you’d expect for a festival centered around heavy psych and rock, and as someone fortunate enough to be involved in the fest in the tiny, infinitesimally small fashion I am and who will also be fortunate enough to be there to cover it, I appreciate that unexpected nature of the goings on.

And as I’m pretty sure I’ve said in every single post about Emerald Haze 2017, I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the fest:

EMERALD HAZE ANNOUNCE DAILY LINE-UPS

EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival has announced the daily line-ups for the inaugural edition which takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Friday will see main stage headliners Church of the Cosmic Skull joined by The Cosmic Dead, Wild Rocket, Abrahma, Blaak Heat, Electric Octopus, Elder Druid, King Witch, Mount Soma and Zlatanera while Saturday sees Sólstafir, Belzebong, Lord Vicar, Dread Sovereign, Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Gorilla Pulp, WitchSorrow, Electric Taurus, Ten Ton Slug, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Death the Leveller, The Magnapinna, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid across two stages in Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox.

Day tickets and a limited number of early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Friday: €15 + €2.50 booking fee
Saturday: €25 + € 3.00 booking fee
Early Bird Weekend tickets: €35 + €3.50 booking fee

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real? (2016)

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn (2017)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Emerald Haze 2017: Belzebong, The Cosmic Dead, Blaak Heat, Iron Void, Mother Mooch, Electric Taurus, Mount Soma & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Thus far, the inaugural Emerald Haze fest has been pretty metered in posting its lineup additions, but in this final one, they’re pretty much going for broke in welcoming a range of acts from Ireland and beyond, including Poland’s Belzebong, Scottish jammers The Cosmic Dead, US/France-based desert progressives Blaak Heat, and UK doomers Iron Void among a vast slew of others. These as well as a swath of native Irish acts — Electric Taurus, Mother Mooch, Gourd, Vulpynes, Korvid, Death the Leveller, Nomadic Rituals, Bad Boat, Magnapinna and Mount Soma, to see the list below — will converge on Dublin the first weekend in September for the festival co-presented by The Obelisk, and as I’ve said all along, I could not be more thrilled to be involved in the fest in the very minimal way I am and to be able to be there to cover it as it happens. Very, very much looking forward to it.

Like, a lot.

My understanding is this is the last announcement for the lineup, but of course there’s always the possibility of some shakeup between now and September, so I’ll keep an eye out. Tickets are available in the meantime via the links below, so get on that. Meet me in Dublin. We’ll hang out. It’ll be awesome.

Here’s word from the PR wire:

emerald-haze-2017-final-poster

EMERALD HAZE: Final band announcements- Belzebong, The Cosmic Dead, Iron Void and more

For further information, interview requests and/or press passes, please contact: emeraldhazedublin@gmail.com

The final bands have been announced for the inaugural Emerald Haze, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival. Poland’s heavy doom/fuzz metallers Belzebong and Scottish psychonauts The Cosmic Dead head the list along with international acts Blaak Heat from France and British doomsters Iron Void. The last of the home grown talent to be announced come from all four corners of Ireland and spans the full spectrum of heavy psychedelic sounds – Bad Boat, Nomadic Rituals, Electric Taurus, Mother Mooch, Death The Leveller, The Magnapinna, Mount Soma, Vulpynes, Gourd and Korvid.

Early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie priced at €35 + €3.50 booking fee.
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

For more information see www.emeraldhazedublin.com
Event page: www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613

EMERALD HAZE takes place on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 2017 over two adjacent venues – Smithfield’s Voodoo Lounge and On The Rox. Performers will be a mix of Irish and international headline acts, alongside established and emerging talent from Ireland and abroad. EMERALD HAZE is a not-for-profit venture, supported by Dublin City Council.

The Mother Fuzzers Ball Stage has been an integral and very successful aspect to CANALAPHONIC Music & Culture Festival since its inception in 2015. EMERALD HAZE creates an opportunity to further develop and nurture Ireland’s contributions to the worldwide aesthetic of heavy psych, draw international attention to the high quality and quantity of acts emerging around the country and provide festival experience to these bands.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Belzebong, Greenferno (2016)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Emerald Haze 2017: Lord Vicar, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Wild Rocket and Witchsorrow Added

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The second round of announcements from the inaugural Emerald Haze festival in Dublin (presented by The Obelisk, among others) brings further intrigue and anticipation. Also doom of the highest quality, and of course by that I mean Lord Vicar are playing. The Finnish masters released the righteous Gates of Flesh (review here) last year and join a bill already heralding the likes of Dread SovereignAbrahmaTen Ton Slug and Zlanatera. I am unbelievably stoked at the prospect of seeing them live.

Ditto that for Church of the Cosmic Skull, who had one of 2016’s best debut releases in their first full-length, Is Satan Real? (review here), which basked in a lush and classically progressive sensibility marked out by its vocal harmonies and generally fluid approach. Add Wild RocketWitchsorrowElectric OctopusGorilla Pulp and Elder Druid to the mix as well and Emerald Haze 2017 already seems to be taking shape nicely as a diverse, quality bill that, once again, I’m honored to be co-presenting.

And as I said last time, I’m planning on being in Dublin to cover it, so please come and please say hi. I’m super-awkward in person, but always appreciate a chance to shake hands, put faces to names and so on. I hope to see you there.

Here’s the latest announcement from the fest:

emerald haze 2017 poster

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Lord Vicar added to line up for EMERALD HAZE

Rising stars of the UK psych scene Church of the Cosmic Skull and international doom supergroup Lord Vicar are among the bands to be added to the bill for EMERALD HAZE, Dublin’s brand new heavy psych festival on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September.

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Nottingham’s seven-piece multi-vocal prog/psych superstars in the making and self professed new religious movement will headline the opening night of Dublin’s inaugural EMERALD HAZE.

After gaining widespread critical acclaim with the 2016 release of their debut album “Is Satan Real?”, Church of the Cosmic Skull embarked on a a highly commended headline tour of the UK in April, and will perform at a number of European festivals over the summer including Freak Valley Festival and Desertfest Antwerp.

Lord Vicar – whose international line up includes former members of Reverend Bizarre, Count Raven and Saint Vitus – along with Dublin-based space punks Wild Rocket, U.K. doomsters WitchSorrow, Italian rockers Gorilla Pulp and two more bands from the fertile Northern Irish scene, Elder Druid and Electric Octopus have all been added to the previously announced line up of Sólstafir, Dread Sovereign, Abrahma, Ten Ton Slug and Zlatanera, with more Irish and international acts to be named in the coming weeks.

Early bird tickets are on sale now from www.tickets.ie priced at €35 + €3.50 booking fee.
Direct link: https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

https://www.facebook.com/events/1321221147946613/
https://www.facebook.com/emeraldhazedublin/
https://secure.tickets.ie/Listing/EventInformation/35248/emerald-haze-dublin

Lord Vicar, “Birth of Wine”

Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Black Slug” official video

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,