Bellringer Post New Video for “Von Fledermaus”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

bellringer

One could probably sit around all day and wait for Bellringer‘s new video for “Von Fledermaus” to start making sense. One could probably ask it nicely. The result would be the same: A presumably mid-coitus stare from a lady bouncing up and down — I wouldn’t quite call it NSFW, but if you’re in an office they might find you out for the weirdo you really are if you’ve got it playing — spliced in with old racing footage and some blasting lights, destruction, etc. The problem isn’t that the video doesn’t make any sense. The problem is that you want it to.

Austin three-piece (maybe four-piece? I saw something about a second bassist) Bellringer released a self-titled four-song EP (review here) earlier this year. Where is it now? Gone. “Von Fledermaus,” with its lurching riff and the subdued vocal from Mark Deutrom (formerly of the Melvins and Clown Alley) — who’s almost Mario Lalli-esque in finding the calm spot in the song’s storm — was on that EP, and whether or not that was removed because someone’s doing a physical pressing or what, I don’t know, but again, I think the problem here is really that not knowing is the whole idea. Wait and find out. It’s what the world does.

Like that offering as a whole, “Von Fledermaus” boasts a sense of balance between its chugging riff and stranger impulses. Seems fair to say the collage-style video by Jennifer Deutrom hones in on the latter, and rightfully so.

If you’re sensitive to bright flashing lights or anything like that, you might want to watch out for some of the middle and second half stuff here, as it gets pretty active. Otherwise, enjoy:

Bellringer, “Von Fledermaus” official video

Earth and Space Chick rocks the Universe, dirt track racing, cowboy ambush and general sensory overload in Bellringer’s first video.
Purchase tequila and project this onto your favorite wall !

“Ham spanky in the back of the train”

Directed and Edited By Jennifer Deutrom
using public domain imagery, and also
“”Weg Zum Nachbarn” by Lutz Mommartz.

Mark Deutrom : Guitar, Vocal
Corey Cottrell : Bass
Craig Nichols : Drums

Produced and Mixed by Mark Deutrom
Recorded By Chico Jones at Ohm Recording Facility

Bellringer’s website

Bellringer on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: The 13th Floor Elevators, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The 13th Floor Elevators, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

I had a whole post written out talking about The 13th Floor Elevators‘ landmark 1966 debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, and its cross-generational impact on psychedelic rock, counterculture and so on. Wasn’t the best thing I ever wrote, but I was reasonably pleased with it, and it got the point across that it was an album that had considerable influence that continues to be felt today and that the work of vocalist/guitarist Roky Erickson, guitarist Stacy Sutherland, bassist Ronnie Leatherman (Benny Thurman also plays on the record), drummer John Ike Walton and jug-blower Tommy Hall is worth considering as a watershed moment in underground rock, along with being widely regarded as a nexus point for American psychedelia and garage. I had that all ready to go. Then underneath that, I was bitching about other stuff and the whole thing got deleted. No going back to a past draft or anything, apparently, as WordPress moves forward with its continuous improvement program to fix what wasn’t broken the first time around, so it’s gone. Poof. Bye.

Should I have saved the draft earlier? I should’ve done a lot of things.

Not a bummer to put on the album again and re-revisit “You’re Gonna Miss Me” — I’m missing that text right about now — and the bizarre strains of “Monkey Island,” but I’d call it on the whole a pretty fair summary of how the week has gone. I’d be more upset, but not only am I too tired to approximate the sentences I had before and try and make the most of it, but I’m too tired to even be actively bummed out. Shit happens. It is what it is. And whether or not I wax poetic about its legacy, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators remains a great fucking album. The first of their three, and it’s more or less a blessing from the gods of acid. You can get that from listening whether or not I say so. No one reads this shit anyway.

Not even sure why I’m gonna put in a divider, since it’s not like I’m going from talking about the record to talking about something else, but whatever. One falls into these habits. Hope you enjoy the album.

Quiet week. Unless you count that north-of-13 hours I spent sitting in traffic getting to and from work over the last five days. That was loud, at least in terms of the pounding in my head.

Gonna go see Godhunter and Destroyer of Light in Salem. Show is at a sushi bar. A sushi bar. Because even in Salem — a town quite literally most known for burning witches alive — no one has seen fit to open a metal venue. Massachusetts! Northeastern America’s capitol for living wrong. Anyone wanna not recycle and talk about Tom fucking Brady some more?

On NPR?

Jesus.

Whatever. Look for a review of that show Monday, and maybe one on Tuesday if I can get my ass out tomorrow night to see The Atomic Bitchwax vs. waiting to catch them next month in Providence. Not a huge fan of The Middle East, where they play tomorrow — what’s the matter, don’t like dark red lighting and nowhere to park? — but they’re the Bitchwax, so it’s at least a consideration. We’re actually staying in Mass. this weekend instead going to Connecticut, though to be honest I might strongly advocate to The Patient Mrs. tossing that plan out the window tomorrow morning and heading to the coast as quickly as possible. We’ll see. Vacuuming or the beach? Hmm…

But I figure fuck-everything mode is perfect for Godhunter, and I’ve yet to experience the affliction that sushi didn’t help, so it should be a decent night either way. And I just confirmed a Weedeater giveaway for next week, so right on for that as well. I’ll have a stream of the Shiggajon record too, and that’s pretty sweet.

See? It’s not all bad.

But losing drafts is. Save your work, kids.

Great and safe. Forum and radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Sweat Lodge Premiere “Heavy Head” from Talismana

Posted in audiObelisk on July 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sweat lodge

Austin four-, maybe five-piece Sweat Lodge will release their debut album, Talismana, via Ripple Music on Aug. 7. A vinyl-ready nine-track/35-minute offering, its unpretentious oldschool-is-the-new-newschool rollout owes some of its modus to West Coast boogie, but true to their Texan roots, the sound across songs like opening hook-megaphone “Tramplifier,” “Bed of Ashes” and “Phoenix Ascent” is somewhat earthier, touching on classic heavy rock and psychedelic influences but refusing to play entirely to one or the other. There are times when the lineup — vocalist Cody Lee Johnston, guitarists Javier Gardea and Dustin Anderson, bassist Austin Shockley and drummer Caleb Dawson — call to mind what might’ve happened had Freedom Hawk and Graveyard ever decided to collaborate, most especially on cuts like “Slow Burn” and “Black Horizon,” but though their ultimate path is straight ahead, the well-vested Sweat Lodge work enough swing and swagger into their approach across the board that the only real choice is to get down and go along for the ride.

They make it a worthy endeavor across the board, and while perhaps in part because of the title one might wait for Sweat Lodge to veer into some vague cultish theatrics, Talismana keeps its all-seeing eye on the prize of ’70s-ish biker motor-riffing and rhythmic sweat lodge talismanasway, the title-track maybe touching lyrically on some of that finding itself fluidly enacting tempo shifts via either-call-it-stoner-or-don’t riffs and swirling leads and echoes. Like a lot of the record, it is not as simple as it first appears — a dreamout taking hold and liquefying the proceedings only to resolidify prior to the finish — but Sweat Lodge make short work of finding a cohesive vibe through such turns, nodding at Deep Purple with “Black Horizon” before the especially ’70s “Boogie Bride” takes hold as the longest cut on Talismana at a manageable 5:51, a summertime fuzz holding firm for the course even as the verses seem to be impatient in their move toward the inevitable leads, the two sides coming together ultimately as Johnston‘s vocals top the semi-psych apex and then let the rocker blues carry out to the whistling start of the penultimate “Heavy Head,” a somewhat more laid back mood but an irresistible roll all the same and one of the record’s catchiest moments.

This careening, deceptively efficient, swinging but not reckless and aesthetically coherent course ends out with “Banshee Call,” somewhat more atmospheric at its start and maybe a bit moodier but still nowhere near overblown. If anything, it underlines the control that Sweat Lodge exercise over the span of Talismana as a whole, which — especially considering it’s the band’s first full-length — is doubly impressive given how poised they manage to remain while letting loose.

I’m thrilled today to host a track premiere for “Heavy Head,” which you’ll find on the player below, followed by some more info off the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

The Austin, TX outfit have made good on their promise with a record that delivers more than you could possibly ever ask from it. Pillaging and plundering some of the most explosive eras of hard rock, heavy psychedelia and proto-metal with a conviction and execution rarely found this side of the millennium, in short, Sweat Lodge’s potential is one that knows no bounds.

Seizing on the southern grooves of Fu Manchu, Saint Vitus and the blues-driven majesty of 70s legends Mountain and fellow Texans ZZ Top, across Talismana – riff after punishing riff, howl after soulful howl – the vintage sound of rock ‘n’ roll reigns supreme, sparked through an engine of uncompromising youth. As anyone who witnessed the band’s debut TV appearance on Last Call With Carson Daly in March will testify, charismatic front man and vocalist Cody Lee Johnston’s ability to bring it on home is hypnotic. Backed by the gnarled bass fuzz of Austin Shockley, the Bonham-esque drum play of Caleb Dawson and guitar interplay of Javier Gardea and Dustin Anderson, the band will be unstoppable in 2015 and Talismana an essential record for fans of the genre.

Talismana by Sweat Lodge will be released on 7th August on Ripple Music.

Sweat Lodge on Thee Facebooks

Sweat Lodge on Bandcamp

Sweat Lodge webstore

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music

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Greenbeard Release Debut Album Stoned at the Throne

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

greenbeard

And now, a play:

Officer McWhitey: Uh, do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: Nope.

Officer McWhitey: You were driving erratically. Swerving all over the place. What’s that you’ve got there?

Me: Oh, it’s a CD by this band from Austin called Greenbeard.

(Officer McWhitey, as portrayed by the douchiest buzzcut-looking motherfucker you can find, takes the CD, examines it.)

Officer McWhitey: Stoned at the Throne, huh?

Me (Looking at Officer McWhitey and realizing he’s at least eight years my junior): Yup.

Officer McWhitey: Step out of the car, sir.

–END SCENE–

I hope you enjoyed this original play. I bet you didn’t know I wrote plays. I don’t. Greenbeard, however, write riffs, and that’s even better. The Austin, Texas, four-piece list July 10 as the release date for their full-length debut, Stoned at the Throne, but you can stream the thing now and since you can, you probably should.

Background follows, culled from the internets:

greenbeard stoned at the throne

We present to you, “Stoned at the Throne”! Our first full length album. This collection of music represents everything we stand for. 8 tracks of blistering riffs, heavy grooves, hard hitting beats, and tastefully meticulated song writing. We urge you to sit back, clear your mind, turn up the volume, ready the rig, and get stoned at the throne with us. Enjoy!

Greenbeard assembled to honor and celebrate all things heavy, riff driven, stoner, desert, and above all else, rock and roll. “Greenbeard” was recorded in the spring of 2014. Chance Parker, Alex Smith, and Buddy Hachar collided visions to manifest a sonic liquification of heavy riffs, dark grooves, and hypnotic beats.

“Greenbeard” dove deep into the blueprints of heavy rock. Tracks like “Sludgito” will melt your mind with their never ending slow roasting bass groove. “Eris” shuffles through the Texas desert soil with driving riffs and hard hitting drums.

Desert rock from the sun stricken soil of Austin, TX. Greenbeard brings prolific vibrations to the universe via drums, bass, and guitar.

Stoned at the Throne comes in a CD jacket with custom artwork by Headbang Design of France. Stoned at the Throne was mixed by Adam Hamilton (Brian Jonestown Massacre/Counting Crows/LA Guns), and mastered by Paul Tavenner (Cleopatra Records). Recorded at Ohm Recording Facility and engineered by Chico Jones. Produced by Alfonso Gonzalez.

Chance Parker: Vocals/Guitar
Ethan Thayer: BG Vocals
Buddy Hachar: Drums
Marc Maddox: Bass

https://www.facebook.com/greenbeardtheband/
https://greenbeard.bandcamp.com/album/stoned-at-the-throne

Greenbeard, Stoned at the Throne (2015)

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Sweat Lodge Confirm Aug. Release for Talismana on Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sweat lodge

Originally announced last Dec. as being due early this year, Talismana, the Ripple Music debut from Austin, Texas, heavy rockers Sweat Lodge has now been confirmed for and Aug. 7 release. The four-, maybe five-piece recently shot a video for a to-be-revealed song from Talismana, and they will also take part in the North West Hesh Fest this Aug. as part of a West Coast tour in support of the album, where they’ll join a lineup that also features YOBWeedeater and Diesto.

The PR wire has words and sounds, you have eyes and ears, so let’s do this thing:

sweat lodge talismana

Austin psych rockers Sweat Lodge confirm release of debut album this August

Talismana by Sweat Lodge will be released on 7th August 2015 on Ripple Music

Ripple Music is pleased to announce the official release of Talismana, the long-awaited debut album from one of America’s most exciting and downright badass psychedelic metal bands, Sweat Lodge.

The Austin, TX outfit have made good on their promise with a record that delivers more than you could possibly ever ask from it. Pillaging and plundering some of the most explosive eras of hard rock, heavy psychedelia and proto-metal with a conviction and execution rarely found this side of the millennium, in short, Sweat Lodge’s potential is one that knows no bounds.

Seizing on the southern grooves of Fu Manchu, Saint Vitus and the blues-driven majesty of 70s legends Mountain and fellow Texans ZZ Top, across Talismana – riff after punishing riff, howl after soulful howl – the vintage sound of rock ‘n’ roll reigns supreme, sparked through an engine of uncompromising youth. As anyone who witnessed the band’s debut TV appearance on Last Call With Carson Daly in March will testify, charismatic front man and vocalist Cody Lee Johnston’s ability to bring it on home is hypnotic. Backed by the gnarled bass fuzz of Austin Shockley, the Bonham-esque drum play of Caleb Dawson and guitar interplay of Javier Gardea and Dustin Anderson, the band will be unstoppable in 2015 and Talismana an essential record for fans of the genre.

Talismana by Sweat Lodge will be released on 7th August on Ripple Music

Sweat Lodge:
Cody Lee Johnston (Vocals)
Caleb Dawson (Drums)
Javier Gardea (Guitars)
Austin Shockley (Bass)
Dustin Anderson (Guitar)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sweat-Lodge/124403460982785
http://sweatlodgemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://sweatlodge.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripple-Music/369610860064
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Sweat Lodge, “Slow Burn”

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Destroyer of Light Premiere Lyric Video for “Electric Shadows”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

destroyer of light

Tapping into grandiose classic doom and wah-drenched psychedelic heavy rock, Austin, Texas, four-piece Destroyer of Light are gearing up to release a new split 2LP with Godhunter that, as of today, is available to preorder through Battleground Records. Titled Endsville and limited to 300 copies available via Battleground and Destroyer of Light‘s Heavy Friends Records imprint, Endsville comprises four sides, two for one band, two for the other, each with original material and one cover track between them. No strangers to the road after having gone coast-to-coast last fall supporting their Bizarre Tales Vol. 2 EP, which was the follow-up to their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), Destroyer of Light will team up with Godhunter for a lengthy run of the East Coast this July/Aug. that includes a stop at the Death to False Metal festival in Connecticut on Aug. 15.

godhunter destroyer of light endsvilleA lot of information in that paragraph, so I’ll sum up — two good bands paired up for a split, preorders now, tour next month. Hopefully that sorts out the basics, which, if you’re going by “Electric Shadows,” which leads off their two-song side C of the Endsville vinyl, obviously aren’t a problem for Destroyer of Light. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, bassist Jeff Klein and drummer Kelly Turner have their Sabbath worship down pat, but there’s more to the track for those who’d dig in, and over the course of its six minutes, they’re able to smoothly shift between wrenching doom and ’70s-style shuffle, a catchy boogie of a guitar lead taking hold in the second half to steer toward a surprisingly upbeat, if somewhat sudden, finish. The band prove just as ready to jam as doom out, and though they’re playing one side against the other, in the middle third of the track, they seem to find a riffy middle-ground that eases the transition, subtle effects swirls behind plodding riffs before Klein‘s bass announces the arrival at the next stage.

Endsville is out July 28, but “Electric Shadows” is available for those who’d check it out to hear in a new lyric video put together by Erik Bredthauer that I’m happy to be able to premiere today. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by the tracklisting for the split, the tour dates Destroyer of Light will undertake with Godhunter starting on July 29, and much more info, culled from the PR wire.

Hope you enjoy:

Destroyer of Light, “Electric Shadows” lyric video

GODHUNTER vs. DESTROYER OF LIGHT: Endsville Split Double-LP to see release in a gatefold setup on two different colors of vinyl through Battleground Records and Heavy Friends Records on July 28th, 2015.

Double album featuring brand new music from Godhunter and Destroyer of Light, plus a cover song from each band.

Godhunter (Sides A/B) pressed on 180 gram translucent green vinyl, Destroyer of Light (Sides C/D) pressed on 180 gram translucent red vinyl. Both records are housed together in a two pocket, deluxe gatefold package featuring art combining sculpture work by Bestia Dentro and photography by Andrew Weiss. Includes a digital download card for the album. Limited to 300 copies pressed worldwide.

Godhunter
Side A
1. End Time Blues
2. Divided States
3. Dull Knives, Weak Handshakes
Side B
4. Cassandra Complex
5. Anthropophobia
6. The Emptiness That Is Left

Destroyer of Light
Side C
1. Electric Shadows
2. Coffin Hunter
Side D
3. Forever My Queen
4. Valley Of The Dead

GODHUNTER vs. DESTROYER OF LIGHT: Endsville bears twenty minutes of new material and a cover track from each band. Tucson/Vancouver-situated sludge faction, GODHUNTER, captured the tunes for their platter at WaveLab Studios in Tucson by Dana Fehr (North, Juarez), the newest in a steady line of titles since their 2014-released debut LP, City Of Dust, including their GH/OST:S split LP with Secrets Of The Sky and The Outer Dark collaborative 7” with Amigo The Devil. The adjoining slab by Austin-based psychedelic doom outfit, DESTROYER OF LIGHT, follows the band’s 2012-released self-titled debut album and 2014’s Bizarre Tales Vol. II EP, recorded at Orb Recording Studios in Austin, engineered and mixed by Matt Meli. The entire album was then mastered by James Plotkin. The two 12” EPs will be united in a gatefold setup on two different colors of vinyl, in addition to a digital release, the cover artwork to feature custom sculpture art by Bestia Dentro and photography by Andrew Weiss.

Directly in conjunction with the release of Endsville, GODHUNTER and DESTROYER OF LIGHT will collaborate on a major widespread tour together, which will see them both raiding the East Coast US for the first time. While previously only the rough skeletal city itinerary of the trek has been announced, this week nearly every one of the twenty-five venues on the tour has been declared. The tour includes both bands’ participation in the first Death To False Metal Festival in Hamden, Connecticut on August 14th and 15th with Whiplash, Krieg, Secrets Of The Sky, Valkyrie, Imperial Triumphant, Nightbitch, Immortal Bird, Secret Cutter and more.

Godhunter and Destroyer of Light on tour:
7/29: Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
7/30: Tempe, AZ – Yucca Tap Room
7/31: El Paso, TX – The Sandbox
8/1: Albuquerque, NM – The Launchpad
8/2: Denver, CO – Seventh Circle
8/3: Omaha, NB – TBA
8/4: Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
8/5: Chicago, IL – Livewire
8/6: Kalamazoo, MI – Fat Guy Fest
8/7: Indianapolis, IN – Fifth Quarter
8/8: Louisville, KY – Magnolia Bar
8/9: Raleigh, NC – Pour House
8/10: Charleston, WV – The Empty Glass
8/11: Pittsburgh, PA – Gooski’s
8/12: Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
8/13: New York, NY – Saint Vitus
8/14: Salem, MA – KoTo
8/15: New Haven, CT – Death To False Metal Festival
8/16: Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
8/17: Baltimore, MD – The Depot
8/18: Greenville, SC – Thomas Creek Brewery
8/19: Atlanta, GA – The Basement
8/20: Little Rock, AR – Vino’s
8/21: New Orleans, LA – Saturn Bar
8/22: Austin, TX – Holy Mountain

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

Battleground Records preorder

Heavy Friends Records on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Dudley-Street,-Seven-Dials.-Gustave-Doré-(1832-83) top 10

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.

Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.

Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.

Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.

Let’s get to it:

the-well-samsara

The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural

A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.

Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.

With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegración hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.

On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.

And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.

To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.

If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & SilverWrenDeath Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

orange-goblin-back-from-the-abyss

Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

pilgrim-ii-void-worship

Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

john-garcia-john-garcia

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

swans-to-be-kind

Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Alunah, Awakening the Forest

alunah awakening the forest

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

I initially made this list without Alunah‘s excellent third album and Napalm Records, but when it came down to it, not having the UK four-piece on here haunted me to the point where I had to come back in and swap them out with somebody else. Just couldn’t live with myself for not giving this record its due, which, to be frank, I’m still not since it should be higher on the list than it is. At least it’s here though, so the mistake is somewhat corrected.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

greenleaf-trails-and-passes

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

radio-moscow-magical-dirt

Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

stubb-cry-of-the-ocean

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

the-golden-grass-the-golden-grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

the-well-samsara

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

fu-manchu-gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

the-skull-for-those-which-are-asleep

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

blood-farmers-headless-eyes

Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

lo-pan-colossus

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

all-them-witches-lightning-at-the-door

Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

witch-mountain-mobile-of-angels

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

conan-blood-eagle

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

wo-fat-the-conjuring

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

mars-red-sky-stranded-in-arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend — YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

Sólstafir, Ótta — They were originally on the list proper but had to be moved to make room for Alunah. I didn’t really get to know this record in 2014 anyway.

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

TruckfightersUniverse — I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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