Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Pool Party, 08.17.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

viva psycho

08.16.18 – 4:50AM – Friday morning – Hard Rock, hotel room

None of it makes any fucking sense. Not a lick of it. And it took me the better part of the day to realize that’s the idea. The whole point. What even is underground when you watch Bell Witch play by the side of a casino pool in a sweltering den of capitalist exploitation? What is real? Any of it? I don’t know. That’s the point. Psycho Las Vegas is taking the narrative of what the underground is and punching it in the face until it can’t be recognized anymore. The sheer spectacle of this event. The are-you-overwhelmed-yet-okay-good tilt. It’s so weird. It’s so weird.

psycho las vegas 2018 thursdayIt’s so weird.

But I don’t think you’re supposed to get it. It’s not about making sense in any kind of traditional way. Psycho Las Vegas, in the span of three very-clearly-well-funded years, has become the absolute destination heavy festival in the US. There are plenty of other metal fests that have been around longer and have unquestionable reputations, but for this particular branch of heavy, there’s nothing to match this. I don’t know how anything could.

This was the first day. The pool party. By the Paradise Pool. I apologize deeply to Haunt and Toke. I just didn’t make it in time. I wanted to see both. It just didn’t work out. I got myself situated in time to catch most of Fireball Ministry though, and here’s how it went from there:

Fireball Ministry

fireball ministry (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you gotta start a weekend of top-class heavy somewhere, it might as well be with top-class heavy. Fireball Ministry had bassist Helen Storer filling in for Scott Reeder alongside guitarist/vocalists Jim Rota and Emily Burton and drummer John Oreshnick, but there was no way in hell they weren’t going to rock either way. Ostensibly, they were here supporting their new album, late-2017’s Remember the Story (review here), but even more than that, they were here representing a sans-frills heavy rock spirit that has endured in spite of trend and generational swap. That is, Fireball Ministry were there when, and they’re here now, and they delivered a powerful set as only a group of no-bullshit, ace-songwriting, still-underrated-after-all-these-years veterans could hope to do. I hoped to run into Rota later to ask him if this was the first casino pool party he’d ever played — hey, Fireball Ministry‘s done a lot of shows, so you never know — but didn’t get the chance. Either way, they absolutely delivered, and while I was fairly gutted to miss the first two bands, if you need to get on board with a show already in progress, Fireball Ministry are more than ready to make their rock your rock. Oh and by the way, they rock.

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Tough to be the odd band out on this bill, but Dengue Fever managed, and again, I was a little bit in wrapping my head around what was happening. Psycho returnees? Took it all in stride. Let’s assume they were the ones in the patched battle vests dancing to Dengue Fever‘s upbeat semi-punk/semi-funk surf groove. There’s a trick to being here, I think, and no, it’s not just drinking. I’ll grant that Las Vegas is among the worst places on earth to be sober — the town simply wasn’t built for humans to be lucid within its borders — but beyond that, the trick is to just go with it. Dengue Fever played two bands after the dirt-sludge of Toke and two bands before Bell Witch and Wolves in the Throne Room back to back. That was the whole vibe of today in a nutshell. If you sat back and thought about it, you were doing it wrong. It’s a party. It’s a weird party. So party, and be weird. Dengue Fever were more than just a vehicle for that spirit, of course, but in this context, but with the sax blaring and the bouncing rhythms, they seemed to embody this festival’s will to be whatever the hell it wants to be, whenever the hell it wants to be it. Truly Psycho.

Elder

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Band of the day. One more record and Elder will be headlining shows like this. It’s a toss-up whose crowd was bigger, theirs or Wolves in the Throne Room‘s, but even so, their presence on stage, their command of their sweeping progressive heavy rock sound, and their drive to genuinely push the idea of ‘heavy’ to places it’s never been all speak to a band ready to be at the next level. Their 2017 album, Reflections of a Floating World (review here), and 2015’s landmark Lore (review here) were assuredly well known to the masses assembled, and even if it was the title-track of  2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) that got the biggest response, people were cheering during part transitions, let alone the standard round of applause between the songs. Elder are that kind of band, and their movements within tracks have only gotten more fluid and nuanced over time. The four-piece incarnation of the band had all the more depth of tone and sonic reach from guitarists Nick DiSalvo and Mike Risberg (the former also vocals, the latter also keys), while bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto offered swing and intricacy of play alike that just furthered the proggy impression Elder make at this point. They killed. I don’t know how else to say it. It was an utter pleasure to watch and they’ve become one of the best heavy rock live acts anywhere, period. If you missed them, sorry.

Bell Witch

Bell Witch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was sunny when Bell Witch started and by the time they were done, dusk had fallen and the moon was out. Felt about right. They had 80 minutes at their disposal, which would’ve been just enough time to play last year’s brilliant and mournful Mirror Reaper (review here), and sure enough, that single-song outing was basically what comprised their set, even if Erik Moggridge (aka Aerial Ruin) wasn’t around to add his clean parts to it. Bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/organist/vocalist Jesse Shreibman had no problem carrying across the outright bludgeoning sensibility of their ultra-doom on their own, however, and with the inward-turned grieving process that is the material itself, Bell Witch nonetheless oozed forth a consuming mass of volume that, despite the outdoor setting, left little choice but to be swallowed whole by it. They’ve toured fairly heavily in support of Mirror Reaper since its arrival — I was fortunate enough to catch them playing it at Roadburn earlier this year as well — and there’s no denying the power of their performance. It’s a masterwork in every sense and deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

Wolves in the Throne Room

Wolves in the Throne Room (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The fog machines on full blast for the breezy desert night, incense consecrating the stage during the low-end volume-swell drone of their intro, and Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room actually managed to make the atmosphere of the pool party their own for the duration of their set. It was a raging, scorching performance, as they took hold on the heels of 2017’s Thrice Woven (review here) and blasted out an intensity that was as much about the ambience as it was the assault. The expanded five-piece lineup was fully charged and as guitarist/vocalist Nathan Weaver, whose brother, Aaron, handles drums in the studio while Trevor DeSchryver fills in live, led the band through an outright pummeling set that made itself even further distinguished from everything before it owing to its keys and synth elements and the manner in which it was able to turn from its most seething stretches to minimalist soundscaping seemingly on a dime. The crowd thinned out some by the end — I’ll admit I watched them finish out my hotel room window as well — but for every dragging-ass member of the audience like me, there were even more for whom the party was just getting started, and somehow, Wolves in the Throne Room fit that party as well as anyone else who played on the poolside bill.

It’s about six-thirty now. Need to shower. Need to sleep more. First band today at 12:30PM. Madness is the order of the weekend. Keep falling asleep while typing. Writing with my eyes closed. Still need to sort pictures. Busy busy busy.

Didn’t have enough coffee yesterday. Will work to rectify that soon enough. More pics after the jump though, so thanks for reading.

More later.

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Roadburn 2018 Day Three: No Evil No Demon

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2018 day three banner

04.21.18 – 11:31PM CET – Saturday night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

A text came in this morning from The Patient Mrs., who told me she wanted me to be kinder to myself in how I described moving through the world around me. I saw this right when I woke up this morning, so had no idea what she was talking about. It was all the “galumphing” and “lumbering” and “waddling” and whatnot I’ve been doing the last few days. I told her it’s a running gag and that in describing my every movement from placebell witch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) to place today, I would use the word “farting” exclusively.

It was a busy day. I did a lot of farting back and forth. We did not set a new land-speed record in getting the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch to the press, but we did still manage to get it out on time like the pros that we are. It was a good thing, too, because Roadburn 2018 day three started extra early with Bell Witch at Koepelhal, and it was not to be missed. Clearly there would be no time for farting around.

The Seattle-based duo play here tomorrow as well, but today they were performing last year’s brilliant and affecting Mirror Reaper (review here) in its entirety, with six-string bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman joined by Erik Moggridge, also known as the solo-performer Aerial Ruin, to contribute guest vocals as he does on the album, which was written in memory of former drummer Adrian Guerra, who passed away in 2016. The piece, an 80-minute single-song full-length, was to be rendered in its complete form, with all the crushing tones and searing emotional resonance brought to life.

I’ll be honest with you, it felt a little voyeuristic to watch. I’ve seen tribute sets at Roadburn before — one recalls the Selim Lemouchi tribute in 2014, and even as Bell Witch were playing today at Koepelhal, back at Het Patronaatbell witch (Photo by JJ Koczan)Stephen Brodsky and Adam McGrath of Cave In were paying homage to their late former bandmate, Caleb Scofield, who died in a car accident last month. But still. Maybe it’s just because it was so heavy coming from Bell Witch, or maybe it was the way Shreibman started out with his head down on his snare, or how he, Desmond and Moggridge all came together on vocals, but there was something so raw about the grief on display that it would’ve been next to impossible not to be affected by it. Powerful. Moving. One only hopes there some measure of catharsis derived from the process, because they managed to turn the darkest of feelings and sounds into something beautiful.

Somewhat dazed, I dragged my oafish, unworthy, hideous fucking carcass out of the Koeplhal — where in the merch area they couldn’t even find a Sacri Monti t-shirt big enough to wrap around my bloated fucking form (shit just got tragic; dial it back) — and over to the Hall of Fame where even-younger-than-I-thought-they-were-and-I-thought-they-were-pretty-young boogie rockers Supersonic Blues were getting set to go on. Hall of Fame is the smallest of Roadburn 2018’s venues, and I hadn’t been supersonic blues (Photo by JJ Koczan)inside yet other then to pop in on Petyr playing heavy ’70s covers yesterday, so this was my first real set there. Supersonic Blues also did a set of covers at some point in the last two days, and they worked a UFO song into this set of originals as well, I suspect because they just don’t have that much original material yet. They were allotted 50 minutes, and they’ve only released one two-song single (review here), so yeah. Maybe they just ran out of songs.

As happens in some fortunate occasions with young acts who aren’t arrogant as hell, Supersonic Blues are a better band than they know. They were somewhat timid on stage, or at least subdued, but their boogie, their tones and their swing were all right on, and their material was warm and classic feeling in a way that fit with some of the San Diego Takeover groups — PetyrArcticSacri Monti, etc. — but laid back enough to still be its own vibe. I was already looking forward to their next release and am only more so after seeing them play.

My next move was something of a debate. In the Green Room, Minami Deutsch and Damo Suzuki were doing a set together, which sounds like, yes, something you want to stand in front of for as long as you can. On the Main Stage, however, Panopticon were doing a full-on full-hour, and well, I watched both Minami Deutsch and Damo Suzuki yesterday — albeit in different contexts — and I’ve never seen Panopticon, so the Minnesota-based, folk-infused American black metallers won out. Not a phrase I say often. Led by guitarist/vocalist Austin Lunn, who also owns and operates Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota, which smells delightfully like fresh-cut and/or burning wood when you go therepanopticon (Photo by JJ Koczan)Panopticon absolutely packed out the Main Hall, and with family members to the side of front of the crowd, they unleashed a torrent of USBM intensity that made no bones about its intent to scorch.

For a band who doesn’t tour nine months out of the year, their ownership of the big stage was complete and unflinching, and as they have a brand new record out in the form of The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness I and II on Bindrune, their energy level was no less ferocious than the material itself, though there was plenty of dynamic to be had as well. I knew I wanted to be back in the Green Room for Volcano, so I hopscotched out of the Main Hall and downstairs to grab a quick bite to eat. Some vegan meatballs and seasoned mystery (actual-)meat later, I lubbered up to the front of the Green Room and there planted myself to wait for Volcano to hit it.

And I mean hit it. Led by the keys of Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer and the guitar of Joy‘s Zach Oakley, with Red Octopus‘ Billy Ellsworth on bass, I don’t even know who on drums, Sacri Monti and Joy drummer Thomas Dibenedetto on percussive sticks and Earthless‘ own Mario Rubalcaba sitting in on volcano (Photo by JJ Koczan)bongos and other percussion, Volcano were an Afrobeat-inspired melee of psychedelic funk, starting out their set with a song called “Naked Prey” and ending with their previously-posted single, “10,000 Screaming Souls” (discussed here), and in between, they were an absolute blast of rhythm, vibe and motion. “No Evil No Demon” invited shouting sing-alongs, and as my understanding is that their record is already done and they’re already signed to Tee Pee for the release — hardly a surprise given the personnel involved — I was thinking of their set as something of a preview of what’s to come when the album lands, but they were already crazy tight, locked in, and looking and sounding like they were having a total blast.

It was their second show. Two. I’d sat next to Ellsworth on the bus ride from the airport to Tilburg the other day and he told me the band figured they might as well get one under their belt before playing Roadburn. Their second show. In the Green Room. And they totally killed it.

They are a band about which you will no doubt hear more in the months, maybe years, to come, and they made an excellent lead-in for the psychedelic masterclass that long-running UK cosmotrodders The Heads delivered in the same space. I’ve seen The Heads at Roadburn before — they played the Main Stage in 2015 (review here) and subsequently released it as the live album, Burning up With… (review here) — and their history with the festival and with Walter goes back much farther than that, and as he worked the live video mixing projected behind them once again in the Green Room, the swirl was unmistakable and irresistible. Before they went on, the heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)I had been reading a news story about diamonds found in a meteorite that were supposed to be leftover from a planetary collision 4.7 billion years go or something like that.

Could there possibly be a better analog to what The Heads bring to the stage? Diamonds from space? Shit, as I watched them conjure a gravity well with “Coogans Bluff” and “Widowmaker,” all I could think about was a giant rock slamming with a couple billion years’ worth of momentum into the earth and Paul AllenWayne MaskellHugo Morgan and Simon Price popping out of the thing like a presidential birthday cake and jamming a swirl hot enough to melt crucial elements into new molecules. Heavy. Psychedelic. Perfection. I don’t think there’s really any other option when The Heads play except to stand there with your mouth agape and just try to retain as much of it as humanly possible. The only challenge is not snapping back to reality when they’re done and realizing you’ve lost time, like on an old episode of X-Files.

Oh, and by the way, The Heads are really, really, really fucking good.

I did not at all envy Sacri Monti the task of following them up, but the San Diego five-piece represented the Takeover well, with a contingent of their clique on hand to watch as guitarist/vocalist Brendan Dellar, guitarist Dylan Donavon, organist Evan Wenskay, bassist Anthony Meier (also of Radio Moscow) and Dibenedetto sacri monti (Photo by JJ Koczan)on drums tore into songs from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and some new material from the follow-up that that first album is due. I’ve no idea what the state of their next record is, but what they played sounded right on and though they were less spaced-out than The Heads, one could still get a sense of the intended continuity in the Green Room as they played, which started with Petyr and Minami Deutsch with Damo Suzuki, got far out with Volcano and The Heads and came back to the boogie via Sacri Monti before Sweden’s Maggot Heart closed out the room for the night with more of a post-punk vibe.

After poking my laughably-gargantuan cranium into the Main Hall to take a peak at Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whose second set of the weekend I’ll watch tomorrow, I poor-coordinationed my way over to Het Patronaat to close out my night with a blast of Japanese sludge from Greenmachine, who were performing their 1997 debut, D.A.M.N., in its entirety. Their onslaught was immediate save for a small technical issue with one of the amps, and they delivered a pummel worthy of the underground influence they’ve had in their home country and beyond. I was digging the hell out of it, but have no problem admitting I was done before they were. When it’s time to go greenmachine (Photo by JJ Koczan)back to the hotel and write, there’s really nothing else to be done except that.

With the banana I’d found earlier in the day backstage still in the side pocket of my cosmic backpack, I knuckledragged back to the hotel through a Weirdo Canyon that looked like some kind of clash of civilizations, with dance clubs open and beardo metallers sitting out in cafes red-eyed and addled from a long day of whathaveyou. The anthropologist in me — and no, there isn’t an anthropologist in me — wanted to start interviewing members of different subcultures to see how they could possibly exist in the same space at the same time, but, well, there’s still Day Four of Roadburn 2018 to go tomorrow, and plenty enough already to keep me busy in the meantime.

You know what I did tonight? I introduced myself to Ester Segarra. Zero chance you remember, but a couple months back, I posted about how incredibly talented a photographer she is (and she is) and the collection she had coming out via Season of Mist and I said that in all the years I’d seen her in the photo pit at Roadburn, I’d never been brave enough to introduce myself. Well, as I was on my way from Sacri Monti to Greenmachine, she was walking the opposite direction in the front hallway of the 013 and I stopped her, shook her hand and said who I was. It might’ve been the bravest thing I’ve done this weekend up to this point, and to be frank, I don’t really see myself trying to top it tomorrow. But hey, I said hi to Ester Segarra. And she didn’t even tell me to go fuck myself. She was super-nice. Bonus.

More of my nowhere-near-as-good-as-Ester-Segarra’s photography after the jump, if you’re up for it. Thanks for reading.

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The Top 20 of 2017 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

top-20-of-2017-year-end-poll-results

Happy New Year 2018! If you’re reading this, welcome to the future. Enjoy your flying car, free healthcare, universal income, matter replicators and life on that moon colony you moved to a couple years back — New Berlin, wasn’t it? Well, either way, I’m sure it’s lovely this season.

Way back in the Dark Ages, on Dec. 1, 2017, I put up The Obelisk’s annual Year-End Poll, looking for submissions from as many people as possible with their picks for what were the year’s best albums. The response was once again staggering. Over 400 lists came in — including my own, which I submitted yesterday — for a final tally of 419, and the amount of consensus that emerged from them was no less impressive.

We’ll get there in a second. First, a reminder about the point system. As ever, a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. So it doesn’t only matter that you included a record on your list — the raw votes are also tallied — but where it was included. That only seems fair in acknowledging how passionate people were about a given release.

You know the drill by now I’m sure, but it pays to be thorough. Below you’ll find both the weighted point tally and the raw votes results, followed by some quick honorable mentions, comment, etc. After the jump, you’ll find the complete list of everyone who submitted. If you’d like to check my math on anything, feel free. I’m by no means perfect when it comes to statistics or counting or any of that stuff involving those things that aren’t letters. Whatever they’re called.

Thanks to everyone who took part this year. Here are the lists:

Top 20 of 2017 — Weighted Results

elder reflections of a floating world adrian dexter

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (888 points)
2. Monolord, Rust (397)
3. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (346)
4. Pallbearer, Heartless (327)
5. Colour Haze, In Her Garden (284)
6. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (256)
7. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (250)
8. The Obsessed, Sacred (248)
9. Sasquatch, Maneuvers (242)
10. Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (237)
11. Kadavar, Rough Times (236)
12. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (225)
13. Ufomammut, 8 (205)
14. DVNE, Asheran (198)
15. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child (189)
16. Woodhawk, Beyond the Sun (163)
17. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma (158)
18. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas (155)
19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable (150)
20. Motorpsycho, The Tower (149)

Honorable Mention:
Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (144)
Radio Moscow, New Beginnings (134)
Dopelord, Children of the Haze (132)
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (129)
Mutoid Man, War Moans (123)

No real surprise here, but with the fact that Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World topped 880 points and got more than twice as much as the next closest record, it’s hard to begrudge 2017 some measure of predictability. For what it’s worth, that’s an even stronger showing than their Lore LP got in 2015, and they took the lead on day one and did not relinquish it for the duration. Outside of them and Monolord, who held command of the number two spot for the entire month, there was some measure of parity, but it was clear where hearts and minds were situated in 2017, and certainly difficult to argue with the picks on the whole, regardless of where a given individual ranked one album or the other. Looking at that list of 20-plus, especially with the honorable mentions, I’d sign up for that year every time. It was a good one. Now then…

Top 20 of 2017 — Raw Votes

elder reflections of a floating world adrian dexter

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (207 votes)
2. Monolord, Rust (110)
3. Pallbearer, Heartless (94)
4. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (88)
5. Kadavar, Rough Times (77)
6. Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (75)
7. Colour Haze, In Her Garden (74)
8. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (72)
9. The Obsessed, Sacred (71)
10 Sasquatch, Maneuvers (70)
11. Ufomammut, 8 (67)
12. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (64)
13. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child (60)
14. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (59)
15. Woodhawk, Beyond the Sun (54)
16. DVNE, Asheran (53)
17. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable (48)
18. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas (47)
19. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings (45)
19. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma (45)
20. Dopelord, Children of the Haze (43)
20. Mothership, High Strangeness (43)

Honorable Mention:
Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (40)
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (37)
The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field (34)
Beastmaker, Inside the Skull (34)
Motorpsycho, The Tower (33)
Mutoid Man, War Moans (32)

Even less surprising given the above. 207 people of the 419 who submitted lists included Elder somewhere on theirs. It’s pretty hard to get about 50 percent of anyone to agree on anything these days, so I consider that no minor feat. Again, Reflections of a Floating World earned its place, and it was a pretty astounding achievement for the band and the genre they’re working to remake in their own image. A couple minor shifts between the raw tallies and the weighted results as there always are, but again, the underlying point here is that 2017 was a pretty killer year all the way around and across a deep variety of styles, the quality of work being put forth by veterans and newcomers alike was nothing short of excellent.

Before I turn you over to the massive swath of everybody’s lists, I just want to say thanks again to Slevin for being so instrumental in setting up the technical end of this poll. It’s amazing year after year to be able to basically at this point flip a switch and have it all set to go and there’s no way that would happen without Slevin working so hard behind the scenes to put the structure in place that holds this project, the entire site, together. Thanks dude.

And thank you for reading and contributing your favorites of 2017! This is the last of the 2017 Year-End coverage for The Obelisk. If you missed any of it, go here:

The Top 30 Albums of 2017

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

2017 Song of the Year

12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

One more time, thank you for reading. After the jump, please find the raw lists of everyone who took the time to turn one in. Enjoy:

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

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 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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2017 Song of the Year: Bell Witch, “Mirror Reaper”

Posted in Features on December 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bell witch (photo david choe)

It could be a few years before the scope of Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper is fully understood. The single-song, 83-minute, Profound Lore-released third full-length from the Seattle-based funeral sludge outfit, it is a work as likely to digest the listener as to be digested by them, and in its level of vision and execution, it should be considered nothing less than a generational accomplishment within doom’s most extreme ends. Front-to-back, it casts itself into progressive depths of headphone- and hyperbole-worthy murk, departing from the ground that the two-piece established on their 2015 offering, Four Phantoms (review here), the preceding 2012 debut, Longing (review here), and 2011 demo (review here) into a downward-aimed ether that seems to plunge as much in emotionality as in tempo. On either level, its gravity is unmistakable, and with the production of Billy Anderson behind it, an analogy to what Sleep‘s Dopesmoker once brought to stoner-doom feels all the more appropriate to the level of statement bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/organist/vocalist Jesse Shreibman are making within Mirror Reaper‘s no-bottom plummet. Make no mistake: this is a definitive achievement — both for Bell Witch and for any and all who’d dare follow in their wake.

One has to note that Mirror Reaper arrived this Fall as the band’s first work since the untimely death of original drummer Adrian Guerra last year at age 36. Guerra, who’d left Bell Witch after Four Phantoms, was nonetheless an essential facet in making their earlier work what it was, and it’s entirely likely that Mirror Reaper‘s ultra-resonant sense of mournfulness stems indeed from a genuine place of grief. In the lyrics, lines like “Floods that sleeve the reach of the drought/To bleed evermore/Empty me/Empty me/Ash of the ocean,” and “An ice of pieces/Of what was once there/The skin of being/Flayed as though the air,” seem to be manifesting an emotional processing in raw form, and the weight of the indecipherable growling and folkish clean delivery — Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge guests again on vocals as he did on Four Phantoms — is all the more palpable for the instrumental flow it complements, shifting with seamless patience between crushing tones and harsh, lumbering crash, and stretches so minimal as to be barely there, the first of which occurs about 17 minutes in and carries through a subtle build that unfolds over the next eight or so minutes, introducing the first of Mirror Reaper‘s chants and barely giving the audience time to stare back at how far the two-piece have already come in the 10 minutes since they were growling and plodding past the eight-minute mark with unbridled, Hammond-inclusive brutality. That duality is telling, but still only the beginning of what Bell Witch will unfurl over the subsequent hour of Mirror Reaper, which continues to grow more vicious and more reverberating as it plays out.

Because of its extended runtime, the piece itself — that is, “Mirror Reaper,” the title-track — is broken bell witch mirror reaperinto two parts for the CD release. These are titled “Mirror Reaper (As Above)” and “Mirror Reaper (So Below),” where on the 2LP edition of the album, its four sides are simply “As,” “Above” and “So” and “Below,” in that order. I can’t speak to the differing experience of hearing Mirror Reaper across these varied formats, but there’s little question that it was meant to be taken in its entirety one way or the other. This is, of course, also its most challenging form, and there are times when its assault on its audience feels especially geared as a litmus test for how much one can take, but even as Bell Witch hone a tension of growl-accompanied crashes at around 35 minutes in, there’s more happening than extremity for its own sake. That is to say, Mirror Reaper is not just pushing boundaries of sonic decency as an exercise in trying to make itself a next-level effort in punishment. Its greatest asset, rather, is the sense of expressiveness behind each measure’s excruciating roll, and as it makes its way toward and past the its halfway point, there is as much about it that could be called poetic as there is atmospherically ranging. At 45:40, clean vocals and growls come together over full-boar plod and organ and Bell Witch seem to find a moment with all elements active at once, producing an entrancing effect that caps with an especially scathing scream and echoing-out tones before shifting again into a slow, minimal bassline — this is the break point of the tracks on the CD version — in preparation for the song’s next stage.

By this point it should be well clear to anyone who’s managed to take Mirror Reaper on that there will be no escape. This mournful chronicle of our times is no less likely than those times an seem to be to swallow the consciousness whole, and that’s no less true as the folk-style verses begin circa 53 minutes in, carrying past the hour mark and into a section of church-style organ that, just as the 69th minute becomes the 70th, is met by resurgent bass tone and the final swell of crawling volume that lands as the emotional apex, returning to the initial heavy progression but staying with the cleaner vocals instead of growls, tying the various sides of the entirety together with no less fluidity than Bell Witch have to this point put in the transitions from one movement to the next. The final five minutes or so of Mirror Reaper are given to drone folk and the closing lines, “The pendulum slows/Then stilled under the cold/In absence he flies/In presence we will writhe,” coming across with the bare emotional presence and melodicism of a half-speed Warning in search of peace that it may or may not have found or find, the last note of “writhe” held out over a sudden end, as though there were still more to say after everything that came before but that it was cut short for a gorgeous and poignant finish. And there may well be, about the nature of resignation, of grief, or of our ongoing and ever-developing relationship with our own mortality and that of those around us, loved ones and otherwise, but part of what makes Mirror Reaper so engrossing is that rather than posture and philosophize these issues, it sidesteps the need for distance and carries the audience with it through a more experiential representation. It puts you there. You don’t need to talk about it. You’re going through it together.

Again, I do not believe at this point it’s really possible to understand what Bell Witch have done with Mirror Reaper, but there’s no question in my mind that it is a pivotal work in setting a new standard for a style it’s essentially recrafting to suit its own purposes. There is not a level on which it doesn’t succeed in this effort, and because of this, because of its sheer scale and because of the cohesion underlying its impossibly darkened sprawl, there is no doubt in my mind that “Mirror Reaper” is the 2017 song of the year.

Honorable Mention

I’m a big believer in the context of full albums, so it’s always hard to pick individual tracks that are such standouts. Nonetheless, here are a few more to chew on, in no particular order:

Lo-Pan, “Pathfinder”
All Them Witches, “3-5-7”
Spaceslug, “Time Travel Dilemma”
Colour Haze, “Labyrinthe”
Alunah, “Feast of Torches”
Moon Rats, “Heroic Dose”
Argus, “Devils of Your Time”
The Flying Eyes, “Drain”
Avon, “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank”
Sun Blood Stories, “The Great Destroyer”

Some of these and a whole slew of others were included in the Year-End Spotify playlist that went up yesterday, so if you haven’t yet, make sure you check that out. And if there are any songs you feel like should be on this list or just something that really hit you hard this year, I’d love to know about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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audiObelisk Transmission 064

Posted in Podcasts on December 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

audiobelisk transmission 064

So this is something I’ve never done before. I’m not exactly what you’d call an early adopter when it comes to new technology, but this weekend I finally signed up for Spotify and decided to give a shot at putting together a year-end playlist through that rather than doing the standard podcast. Aside from a kind of ongoing latent concern about essentially giving away downloads of music that doesn’t belong to me via the old mp3 files — no one’s ever said anything and I always figured it was okay since songs were bundled together as one file — this just seemed more useful in allowing people to explore different artists, albums, etc. If you disagree, I’m sorry.

I can’t say I won’t ever go back to the other way, or that I’ll actively enjoy having a Spotify account enough to keep it, and so on, but it’s something new to try, so I’m giving it a shot. The playlist turned out to be nine hours and 12 minutes long, and once I got going, I couldn’t really resist making it 65 tracks, what with it being the 64th podcast and all. One to grow on.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening:

Track details:

• Artist, Track, Album, Runtime
• Elder, Sanctuary, Reflections of a Floating World, 00:11:13
• All Them Witches, Am I Going Up?, Sleeping Through the War, 00:05:33
• Lo-Pan, Pathfinder, In Tensions, 00:06:22
• MOON RATS, Heroic Dose, Highway Lord, 00:04:27
• Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine, Medicine, 00:06:38
• Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream, Lucifer’s Dream, 00:09:06
• Brume, Reckon, Rooster, 00:09:12
• Riff Fist, King Tide, King Tide, 00:11:20
• Monolord, Dear Lucifer, Rust, 00:08:41
• Hymn, Serpent, Perish, 00:07:32
• Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Waves, Gravity Works, 00:08:26
• Electric Wizard, Wicked Caresses, Wizard Bloody Wizard, 00:06:43
• Ruby the Hatchet, Symphony of the Night, Planetary Space Child, 00:07:08
• Telekinetic Yeti, Colossus, Abominable, 00:08:56
• Bong Wish, My Luv, Bong Wish, 00:02:31
• Radio Moscow, New Skin, New Beginnings, 00:03:02
• Cloud Catcher, Celestial Empress, Trails of Kozmic Dust, 00:05:41
• The Atomic Bitchwax, Humble Brag, Force Field, 00:02:52
• Sasquatch, Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Maneuvers, 00:06:27
• Kadavar, Die Baby Die, Rough Times, 00:04:18
• Cities of Mars, Children of the Red Sea, Temporal Rifts, 00:08:27
• Argus, You Are the Curse, From Fields of Fire, 00:06:23
• Comacozer, Hylonomus, Kalos Eidos Skopeo, 00:13:43
• Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe, One with the Universe, 00:15:02
• Orango, Heirs, The Mules of Nana, 00:04:46
• Siena Root, Tales of Independence, A Dream of Lasting Peace, 00:03:39
• Demon Head, Older Now, Thunder on the Fields, 00:04:17
• Sun Blood Stories, Great Destroyer, It Runs Around the Room with Us, 00:06:11
• Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma, Time Travel Dilemma, 00:10:07
• Arc of Ascent, Hexagram, Realms of the Metaphysical, 00:07:34
• Causa Sui, Seven Hills, Vibraciones Doradas, 00:07:24
• Alunah, Fire of Thornborough Henge, Solennial, 00:05:32
• Vokonis, Calling From The Core, The Sunken Djinn, 00:06:03
• Enslaved, Sacred Horse, E, 00:08:12
• Dvne, Edenfall, Asheran, 00:07:04
• The Midnight Ghost Train, Break My Love, Cypress Ave., 00:03:33
• The Obsessed, It’s Only Money, Sacred, 00:02:35
• Mothership, Crown of Lies, High Strangeness, 00:05:41
• Geezer, Red Hook, Psychoriffadelia, 00:06:02
• Uffe Lorenzen, Flippertøs, Galmandsværk, 00:02:46
• Youngblood Supercult, Master of None, The Great American Death Rattle, 00:04:01
• Beastmaker, Nature of the Damned, Inside the Skull, 00:03:26
• Pallbearer, I Saw the End, Heartless, 00:06:21
• Paradise Lost, Blood and Chaos, Medusa, 00:03:51
• Rozamov, Wind Scorpion, This Mortal Road, 00:08:49
• Eternal Black, Sea of Graves, Bleed the Days, 00:06:33
• Demon Eye, Politic Divine, Prophecies and Lies, 00:03:40
• Snowy Dunes, Ritual of Voices, Atlantis, 00:07:17
• The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Low, II, 00:08:49
• Abronia, Glass Butte Retribution, Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands, 00:06:09
• John Garcia, Kylie, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, 00:04:58
• Tuna de Tierra, Raise of the Lights, Tuna de Tierra, 00:07:09
• Colour Haze, Lotus, In Her Garden, 00:07:05
• IAH, Stolas, IAH, 00:08:39
• Fungus Hill, Are You Dead, Creatures, 00:08:54
• Atavismo, El Sueño, Inerte, 00:11:18
• Tuber, Noman, Out of the Blue, 00:08:14
• Spidergawd, What You Have Become, Spidergawd IV, 00:03:44
• Puta Volcano, Bird, Harmony of Spheres, 00:05:07
• Ufomammut, Core, 8, 00:05:15
• Kings Destroy, None More, None More, 00:14:03
• PH, Looking Back at Mr. Peter Hayden, Eternal Hayden, 00:16:44
• Mt. Mountain, Dust, Dust, 00:17:15
• Electric Moon, Live Forever Now (You Will), Stardust Rituals, 00:22:41
• Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper, Mirror Reaper, 01:23:15

If you want to follow me on Spotify, apparently that’s something you can do here.

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Bell Witch Announce US Touring; Mirror Reaper Movie Trailer Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As they prepare to plunge the universe into an underside of chaos-churning ultra-doom with their 80-minute opus Mirror Reaper, which is out Oct. 20 via the brave souls of Profound Lore, Seattle duo Bell Witch are likewise making ready to head out on a US tour alongside Denver skullcrush specialists Primitive Man. That run starts Oct. 24, just days after Mirror Reaper hits, and though it’s curiously short on West Coast dates — coming closest in Arizona — a new round of touring has just been announced for December alongside France’s Monarch that makes up for the gap. In both cases, one can only argue Bell Witch are keeping suitable company.

The two piece, also newly confirmed to play Mirror Reaper in its entirety at Roadburn 2018 next April, have also posted a six-minute trailer for a short film based around the album that you can see below, along with copious background info and the tour dates, all courtesy of ye olde PR wire:

bell witch tour

BELL WITCH: Seattle Doom Metal Duo Announces US Tour Dates With Monarch!; Mirror Reaper Movie Trailer Posted + North American Tour With Primitive Man Draws Near

Seattle doom metal duo, BELL WITCH, will join French doom metalists/labelmates Monarch! for a stretch of US live dates this December. The tour will commence on December 1st and run through December 7th with additional performances to be announced in the coming days. The trek follows BELL WITCH’s previously announced North American tour with Denver doom troupe Primitive Man from October 25th to November 17th. See all confirmed dates below.

Additionally, BELL WITCH will bring their devastating odes to the stages of Roadburn Festival 2018. Set to take place in Tilburg, The Netherlands, the band will perform two sets, the first on Saturday April 21st at the 013 venue and Sunday, April 22nd at Het Patronaat. BELL WITCH will be recreating their soon-to-be-released, eighty-three-minute offering, Mirror Reaper, in its crushingly exquisite entirety. The feat requires the input of honorary member, vocalist Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin), who will be joining the band to complete the performance. Expect his fragile yet evocative vocal style to lend an even more ghastly and ethereal quality to BELL WITCH’s already otherworldly sound.

The anticipated Mirror Reaper is set for release worldwide via Profound Lore Records on October 20th. With their latest output BELL WITCH has created a truly enormous work – one continuous, eighty-three-minute piece unfolding as a single track. Engineered and mixed by veteran producer Billy Anderson (Swans, Sleep, Neurosis), the duo of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals, organ) have pushed the band’s sound further beyond their landmark 2015 LP, Four Phantoms. While retaining the colossal heaviness of their previous releases, Mirror Reaper sees the band explore the more meditative, melancholy, and introspective aspects to their sound through the introduction of long, lonely organ passages and the return of Moggridge, offering a prominent presence.

In conjunction with the release, BELL WITCH has created a feature-length music video. The film is a video collage comprised of dozens of archival films. Each of these clips are woven together with the album to build a patient, heavy, and haunting narrative. The film aims to hold the viewer in the state of a lucid dream, feeling trapped as a specter drifting through places of darkness. Mirror Reaper will be a projection for the band’s live performances, as well as a standalone cinematic experience.

Issues director Taylor Bednarz, “I was given the opportunity to work with Dylan and Jesse on their incredibly ambitious new project, Mirror Reaper. I had started making small fan music videos by chopping up old archival film originally as editing practice. I started to find that you could craft these visceral narratives by weaving these different films together with the context of the music. What developed were deep and mysterious stories that were framed in the tone and rhythm of the music. I noticed how much symbolism and atmosphere I could pack into these four-five minute songs that I knew it had very unique cinematic potential.

When I met Dylan and Jesse, they were just finishing up the last of the album and had been kicking around the idea of a music video. I mentioned I was a filmmaker, showed them some of my work, and they extended the opportunity to make a film with them. After listening to the album and talking with the two, I started collecting dozens of old horror movies, anatomical films, historical documentaries. I am so honored to have gotten the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible project.”

BELL WITCH’s Mirror Reaper will be available on 2xCD, 2xLP, and digital formats. Preorder your copy today at THIS LOCATION.

BELL WITCH w/ Primitive Man:
10/24/2017 Diabolical Records – Salt Lake City, UT * no Primitive Man
10/25/2017 Hi Dive – Denver, CO
10/26/2017 O’Leavers – Omaha, NE
10/27/2017 Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL
10/28/2017 Rock Island Brewery – Rock Island, IL
10/29/2017 The New Dodge – Hamtramck, MI
10/30/2017 Ace Of Clubs – Columbus, OH
10/31/2017 Brillobox – Pittsburgh, PA
11/01/2017 Coalition – Toronto, ON
11/02/2017 Bar Le Ritz – Montreal, QC
11/03/2017 Geno’s – Portland, ME
11/04/2017 Cop Frat – Oneonta, NY
11/05/2017 ONCE – Boston, MA
11/06/2017 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY
11/07/2017 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
11/08/2017 The Meatlocker – Montclair, NJ
11/09/2017 Sidebar – Baltimore, MD
11/10/2017 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
11/11/2017 Drunken Unicorn – Atlanta, GA
11/12/2017 Exit/In – Nashville, TN
11/13/2017 White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR
11/14/2017 Growlers – Memphis, TN
11/15/2015 Santos – New Orleans, LA
11/16/2017 Lost Well – Austin, TX
11/17/2017 Ridgelea Lounge – Fort Worth, TX
11/19/2017 Club Red – Mesa, AZ w/ Thra, Ceremented * no Primitive Man
w/ Monarch:
11/30/2017 Cobalt – Vancouver, BC * Bell Witch only
12/01/2017 Highline – Seattle, WA
12/02/2017 Tonic Lounge – Portland, OR
12/03/2017 Old Nick’s – Eugene, OR
12/05/2017 Blue Lamp – Sacramento, CA
12/06/2017 Golden Bull – Oakland, CA
12/07/2017 Five Star Bar – Los Angeles, CA

http://www.facebook.com/BellWitchDoom
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/mirror-reaper

Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper movie trailer

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Roadburn 2018 Makes First Announcements: Godspeed You! Black Emperor to Headline; Jacob Bannon to Curate; The Heads, Panopticon, Bell Witch & More Confirmed

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

Today begins Roadburn season — the hap-happiest season of all. The Netherlands-based festival begins the run toward Roadburn 2018 by announcing Godspeed You! Black Emperor will headline two nights, Jacob Bannon of Converge will curate as his band returns for two more full-album sets, Panopticon will play twice, Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved and Einar Selvik of Wardruna will follow-up their performance of Skuggsjá in 2015 with Hugsjá, which sounds even cuddlier, UK psychedelic gurus The Heads will return, Bell Witch will play an album in full that, as of today, isn’t even out yet, and many, many more have been added.

In other words, Roadburn 2018 is a Roadburn. Tickets go on sale on Oct. 19 and will no doubt be gone if not immediately than shortly thereafter. It is my sincere hope, as always, to be at Roadburn come April. This would be my 10th time in Tilburg for the fest and it already looks like the kind of maddeningly complex avant-garde art-project gathering that has made past years so special.

More to come, of course. In the meantime, if you get to check it out, I wrote the announcement for The Heads, which was a lot of fun. Here’s that along with everything else for Roadburn 2018 so far:

Roadburn 2018 first confirmations; includes festival headliners, curator and poster artist.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR will perform two different sets as Saturday and Sunday headliners

JACOB BANNON confirmed as the 2018 curator

CONVERGE will perform two shows, including a You Fail Me set

Einar Selvik & Ivar Bjørnson will present HUGSJÁ for the first time outside of Norway

BELL WITCH will perform two sets including new album Mirror Reaper in full

PANOPTICON to make their Roadburn debut playing two different sets.

Roadburn’s official poster artist for 2018 is RICHEY BECKETT

Tickets will go on sale on October 19.

Roadburn Festival is proud to announce the first artists for the 2018 line up, which will take place at the 013 venue, Tilburg, The Netherlands between April 19-22.

Artistic Director, Walter Hoeijmakers commented:”At Roadburn, we’re always looking to push the envelope when it comes to working with creative and diverse artists; we’ll never settle for toeing the line. These first artists should give you an idea of the direction that Roadburn will be taking in 2018, but as ever, don’t assume you have us sussed – we always have more up our sleeve!”

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR

Godspeed You! Black Emperor have slid smoothly into our collective consciousness, picked apart the very notion of what it means to be a band and teetered on the precipice between serenity and all out chaos. The diversity of their output and their ability to always keep us guessing is a big part of why having them perform two headlining sets at Roadburn feels like a natural fit.

Their varied back catalogue makes for rich pickings, should they choose to cycle back through previous representations of the band; should they opt to look forward, into the unknown, we await with baited breath to see what is delivered during their two separate performances. Their live shows are renowned for being all-encompassing, immersive experiences, where even the visual aspect is overwhelming, usually including film projection performances that gain as much impact to the overall event as the music itself, the two interwoven as one. No doubt their Roadburn performances will be ones for the history books.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor will perform at the 013 venue on Saturday, 21 April and Sunday, 22 April. Read more here.

2018 CURATOR: JACOB BANNON

When Converge performed two groundbreaking sets at Roadburn 2016, followed by Jacob’s Wear Your Wounds set at Roadburn 2017, we knew we’d found a kindred spirit. Known not only for his audio output, but also for his visual art and founding role in Deathwish Inc; Bannon’s influence is broad and his Roadburn wish list is very much in tune with our own visions.

Jacob commented: “It is an honor to be working as the curator for Roadburn Festival 2018. The festival is unlike any other, showcasing the most forward thinking artists and musicians of the heavy music world. As this year’s curator I will reach across its sub-genres to bring together an array incredible bands/musicians; expanding the reach of the festival while celebrating the world of extreme music that we all love.”

Jacob Bannon will curate the main stage at the 013 venue on Friday, 20 April, and Het Patronaat on Saturday, 21 April. Read more here.

CONVERGE

The aforementioned Converge sets in 2016 were something truly special to behold. The Blood Moon set – which featured Chelsea Wolfe, Steve Von Till and Stephen Brodsky – will go down in Roadburn history, and the one-off Jane Doe set has already been committed to record such was the impact of the performance.

The relationship between Converge and Roadburn is far from over, and we’re thrilled that these four incredible musicians will return to the Roadburn stage for two essential sets in 2018.

Jacob Bannon elaborates on the performances: “In 2016, we played our Jane Doe album in its entirety at Roadburn Festival. For our 2018 return, we will perform our album You Fail Me in its entirety. Originally released in 2004, this album marked a turning point for our band internally and in many ways it is considered the beginning of the modern era of our band. This performance will be a one time only event, exclusive to Roadburn.”

“It took our band nearly five years to cut and shape our most recent album The Dusk In Us. Scheduled for release on November 3rd through Epitaph and Deathwish, it is a very emotional album for the band. All four of us went through a lot of trials and tribulations in those years and it is reflected in those songs, connecting with our lives ways hard to put into words. It will be an honor to play this material in its entirety for the Roadburn audience. We hope it will be as special for you as it will be for us.”

Converge will play The Dusk In Us on Thursday, 19 April, and You Fail Me on Friday, 20 April at the 013 venue, Tilburg, The Netherlands. Read more here.

HUGSJÁ

This new collaborative musical piece is designed by former Roadburn curators, Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik, combining indigenous and contemporary music with Norse and Norwegian poetry, accompanied by instruments from the Stone Age through to the present day. It’s set to be a monumental follow up to Skuggjá’s international premiere at Roadburn 2015.

A series of concerts named Nordvegen (‘the northern road’ – an ancient shipping route connecting Norway to the rest of the world for some 3000 years), was performed in four harbors along the west coast of Norway in late May and early June of 2017. The audience was taken on a spectacular journey along this route in a musical declaration of love to Norwegian coastal culture and Norse history. The concerts were inspired by local history in each of these places. The Nordvegen concerts created an acoustic and intimate basis for the grandiose commissioned work, Hugsjá, which received its world premiere in Bergen concert hall Grieghallen on May 31st. Originally commissioned by and performed at Bergen International Festival, the piece will now sail southwards to Roadburn 2018.

Einar & Ivar will also be taking part in a “guided tour” of Hugsjá; explaining more about the origins of the composition, and taking questions from the audience.

Hugsjá will be performed on Saturday, 21 April at the 013 venue. Read more here.

BELL WITCH

Although it’s not yet released, the upcoming 83-minute album from Bell Witch, titled Mirror Reaper, is already making waves on Planet Roadburn. Recreating the record in all it’s crushingly exquisite glory requires the input of Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin), who we are delighted to welcome to Roadburn to complete the performance of Mirror Reaper.

As Moggridge has appeared on all Bell Witch releases to date in some capacity, we are thrilled that Bell Witch have agreed to perform a second set of music with him. Expect his fragile yet evocative vocal style to lend an even more ghastly and ethereal quality to Bell Witch’s already otherworldly sound.

Bell Witch will perform on Saturday 21 April at the 013 venue and Sunday, 22 April at Het Patronaat. Read more here.

PANOPTICON

For the past decade, Austin Lunn has created some of the most evocative and personal American black metal in relative isolation. With only a few shows under their belt, the band has astounded and delighted with each appearance in their short live tenure. To make this Roadburn appearance even more special, we’ll be treated to two separate sets during the festival.

Panopticon will perform selected songs from a new double album entitled The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness during one set, and a career spanning selection of tracks will be performed during the other. From the rawer, vicious material compiled on the early …On the Subject of Mortality collection to the groundbreaking bluegrass-heavy Kentucky to the shimmering melody and majesty of recent releases Roads to the North and Autumn Eternal – this is a rare treat and we can’t wait to feel the soot and smoke in our hearts and heads as Panopticon levels the venue.

Panopticon will perform at Het Patronaat on Friday, 19 April, and the 013 venue on Saturday, 20 April. Read more here.

EX EYE

When word got out that master saxophonist Colin Stetson had put a new metal band together called Ex Eye, excitement levels were high. The relentlessness of the band’s assault, the enormity of its scope and the unbound energy they exhale means that they make music that might skip your brain altogether and activate your nervous extremities all by itself. Just seeing a legendary figure like Colin on stage playing metal would be satisfying enough; that he’s recruited people like Liturgy’s Greg Fox on drums, bassist Shahzad Ismaily (who’s played with the mighty Secret Chiefs 3) and guitarist/composer Toby Summerfield to complete this stellar line-up is just icing on the cake.

Ex Eye will perform at the 013 venue on Thursday, 19 April. Read more here.

THE HEADS

The Heads have a special place in the history of Roadburn. Not just because the UK psych lords have made multiple visits over the years – 2006, 2008, artists-in-residence in 2015 – but for the transformative effect their sets have had on the crowds, the vibe, the very fest itself. Nobody takes Roadburn to where The Heads take Roadburn.

“Roadburn is the best festival The Heads have played,” enthuses guitarist/vocalist Simon Price. “The vibes, the crowds, the bands, the organisation; it’s the whole package. Roadburn always delivers. Playing on stage or just wandering around, it makes me grin. It is The Heads’ spiritual home. We can’t wait to bring it on again in 2018.”

The Heads will perform at the 013 venue on Saturday, 21 April. Read more here.

IGORRR

The brainchild of French composer and multi-instrumentist Gautier Serre, IGORRR is genuinely disorienting. One of the most excitingly unpredictable acts in any genre you might want to try and shove them into, its wild character and fearless will to experiment are the staples of the sort of creativity we fiercely stand behind at Roadburn. What choice did we have but to bring this wrecking ball of delirious creativity to Roadburn and see and hear for ourselves how it all translates to the stage with a full band playing it?

Igorrr will perform on Friday, April 20 at the 013 venue. Read more here.

AERIAL RUIN

Aerial Ruin – AKA Erik Moggridge – may be best known to many on the basis of his frequent appearances on albums by the mighty Bell Witch, but his own project displays a remarkable sense of texture and delicacy that is equal in its melancholy yet entirely independent. Aerial Ruin’s recently released Nameless Sun beautifully follows the tradition set forth on its predecessor Ash of Your Cares in offering up eerie acoustic confessionals that can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Moggridge plays guitar with the precision of a spider slowly building its web; everything falls into place delicately yet with a brilliant and focused grace.

Aerial Ruin will perform on Saturday, April 21 at the 013 venue. Read more here.

SANGRE DE MUERDAGO

Led by Pablo C. Ursusson, a musician and lyricist who has also done work in painting and sculpture, Sangre de Muerdago is deeply connected to the very earth of their Galicia homeland. With a background in Spanish punk and other kinds of countercultural movements, the band is the vehicle through which these musicians leave the harshness and aggression aside and channel the folk tales of Galicia through traditional instruments and gentle, haunting, ancient-sounding singing.

Sangre de Muerdago will perform at Het Patronaat on Friday, 20 April. Read more here.

RICHEY BECKETT

Having made a dent in the Roadburn psyche earlier this year when he took part in the Full Bleed art exhibition at the 2017 edition of the festival, Richey Beckett will be returning next year. This time he will be our official poster artist, creating the artwork that will adorn our posters and merchandise for the 2018 edition.

Based in South Wales, Beckett is a highly talented artist with his roots firmly planted in the natural world, where he draws much of his inspiration from.

Beckett comments: “Being invited to create visual artwork for this year’s Roadburn is a tremendous honour. Roadburn isn’t just another heavy music festival, it’s something that over the years has evolved into a pilgrimage of a worldwide community; a celebration of music, the creative spirit and camaraderie.”
Read more about Richey Beckett here.

TICKET ONSALE DATE

Roadburn 2018 tickets will go on sale on October 19. They will be available to purchase in person from the 013 box office from 18.30- 20.30 local time, and online worldwide from 21.00 CEST. Ahead of the tickets going onsale, we will be able to confirm more details of the line up, plus camping options in Tilburg during the festival.

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Roadburn 2018 First Announcement Video

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