Goya, Harvester of Bongloads: And Riffs for All

Posted in Reviews on March 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

goya-harvester-of-bongloads-closeup

“*-Please note: Cover art is cropped above. Full cover is NSFW and can be viewed by clicking here.-*”

Kudos to whichever member of Phoenix, Arizona, trio Goya came up with the idea of calling their third album Harvester of Bongloads — a title that not only speaks to the megastoned nature of the band’s output but contains a reference to classic metal as filtered through anti-everything fuckall, which is pretty much the core of what guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens, bassist Sonny DeCarlo and drummer Nick Lose have on offer throughout the four-track/40-minute outing.

It’s a record that revels in its own misanthropy as its core and defining principle — beyond even the inclusion of the 11-minute “Misanthropy on High” on side B — and it boils down to its very essence the appeal of Goya‘s work to-date across their albums, 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 debut, as well as the slew of shorter releases that have surrounded them, from last year’s Forever Dead, Forever Stoned demo reissue and Doomed Planet (discussed here) and The Enemy (review here) EPs and the Nirvana tribute single, Drain You b/w D-7 (review here), back through 2014’s Satan’s Fire EP (review here), etc.; the three-piece proving vibrant and prolific in terms of output despite having adopted a “drop out of life” ethic to a nigh-on-dogmatic degree. Still, with Harvester of Bongloads, loathing and consuming low end rule the day, and Owens‘ post-Jus Oborn vocal delivery tops the maddening wizard-doom roll with a thick-smoke haze that could hardly be more of a fit for a song like 20-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Omen,” which breaks into three component parts subtitled “I. Strange Geometry,” “II. Fade Away” and “III. Life Disintegrates.”

This, mind you, is the opener. Goya lead with this. On Harvester of Bongloads. One has to imagine it would be a challenge for the three-piece to preach more to the converted than they are here, from the wink-and-nod dogwhistle name of the record to the absolute desire to overwhelm a listener who is 100 percent looking to be overwhelmed in exactly this way — the kind of individual who might go, “Yes, please drown me in riffs.” Goya are happy to give it a shot on Harvester of Bongloads, and “Omen” is a key manifestation of that. Its slow-motion plod is marked out first on drums and some far off manipulated noise, starting “I. Strange Geometry” quietly with its bassline and an eerie tension. I’m not entirely sure where the divides between the parts of “Omen” occur, and part of the reason for that is because the changes are so fluid, but that subdued opening builds subtly over the first four-plus minutes and gives way circa 4:30 to a full-tilt lumbering, Owens entering for the first verse after a swell of cymbal.

For something that’s already been on for five minutes, the impact is immediate. He, DeCarlo and Lose ride that groove for until shortly before eight minutes in, when the drums and bass drop out and the guitar introduces the next riff in classic stoner metal fashion. Is that the start of “II. Fade Away?” The lyrical telling of politicians destroying dreams and other such decay, so I’d believe it, but the actual line “fade away” is still to come, arriving as it does past the halfway point as the band have drifted from a long solo section at almost exactly the 12-minute mark into quiet psychedelia, the guitar in chill mode as the warmth of bass comes forward. It’s hypnotic, but doesn’t last. At 14:30, they launch into resumed tonal crush that carries them into “III. Life Disintegrates,” the rumbling, mournful conclusion of “Omen,” which ends with more fervent hits and a worthy crash for what’s come before it, shifting into the two-minute riff-roller “Germination.” An epilogue for the opening track? Maybe. It’s a quick play between groove and guitar solo, instrumental and ends in feedback, like a snippet of a longer jam, but it also feeds directly into “Misanthropy on High,” so it could be just as much an intro to side B as well.

To-date, Goya have not put out a release — album, EP, single, whatever — that did not in some way build on what’s come before it. Their sound, heavily drawn from Black Sabbath, SleepElectric WizardWindhand, etc., has steadily become more their own, and Harvester of Bongloads is a next step in that process. The attitude behind “Misanthropy on High” — which if it’s not on a t-shirt yet probably should be; one has to believe it will surface as a motto for Goya at some point — is part of that, but it’s just as much the manner in which the three-piece seem to be fighting their own songs. It’s almost like “Misanthropy on High” has a will of its own as its 11-plus minutes play out, and as Goya are performing it, they’re also working to control it, like at any second the whole thing could devolve into sheer noise-drenched chaos, fall completely apart under its own weight. That they are ultimately in command of that process is a factor in making their work develop as it has over the course of their albums, and as they’ve grown into it, they’ve become immediately identifiable by sound despite whatever familiar elements might persist. “Misanthropy on High” is a near-perfect execution of that and a callout to the disaffected to join them in the toward-oblivion nod the creation of which one imagines is Goya‘s very purpose for being.

Just as “Germination” fed directly into it, it leads to the six-minute closer “Disease,” which marks a relative uptick in tempo — closer to mid-paced, on some general scale — and finishes Harvester of Bongloads in a manner both acidic and kingly, Owens tossing out a few lines early before receding and coming back after the halfway point to make sure the emphasis on global decay and death is properly conveyed before they’re done. Rest assured, it is. A bit of shred follows in the last minute and a sudden cut to feedback and two last crashes end the album. The statement has been made, the point taken, the riffs meted out with duly punishing sensibility behind them, and as if to underscore the sincerity and lack of pretense at their core, Goya finish cold where one might’ve expected a long, stonerly fade.

One could go on waxing critical about how subtle touches like that further distinguish their work from a crowded underground sphere, but I’m not sure there’s a point. Fact is, Goya have become something of a litmus test for those who’d take them on — either you get it and can dig it, or you don’t and you can’t. They don’t seem to care much either way, and perhaps that’s for the better. A group so outwardly, loudly dedicated to flipping off existence in general shouldn’t at the same time be necessarily playing at accessibility, even to a niche audience, but don’t take that to mean they aren’t likewise pushing themselves to progress in their mammoth, consuming approach. While they may be disgusted with the world around them, Harvester of Bongloads is clearly a labor of love.

Goya, Harvester of Bongloads (2017)

Goya on Thee Facebooks

Goya on Instagram

Goya on Bandcamp

Opoponax Records BigCartel store

Tags: , , , , ,

The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Five out March 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The beat rolls on, the bands play on, and Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Five lands on March 24, bringing new tracks with it from Desert Suns and Chiefs. This latest installment of the ongoing and deeply admirable series of split LPs marks the first of 2017, arriving just a few months after Chapter Four (review here) brought together the colorful pairing of Red Mesa and Blue Snaggletooth. One has to wonder at this point what will happen when Ripple gets to Chapter 10 — we’re halfway there — and whether the label will issue a box set of all of these together in celebration of the scope of the project. Even if they made 20 or something and charged $150-$200 for them, it seems like a worthy endeavor, particularly as all the art ties together and whatnot.

My two cents, anyhow.

The PR wire has background and audio for The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Five. I’ve got a pretty good track record at this point of reviewing these, and I’ll hope to maintain that with this one as well, so please keep an eye out. Till then:

second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-v-desert-suns-chiefs

The return of Ripple Music’s The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter V | Split album from Desert Suns and Chiefs

The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter V is released on vinyl on 24th March 2017

Already recognised as one of the world’s leading purveyors of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Stoner, Doom and Heavy Psych, Ripple Music upped the ante in 2015 with the arrival of one of the year’s most ambitious projects, The Second Coming Of Heavy Series.

Serving as an ongoing showcase for some of the best and heaviest bands emerging from the underground, each installment shines a light on those worthy of your attention. Consisting of one, 12” slab of multicoloured vinyl with full colour sleeves and inserts, the series is designed to be saved and treasured, like a fine anthology of books. So much so when the albums are filed next to each other, the complete collection of aligned spines form a mind-blowing image direct from the underground.

DESERT SUNS – In that space where psychedelia, blues-rock and doom coalesce, it’s there you’ll likely find Desert Suns. Formed in late 2013, from the outset the Californian quartet demonstrated a versatility rarely seen amongst their contemporaries. In no time at all they wrote, recorded and released their debut single ‘Burning Temples’ and by that same summer had already started to unload an arsenal of new sounds. Released in 2014, their self-titled debut reassured fans that they were far from one hit wonders. Containing haunting lyrics of alienation with compelling hooks, Desert Suns peddle an addictive and atmospheric energy of heavy rock familiar to fans of early ’70s proto-metal acts such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Blue Cheer.

CHIEFS – Having originally begun life as a two-piece back in January of 2012 in Phoenix, AZ, after years of releasing demos, touring and playing around Phoenix Valley the duo made the decision to relocate to San Diego, CA. Shortly after, they released a four-song demo entitled Buffalo Roam, and did numerous short West Coast tours to support it. Eventually the group became a three-piece with the permanent addition of bassist Jeff Podeszwik, who filled out the low-end of the band and transformed their sound. Hot off the heels of releasing a split 7″ with Fuzz Evil through Battleground Records, Chiefs released their debut full-length album Tomorrow’s Over and are now the latest addition to Ripple Music’s much coveted SCoH’s “Hall of Fame”.

The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter V will get an official vinyl release on 24th March 2017 and is limited to 300 copies in three alternative versions (100 of each) – The Resurrection Edition, The Risen OBI and The Ascension Edition.

http://www.desertsunsmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/desertsunssd/
https://www.instagram.com/desertsunsband/
https://desertsuns.bandcamp.com/

http://www.wearechiefs.com/
https://www.facebook.com/wearechiefs
https://wearechiefs.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/wearechiefs/
https://twitter.com/chiefsphx

http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripple-Music/369610860064
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Godhunter Announce New EP Codex Narco Due in May

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

Tucson sludgers Godhunter taking on a more directly political lyrical bent makes sense, as the band has always been keen to offer some latent social commentary both on the local level of their home in Arizona and in the wider sphere of worldly goings on. Not to mention these are deeply politicized times blah blah blah, but yeah, that makes sense as a turn the band would make. Interestingly, they’ve called in a few friends to help them make their point. Their new EP, Codex Narco, is set to release this May on Battleground Records and Baby Tooth Records and with guest spots from CHRCH‘s Eva Rose — well that’s going to be fucking unbelievably heavy — as well as members of Methra, Demon Lung and others, although Godhunter have undergone some lineup changes over the last couple years, they still clearly know how to put a party together. Interested to hear how this one turns out.

No art or audio yet, but the PR wire has release details:

godhunter

GODHUNTER To Release Codex Narco In May; Record Features Contributors From CHRCH, Demon Lung, Mountaineer, Thorne, Methra, And More

GODHUNTER has completed a new EP titled Codex Narco, featuring a cast of fellow musicians hailing from the likes of CHRCH, Demon Lung, Mountaineer, Thorne, Methra, and others. The EP will see release in May, with the proceeds from each format going to several important charities.

In September of 2015, after finishing a successful US tour with Destroyer Of Light, several members of GODHUNTER amicably split with the band, simply moving on with more family commitments and unable to commit to regular touring. Within weeks of the lineup shift, the rest of the band began writing new material together through internet conversations and individual recording sessions, as remaining guitarist/vocalist David Rodgers, drummer Andy Kratzenberg, and keyboardist Matthew Davis, currently reside on opposite ends of the country, spread across Washington, Arizona, and Georgia.

Shortly into the creation process, it was realized that the band was deviating from their usual lyrical content on our deteriorating world and current events, and for the first time were instead focusing towards their own realms of inner darkness. Everyone in the band has experienced some dramatic personal trauma in recent years, a factor which is intensely reflected in the writing of Codex Narco, where dependency, depression, and loss are the driving factors, resulting in the most personal and deeply introspective material the band has ever made.

After fleshing out the main skeleton of the new material, the remaining members of GODHUNTER secured additional elements from several of the band’s closer personal and musical friends. Several of the contributors recorded a large amount of Codex Narco at Homewrecker Studios in Tucson, with the additional material recorded by each musician at their hometown studio of choice. The record features guest vocals from Eva Rose (CHRCH) and Josh Thorne (Thorne), bass from Adam Sage (Demon Lung), guitars from Clayton Bartholomew (Mountaineer, ex-Secrets Of The Sky), and vocal, bass, and guitar contributions from Nick Genitals (Methra).

Codex Narco was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, and features artwork by Bailey Illustration and layout by Cool Ghoul Ltd. (Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man). The record will see release through Battleground Records in conjunction with Baby Tooth Records who will release a cassette version, on May 19th; all profits will be donated to Planned Parenthood.

GODHUNTER’s commitment to speaking out about social issues has not changed though, and as such, the proceeds from this album will be donated to Planned Parenthood, as reflected in the pink color scheme. Mitch Wells from Thou is also making us a video for the Tegan & Sara cover song “Walking With A Ghost.” This video is being made to support suicide prevention. Even though the album is very personal, the resulting effort is all about giving back to organizations the band members care deeply about.

http://www.facebook.com/godhuntersludge
https://battlegroundrecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.battlegroundrnr.com
https://twitter.com/BattlegroundRNR
http://instagram.com/battleground_records
https://babytoothtucson.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/babytoothtucson

Godhunter vs. Destroyer of Light, Endsville (2015)

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

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 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

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

Quarterly Review: Bus, Them Bulls, Stinkeye, Buzzard Canyon, Motherbrain, Elder Druid, The Crazy Left Experience, The Watchers, Of the Horizon, Raj

Posted in Reviews on December 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Today is the day the Quarterly Review passes the halfway point. This will be 21-30 of the total 60 for the six days, so there’s still a ways to go — you might say 50 percent — but it’s a milestone nonetheless. Once again it’s another roundup of cool stuff, kind of all over the place a little more than the last two days were, but as we go further along with these things, it’s good to mix it up after a while. There’s only so many times you can throw the word “lysergic” around and talk about jamming. That said, you’re getting some of that today as well from Portugal, so when it pops up, don’t be surprised. Much to do, so no need to delay.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Bus, The Unknown Secretary

bus-the-unknown-secretary

Athenian double-guitar four-piece Bus execute a stylistically cohesive, crisp debut with The Unknown Secretary (on Twin Earth Records), presenting classic heavy rock elements without going full-retro in their sound itself and marking songs like “Masteroid” as immediately distinct through the harmonized vocals of guitarist Bill City, joined in the band by guitarist Johnnie Chez, bassist Chob D’oh and drummer Aris. Together they run through a clean two sides that play back and forth between proto-metallic and doom shading – “Don’t Fear Your Demon” touches on slower Pentagram – while sounding perhaps most comfortable in rockers like “Withered Thorn” or the earlier stomper “New Black Volume,” which puts its two guitars to excellent use ahead of and between unabashedly poppy (not sure a full Ghost comparison is warranted) verse, and craft a highlight in the 7:38 arena-ready thrust of “Rockerbus” prior to the surprisingly nodding finale of “Jimi.” A strikingly efficient and clear-headed first full-length that would seem to hold much promise of things to come from yet another player in Greece’s emergent heavy scene.

Bus on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Them Bulls, Them Bulls

them-bulls-them-bulls.jpg

With the start-stop riff of opener “As Fangs in Stone,” a mastering job by Mathias Schneeberger and the breadth of pop melodicism in cuts that one, the swinging “Made of Ghosts,” and the more percussive “Through the Sun,” Italian four-piece Them Bulls make a pretty strong beeline for early-Queens of the Stone Age-style heavy desert rock. Their self-titled Small Stone debut isn’t without individualized flourish, but the 10-track/41-minute offering makes it clear from the start what its intentions are and then sets about living up to them, whether on the careening Songs for the Deaf-ery of “Pot Gun” or the penultimate “We Must Live Up” itself. Vocal interplay from guitarists Daniele Pollio and Franscesco Pasi – joined by the rhythm section of bassist Paolo Baldini and drummer Giampaolo Farnedi – provides an opportunity for future growth, but it’s worth noting that for a band to take on such a specific stylization, their songwriting needs to be in check, and Them Bulls’ is.

Them Bulls on Thee Facebooks

Them Bulls at Small Stone Records

 

Stinkeye, Llantera Demos

stinkeye-llantera-demos

What seems to be Stinkeye’s debut recording, Llantera Demos, arrives as a free download of four tracks and 16 minutes rife with thickened boogie and dense mecha-stoner fuzz, reminding of Dead Meadow immediately in the echoing vocals and rhythmic bounce of “Orange Man” but moving into some shuffle on the subsequent “Fink Ployd” and “Llantera,” the latter a well-earned showcase of bass tone. While out on the coast, ‘70s vibes reign supreme, the Phoenix, Arizona, trio are on a different tip, looser in their swing and apparently more prone to drift. For what it’s worth, they call it “hash rock,” and fair enough as “Pink Clam,” which closes Llantera Demos, rides more of a grunge-laden nod to an immersive but still relatively quick five-minute finish, building after three minutes in to a satisfying final instrumental push. Loaded with potential in tone, execution, vibe and dynamic between the three-piece, Llantera Demos immediately marks Stinkeye out as a band to watch and is just begging for the right person to come along and press it to tape.

Stinkeye on Thee Facebooks

Stinkeye on Bandcamp

 

Buzzard Canyon, Hellfire and Whiskey

buzzard-canyon-hellfire-and-whiskey.jpg

Want to grab attention with your debut long-player? Calling a song “Louder than God” might be a good way to go. That track, at seven minutes, is the longest on Connecticut five-piece Buzzard Canyon’s Hellfire and Whiskey (on Salt of the Earth), and following a quiet initial stretch, it launches into Down-style Southern chug, the dual vocals of Amber Leigh and guitarist Aaron Lewis (the latter also of When the Deadbolt Breaks) veering into and out of more metallic impulses to build on the initial momentum established on the earlier “Highway Run” and “SomaBitch.” The two-minute “For the End” basks in some nightmarish vision of rockabilly, while “Red Beards Massacre” and “Wyoming” dig into more straightforward stylistic patterning, but if Buzzard Canyon want to get a little weird either here or going forward, that’s clearly not about to hurt them. Closer “Not My Cross” hints at some darker visions to come in how it moves into and out of a droning interlude, adding yet more intrigue to their deceptively multifaceted foundation.

Buzzard Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

 

Motherbrain, Voodoo Nasty

motherbrain voodoo nasty

Though “Atomic Rodeo” dips into some Queens of the Stone Age-style groove, Motherbrain’s third album, Voodoo Nasty (on Setalight Records), comes across as more defined by its nasty than its voodoo as the Berlin four-piece demonstrate a penchant for incorporating harsher sludge tendencies, especially in vocal shouts peppered in amid the otherwise not-unfriendly proceedings. That gives the nine-song/48-minute offering a meaner edge but does little ultimately to take away from the groove on offer in the opening title-track or “Ghoul of Kolkata,” and though it retains its raw spirit, Voodoo Nasty digs into some more complex fare later in longer cuts like “Baptism of Fire” and “Half Past Human,” having found a place in centerpiece “Dismantling God” where blown-out noise aggression and semi-psychedelic swirl can coexist, if not peacefully then at least for a while until Motherbrain decide it’s time to give Kyuss-style desert rock another kick in its ass, as on “Sons of Kong,” which, yes, does proclaim a lineage.

Motherbrain on Thee Facebooks

Setalight Records website

 

Elder Druid, Magicka

elder druid magicka

Sludge-rolling five-piece Elder Druid riff forth with their debut studio offering, the five-song/33-minute Magicka EP, which one might be tempted to tag as a demo were it not for a few prior live-tracked short releases that appear to have served that purpose, the latest of which, The Attic Sessions (discussed here), came out in Jan. 2016. The experience of putting that together as well as their prior singles clearly benefited the Northern Irish outfit on Magicka, and while they retain a shouty spirit on opener “Rogue Mystic,” middle cut “The Warlock” offers nod that reminds of The Kings of Frog Island’s “Welcome to the Void,” and that’s about all I ever need. Ever. Served up with bloated tones and geared toward establishing a blend of gruff vocals and consuming fuzz, Elder Druid’s first studio recording has a solid footing in what it wants to accomplish sound-wise and plainly showcases that, and while they have some growing to do and patience to learn in their songcraft, nothing I hear on Magicka argues against their getting there in time.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

The Crazy Left Experience, Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey

the-crazy-left-experience-bills-108th-space-odyssey

The Crazy Left Experience – the moniker seeming to refer to the side of the brain at work in their processes – present Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey almost as an album within an album. The framework from the at-least-party-improvised Portuguese cosmic jammers on the seven-track/56-minute outing centers around William Millarc, who in 1955 was documented while taking part in LSD experiments. Samples of Millarc are peppered into opener “Subject Bill,” the later “Funky Meteor Drop” and the closing duo “Bill Sided Flashback” and “God of the Outer Rings,” but between the opener and the latter trio of cuts comes “Unarius,” a three-part excursion listed as “Part V” through “Part VII” that presumably is the representation of when our friend Bill has left his body behind. So be it. One can hardly call that departure incongruous either sonically or in terms of The Crazy Left Experience’s chosen theme – though there are some unrelated samples spliced into “Unarius – Part VII (Space Brothers)” that are somewhat jarring – and the entire flow of the record is so hypnotic that the band can basically go wherever they want, which of course they do.

The Crazy Left Experience on Thee Facebooks

The Crazy Left Experience on Bandcamp

 

The Watchers, Sabbath Highway

the watchers sabbath highway

Were it not for the context of knowing that vocalist Tim Narducci and bassist Cornbread hail from SpiralArms and White Witch Canyon, drummer Carter Kennedy from Orchid and guitarist Jeremy Von Eppic from Black Gates, the Sabbath Highway debut EP (on Ripple Music) from California’s The Watchers would be almost impossibly coherent for a first outing. Classic in form but modern in its presentation, the five-tracker – four plus the church-organ interlude “Requiem” between the opening title-cut (video here) and “Call the Priest” – makes the most of Narducci’s ‘70s-style vocal push, reminding of one-time Ripple troupe Stone Axe in his oldschool feel, but as “Today” (premiered here) makes plain, The Watchers are much more focused on learning from the past than repeating it. The straightforward songwriting and all-we’re-here-to-do-is-kick-ass sentiment behind Sabbath Highway might well prove formative compared to what The Watchers do next – presumably that’s a full-length, but one never knows; they sound ready to get down to business  – but it makes its ambitions plain in its hooks and swiftly delivers on its promises.

The Watchers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Of the Horizon, Of the Horizon

of the horizon self-titled

I can’t speak to the present status of California’s Of the Horizon, since last I heard bassist Kayt Vigil was in Italy working with Sonic Wolves, but their self-titled five-track debut full-length arrives via Kozmik Artifactz no less switched on for the half-decade that has passed since it was recorded. Guitarist Mike Hanne howls out throaty incantations to suit the post-Sleep riffing of opener “3 Feet” and drummer Shig pushes the roll of “Caravan” forward into its final crashing slowdown effectively as Vigil ensures the subsequent centerpiece “Unknown” is duly thick beneath its spacious, jammy strum. The two longest slabs hit at the end in “Gladhander” (8:55) and the righteously lumbering “Hall of the Drunken King” (10:31) and feel somewhat like an album unto themselves, but when/if Of the Horizon make a return, they’ve established a working modus on this first full-length that should well satisfy the nod-converted and that demonstrates the timelessness of well-executed tonal onslaught.

Of the Horizon on Thee Facebooks

Of the Horizon at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Raj, Raj

raj self titled

Though it’s fair enough in terms of runtime, it almost seems like Milano sludge-rollers Raj (also written stylized in all-caps: RAJ) do the six tracks of their 20-minute self-titled debut EP a disservice by cramming them onto a single LP side. Not that one gets lost or the band fails to make an impression – far from it – but just that sounds so geared toward largesse and spaciousness beg for more room to flesh out. That, perhaps, is the interesting duality in Raj’s Raj, since even the massive plod of closer “Iron Matrix” lumbers through its course in a relatively short 4:45, never mind the speedier “Magic Wand” (2:47) or drone interlude “Black Mumbai” (1:51) – gone in a flash. The release moves through these, the earlier “Omegagame” and “Eurasia” and the penultimate “Kaluza” with marked fluidity and efficiency, giving Raj a mini-album feel, and with the atmosphere in “Black Mumbai” and in the surrounding material, their rumble sets up a dynamic that seems primed for further exploration.

Raj on Thee Facebooks

Raj on Bandcamp

 

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

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

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 2016 to that, please do.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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

Fuzz Evil Begin Lyric Video Series with “Killing the Sun”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

fuzz evil

A righteous hook is never a bad place to start, and Arizona heavy rock trio Fuzz Evil certainly have that working in their favor as they begin a new series of lyric videos from their self-titled debut (review here). My understanding is that it’s their intent to create a clip to coincide with each of the six tracks on the album, which came out on Battleground Records at the end of September, and they begin with the catchy and uptempo “Killing the Sun.” Among the cuts surrounding, it’s one of the more purely desert rock in theme and execution, and it finds the Sierra Vista three-piece neck-deep in the classic-style chemistry shared between the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell, bassist Joey Rudell and drummer Marlin Tuttle, since replaced by Daniel Graves.

Joey Rudell took on the responsibility for putting together the lyric video himself, snagging an awesome public domain space cartoon from archive.org and setting the text to it with some creative, rhythmic editing and a retro font to keep the look consistent. The Rudells have shown a genuine DIY streak over the last couple years, in Fuzz Evil and their other outfit, Powered Wig Machine, as well as in their helming the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta festival, so to find them diving into a task of promoting their first Fuzz Evil album with what will (theoretically at this point; sometimes plans change) basically result in a video for each track seems about consistent to their general operating modus. If you haven’t yet been introduced to the LP, the clip is a charming means of accomplishing that, and if nothing else, think of it as an excuse to pay another visit to a cool track from the record. Not that you really need one, but still.

Credits and links follow the video below.

Enjoy:

Fuzz Evil, “Killing the Sun” lyric video

Credits:
Song From: Fuzz Evil 2016 release “Fuzz Evil”
Written, and owned by Fuzz Evil

Footage: “from Destination Earth”
Downloaded from https://archive.org/
by Sutherland (John) Productions
Published 1956
Usage Public Domain
Sponsor American Petroleum Institute
Audio/Visual Sd, C

Edited by: Joseph Rudell

Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Evil on YouTube

Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp

LP order page at Battleground Records

Battleground Records on Thee Facebooks

Battleground Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Goya Announce Doomed Planet EP Due Oct. 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 19th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

This year has brought a plethora of short releases from Phoenix, Arizona, riff merchants Goya. Late in the Winter, their The Enemy EP (review here) felt like a quick turnaround from 2015’s full-length, Obelisk (review here), but as it turned out, that was just the start of it. June brought a reissue of their 2012 demo, Forever Dead, Forever Stoned, on Totem Cat, and just last month, they released a single with two Nirvana covers, Drain You b/w D-7 (review here), on limited vinyl through their own Opoponax Records. Oh yeah, and they’ve got their own hot sauce too.

Go ahead and blink and the three-piece have another EP coming. With three originals and a Marilyn Manson cover, Goya are back again with Doomed Planet on Oct. 30, once more on Opoponax. They’re also getting ready to hit the studio — same day the EP is out — for a new LP due next year called Harvester of Bongloads. Awfully motivated for a band of such apparent intake. Must be all that mind expansion paying off.

No audio yet, but the PR wire brings Doomed Planet art and details:

goya-doomed-planet

Goya to release new EP “Doomed Planet” October 30

Doomed Planet is the third EP from Goya, and their first original material featuring new bassist, Sonny DeCarlo. Coming out on October 30th, Devil’s Night, as a nod to the wanton destruction caused by mankind, This EP features two brand new, epic Goya tracks (“Doomed Planet”, and “Hoof and Bone”), an ambient instrumental track (“Sorrow”), and a Marilyn Manson cover (“Dogma”), continuing the nineties vibe Goya put forth recently with their two Nirvana covers.

“Hoof and Bone” was originally recorded for an upcoming animated film, but was rejected, pushing Goya to record three other tracks to release this EP. Much in the spirit of their first EP, Satan’s Fire, Goya wrote and recorded “Doomed Planet” and “Sorrow” in just a couple of days. In many ways, Doomed Planet is the spiritual successor to Satan’s Fire, using the same general themes of misanthropy and destruction, and evoking similar feelings of darkness through the music.

Doomed planet will be released digitally via Goya’s bandcamp (marijuana.bandcamp.com), and on a limited CD through Opoponax Records (opoponax.bigcartel.com).

Goya will be entering the studio to record their third full length, Harvester of Bongloads on the same day that this EP is released. Harvester is set to be released digitally, on vinyl, CD and cassette during Spring 2017 through Opoponax Records.

Goya, Doomed Planet
1. Doomed Planet 09:01
2. Hoof and Bone 10:53
3. Sorrow 02:41
4. Dogma 03:09

facebook.com/goyastoner
marijuana.bandcamp.com
marijuana.bigcartel.com
instagram: @goyaband
facebook.com/opoponax
opoponax.bigcartel.com
instagram: @opoponaxrecords

Goya, The Enemy (2016)

Tags: , , , , ,