Black Moon Circle to Release The Studio Jams 1-3 5CD Box Set on June 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

black moon circle

Mostly-Norwegian kinda-trio/kinda-four-piece Black Moon Circle — who extend that willful nebulousness to their sound, rest assured — are currently in the midst of wrapping up a Spring tour with Øresund Space Collective, with whom they share synth wizard and regular fixture around these parts, Dr. Space. They’ve been through Germany and Denmark and Poland and Lithuania and have just a few more shows to go as they make their way to Finland (tonight and tomorrow) and Sweden to close out the run. Going by the pictures on social media, it looks like it’s been a good tour.

Though they reportedly have copies on the road, they’ll get back home to Trondheim just in time for the June 7 release of their new 5CD box set, The Studio Jams 1-3, which collects the three previously-vinyl-only jam releases they’ve done with two more discs’ worth of bonus material for a one-time blowout on CD. Sounds friggin’ awesome to me, and I already have and have reviewed all those records. It’s gotta be upwards of six hours of stuff, or at least five. That’s a killer way to spend your day, as far as I’m concerned.

Crispin Glover Records has the release. Here’s info:

black moon circle the studio jams 1-3

Black Moon Circle- The Studio Jams 1-3 Box Set

Crispin Glover Records
5 CD box set with booklet

From 2015-2017, the Trondheim based psychedelic Space Rock band, Black Moon Circle released 3 vinyl albums containing studio jams recorded from 2013-2016. These albums are now sold out.

This box set includes the albums specifically mastered for CD, including the original LP artwork in single CD sleeve format. This is the first time they appear on CD. As a bonus, 7 unreleased jams spread over 2 CDs from this same time period are included. One of these amazing jams features Snah, guitarist from Motorpsycho.

An 8 page booklet telling the history of the band so far, as well as details of all the albums, recordings, jams, and pictures are included as well. The box is limited to 500 copies.

Release date is June 7th.

Remaining live dates:
Fontaine Palace, Liep?ja, Latvia May 31st
Ääniwalli, Helsinki, Finland June 1st
Vastavirta, Tampere, FIN June 2nd
Melody Box, Stockholm, Sweden June 4th
Sonic Rock Solstice, UK June 23rd 2019

Black Moon Circle:
Bass, Vocals – Øyvin Egan
Drums – Per Andreas Gulbrandsen
Guitar – Vemund Egan

http://blackmooncircle.bandcamp.com
http://facebook.com/blackmooncircle
http://crispingloverrecords.com
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Black Moon Circle, “Plains” live rehearsal for Spring tour

Tags: , , , , ,

Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle, Freak Out in the Fjord: Cosmic Collision

Posted in Reviews on May 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

oresund space collective meets black moon circle freak out in the fjord

It happened once upon a Nov. 17, 2017, that respected cosmic improvisationalists Øresund Space Collective made their way from Denmark/Portugal/Planet Omega to Trondheim, Norway, where they were set to join with Black Moon Circle and take part in the Freak Out in the Fjord festival for which they’d eventually name this album. The title, though, is more homage than descriptor, as what makes up the record isn’t the actual live set, but the results of a studio session the next day. That might seem counterintuitive — especially for a band who are not at all shy about putting out live material — until one actually listens to Freak Out in the Fjord, at which point the results become largely inarguable. I say that as a fan of Øresund Space Collective, of course, but if you want to try to make a case against gathering a nine-piece lineup together, sticking them in the studio like some kind of off-the-cuff orchestra — three drummers and all — I’m happy to entertain it.

Certainly by the time they get around in opener “Rendezvous in the Nebula” to tossing off a swaggering reference to Jimmy Forrest‘s “Night Train” (also recorded by James Brown for Live at the Apollo in 1963), any such issue should be settled. From that interstellar-swinging 26-minute leadoff on through the other three more-than-a-side-consuming pieces on the 119-minute Space Rock Productions-issued triple LP, the personality changes, but the ultimate course of exploration is consistent. It’s jammy bliss, and as a particular sucker for an interplay between more than multiple drummers/percussionists, it seems like the rhythms here stand up especially well to the wash of guitar, bass, keys and synth surrounding. For reference, here is the lineup for the session, with their credits directly cut and pasted from the Øresund Space Collective Bandcamp page:

Magnus Hannibal – Fender Rhodes, Synthesizer
Tim Wallander – Drums (right), Fender Rhodes (Side B)
Simon W. Gullikstad – Drums (left)
Hasse Horrigmoe – Bass (slight left)
Øyvin Engan – Bass (slight right)
Vemund Engan – Guitar (right)
Jonathan Segel – Violin, Guitar (left)
Scott “Dr. Space” Heller – Modular Synth, Kaoscillator, Korg Monotron
Per Andreas Gulbrandsen – Drums (side B right, side C/D center)

For those familiar either with Øresund Space Collective or with the Norwegian-native Black Moon Circle, it will come as little surprise that the common thread between the two — aside from a propensity for psych-jamming — is Scott “Dr. Space” Heller. The bandleader of Øresund Space Collective has been a member of Black Moon Circle live and in the studio (also live there, as it happens), and as the two outfits work here under the collective banner of Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle, he’s the one tying them together. It is a noble endeavor. The general method of Øresund Space Collective is to hit the studio or stage, press record, and go. Like off-the-cuff jazz born of psychedelia and space rock, their work is always an adventure and always captures the specific moment of its creation, never to come again. Bringing Black Moon Circle — the Engans and Gulbrandsen, as well as Gullikstad and Heller himself — into the fold, they only expand the reach, and as Freak Out in the Fjord plays through its massive sprawl across “Rendezvous in the Nebula” (26:18), “Afterglow in the Sea of Sirens” (23:55), “Dinner with Gregg A. and Jerry G.” (33:16) and “Freak Out in the Fjord” (36:03), the pieces each develop a persona of their own.

This is true whether it’s the Southern guitar inflection of “Dinner with Gregg A. and Jerry G.” or the engrossing well of energy of “Rendezvous in the Nebula,” the organ and synth making their presence felt in the second half of “Afterglow in the Sea of Sirens” by building a tension that instead of blowing up pays off in arguably the record’s sleekest groove, or the title-track’s experimentalist pulse, manifest in bouts of noise and swells of volume as the group moves inextricably toward a grand finale every bit worthy of the nearly two hours preceding. But as with either the work of Øresund Space Collective on their own or Black Moon Circle‘s jammy material or really any such release, Freak Out in the Fjord isn’t about the destination so much as the outward trip to get there, however satisfying the end proves to be.

So far as I know, it doesn’t, but Freak Out in the Fjord should probably come with some manner of warning label about melted consciousness or “these people are professionals; don’t try this at home” or something of the like. The fact of the matter is that whatever else is going on, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle are in their element when mounting these sonic excursions, and it’s never going to be for everyone. It is a kind of extremity. Not of volume, or intensity — at least not in a “metal” sense — but of purpose. It is a constant drive to push deeper into the heart of creativity and to document its realization. Øresund Space Collective, its related outfits and especially Dr. Space have amassed an extensive discography, as a group like this will, but some of their best work is done when they force themselves into a different avenue of collaboration, whether it’s with Black Moon Circle or the likes of KG Westman or Gary Arce.

The core of their approach is unwavering, and well it should be, but over time, it is also showing itself as infinitely malleable to a range of contexts. Maybe that’s easy to say for Øresund Space Collective, since their approach is based on an open sensibility, but the prospect of improv space rock is one that could just as easily fall flat, or sound empty, and instead, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle are engaging and immersive in kind. Whether you’re putting it on for a two-hour chillout or sitting with your headphones and picking out which drums are in which channel on which track, Freak Out in the Fjord delivers an ultimately satisfying experience for the converted or those willing to be, and while I know the whole point of the thing is to preserve the ephemeral spirit of a moment already gone — remember this was late 2017; though the two bands are touring together — I can’t help but hope Øresund Space Collective and Black Moon Circle meet again for another studio session, as it seems like there’s still so much of the universe to be discovered.

Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle, Freak Out in the Fjord (2019)

Black Moon Circle on Bandcamp

Black Moon Circle on Thee Facebooks

Øresund Space Collective on The Facebooks

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Øresund Space Collective website

Space Rock Productions website

Tags: , , , , , ,

Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle for a Freak Out in the Fjord

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

If you’re anything like me when it comes to the issue, Øresund Space Collective‘s jams arrive in the-more-the-merrier fashion. They’ve got two hours of live-captured improv psych and space rock? Cool, I’ll clear my afternoon calendar. Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle is, as the name implies, the coming together of those two outfits — the Norwegian troupe Black Moon Circle being no slouches themselves in the jam department — and Freak Out in the Fjord is their six-sided 3LP release named for the show in Trondheim, Norway, that was the occasion for their coming together. The day after the gig, the two outfits hit the studio, recorded four sprawling explorations, and they’re being pressed by Space Rock Productions for release on May 7 on CD/digi. LPs are behind held back by some manufacturing issue — doubtless whatever poor pressing plant couldn’t handle that much cosmic energy brought to bear in a single burst — but should be out in June.

It’s not a split. It’s a collaborative effort, with two guitars, two basses and three drumsets and probably more synth than Norway allows by law. It is two-plus of the trippiest hours you’ll spend.

They’re streaming the 24-minute “Afterglow in the Sea of Sirens” now and you can catch it at the bottom of this post. Do so.

Enjoy:

oresund space collective meets black moon circle freak out in the fjord

Øresund Space Collective meets Black Moon Circle – Freak out in the Fjord

Release on Space Rock Productions, SRP059

Release date: 7th May 2019

In November 2017, ØSC and BMC played a show in Trondheim, Norway called Freakout in the Fjord, which also featured the local band, Red Mountains. The next day, we were booked into the excellent, Øra studio, one of the best in Trondheim for a jam session.

It took a few hours to set up all the gear (2 guitar set ups, 2 bass set ups, 3 drums kits (yes, 3!), modular synth, Fender Rhodes and Oberheim synth and we were ready to go. Four jams were recorded ranging from Miles Davis inspired (Afterglow) to Grateful Dead (Dinner) to heavy space rock (Freakout). It is a hell of a 2hr musical journey.

Recorded at Øra Studio, Trondheim, Norway on Saturday Nov 18th, 2017.
Recording engineer Magnus Koefod
Mixed and mastered at Brygga studio November 2018 by Magnus Koefod.

Tracklisting:
Side A- Rendezvous in the Nebula
Side B- Afterglow in the sea of Sirens
Side C/D- Dinner with Gregg A and Jerry G
Side E/F- Freak out in the Fjord

Personnel:
Magnus- Fender Rhodes, Synthesizer
Tim- Drums (right), Fender Rhodes (Side B)
Simon- Drums (left)
Hasse- Bass (slight left)
Øyvin- Bass (slight right)
Vemund- Guitar (right)
Jonathan- Violin, Guitar (left)
Dr Space- Modular Synth, Kaoscillator, Korg Monotron
Peran- Drums (side B right, side C/D center)

Live dates:
Lygtens Kro, København, DK May 23rd
Spaceboat VI Hamburg, DE May 24/25th 2019
Urban Spree, Berlin May 26th, 2019
Lodz, Poland May 27th
Warsaw, Poland May 28th
Poland or day off May 29th
Fenix Bar, Alyst, Lithuania May 30th
Fontaine Palace, Liep?ja, Latvia May 31st
Ääniwalli, Helsinki, Finland June 1st
Vastavirta, Tampere, FIN June 2nd
Melody Box, Stockholm, Sweden June 4th
Sonic Rock Solstice, UK June 23rd 2019

http://www.spacerockproductions.com
http://blackmooncircle.bandcamp.com
http://oresundspacecollective.com

Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle, Freak Out in the Fjord (2019)

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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

Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord: Newfound Purposes

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord

I’m not sure what other kind of spacelord it would be — at least in the hands of Trondheim, Norway’s Black Moon Circle, but indeed, it’s a Psychedelic Spacelord. All the trip-out you can handle and then a bunch more from there. Enough so that the line, “Sometimes I feel I’m falling out of time… and space,” has a grounding effect. Issued by Crispin Glover RecordsPsychedelic Spacelord is the sixth Black Moon Circle LP in four years, following behind last year’s The Studio Jams Vol. III: Flowing into the 3rd Dimension (review here), 2016’s 2016’s Sea of Clouds (review here) and 2016’s The Studio Jams Vol. II (review here), 2015’s The Studio Jams Vol. I: Yellow Nebula in the Sky (discussed here), 2014’s Andromeda (review here) and also-2014’s self-titled debut EP (review here) and continuing the band’s lysergic outward journey, finding a place for itself amid a crowded subspace field of star-eyed heavy psychedelic explorers via a sense of openness that extends beyond even sheer sonics to the actual band makeup.

Still comprised of the founding trio of guitarist/backing vocalist Vemund Engan, bassist/vocalist Øyvin Engan, and drummer Per Andreas GulbrandsenPsychedelic Spacelord boasts returns from Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective and his magical customized synth box and recording engineer Magnus Kofoed, who contributes Rhodes, Mellotron and Hammond, and a first appearance from violinist Jonathan Segel. It’s worth noting that these are not listed as guest contributions. Dr. Space has been a member for a while now, and Kofoed recorded The Studio Jams Vol. III and played on that as well, so neither is exactly a stranger to Black Moon Circle‘s jammy modus, but as Segel makes his debut with the band, all three are listed as part of a six-piece incarnation: The Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord Family Band.

Okay, the name needs some work, I’ll admit, but you get the idea. The point is that over the last several years as Black Moon Circle have developed aesthetically, growing a chemistry between the brothers Øyvin and Vemund and Per on drums, they’ve extended that development to the actual structure of the group. A sonic reach grown in proportion to the amount of personnel involved. How does one even start to comprehend such a thing? I’ll admit, I don’t know, but if you can get your brain around it, the latest version of Black Moon Circle would like to immediately set about melting that same brain with their ultra-molten, gorgeously-patient and soaking-wet psychedelic flow, as represented on Psychedelic Spacelord by the 47-minute title-track that comprises the entire thing. That’s right. Black Moon Circle have both expanded to a six-piece and put out a one-song album. Ever wonder what it might be like when a band is truly on their own wavelength? Well, next time you need an example, you’ve got one.

In truth, putting aside the human-resources aspect of Psychedelic WarlordBlack Moon Circle have been headed toward the extended-single-track format for a while now. For bands of their sort — and if you don’t yet hold them in the same league as the Electric Moons, Papirs and Øresund Space Collectives of the universe, this record might change your mind — it’s almost a rite of passage when it comes to how vital a group’s jams have become. How far can they go? “Psychedelic Warlord” divides roughly in half to account for the limitations of the vinyl format, fading out at about 23 minutes in only to reemerge slowly after a minute or so of quiet, but it’s not like the jam ever actually stops. It’s just been edited.

Black Moon Circle

So to answer the question, they go pretty damn far. The Engan brothers and GulbrandsenKofoedHeller and Segel dig into hypnotic fluidity that once more finds suitably striking representation on the album cover, the image of which is taken from the oil/light show that accompanies the band live, and which only highlights the energetic approach that remains so prevalent in their methodology.

Remember that Psychedelic Spacelord is a named Black Moon Circle release. It’s still certainly based around a jam that’s semi-plotted but seems to have plenty of room for improvisation along its course, but what the band seem to do after getting that basic foundation established beneath them is build upward. Maybe they were recorded at the same time and the whole thing was done live, or maybe they were overdubbed later, but the vocals have always been something of a standout factor for Black Moon Circle, separating them from the instrumentalists when they want to be separate and finding them joining those ranks in the Studio Jams material. One recalls the 26-minute “Waves” from The Studio Jams Vol. III, and on multiple levels, it can be argued “Psychedelic Warlord” is an outgrowth of the same impulses. But the new offering is distinct unto itself not only for the human presence the vocals establish as they call out between the wash of synth, guitar, bass, cymbals and Mellotron in the song’s second half, but also because of Segel‘s first-time contributions on violin.

Treated with echo to match its cavernous surroundings, the violin is a defining presence on Psychedelic Spacelord and makes itself absolutely essential to the proceedings. That is, it’s not flourish. It plays as much a role as the various keyed instruments in setting the atmospheric breadth Black Moon Circle bring to bear, and while I certainly didn’t listen to their last release and think, “Golly these guys sure could use some strings,” by no means does Segel‘s participation make Black Moon Circle any more over-the-top than they clearly want to be. It brings class and further melodic intricacy to complement the keys, vocals, synth and guitar, and weaves through the extended piece with a grace that only highlights the same in the other elements at play. It makes Black Moon Circle a stronger, more complete band. Do they have room for a saxophone? Maybe. There’s an awful lot of space being created. Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord Orkester: coming soon.

Or, more likely, not. But take it as an indication of just how open Black Moon Circle‘s processes have become over these prolific years. As they approach a half-decade since their first long-player, they’ve not only amassed more of a catalog than some acts get in their entire career, but they’ve successfully managed to capture their will to push themselves forward each time out, as well as the meta-expansiveness that has made them who they are. All of them, acting together. Black Moon Circle may or may not be set in terms of their lineup, and I wouldn’t dare predict what they might do next or where it might go in sonic terms, but Psychedelic Spacelord conjures focus even as it subsumes the consciousness, becoming memorable through osmosis and a joy to undertake for its immersive, extended duration. Six albums in and one still can’t help but think of the potential and the possibilities for what lie ahead of Black Moon Circle. One more indicator of how special a band they are.

Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord (2018)

Black Moon Circle on Thee Facebooks

Black Moon Circle on Bandcamp

Crispin Glover Records website

Stickman Records website

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Black Moon Circle, Flowing into the Third Dimension: Always Taking Shape

Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

black-moon-circle-flowing-into-the-third-dimension

It may well be that Black Moon Circle‘s Flowing into the Third Dimension will live up to its title. Not in the sense of adding depth to its length and width — the Trondheim, Norway, heavy psych explorers took care of that a long time ago — but in terms of marking the beginning of a next, and third, working methodology for the band. Whether or not it ultimately does, the Crispin Glover Records is alternately titled The Studio Jams Vol. III, so there’s a practical allusion as well to the more poetic name, and indeed it follows 2016’s Vol. II (review here) and 2015’s Vol. I (discussed here) in that regard.

Accordingly, while it could just be that guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan, drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (the latter also of Øresund Space Collective) got bored of the plain titles and decided to add something extra to this latest 49-minute improvisational outing, Flowing into the Third Dimension also represents a change in bringing an appearance from Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, so it’s possible too that Black Moon Circle saw it as an opportunity to tie their jammier work with their more song-based outings, 2016’s Sea of Clouds (review here), 2014’s Andromeda (review here) and that same year’s self-titled debut (review here), or at least to take a forward step in a longer process of doing so. On the other hand, each vinyl side is consumed by a single track — “Barnard’s Loop” (23:27) on side A and “Waves” (26:15) on side B — with a prevailing vibe that’s nothing if not exploratory, it could entirely be the case that I’m reading too much into it. Pardon me while I completely undercut my own supposition. Won’t take a second.

Somehow though, one doubts Black Moon Circle — who, again, are working as a five-piece here, having started out as a trio in Trondheim before adding Heller to the mix — would be against multiple interpretations or different levels of thinking about the conceptual basis for their work. They are in three dimensions, after all, and “Barnard’s Loop” welcomes listeners into an unfolding fuzz mantra that seems to embrace any and all meditation. A record to get lost in for sure, Flowing into the Third Dimension also hits on a frequency of chemistry between its players that stands among some of the finest in heavy psych, a progressive instrumental mentality not unlike the get-on-stage-and-go approach of jazz artists, but of course interpreted through long-form psychedelia on its own journey into the heart of the creative process.

black moon circle

“Barnard’s Loop,” perhaps unsurprisingly, takes its time getting there, as rumbles of guitar back waves of synth forward and receding in the mix in an increasingly noisy first half, which seems to find a more plotted-seeming movement of wah in its midsection, giving way at about 15 minutes in to a lead that makes the most of the newfound dynamic between the two guitars. Multi-tiered — three-dimensional! — swirl is unfolded gracefully, and the resonance holds as they pass the 20-minute mark and a particularly memorable lead line is tossed out in a defining moment for the piece as a whole. I obviously don’t know if that was thought of beforehand or just an off-the-cuff lick, but it shimmers gorgeously like a moment of emergence and stands atop the chugging bass and punctuating drums as a high point of Flowing into the Third Dimension as a whole, whatever shred and wash is still to come. And by the way, there’s still plenty of both to come.

It might not be appropriate to say “Barnard’s Loop” is ever raucous, but it is most definitely vibrant, and it shares that in common with the subsequent “Waves,” which follows a more serene and linear path across its near-half-hour runtime. Black Moon Circle have never left anything wanting for fluidity in their instrumentalist work, but “Waves” might stand as a new pinnacle of immersion for them. Bass provides a foundation for an expanding soundscape of guitars and synth as drums come and go from the depths beneath, and as much of a wash as was to be found in the ending reaches of side A, side B finds itself even more aptly named as it courses through its undulations, lapping at the shores of consciousness with multi-colored textures patiently brought to bear in a first half of subtle movement that drifts into atmospheric sandscape pastoralism increasingly between its ninth and 13th minutes, only to find itself coming dangerously close to falling apart on several occasions before managing to right itself each time.

For those engaging a close listen, those are exciting moments of nuance, but of course with a release like Flowing into the Third Dimension, one might just as simply put it on — headphones justified, volume necessary — shut eyes and let go into a hypno-anesthetic trance, essentially letting the sound carry them for the duration. Both are valid ways to experience Flowing into the Third Dimension, and whether or not Black Moon Circle intended that the album should stand as the beginning of a new stage for them, perhaps with Ryan as a full-time member, perhaps not — they’ve also recently added keyboards and Mellotron, which will reportedly feature on the next release — it is a work of kinematic liquefaction underscored by coherence of purpose that speaks of increasing mastery of the form.

Black Moon Circle, Flowing into the Third Dimension (2017)

Black Moon Circle on Thee Facebooks

Black Moon Circle on Bandcamp

Crispin Glover Records website

Stickman Records website

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Black Moon Circle to Release New Jams Collection Flowing into the Third Dimension

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

black moon circle

The Trondheim, Norway-based heavy psych jammers Black Moon Circle continue to evolve, and if you haven’t yet dug into that ongoing process, the two 20-minute-plus improvisations on The Studio Jams Vol. III — AKA Flowing into the Third Dimension — are as good a time to do so as either prior installment. Working once again as the four-piece of guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan, drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen, and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (also of Øresund Space Collective), they set a course for 180 mark 0 and head about as far out as they’ve gone to-date, which bodes remarkably well for their impending full-length to come next year, on which they’ll also introduce organist/keyboardist Magnus. Intrigue abounds.

Note that Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan of Motorpsycho sits in for The Studio Jams Vol. III as well. Because I guess if you’re going to happen to make your way into a new plane of reality — rest assured Black Moon Circle have spent time in multiple dimensions over the course of their offerings thus far — you should probably keep the best company possible as you go.

Info follows from the PR wire:

black-moon-circle-flowing-into-the-third-dimension

Black Moon Circle – The Studio Jams Vol III

MOON6CGR078 / LP

Black Moon Circle (BMC) is a psychedelic jam band from Trondheim, Norway. The band started off as a 3 piece (Vemund- Guitar, backing vocals; Øyvin- Bass, lead vocals; Per- Drums) in 2012 playing gigs in Trondheim, Oslo and Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen, they met Dr Space (Øresund Space Collective, Space Rock Productions) and a lasting collaboration started, and thrives and evolves to this day. The Plains EP was released on Space Rock Productions (2014) and included 2 songs from the bands set and one long in studio jam. The band did not sit idle for long and over the last 3 years the band has released 2 additional studio albums, a split 10”, split 7 and completed a trilogy of Studio Jam albums (Vols. 1-3). Most of these are released on the local, Crispin Glover Records label.

Vol 1 and 2 have been extremely well received and Vol 3 saw a further evolution in the band, with the addition of Snah, guitar player from Motorpsycho, who joined the band in the studio (he also played on the 10” record) for several jams.

2017 has seen the band expand into a five piece with the addition of Magnus on organ, mellotron, rhodes piano to further augment the bands sound. You will hear his contributions on the next studio album due in early 2018.

http://blackmooncircle.bandcamp.com
http://facebook.com/blackmooncircle
http://crispingloverrecords.com
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Red Fang, Black Moon Circle, Druglord, Drone Hunter, Holy Serpent, Lugweight, Megaritual, Red Lama, Lacy, Valborg

Posted in Reviews on December 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Feeling good going into day two of the Quarterly Review. The good news about how heavy music has become such a vast universe is that there’s always plenty to cover without having to really dig into stuff I don’t find interesting. Of course, the other side of that is feeling constantly behind the curve and overwhelmed by it all, but let’s not talk about that for the moment. Point is that as we make our way through this week and into the next — because, remember, it’s six days this time, not five — a big part of me still feels like I’m just scratching the surface of everything that’s out there. It still seems just to be a fraction of the whole story being told around the world in the riffiest of languages. We all do what we can, I guess. Let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Red Fang, Only Ghosts

red-fang-only-ghosts

Four albums into one of the decade’s most successful and influential heavy rock careers, doesn’t it seem like Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang are due for a truly great record? Their 2013 outing, Whales and Leeches (discussed here), was rushed by the band’s own admission – their focus, as ever, on touring – and Only Ghosts (on Relapse) unites them with producer Ross Robinson and mixer Joe Barresi, two considerable names to bring heft and presence to the 10-track/42-minute outing. And I’ve no doubt that “Shadows” and the bigger-grooving “The Smell of the Sound” and opener “Flies” kick ass when delivered from the stage, and it’s true they sound more considered with the ambience of “Flames” positioned early, but Only Ghosts still comes across like a collection of songs united mostly by the timeframe in which they were written. Doesn’t mean they don’t build on Whales and Leeches, but now five years on from 2011’s Murder the Mountains (review here), and with their dynamic, charged and momentum-driven sound firmly established, Red Fang still seem to be at the threshold of some crucial forward step rather than stomping all over it as one might hope.

Red Fang on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds

black-moon-circle-sea-of-clouds

After releasing a self-titled debut (review here) and the follow-up Andromeda (review here) in 2014, 2016’s Sea of Clouds (on Crispin Glover/Stickman) is the third proper studio full-length from Norway’s Black Moon Circle – though at that point, define “proper.” In 2015, the trio/four-piece – Trondheim-based guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan and drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen, plus Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective on synth – also released The Studio Jams Vol. I (discussed here) and in addition to the four tracks of Sea of Clouds, they’ve also had a Vol. II (review here) out this year. The definitions become fluid, is what I’m saying, and that couldn’t be more appropriate for the sound of “Lunar Rocket,” the outward-gazing space rock of “The Magnificent Dude,” “Moondog” and “Warp Speed,” which indeed offer enough kosmiche expanse to make one wonder where the song ends and the jam begins. Or, you know, reality. One has to wonder if Black Moon Circle might bridge the gap at some point between studio improv and more plotted songwriting, but as it stands, neither side of their dual personality fails to engage with its flow and drift.

Black Moon Circle on Thee Facebooks

Black Moon Circle at Stickman Records

Black Moon Circle at Crispin Glover Records

 

Druglord, Deepest Regrets

druglord-deepest-regrets

A one-sided 12” EP issued by STB Records in late 2015 as the follow-up to Richmond dirge-fuzzer trio Druglord’s debut album, Enter Venus (review here), the three-track Deepest Regrets represents the band’s final studio material with bassist Greta Brinkman (ex-L7) in the lineup, who’s since been replaced by Julian Cook. That distinction matters in no small part because so much of Druglord’s purposes on Deepest Regrets’ three component songs – “Regret to Dismember,” “Speedballs to Hell” and “Heaven Tonight” – is about reveling in low end. Rawer than was the album preceding, they find guitarist/vocalist/organist Tommy Hamilton, Brinkman and drummer Bobby Hufnell emitting an oozing lurch, blasting out thickened motor-riffing, and fortifying a darkly psychedelic drear – in that order. True to EP form, each song gives a sampling of some of what Druglord has to offer coming off the album, and with a recording job by Garrett Morris, who also helmed the LP, it remains a fair look at where they might head next, despite the shift in lineup.

Druglord on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

 

Holy Serpent, Temples

holy serpent temples

Melbourne’s Holy Serpent return with Temples (on RidingEasy), their second full-length after 2015’s self-titled debut (review here), and continue to offer an engaging blend of well-blazed psychedelia and heavier-rolling groove. Especially considering they’ve still only been a band for two years, the four-piece of guitarists Nick Donoughue and Scott Penberthy (the latter also vocals), bassist Dave Barlett and Lance Leembrugen remain striking in their cohesion of purpose, and Temples opener “Purification by Fire” and ensuing cuts like the fuzz-wall centerpiece “Toward the Sands” and echo-laden “The Black Stone” only continue to stretch their intentions toward ever more acid-ic flow. They called it “shroom doom” last time out, and seem to have moved away from that self-branding, but however one wants to label Temples, its five tracks/43 minutes push ahead from where Holy Serpent were just a year ago and, rounding out with the slower churn of “Sativan Harvest,” still reminds that mind expansion and deeply weighted tonecraft are by no means mutually exclusive.

Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks

Holy Serpent at RidingEasy Records

 

Drone Hunter, Welcome to the Hole

drone hunter welcome to the hole

Self-releasing Croatian instrumental trio Drone Hunter devise vigilantly straightforward riffing on their second album, Welcome to the Hole, finding room for some charm in titles like “Wine Dick,” “Crazy Ants with Shotguns” and the closing “A Burning Sensation,” the latter of which seems to draw particularly from the playbook of Karma to Burn. That comparison is almost inevitable for any riff-led/sans-vocal three-piece working in this form, but the crunch in “Fog Horn” and “Waltz of the Iron Countess” isn’t without its own personality either, and as with a host of acts from the Croatian underground, they seem to have a current of metal to their approach that, in the case of Welcome to the Hole, only makes the entire affair seem tighter and more precise while maintaining tonal presence. Fitz (guitar), Klen (bass) and Rus (drums) might not be much for words or last names, but their sophomore full-length comprises solid riffs and grooves and doesn’t seem to ask anything more than a nod from its audience. A price easily paid.

Drone Hunter on Thee Facebooks

Drone Hunter on Bandcamp

 

Lugweight, Yesterday

lugweight yesterday

Lugweight is comprised solely of Brooklyn-via-Richmond-Virginia transplant Eric Benson, and the project makes its full-length debut with the evocatively-titled drone wash of Yesterday following one EP and preceding another. Fair to call it an experimental release, since that’s kind of the nature of the aesthetic, but Benson demonstrates a pretty clear notion of the sort of noise he’s interested in making, and there’s plenty of it on Yesterday in “Sleeping on Cocaine,” on which one can hear the undulating wavelengths emanating from speaker cones, or the penultimate “Love Song for the Insane,” which features chanting vocals in echoes cutting through a tonal morass but still somehow obscure. A 33-minute five-tracker, Yesterday doesn’t overstay its welcome, but alternates between sonic horrors and warmer immersion in the shorter centerpiece “Bleed My Sorrow” and closer “Show Me Where the Shovel Is,” coming dangerously close in the latter to doom riffing that one might almost dare to put drums to. Solo drone guitar, even when this thick, is never for everyone, but one doubts Benson was shooting for accessibility anyhow.

Lugweight on Bandcamp

Forcefield Records website

 

Megaritual, Eclipse

megaritual eclipse

To hear Australia’s Megaritual tell it, the 25-minute single-song Eclipse EP was recorded on Mt. Jerusalem in New South Wales this past summer, the one-man outfit of vocalist/guitarist/sitarist/drummer Dale Paul Walker working with bassist/Monotronist Govinda Das to follow-up his prior two Mantra Music EPs, recently compiled onto an LP (review here) by White Dwarf Records. Whether or not that’s the case, “Eclipse” itself is suitably mountainous, building along a linear course from sea level to a grand peak with droning patience and gradual volume swells, lush and immersive psychedelia in slow-motion trails, a sparse verse, percussion, sitar, guitar, bass, and so on coming to a glorious vista around the 17:30 mark only to recede again circa six minutes later in a more precipitous dropoff. The digital edition (and that’s the only edition thus far) comes with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which makes good company for the hypnotic titular exploration and the quick progression it represents after the other two short releases.

Megaritual on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records website

 

Red Lama, Dreams are Free

red lama dreams are free

Heavy psychedelic pastoralists Red Lama enter the conversation of 2016’s best debut albums with Dreams are Free, initially released on All Good Clean Records and subsequently picked up by Stickman. Leaning more toward the liquid end of psych-blues, the Danish seven-piece immediately transcend with opener “Inca” (video here) and quickly showcase a subtlety for build that only gets more potent as they move through “Sonic Revolution” and “The World is Yours,” unfolding due heft in the latter without losing the laid back sensibility that the vocals bring sweetly, melodically, to the material. The later “Mekong River” seems almost like it’s going to shoegaze itself into post-rock oblivion, but Red Lama hold their sound together even into the 10-minute closer “Dalai Delay” – aptly-titled twice over – and deliver with striking patience a languid flow with hints of underlying prog experimentation. How that will come to fruition will have to remain to be seen/heard, but Dreams are Free also dips into funkier groove on “Dar Enteha,” so while they probably could be if they were feeling lazy, Red Lama don’t at all seem to be finished growing. All the better.

Red Lama on Thee Facebooks

Red Lama at Stickman Records

 

Lacy, Andromeda

lacy andromeda

Lacy is an experimental solo-project from former Lord guitarist Stephen Sullivan, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and part of a deep sludge underground that goes back well over a decade. Andromeda is his third album with the outfit and the second to be released in 2016, though unlike the preceding Volume 2. Blue, its 12 tracks were recorded in a matter of months, not years. All instruments, arrangements, vocals and the raw recording were handled by Sullivan himself (he also took the photo on the cover) but cuts like “Gyre Hell” and the acoustic “Push Me Away” veer around self-indulgence or hyper-navelgazing – I’d call “Offal and the Goat Brains” experimental, but not narcissistic – and he seems more interested in writing songs than making a show of being outside this or that imaginary box. Still, Andromeda offers diversity of instrumentation and arrangement, unplugging once more for “Healer” before closer “Always” finishes the album as a rumbling and grunge-laden love song.

Lacy on YouTube

Lacy on Bandcamp

 

Valborg, Werwolf

valborg werwolf

After catching on late to German metallers Valborg’s 2015 fifth album, Romantik, I told myself I wasn’t going to miss whatever they did next. The single Werwolf (on Temple of Torturous and Zeitgeister) might be a quick check-in of just two songs – “Ich Bin Total” and “Werwolf” itself – but the classic European-style death-doom chug of the latter and the vicious crash of the former I still consider a reward for keeping an eye out. “Ich Bin Total” is less than three and a half minutes long, and “Werwolf” just over five, but both feature choice chug riffing, darkened atmospherics and art-metal growls that only add to the clenched-teeth intensity of the instruments surrounding. They spare neither impact nor ambience nor lives as Werwolf plays out, the title cut riding its massive progression forward to a sensory-overload of nod before finally offering some release to the tension in a second-half guitar lead, only to revive the brutality once more, repetitions of “werwolf” chanted in growls over it. Awesome.

Valborg on Thee Facebooks

Temple of Torturous website

 

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