Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Currently embroiled in a US run that kicked off last week in Boston, Parisian post-black metallers Alcest have announced they’ll head to Australia and New Zealand in April — spring here, fall there — as they continue to herald the return to a more aggressive style presented on their 2016 full-length, Kodama. Seems kind of strange to think of Alcest going back to their core sound as kind of a departure, but after the drifting ambient rock of 2014’s Shelter (review here), that’s kind of how it worked out. Cheers to them for being unpredictable even as they bask in the lush melodic melancholia that’s become their signature. Not every band could pull that one off.
Shows are presented by Life is Noise, and you can find the dates below, along with the remaining gigs on the North American stint happening now:
LIFE IS NOISE PRESENTS: ALCEST (FRA) AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND TOUR APRIL 2017
LIFE IS NOISE is ecstatic to announce the return of Alcest to Australian soil this April, with the band also venturing to New Zealand for the first time.
The French post-black metal masterminds will be reaching into the hearts and heads of audiences in Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Alcest have always been a strangely entrancing beast. Originally serving as a solo project for Neige (Stephane Paut), the outfit evolved into a creative connection between the frontman and drummer Winterhalter (of legendary Peste Noire fame) over more than 16 years.
Transcending their early black metal ties through five very different releases, their latest effort—Kodama—sees the band meticulously reframe their origins through a kaleidoscope of rich, warm and soaring sounds that connect with the very soul of the listener.
Influenced by the gorgeous Hayao Miyasaki film, Princess Mononoke, Kodama – meaning ‘tree spirit’ or ‘echo’ in Japanese – delves into the concept of living between two worlds; of not belonging and striving to establish a sense of being through contrasting planes of existence.
Exploring the juxtaposition of nature and humanity and the perpetual struggle faced trying to achieve cohesion in a modern world, the album taps into the divide to serve as a reminder that the spiritual is often neglected in a time that embraces the physical.
Alcest live is a truly humbling experience. Their emotive power works its way through every inch of your psyche, as they effortlessly transition from darker, harsher tones to climbing, ethereal highs. This is a sonic adventure that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.
Catch Alcest on the following dates: Wellington – San Fran – April 23 Auckland – Kings Arms – April 24 Brisbane – Crowbar – April 25 Sydney – Newtown Social – April 27 Melbourne – Max Watt’s – April 28 Perth –Badlands – April 29
Alcest US tour: 01/23/2017 Cleveland OH Grog Shop 01/24/2017 Grand Rapids MI Pyramid Scheme 01/25/2017 Chicago IL Reggies Rock Club 01/26/2017 St Paul MN Turf Club 01/28/2017 St Louis MO Ready Room 01/29/2017 Kansas City MO Riot Room 01/30/2017 Denver CO Marquis Theater 01/31/2017 Salt Lake City UT Metro Music Hall 02/02/2017 Seattle WA Highline 02/03/2017 Portland OR Dantes 02/04/2017 Vancouver BC Rickshaw Theater 02/06/2017 Oakland CA Oakland Opera House 02/07/2017 Los Angeles CA Roxy Theater 02/08/2017 San Diego CA Brick By Brick 02/09/2017 Mesa AZ Club Red 02/10/2017 Albuquerque NM Sister Bar 02/11/2017 Dallas TX Curtain Club 02/12/2017 Austin TX Grizzly Hall 02/14/2017 Nashville TN The End 02/15/2017 Atlanta GA Aisle 5 02/16/2017 Richmond VA Strange Matter 02/17/2017 Baltimore MD Metro Gallery 02/18/2017 Philadelphia PA Foundry 02/19/2017 New York NY Irving Plaza
I remain intrigued at the prospect of an Alcest album that even the band seems to position as a return to form, if not in such direct language, as they’ve never done anything in their career that wasn’t a move forward from where they were previously and one wonders what lessons they’ll incorporate from their last outing, 2014’s Shelter (review here), as they make their way back to the post-black metal aesthetic they — as their label, Prophecy Productions, rightly asserts — helped to pioneer in their earlier work. I dug Shelter in part for the bold step away from that that it represented, but it seemed like much of their audience was missing the lush, textured emotionalism. We’ll see where their fifth album, Kodama, ends up upon its Sept. 30 release.
The band posted the artwork and tracklisting and Prophecy has preorders up now for worldwide shipping, so if you want to get in on it, you can indeed get in on it. Here goes:
We are really excited to announce that our new album “Kodama” will be out on September 30th through Prophecy Productions.
“Kodama” is the Japanese word for both “tree spirit” and “echo”. The artwork has been done by the French duo Førtifem.
Tracklist : – Kodama – Eclosion – Je suis d’ailleurs – Untouched – Oiseaux de proie – Onyx
“Kodama” the fifth album from Blackgaze pioneers, Alcest, marks the French duo’s ferocious return to the stylistic maximalism of its early albums while continuing the band’s relentless pursuit for new sounds and fresh ideas.
“Kodama” is the Japanese word for ‘tree spirit’ and ‘echo’ and from the album’s structure and dynamics to its cinematic sound, “Kodama” indeed ‘echoes’ Alcest’s 2010 classic, “Écailles De Lune”. But this is no simple back-to-the-roots album: the band has more punch, rhythm and organic feel than ever before. While clearly influenced by bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Dinosaur Jr, Grimes and The Cure, “Kodama” ultimately reveals itself as Alcest’s ‘Japanese album’, drawing substantial inspiration from Japanese art and culture.
Originally triggered by Hayao Miyazaki’s anime film “Princess Mononoke”, “Kodama” picks up on the fate of its protagonist and, at its core, deals with the sensation of not belonging; of living in between worlds, be it city and nature or the physical and spiritual one. Duality is also crucial for the visual approach of the album, realized by French graphic designer duo Førtifem. Paying tribute to Japanese illustrators like Takato Yamamoto, the visuals portray contrasting elements like nature/urbanity, youth/death, femininity/animality and combine poetic elements with darker ones that were not present in Alcest’s earlier works.
By giving the album a cultural, stylistic and compositional narrative, Neige and Winterhalter keep “Kodama” from just being the latest improvement on the Alcest sound and instead make the album a most rare and exciting thing: a vital, relevant record from a pioneer that not only upholds the band’s trailblazing legacy but actually makes you want to see where they go next.
Available editions: – CD digipak with die-cut sleeve – LP (33rpm) on heavy-weight 180g black virgin vinyl – 2CD hardcover book (36 pages with lyrics, elaborate liner notes by Neige, Winterhalter and Fortifem, translations of the lyrics, ca. 18x18cm) incl. bonus CD with bonus track “Notre Sang Et Nos Penseées” – Deluxe 3LP box (45rpm) with vinyl etching, 6 art prints and lyric sheet; ltd. to 777 copies, split to: 200x black vinyl, 200x clear vinyl, 200x clear/black marble vinyl, 177x magenta/black marble vinyl (exclusive to the Prophecy online shop!) – “Complete Kodama Box”: 4LPs (45rpm) incl. vinyl etching and bonus track “Notre Sang Et Nos Penseées”, 2CD hardcover book (36 pages with lyrics, elaborate liner notes by Neige, Winterhalter and Fortifem, translations of the lyrics, ca. 18x18cm) incl. bonus CD with bonus track “Notre Sang Et Nos Penseées”, 6 art prints and certificate; ltd. to 777 copies, split to: 200x black vinyl, 200x clear vinyl, 200x clear/black marble vinyl, 177x magenta/black marble vinyl (exclusive to the Prophecy online shop!)
Released in 2014, Alcest‘s fourth album, Shelter (review here), was a bold step away from the post-black metal style the French unit had proffered on its first three outings. You can see it in the video below for “Opale” — it’s practically obsessed with color. I’m not entirely surprised to read that for the yet-untitled follow-up fifth LP, Alcest are looking more toward their earlier work than continuing to build on what they accomplished with Shelter, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to come out with Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde Pt. 2 or anything like that either. Alcest has never been anything but forward thinking, and I’d imagine the lessons they learned on Shelter will be a factor in whatever the new one is called as well when it’s finished.
We’ll find out this fall, reportedly, which also happens to be when Alcest are touring Europe with Japan’s Mono. PR wire info and tour dates follow:
ALCEST Working on New Album; Band Issues Statement
Celebrated French Shoegaze Exemplars Ready Fifth Full-Length
Parisian Post-metal duo ALCEST will release its new album this fall via Prophecy Productions. The band — vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer Winterhalter — are currently putting the finishing touches on the record, which they have described as “intense songs full of contrasts and dynamics.” The as-yet-untitled release follows the duo’s celebrated 2014 LP, Shelter.
“For the past 3 months we have been recording our new album, and right now we are doing small adjustments on the mix,” comments Neige. “It’s coming to an end of a very long journey (the longest studio experience we’ve had so far) and we feel quite exhausted, but really happy. For each album we try to challenge ourselves, developing the songs in new directions. This time will be just as special, but also a return to the approach we had in our earlier albums; with intense songs full of contrasts and dynamics. Even if this album is quite “alien” in character, we felt the need to come back to the origins of the project. The release date is planned for Autumn 2016 and then we will embark on a 37 date European co-headlining tour with the Japanese band MONO. We are very much looking forward to this tour and to show you the work of our last couple of years.”
This summer, ALCEST will join labelmates GERM, Secrets of the Moon, Les Discrets, Helrunar, Völur and more at the 2016 Prophecy Fest, set to take place July 29-30 inside Balver Höhle, “a natural cave from old stone age” in Balve, Germany. For full details, visit this location.
Alcest & MONO on tour: Oct 27, 2016 // Beatpol // Dresden, DE Oct 29, 2016 // Strom // Munich, DE Oct 30, 2016 // Gebaude 9 // Cologne, DE Oct 31, 2016 // Jubez // Jubez, DE Nov 1, 2016 // Salzhaus // Salzhaus, CH Nov 2, 2016 // Circolo Magnolia // Segrate, IT Nov 3, 2016 // Mostovna // Nova Gorica, SI Nov 4, 2016 // Locomotiv // Bologna, IT Nov 5, 2016 // Init // Rome, IT Nov 6, 2016 // Spazio 211 // Turin, IT Nov 7, 2016 // Cco Villeurbanne // Lyon, FR Nov 8, 2016 // La Maroquinerie // Paris, FR Nov 9, 2016 // Engine Rooms // Southampton, UK Nov 10, 2016 // The Institute // Birmingham, UK Nov 11, 2016 // Queens Hall // Leicester, UK Nov 12, 2016 // Classic Grand // Glasgow, UK Nov 13, 2016 // Brudenell Social Club // Leeds, UK Nov 14, 2016 // Gorilla // Manchester, UK Nov 15, 2016 // The Globe // Cardiff, UK Nov 16, 2016 // Marble Factory // Bristol, UK Nov 17, 2016 // Brixton Electric // London, UK Nov 18, 2016 // VK // Brussels, BE Nov 19, 2016 // 013 // Tilburg, NL Nov 20, 2016 // P60 // Amstelveen, NL Nov 21, 2016 // Uebel & Gefährlich // Hamburg, DE Nov 22, 2016 // Lille Vega // Copenhagen, DK Nov 23, 2016 // Pustervik // Gothenburg, SE Nov 24, 2016 // Parkteatret // Oslo, NO Nov 25, 2016 // Debaser Strand // Stockholm, SE Nov 26, 2016 // KB // Malmo, SE Nov 27, 2016 // Binuu // Berlin, DE Nov 28, 2016 // B90 // Gdansk, PL Nov 29, 2016 // Firlej // Wroclaw, PL Nov 30, 2016 // Szene // Vienna, AT Dec 1, 2016 // Durer Kert // Budapest, HU Dec 2, 2016 // Tabacka // Kosice, SK Dec 3, 2016 // Rockstadt // Brasov, RO
If like me you’ve been lamenting the fact that you didn’t get to see Alcest when they toured in the US with Anathema since pretty much the day after the show happened, you’ll be glad to note you’ve got another chance to catch them supporting their 2014 fourth album, Shelter (review here), which departed the post-black metal melancholia of their first three outings for altogether brighter fare — they made a good pairing for Anathema in that way; both acts boldly foraying into positivity in the face of an expectation of the morose. They’ll be out this time headlining with support from Emma Ruth Rundle and the tour begins in Mexico City on Sept. 19, picks up in Boston on Sept. 21 and rolls on from there coast to coast with dates in Canada as well, making it a true North American run.
The PR wire has details:
ALCEST Announces North American Headlining Tour
Celebrated French Shoegaze Exemplars to Perform in the U.S., Canada and Mexico this Autumn
Parisian Post-metal duo ALCEST has announced a fall North American headlining tour. The critically-lauded group, will launch the month-long trek on September 19 in Mexico City. The scheduled 23-city, major market jaunt will run through October 17 in Philadelphia, PA. Support on the ALCEST tour will come from singer-songwriter and visual artist Emma Ruth Rundle. ALCEST continues to perform globally in support of its most recent album, Shelter.
“We are very happy to announce that Alcest will tour in Mexico and North America in September and October of 2015,” comments Neige. “It’s been three years since we played in North America as headliners, so we are very excited to be back. Our support guest on this tour will be the talented Emma Ruth Rundle (Marriages, Red Sparrowes). Be sure to catch us on one of these dates!”
ALCEST tour dates: September 19 Mexico City Billar Billy’s September 21 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall September 22 New York, NY Highline Ballroom September 23 Montreal, QC L’Alize September 24 Ottawa, ON Mavericks September 25 Toronto, ON Hard Luck Bar September 26 Chicago, IL Subterranean September 28 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater September 30 Boise, ID Neurolux October 1 Vancouver, BC Venue October 2 Seattle, WA Crocodile October 3 Portland, OR Dante’s October 6 San Francisco, CA Slim’s October 7 Los Angeles, CA The Regent October 8 Mesa, AZ Club Red October 9 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad October 10 Dallas, TX Sons Of Hermann Hall October 11 Austin, TX Red 7 October 13 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade October 14 Tampa, FL The Orpheum October 15 Raleigh, NC King’s Baracde October 16 Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery October 17 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s
At best, this stuff is a crapshoot. Until something’s just about in your hand, you never really know when or if it’s going to come out. But they’re fun, and it’s exciting to think of good music being released, so you do it anyway. On the whole, I don’t think I did that badly between the two lists. Of course there was stuff that wasn’t anticipated — Colour Haze‘s new album, To the Highest Gods We Know, walks by and waves en route to its Dec. 15 release date — but for what we got, it worked out well.
That’s the general overview, but because I hold myself to a standard of accountability more rigorous than, say, my nation’s torture-happy secret police, here’s a full rundown of the list as it was, now (as then), presented alphabetically and with the titles listed as they were at the time:
42 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums — REVISITED!
1. Acid King, TBA: Word is Acid King‘s first in 10 years was mastered last month and will be out in Feb. 2015 on Svart.
2. Alcest, Shelter: Was way less post-black metal than their prior stuff, and I think it threw a lot of people off. Not a bad record (review here), but worked against lofty expectations.
3. All Them Witches, TBA: I remember including this because they said they were going back into the studio. Turned out they were recording the Effervescent EP/jam (review here). No regrets.
4. Alunah, TBA: Their new one was their Napalm Records debut, Awakening the Forest (review here). It was awesome. Score one for the list.
5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance: Yeah, it was cheating to include this since I was there when it was recorded. Still a killer record though.
7. Conan, Blood Eagle: What does complete dominance sound like? Sounds like Conan to me.
8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited: Was dying to hear what the Brooklyn trio came up with. No word on it yet.
9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013: Still don’t have a copy of this. Maybe I can pick one up when I get their forthcoming third studio album, Lore, out early next year.
10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA: More like “MIA” than TBA. Anyone heard from these guys?
11. The Golden Grass, TBA: Their self-titled debut (review here) was one of the finest first-albums I heard all year.
12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes: Any Greenleaf is a treat. Trails and Passes (review here) was no exception.
13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren: Solid follow-up (review here). Grifter‘s humor and lack of pretense serves them well.
14. Hull, TBA: Well, they had the Legend of the Swamp Goat single (review here) to coincide with their Euro tour. Waiting on the album.
15. Lowrider, TBA: I wouldn’t mind if this materialized right now. Or now. Or now. Or 2015. Or 2016.
16. The Machine, TBA: Might’ve jumped the gun on this. Hopefully in 2015.
17. Mars Red Sky, TBA: Easily one of the year’s best records. Stranded in Arcadia (review here) continues to get regular spins.
18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty: A highlight of early 2014. Darker record (review here), but inarguable songwriting.
19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now: Fitting end to their trilogy and hopefully not their last outing.
20. Pallbearer, TBA: Their Foundations of Burden has topped year-end lists already. It’s still on my desktop. I’ve barely listened to it.
21. Papir, IIII: Very, very good. They seem to be developing, but IIII (review here) was a satisfying chronicle.
22. Pilgrim, TBA: Can’t say II: Void Worship (review here) wasn’t a win for the band since they did a month on the road with Spirit Caravan. Maybe overshadowed by more recent stuff, but a quality record.
23. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt: Their incendiary heavy blues was in top form on Magical Dirt (review here). Glad I got to see them live once or twice (or 18 times) as well this year.
24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today: Also residing on my desktop. A vocalist switch caught me off guard and I feel like I still haven’t given it a fair shot.
25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA: Really? I had Sixty Watt on the list? That seems ambitious. No doubt they’ll have something new eventually, but that was a pretty high expectation it would be out this year.
26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos: If this came out, no one told me. Seems like not yet.
27. The Skull, TBA: A stunner. As much as I looked forward to it, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) exceeded the excitement.
28. Sleep, TBA: Included as wishful thinking. Their The Clarity single (review here) was something to celebrate.
29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance: I was really looking forward to this one. Kind of fell off with Digital Resistance (review here) after a while. Hard to argue with Slough Feg though.
30. Snail, Feral: Waiting on it for 2015.
31. Steak, TBA: The London four-piece followed two strong EPs with Slab City(review here), as heartfelt a showing of desert rock loyalty as I’ve heard.
Damn, this was a long list.
32. Stubb, TBA: I had my doubts it would arrive, but Stubb‘s Ripple Music debut, Cry of the Ocean (review here), found welcome when it did.
33. SunnO))) & Ulver, Terrestrials: One of two collaborations SunnO))) would have out in 2014. Heard a lot about it at the beginning of the year. Less now.
34. Tombs, Savage Gold: Good band, doing interesting stuff. I have a hard time transitioning from appreciating it to actually being a fan.
35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata: Sorry, but when Tom G. Warrior puts out a record, you hop to. I didn’t review it to save myself having to buy a copy, but dug it anyway.
36. Truckfighters, Universe: I feel like this one picked up steam as the year went on. I didn’t go back to it as much as its predecessor, but Universe (review here) was a logical next step for them.
37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk: Nothing to complain about with the Ohio three-piece’s debut (review here) or the effort they put into supporting it throughout the year.
38. Weedeater, TBA: Nope. At least I knew it at the time.
39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA: Surprised a lot of people when Celestite (review here) was a companion piece for their last record instead of a new album proper, myself included.
40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum: 2014 was quite a year for doom, and The Wounded Kings were right there at the start. This lineup may be gone, but Consolamentum (review here) holds up.
41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You: Rumor is guitarist Gary Arce has a few projects in the works for next year. Not sure if this is one of them or not.
42. YOB, TBA: We certainly know how this worked out, don’t we? If the votes in the Readers Poll are anything to go by, yes. Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here) was a landmark, and this won’t be the last year-end list around here on which YOB make a showing.
The list from July had a few winners on it as well — Apostle of Solitude, Blues Pills, Bongripper, Brant Bjork, Earth, Lo-Pan, The Well, Witch Mountain, etc. — but I think we’ve probably got enough as it is.
With the year starting to wind down, I’ll be putting together my Top 30 Albums of 2014 in the next week or so. Please keep an eye out for that, and thanks for reading.
Posted in Features on February 7th, 2014 by JJ Koczan
There’s a point at which an artist has to decide why and for whom he or she creates, and for French post-black metal innovators Alcest, that point seems to have been during the recording of their 2012 full-length, Les Voyages de l’Âme(review here). As guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, founder and principle songwriter Stéphane “Neige” Paut recalls, it was during this time that he began to feel as though he was playing to routine, making music more to please his fans and to meet expectations than to answer the call of his own creativity. If there was any question where Neige might end up on that issue, certainly the band’s fourth album, Shelter (review here), puts them to rest.
Released through Prophecy Productions and recorded in Iceland by Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós), Shelter maintains the emotional core that’s been at the center of Alcest‘s approach since their groundbreaking 2007 debut, Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde. What’s changed is the context in which that signature element arrives. Shelter dispatches with most (not all) of the band’s black metal influence, Neige and drummer Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre opting instead to shift their focus to a dreamy, bright melodicism which has always been there in Alcest‘s sound, but has never come to the fore in the way it does now, post-intro album opener “Opale” working quickly to establish a new clean, clear tonal foundation that songs like “L’Éveil des Muses” and “Voix Sereines” build on with the band’s signature shoegazing adventurousness.
One could easily argue that adventurousness has never been more prominent in Alcest‘s approach than it is on Shelter, both in terms of departing from what they’d established as their “norm” to unknown aesthetic ground, and in more obvious factors like choosing an English word for the title and bringing Slowdive‘s Neil Halstead to sing lead on “Away,” one of the album’s most central melodic washes. I spoke to Neige about these things and more prior to Alcest beginning a European tour with Hexvessel that wraps up this week in support of Shelter. He was both conscious of the changes in his band’s sound and of Shelter‘s potential to alienate some of their following, but resigned in having to do what he had to do to keep the band going. As much as it was one, his choice clearly had been made.
Please find the Q&A enclosed after the jump, and enjoy:
Posted in Features on January 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan
Getting ready to type this list is like standing on the precipice of a canyon. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Last year was an all-out assault of music. I couldn’t have heard it all even if I’d wanted to, and while it’ll probably be June before I feel like I’m sufficiently caught up on 2013, the new-car-smelling rush of 2014 is already underway.
And the only thing to do is press on — though I’ve tried on several occasions, I can’t seem to stop time and review everything that I’m fortunate enough to encounter — and that means glancing ahead to what’s coming in 2014. I know I said so before, but once again, Happy New Year.
One of my favorite things to do is to look forward to a new album. I consider it a sign of the endurance of the human spirit not only that new creative works are being completed and distributed at such a constant rate, but that we can still anticipate the resonance of those works upon their arrival. I don’t mind telling you this is the largest of any such list I’ve ever written for this site. Even as I start it, I’m finding more to add, and I’m sure when it’s done it won’t be complete. So it goes.
There’s more to say, but I’ve delayed enough. We’ll go alphabetically, which is only unfortunate because it puts YOB last. Thanks in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, TBA
We start the same place we started in 2013, with Acid King. The San Francisco giants have sworn up and down they’ll have a new record out this year, and while I’ve yet to see any solid word of its coming manifest, I remain hopeful that it happens. Of course, that was also pretty much the case going into 2013, but they toured Europe last fall and even came out to the East Coast for a show and played some new material (review here), so if it’s to be that IIIfinally gets a follow-up some nine years later, it’s worth keeping an eye out ahead of time. Acid King on Thee Facebooks.
2. Alcest, Shelter
To be released this coming week on Prophecy Productions, the fourth Alcest full-length, Shelter (review here), is billed as a major sonic turn away from the France-based outfit’s black metal influences toward brighter sonic fare. It is that, but the nostalgic melodies and crucial emotionality that has always been the root of Alcest’s sound remains intact. It will be interesting to see what the response is upon its release, but Shelteris an early point of fascination for 2014. Alcest on Thee Facebooks.
3. All Them Witches, TBA
I’m not sure what they’re doing in the studio, if it’s a single, an EP or a full-length album, but this past weekend, on Jan. 11, Nashville heavy psych rockers All Them Witches posted the above picture with the simple tagline “Recording.” Fair enough. It seems soon for them to have another LP after 2013’s excellent Lightning at the Door (discussed here), but that album seemed to arrive soon after 2012’s Our Mother Electricity (reissued by Elektrohasch in 2013; review here), so who knows? It’ll be fun to find out either way. All Them Witches on Bandcamp.
4. Alunah, TBA
UK doomers Alunah will make their debut on Napalm Records with yet-untitled third album. With wider distribution at their disposal than that received by their 2012 outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alunah really leave a mark on 2014, but more fascinating to me than how many people get to hear it is how the band — who’ve swapped out bassists since their last outing — will follow-up the tremendously memorable songs on White Hoarhound. No doubt they can do it, it’s just hard not to be impatient. Alunah on Thee Facebooks.
5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance
I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Amps vs. Ohms in Boston when Blackwolfgoat (aka Darryl Shepard, also of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, ex-Hackman, Roadsaw, etc. and a new project I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet) was tracking the follow-up to 2011’s Dronolith, which was released on this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum. Raw tracks can sometimes prove to tell little about the finished product of an album, but each piece on Drone Maintenancethat I heard had a distinct atmosphere, and “Cyclopean Utopia” was heavy enough on its own to warrant inclusion here. Rumor also has it that Black Pyramid offshoot The Scimitar will release a studio debut this year. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp.
6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley
Holding the promise of over 90 minutes of live-recorded material from the 2013 Freak Valley festival in Germany, Causa Sui‘s Live at Freak Valley will see release through the band’s own El Paraiso Records and should provide further insight as a companion piece to their 2013 studio full-length, Euporie Tide. As that album boasted such an engaging live and progressive feel, successfully meshing desert and krautrock influences, I’d expect no less from the live outing, which though they’ve put out studio jams before — their three-volume 2008-2009 Summer Sessionsis a joy worthy of the season — is their first official concert recording. El Paraiso Records website.
7. Conan, Blood Eagle
Six devastating tracks that both continue Conan‘s sonic dominance and usher in a new era for the band. Not only is their second full-length, Blood Eagle, their debut on Napalm Records, but it’s also the first Conan LP to be recorded at Skyhammer Studios, which was built and is owned by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis. Producer Chris Fielding worked with the band previously on 2012’s Monnos (review here) and 2010’s Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here), and Blood Eagle benefits from that now familiar collaboration, bridging the gap between the faster, catchy sides of Monnos and the complementing ultra-plod of its longer tracks. Album opener “Crown of Talons” also ranks among the heaviest things they’ve ever done, and “Foehammer” takes it’s name from Gandalf’s sword, Glamdring, so I don’t know what more you could ever ask of a full-length than that. Conan on Thee Facebooks.
8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited
With the addition of bassist Corey Dozier to the rhythm section with drummer Jason Prushko, Brooklynite doom-funk stompers Eggnogg have been able to move vocalist Bill O’Sullivan to guitar from bass, giving Justin Karol a chance to act all the more as a lead player. How this new four-piece dynamic might play out on You’re all Invited — or even if Dozier played on it — remains to be seen, but from what I’ve caught live, it’s turned them into a thicker, fuller-sounding band, and on new material and old, Eggnogg are coming into their own. They’re still a better band than they know, and one hopes they can get some road time in as well as release the LP to continue to refine their approach. Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks.
9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013
Granted it’s been available through Burning World Records digitally since last November, but Elder‘s Live at Roadburn 2013 is set for physical issue early this year through the label, and having stood in front of the stage to witness the set myself at Het Patronaat in Tilburg and then seen the line running outside the venue and down the block, I can tell you it’s a beast. Put it on vinyl with cover art by Adrian Dexter and maybe a photo or two by yours truly and you’ve got a good way to get a preview for what their sets at the two Desertfests might hold this year. Elder on Thee Facebooks.
10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA
Speaking of Roadburn, emotive UK doomers 40 Watt Sun are set to make a return appearance at the fabled fest in the Netherlands, and the word was they’d do so with material from the follow-up to their 2011 Metal Blade debut, The Inside Room (review here), which established the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (Warning), as a deeply affecting act with a rich sonic texture. No word of an exact release date for the sophomore effort yet, but one expects it will receive no shortage of fanfare prior to and upon its arrival. 40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks.
11. The Golden Grass, TBA
Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ One More Time b/w Tornado debut single was one of the best short releases of 2013, and the sunshiny classic heavy rockers will look to follow it with a first long-player this year. Recording is completed — the tracking was helmed by Andréa Zavareei, who also did the 7″ — and so is mixing, done by Jeff Berner (Naam, etc.), so with mastering in progress, hopefully it’s not too long before The Golden Grass can offer a right-on cure for wintry blues. It will be interesting to hear how they sustain and work within their positive vibes over the course of a complete LP. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks.
12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes
Trails and Passes will be Greenleaf‘s first outing since 2003’s Secret Alphabets not to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm (also of Truckfighters) and also finds the Swedish unit both with a new drummer (hello, Sebastian Olsson) and down from two guitars to one. It was five years between their third album, 2007’s Agents of Ahriman and 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here), so with a quicker turnaround and a stripped-down songwriting approach that seems geared more toward a live-sounding heavy rock presentation, Greenleaf could easily be positioning themselves as a full(er)-time touring act. The more the merrier. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks.
13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren
UK power trio Grifter surprised some with the quality of songwriting on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the lacking pretense of which was in proportion to its classic heavy rock influence, but The Return of the Bearded Brethren, which is set to release on Ripple Music, won’t have the advantage of sneaking up. If they’re throwing down a gauntlet, the confrontational pose of the shirtless tattooed beardo on their LP cover would seem to indicate it’s a considerable one indeed, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Grifter made following up on their self-titled sound as easy as they made infectious hooks sound the last time out. Grifter on Thee Facebooks.
14. Hull, TBA
Down from a five-piece to a foursome after having lost one of their three guitars since the release of 2011’s stellar second LP, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), 2014 marks an interesting point for singular Brooklyn post-thrashers Hull. With a Roadburn appearance slated and a limited vinyl reissue of their 2007 Viking Funeral debut EP in hand, they’ll look to bring their conceptual songwriting into a new presentational arc, and while that’s a fascinating prospect, I’m also looking forward to their new album because it promises to be heavy as fuck whenever it happens to arrive, hopefully by the end of the year. Hull on Thee Facebooks.
15. Lowrider, TBA
Were this list numbered in anticipatory rather than alphabetical order, Lowrider would be much closer to the top than lucky number 13. The Swedish four-piece will be recording their first outing since 2000’s genre-landmark Ode to Io this year after reuniting on stage at Desertfest 2013 — they’ll return to London next month with Dozer — and while I don’t know if it’ll be out by the time 2014 is done, I do know that the sheer prospect of a new Lowrider makes this year much better than it would be otherwise. I already invited myself to Sweden for an in-studio. More to come. Lowrider on Thee Facebooks.
16. The Machine, TBA
A couple weeks back, Dutch heavy psych rockers The Machine — whose split with now-defunct countrymen Sungrazer (review here) was my favorite short release last year — held a poll on their Thee Facebooks page to name their upcoming fifth album, which will follow 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) on Elektrohasch. My suggestion? Come to Light. It has the advantage of sounding psychedelic with an undertone of enlightenment to speak to the band’s continuing progression and it keeps with the prior album in being a reference to The Big Lebowski. No word on whether or not they’ll use it, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Machine’s website.
17. Mars Red Sky, TBA
Currently in the mixing stage, the second Mars Red Sky long-player will arrive on the heels of 2013’s Be My Guide EP (review here) and the Bordeaux fuzz trio’s self-titled 2011 debut (review here) and a host of tours and festival appearances. While their plans to record in the California desert reportedly didn’t pan out, the trio put much of the album to tape over the course of a week in Brazil following dates in South America, so it should boast plenty of sunshine either way. The album is due for release in April — a pro-shot live video of the new song “Satellites” was recently unveiled — and Mars Red Sky will also play at Hellfest in their native France in June. Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp.
18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty
The Washington trio’s first album for Listenable Records and their second since picking back up after several years of inactivity while guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed concentrated on Stone Axe, Electric Mountain Majesty is done and mastered as of Jan. 5. Recorded by Reed himself, it will follow a pair of live outings in 2013 (reviews here and here) and 2012’s infectious return, Nomads(review here). I am fully prepared to have these songs stuck in my head for most of 2014, so bring it on. A March release has been floated, which would come ahead of an appearance at Freak Valley in late May. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks.
19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now
Triumphantly creative Finnish cosmic doomers Mr. Peter Hayden will complete a trilogy with Archdimension Now that began with 2010’s Faster than Speed (review here) and 2012’s single-song 68-minute LP, Born a Trip (review here). Crushing tones and a formidable scope don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, though what really interests me is how the Satakunta five-piece will expand on the sound of their last album, which still seems to reveal something new each time I put it on. Their new single “We Fly High,” was streamed here recently and bodes well. Mr. Peter Hayden on Bandcamp.
20. Pallbearer, TBA
Pallbearer have toured hard since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), hit a nerve with doomers across the globe, and the four-piece from Arkansas are set to begin recording their next LP (presumably) for Profound Lore in February. If that puts a release for sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I would imagine it will come coupled with no shortage of live dates, since the band seems most at home on tour. Should be intriguing to have a document of how all that stage time has manifested in solidifying and adding confidence to their approach, and this is another one preceded by much anticipation. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks.
21. Papir, IIII
It would seem I have some purchases to make in order to catch up with Danish heavy psych jammers Papir. Aside from their recent collaboration with Electric Moon, the upcoming IIII will sure enough be their fourth album. Available now to preorder through El Paraiso Records, it is a vinyl-ready 47 minutes of smoothly shifting transitions between lush atmospherics and driving fuzz-heavy rock, ready to stand in line with progressive European instrumentalists like 35007, My Sleeping Karma and indeed their label honchos, Causa Sui. I had caught wind of 2013’s IIIpreviously, but deeper back catalog investigation is definitely warranted. Papir on Thee Facebooks.
22. Pilgrim, TBA
Just before they left to tour Europe with Windhand, Providence, Rhode Island, doomers Pilgrim recorded their sophomore full-length at Moonlight Mile Recording in scenic Jersey City, NJ. After the huge response garnered — and, I should say, earned — by their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, the band jumped from Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint, Poison Tongue Records, to Metal Blade proper for the new one, which along with Pallbearer, 40 Watt Sun, Serpent Venom and The Wounded Kings (and no doubt others) makes a prospect for a thoroughly doomed 2014. So be it. Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks.
23. Radio Moscow, TBA
As I type these words, heavy rockers Radio Moscow are mixing their yet-untitled fourth album (fifth if you count 2012’s 3 & 3 Quarters, which was comprised of early unreleased material) at Big Fish Recording in Encinitas, CA. Details on the release are sketchy at best at this point, and by that I mean nil, but at least there’s progress being made, and since it’s still January, it seems entirely likely the album will surface one way or another in the next 11 months, barring disaster. The bombastic blues jammers led by Parker Griggs toured Europe last fall and rumor is there’s a run in the works for the US at the end of February into March. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks.
24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
What’s not to like about a new Sigiriya album? The UK four-piece premiered “Tribe of the Old Oak” from Darkness Died Todayhere last month, and in addition to the considerable pipes of new vocalist Matt Williams, the track showcased a somewhat moodier psychedelic vibe from the band, who continue to distance themselves from Acrimony, of which bassist Paul Bidmead, guitarist Stuart O’Hara and drummer Darren Ivey were members, while also exploring new avenues from those of Sigiriya‘s debut, 2011’s Return to Earth(review here). I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they set a high standard last time. Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks.
25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA
Reason to Live, was released by Spitfire Records (remember them?) in… wait for it… 2002. Some 12 years ago. Now, these dudes have been kicking around in other bands since Sixty Watt Shaman sort of melted away in the manner that underrated bands often unfortunately do, but with the announcement of their appearances this year at Desertfest (info here) in April and The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in May (info here) came word of a new studio release. EP or LP unknown at present. As killer as Reason to Live was, it just doesn’t seem fair to expect Sixty Watt Shaman to be the same band they were more than a decade ago. As such, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m keen to find out. Sixty Watt Shaman on Thee Facebooks.
26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos
The 2011 debut from upstart Swedish heavy-hitters Skraeckoedlan, titled Äppelträdet (review here), was recorded by Oskar Cedermalm of Truckfighters and had much of that band’s fuzzy compression in blend with their own Mastodon-ic plod. It was a combination that worked so well I thought for sure the young outfit would return to Studio Bombshelter for their next outing, but no dice. As a result, I’m not sure what to expect from Gigantos, but I dug what I heard in a recent live video from them, so we’ll see how it turns out when the LP is done and I’m not about to judge either way until then. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks.
27. The Skull, TBA
I have no interest in downplaying any of the original members of Trouble‘s contributions to that legendary Chicago doom band (nor the work they’re doing now or those contributing to it), but there can be no question that Eric Wagner‘s voice is a signature element, and right now, that’s something The Skull has over the outfit from whence they sprang. Add to that Ron Holzner‘s bass and Jeff “Oly” Olson‘s drums and you’re well on your way to some foundational heavy. Among the best signs is that The Skull were recording with Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, etc.), who obviously knows his shit and is likely to capture their sound as it should be: Completely doomed. Also keep an eye out for Wagner‘s side-project, Blackfinger, who have an LP coming. The Skull on Thee Facebooks.
28. Sleep, TBA
This would be the mother of them all, I guess. A new Sleep album. In addition to hinting at new studio outings by his own three-piece Om and Matt Pike‘s High on Fire, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros let it slip casual-style in an interview somewhere that Sleep were working on new material, thus snapping my Thee Facebooks feed in half. Fair enough. Working on material doesn’t mean we’ll see a record this year, or at all, but obviously if there’s a chance a new album might happen (I’ve been nerding out about the idea for a while; see here and here), it would be proof of justice in the universe. Seems an obvious thing that Billy Anderson would record this as well, and all the better. Can the Sons of Sabbath prove there’s life after Dopesmoker? For now, only the Antarcticans know. Sleep’s website.
29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance
Slated for release through Metal Blade — they’re taking preorders — what if I’m not mistaken is the 32nd Slough Feg LP is due on Feb. 18. As much as I’m looking forward to the release of the record itself, having very, very much enjoyed 2010’s The Animal Spirits (review here), I’m even more interested to see if I finally get up the gumption to interview guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi. Something about a dude who doubles as a philosophy professor and who’s been putting out records in his band since I was nine and long before anyone gave a shit I’ve always found intimidating. We’ll see if I’m up to it this year. @Slough_Feg.
30. Snail, Feral
Last summer, West Coast riffers Snail announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, which means that their fourth outing, Feral, will be their first as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson since their 1993 self-titled debut full-length (reissue review here). Should be interesting to see how the shift to their original lineup changes the tenor of Feral as opposed to their two albums with Clausen, 2009’s comebacker Blood (review here) and 2012’s Terminus (review here), but as the first audio from the record begins to surface, Snail‘s sound seems to still very much have its core intact. Terminusbrought in something of a rawer heavy metal influence coming off the languid, dreamy Blood, but as they’ve been back together now for going on half a decade, no doubt a few more twists are in store. Snail on Thee Facebooks.
31. Steak, TBA
Quickly emerging at the fore of London’s enviable up and coming heavy rock scene — and, in the case of guitarist Reece Tee, helping shape it as one of the architects of Desertfest — Steak are set to debut this year on Napalm Records with what will be their first full-length following two EPs, 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s Corned Beef Colossus (review here). They’ve put in time on tour — they’ll play in Spain with Monster Magnet and in London with Lowrider and Dozer in February — and seem to be ready to take the next step in releasing an album, and after the conceptual elements of both EPs, I’m eager to see where the next chapter of their story goes. Steak on Bandcamp.
32. Stubb, TBA
Tracking is to begin a few weeks from now for Stubb‘s second album at Jon Davis of Conan‘s Skyhammer Studios. After the release of their 2013 single, Under a Spell (review here), and the departure of drummer Chris West, guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland acquired Tom Fyfe to fill the position, and subsequently found a label home on Ripple Music. It’ll be a different Stubb than they were on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but the fuzz runs strong in them however the changes might manifest in the finished product from the studio, and I can’t even think of “Under a Spell” without hearing the chorus in my head, so yeah, I’m on board.Stubb on Thee Facebooks.
33. SunnO))) & Ulver,Terrestrials
A collaboration between drone lords SunnO))) and Norwegian post-black metal progenitors Ulver probably isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make you crush a beer can on your forehead and call your bros to come over and check it out (actually, I don’t know what kind of music does that, but it probably sucks), but Terrestrials has the potential to be one of 2014’s most unique releases all the same. After Ulver‘s delving into orchestral minimalism on 2013’s Messe I-IX, it’s really anyone’s best guess what this will sound like when it comes out on Feb. 4. SunnO))) explored some cinematic ground with 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), but still, to speculate seems like setting myself up to be a fool later. Southern Lord Recordings website.
34. Tombs, Savage Gold
For their third album for Relapse, Brooklyn three-turned-four-piece Tombs headed south to Florida to record with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan. If vague Thee Facebook posts are anything to go by, the resulting LP is 57:18 and titled Savage Gold. I’m not sure when it’ll be out, but as the follow-up to 2011’s widely and loudly lauded Path of Totality, whatever it’s called and whenever the new Tombs shows up, chances are it’s going to receive as much extremity as it doles out. Tombs on Thee Facebooks.
35. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata
Heirs to the black, shiny and probably spiky throne of Celtic Frost, ultra-dark metallers Triptykon will answer 2010’s Eparistera Daimones (review here) with Melana Chasmata, which though it’s somewhat easier to type is no doubt even more gleefully excruciating a listen. As with the debut, they’ll mark the release with an appearance at Roadburn (info here). No audio has surfaced yet, but with a release date set for April 24, that can’t be too far off. Will Tom G. Warrior push Triptykon further away from their Celtic Frost lineage? I don’t know, but if there’s beauty in darkness, he’s the one to find it. Triptykon on Thee Facebooks.
36. Truckfighters, Universe
Feb. 4 is the stated release date for Universe (review here), the fourth album from Örebro fuzzdudes Truckfighters. The Swedish three-piece explore ground that at the same time is more emotionally complex than their last outing, 2009’s Mania (review here), and also more straightforward in the songwriting, resulting in a collection of tracks not necessarily as upbeat as some of what they’ve done in the past, but ultimately working toward a different kind of realization. No doubt hard touring will follow throughout the rest of this year, so if you want to catch Truckfighters, you’re likely to get your chance. Truckfighters on Thee Facebooks.
37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk
Like Truckfighters, Midwestern heavy rockers Valley of the Sun will issue their new album, the somewhat cumbersomely-titled Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk on Fuzzorama Records, and the two acts are slated to tour together in Europe from Feb. 8 through March 14 ahead of Valley of the Sun‘s April 1 release date. If you contributed to their crowdfunding campaign, you might already have a copy of Electric Talons of the Thunderhawkon vinyl, but either way, the official release is worthy of note, particularly for as much growth as the full-length (their debut) shows from 2011’s already-impressive The Sayings of the Seers (review here). Valley of the Sun on Thee Facebooks.
38. Weedeater, TBA
Not certain how to tell you this, but I’m not sure we’re going to see a new Weedeater album this year. Between the North Carolina sludgers’ busy tour schedule and Season of Mist reissuing their other four albums, it seems like an awful lot for Weedeater to then also write and record a follow-up to 2011’s Jason… the Dragon (review here). I’m not saying it can’t be done — hell, for all I know they’ve finished writing and the studio is booked — but if a new Weedeater arrives, although it was mentioned with their West Coast tour dates that start this week, right now it seems like it would be later in 2014 or maybe early 2015 by the time it gets here. Hey, I could be wrong. I’d prefer it that way. Weedeater on Thee Facebooks.
39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA
They put out BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini last year as a kind of holdover release, but last month brought news of new songs for 2014, which would be Wolves in the Throne Room‘s first since Celestial Lineage in 2011. They toured their heaviest yet that record, so a bit of a break wasn’t necessarily out of order, but for an act who inspire the kind of loyalty that Wolves in the Throne Room do, three years can be a long time. Not much by way of specifics on the new release, whether it’s a full-length or not, when they might record, where, or when it might surface, but we know they’ve got new material, and that’s a step. Wolves in the Throne Room’s website.
40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum
Due Feb. 24 on Candlelight, Consolamentum is the fourth long-player in the tumultuous career of British progressive doomers The Wounded Kings, who despite a seemingly endless series of lineup shifts have managed to release their four albums in a span of six years. With guitarist/founder Steve Mills at the core and the eerie but powerful vocals of Sharie Neyland over top, The Wounded Kings have tapped into a doom quick to separate itself from the pack, and Consolamentum conjures some of their most oppressive atmospherics yet, with expansive cuts like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” fed into by ambient passages and interludes. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks.
41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Desert legends Yawning Man released a split with Fatso Jetson in 2013 — only appropriate, since the two acts share Mario Lalli — but Gravity is Good for You, like whatever Acid King might have in store, is a holdover from last year’s list. Guitarist Gary Arce of the long-running and hugely influential instrumental jammers has reportedly been in the studio with Lalli and Third Ear Experience drummer Erik Mouness (video surfaced), but there’s yet to be concrete word on when Gravity is Good for You, reportedly a double album and the band’s follow-up to 2010’s Nomadic Pursuits(review here), might be finished. Got my fingers crossed it’s this year. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks.
42. YOB, TBA
Feels like a terribly long way to go only to get to one of the albums I’m most looking forward to hearing, but the alphabet works in mysterious ways sometimes. On Jan. 7, Eugene, Oregon, überdoomers YOB posted the following on their Thee Facebooks: “Had an amazing YOB practice. The new songs are fully in focus. 2 mega DOOM bludgeoners, one “faster” song, and the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written to close. 4 songs, 55 minutes.” Last I heard, they were to begin recording for their seventh (man, time flies) LP this week with a release in the months to follow, and since YOB haven’t put out an album since 2004 that I didn’t pick it as my Album of the Year, you can bet your ass I’m looking forward to what they do next. Particularly that part about “the most beautiful arrangement we’ve ever written.” Sold. YOB on Thee Facebooks.
Others to keep an eye on, some mentioned above, some not:
Ararat, III (Another 2013 holdover) The Atlas Moth, The Old Believer (Out in June) Brant Bjork, Jakoozi Blackfinger, Blackfinger Godhunter, City of Dust Ice Dragon (Some older releases are being physically pressed and new stuff is never far off) King Buffalo (Their demo ruled) King Dead (First audio just surfacing, but holds promise) Lo-Pan (Been a while in the making at this point, hopefully 2014) Pet the Preacher, The Cave and the Sunlight The Proselyte (EP coming on Gypsyblood Records) Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean Saint Vitus (Began writing last Fall) Salem’s Pot, Lurar ut dig på prärien The Scimitar (Debut from Black Pyramid offshoot) Seedy Jeezus (Recording in Australia now with Tony Reed) Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen Spirit Caravan (Nothing announced but you never know)
Various Artists, Songs of Townes Van Zandt Pt. II Wino & Conny Ochs (Maybe, maybe not) The Wisdoom, Hypothalamus Wo Fat (New album recorded)
I’m quite positive that the first thing to happen after this is posted is that someone will chime in with something I forgot. At least I hope that’s what happens. As large as this list has turned out to be (much, much larger than I thought it would be when I started taking notes for it), there’s no way it could cover everything, and I hope if there’s an upcoming release in particular that you’re looking forward to, you’ll please let me know in the comments.
Thank you so much for reading and for all of your support. Here’s to an amazing 2014.
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan
Shelter, the fourth album by Parisian post-black metal outfit Alcest, is a project of discovery. The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) has it that the band — comprised in its studio incarnation of guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, vocalist and principal songwriter Stéphane “Neige” Paut and drummer Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre — grew tired of the aesthetic that, arguably, reached its peak with their third album, Les Voyages de l’Âme(review here), and that in recording, the sense was that they were playing to what was expected of them. Performance over passion. There are many acts who go for a long time playing to formula, and as one whose debut, 2007’s Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde, is considered a founding document of the style of post-black metal, Alcest would be well within their rights to do just that. But an essential part of what has made Alcest such a special entity over the course of the last seven years has been the creative drive of Neige in crafting the material, and that’s never stopped. The second outing, 2010’s Écailles de Lune (semi-review here), was an outgrowth of the first and the third and outgrowth of the second, so when it comes to Alcest hitting that moment in any creative process where the sense is that one has pushed an idea as far as it can go, going into Shelter — which is released through Prophecy Productions — they either could have rehashed ideas or completely shifted their approach. They’ve obviously chosen the latter. Recorded at Sundlaugin Studio in Iceland with producer Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós) at the helm, the eight tracks/46 minutes of Shelterare aiming for something else entirely in their sound, and something that has very little to do with metal, blackened or otherwise.
There will be some, I suppose, who will find themselves alienated by the lack of the occasional screaming payoff or squibbly guitar/blastbeat section, and it’s true that the dynamic between Alcest‘s nostalgic wash of melody and that darker sonic touch was a huge part of what makes their work to date so pivotal, but really, was anyone listening to Alcest just because they were heavy? It’s not like they were ever trying to be the loudest band in the world. Their sound, even in its most blistering moments, always tapped into a sentimental, wistful emotionality — aggression has never been their trade — so even though early cuts like “Opale” and “La Nuit Marche avec Moi” present a somewhat different sonic palette, Alcest are less entirely recreating themselves than dropping what felt to them like dead tonal weight. Accordingly, Sheltersoars, and from the cascading echoes of the introductory “Wings,” that seems to be the very idea. “Opale” takes off at a joyous run, and neither Neige nor Winterhalter look back from then. Wisps of lead guitar drive forward and the waves of melody are intact, but there’s no darkness to “Opale,” and in that, it both immediately works against what one might expect going into Shelterwho thought they were getting a direct follow-up to Les Voyages de l’Âme and sets the tone of for the rest of the tracks to come, which by and large are shorter as well, with half of the album hovering on either side of the five-minute mark while “Wings” is shorter, “Voix Sereines” and “L’Eveil des Muses” are longer and the album rounds out with the 10-minute highlight “Délivrance,” which is as encompassing as anything residing in Alcest‘s back catalog. “Voix Sereines” follows the slightly moodier “La Nuit Marche avec Moi,” which opens gorgeously to half-time drums and echoing guitar runs, with Shelter‘s most wistful moment yet, building from surprisingly minimal quiet to a memorable instrumental progression that’s as patient as it is affecting, capping in a wash not tonally weighted bu emotionally resonant enough to justify the linearity that brought it about, effects, distortion and Winterhalter‘s punctuating snare retreating at the end to let a trail of echoing vocal and synth lead into “L’Eveil des Muses.”