The Pilgrim Premiere “Dragonfly” from Walking into the Forest

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the pilgrim

Available to preorder since January, the debut album from The Pilgrim will be released April 26 through Heavy Psych Sounds. The 10-song/38-minute Walking into the Forest is a new venture for Gabriele Fiori, who’s already well known for being the head of the Heavy Psych Sounds label and booking agency as well as the frontman of Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie. Hey, some people like to stay busy.

Before the album was being announced, I was fortunate enough to be asked to write the bio for The Pilgrim, and of course I jumped at the opportunity as I tend to do. My motivation was pretty simple, and I think listening to Walking into the Forest makes the argument perhaps best of all, which was why I was so keen to host the premiere of “Peace of Mind,” the album’s opening track, when the time came for the announcement to go out. With The PilgrimFiori and his cohort drummer Filippo Ragazzoni don’t just take on new textures, but as songs like the Hawkwind cover “Brainstorm” show, there’s a definite tie-in with the work Fiori has done in the past. It comes in a more peaceful form throughout “The Time You Wait” and the finger-picked beginning of “Pendulum,” perhaps, but that sense of collective psychedelic trip is still there, and it feels all the more resonant for its foundation in earthy acoustic guitar, to which quiet-but-welcome drums/percussion are added along with keys and vocals. “Peace of Mind” begins the record at a hippie ramble, and soon enough after, “Sailor” seems to speak to the exploration that’s getting underway in this material, with a broader melodic scope and an affecting, bigger finish.

Because that’s what Walking into the Forest is: the beginning of a new exploration. It’s right The-pilgrim-walking-into-the-forestthere in the title in the word “into,” which implies you’re starting from somewhere else and entering the forest, and it’s right there in the prominent front foot of the Maarten Donders cover art. These songs may have been years in the making, but the recording unites them in the purpose of feeling out and establishing this unfamiliar sonic terrain, where it’s not about the effects wash or the space rock thrust, or about the classic ’70s shuffle, but about creating a not entirely dissimilar atmosphere through the most natural of folkish elements — a guitar and a voice. That’s the core of what The Pilgrim does, but of course Fiori and Ragazzoni expand the sound with drums and keyboards, echo on the vocals and so on. It’s all part of conjuring an acid folk vibe, and they do it well from “Peace of Mind” through the relatively subdued guitar/keys finish of “Suite #2.” Not every song is trying to manifest the same idea — that would invariably lead to a monotonous listening experience, which the album isn’t, but they all work together in order to create the sense of journeying along with the duo in the creative process.

When asked for the bio, Fiori described the song “Dragonfly” as a “mind-dream,” which I like a lot, as well as his favorite on the album. Indeed, the track traffics well in the ethereal, and makes its presence felt through early intertwining of soft vocals and guitar with spaced-out keys before the strumming and drumming picks up before the two-minute mark. Those keyboard droplets stay consistent throughout, and late in the track a sweeping solo comes forward in the mix and ends up gently leading the way out just past the song’s fifth minute — it’s the only inclusion on Walking into the Forest to cross that line.

Fiori, as noted, or at least implied, has a fairly manic (and admirable) work ethic, so it’s easy to imagine that, should he choose to focus on it, a second The Pilgrim record could arrive sooner than the years it took to put together Walking into the Forest. Between Black RainbowsKiller Boogie, putting out other bands’ albums and booking events like the Obelisk-co-presented Heavy Psych Sounds Fest tour in the US (info here), he’s not exactly short on current projects, but sometimes once you start on a path through the forest, the best thing to do is just keep going and see where it leads you.

I’ve included that bio I wrote for the album here, in case you’re interested. It’s under the player with the premiere of “Dragonfly” and a quick comment from Fiori about the track specifically.

Please enjoy:

Gabriele Fiori on “Dragonfly”:

Dragonfly is the fourth track of the album and the one I personally like the most because its different phases; one is heavenly and choral, but then suddenly starts with rhythm parts and nice vocals, to end with a guitar solo that intertwines with the other instruments to create something truly magic.

The Pilgrim’ debut album Walking Into The Forest will be released on April 26th via Heavy Psych Sounds. Cover art by Maarten Donders.

Preorder available now: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm?#HPS092

Bio:

Gabriele Fiori — already frontman of Rome-based outfits Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie and a key figure in Europe’s heavy underground as the head of the Heavy Psych Sounds label and booking agency — was not exactly lacking for things to do. And yet, a couple years back, The Pilgrim started to nebulously take shape as an idea for a solo-project, something different than the hard-driving psychedelia and garage heavy rock for which he’d already been so revered.

It wasn’t until Jan. 2018 that he really got to putting songs together, but the end result on Walking into the Forest is a space-folk release with a personality unto itself. Songs like opener “Peace of Mind” evoke some of Fiori’s more rocking side, while “Sunset in the Desert” feels like an ode to the acoustic album Kyuss never made, and side B, which starts with the Hawkwind cover “Brainstorm” and ends with the moody strum of “Suite #2” — originally from Void Generator’s 2004 debut EP; when Fiori was in the band — hones a cosmic drift and textures that nonetheless remain accessible and organic thanks to their acoustic foundation.

“The main point in common with Black Rainbows is the diversity of the songs,” Fiori explains. “You have mind-dreams like ‘Dragonfly’ or ‘Sailor,’ or the more folk rock ‘Peace of Mind,’ passing through space with ‘The Time You Wait’ and the melodic-melancholic ‘When I Call Your Name.’”

In completing the arrangements, Fiori turned to Black Rainbows drummer Filippo Ragazzoni, and as he says, “Songs came out so spontaneously and easy. I always played acoustic guitar and wanted to push further on this path. The songwriting, rehearsing and recording approach was so different from usual Rainbows or Boogie style, both to me and Filippo for drums, because all the instruments needed to be played smoothly, softly.”

With Walking into the Forest, Fiori evokes a sound that is both classic and fresh, melodically rich and creatively constructed. It is a new outlet for Fiori that demands spiritual as well as auditory engagement, and an all-things-permissible sonic context that one can only hope The Pilgrim continues to explore.

The Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks

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The Pilgrim Premieres “Peace of Mind”; Walking into the Forest Available to Preorder

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the pilgrim

This is the first audio to come from The Pilgrim‘s debut album, Walking into the Forest, and when one finds out that the figure behind the project — who might indeed be the pilgrim in question — is Gabriele Fiori, known as the head of Heavy Psych Sounds and frontman of Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie, that will do little to prepare you for what’s coming. Sure, there’s still a bit of psychedelic edge — okay, more than a bit — to The Pilgrim‘s work, but as Fiori launches this new project, he indeed begins a new exploration in style and form. Space folk, acid psych, classic psychedelic serenity — all of these feed into The Pilgrim‘s work on Walking into the Forest but there’s a foundation in rock too, and it could hardly be more appropriate that “Peace of Mind” is the track to be unveiled with the album announcement, because it sums up a lot of the point of view on display throughout.

Fiori, whose presence in Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie The-pilgrim-walking-into-the-forestbleeds through those bands’ recordings in larger-than-life form, creating an increasingly grand cosmic wash in the former and a classic heavy shuffle in the latter, rawer, but still turned on and tuned in, is very much front and center throughout Walking into the Forest. And fair enough so, since ostensibly it’s a solo-project. But with effects on his vocals and layers of keys and the drums of Black Rainbows bandmate Filippo Ragazzoni worked in intermittently, there’s a wide-open sensibility to the creative sphere in which he’s working. He’s honest in terms of his influences — he’s not coming out of the gate pretending he’s Hank Williams or something — but it’s new ground for him to cover, and he does well in making it his own as he makes his way through the album.

I’ll have a proper review up — I also wrote the bio, so might post that — at some point between now and April 26, which is the set release date, but you can take a listen to “Peace of Mind” on the player below and get yourself introduced.

Info follows from the PR wire, as well as a quote from Fiori himself.

Enjoy:

Gabriele Fiori on The Pilgrim:

“This is a project I really care about, it has been in my pocket for so long but without any available time for it. Finally we made it! And I am so happy, proud and relieved to have accomplished it. To me, it’s an authentic work, it came out really spontaneously from the inside and it’s a challenge cause we never played so low and calm!”

PEACE OF MIND is the first single of The Pilgrim debut album Walking Into The Forest. The record will be released on April 26th via Heavy Psych Sounds. Cover art by Maarten Donders.

Preorder available now: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm?#HPS092

AVAILABLE IN:

20 test press vinyl
250 marbled yellow background – red vinyl
250 orange background splatter in black green blue vinyl
black vinyl

digipak (6 panels)

digital

The Pilgrim is the latest solo project of Gabriele Fiori, frontman of Rome-based outfits Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie.

With “Walking into the Forest”, Fiori evokes a sound that is both classic and fresh, melodically rich and creatively constructed. It is a new outlet for Fiori that demands spiritual as well as auditory engagement, and an all-things-permissible sonic context.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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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.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 06

Posted in Radio on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

Okay, so I guess the first thing you should know if you don’t know is I sort of have a radio show. It’s called The Obelisk Show. I’ve been in league with the good peoples at Gimme Radio for a couple months now, and it seems like it’s sticking, which is nice. They’ve been kind enough to give me a forum through which to share music, and I’m happy for the opportunity. I’ve guested with Diane Farris (also now on Gimme) on WFMU a few times over the years, but haven’t hosted a show since I was in college at WSOU in New Jersey, so it’s been a thrill to do so again. I had missed it more than I realized.

Since it doesn’t look like I’m about to be immediately shitcanned by Gimme on account of general suckdom — can’t help but feel like I’m getting away with something there — I wanted to get an archive going of playlists on here, basically so I can refer to it later and know what I’ve already played and when. Otherwise, I’ll just do the same stuff all the time, because I’m kind of a doof generally. So here we are.

The latest episode — the sixth — was a wrap-up of what I thought were some of the best tracks from 2018. You can see the playlist below in the kind oldschool-looking spreadsheet form. Ignore the asterisks by the album titles; they just mean something that came out this year. Which, in the case of this episode, was everything.

If you didn’t get to hear it the first time around or want to dig into other episodes, Gimme has an archive available on the cheap, and they reair the show as well. Thanks either way if you get to check it out.

I thought this was a decent one. Here’s the playlist:

The Obelisk Show Ep. 06 – 12.16.18

Gozu Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat Equilibrium* 0:06:24
Mos Generator The Destroyer Shadowlands* 0:04:27
BREAK
Traden Hymn Traden* 0:07:20
Sandrider Hollowed Armada* 0:06:06
Grayceon Let it Go IV* 0:06:22
Sunnata Outlands Outlands* 0:07:37
BREAK
Monster Magnet When the Hammer Comes Down Mindfucker* 0:05:42
Fu Manchu Don’t Panic Clone of the Universe* 0:02:04
Foghound Known Wolves Awaken to Destroy* 0:03:59
Naxatras You Won’t be Left Alone III* 0:11:17
King Buffalo Morning Song Longing to be the Mountain* 0:09:49
Weedpecker Liquid Sky III* 0:06:33
Black Rainbows Riding Fast Till the End of Time Pandaemonium* 0:04:07
Witch Mountain Burn You Down Witch Mountain* 0:07:40
BREAK
Sleep Sonic Titan The Sciences* 0:12:27
YOB Ablaze Our Raw Heart* 0:10:13

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Jan. 13. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest to Take Place in UK, Belgium & the Netherlands; Lineups Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

This is a pretty big deal. Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, of course the festival arm of the label/booking company of the same name, was already branching out in holding its 2018 edition last month in Austria, whereas to my knowledge all past fests were held in Italy. Now, not only is Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 2019 moving again, but it’s expanding to three cities, and it’s happening in just a couple months in February. It’s kind of astounding, and the ambition isn’t the only thing. Black RainbowsGiöbia and Deadsmoke will feature all three nights — Feb. 22-24, in London, Brussels and Deventer, respectively — and they’ll be joined in London by Dead Witches, who’ll use the appearance to mark the release of their new album, on Heavy Psych Sounds, and in Belgium by The Sonic Dawn, and in the Netherlands by The Sonic Dawn again as well as Drive by WireKamchatka and Komatsu. I’ll say it again: this is a pretty big deal.

It signals Heavy Psych Sounds Fest not just as a label showcase, but maybe even ultimately a traveling package tour. Who the hell knows what might come next? The door’s open wide.

From the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest 2019 posters

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST to conquer the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands in early 2019!

London, Brussels and Deventer are set to be drenched in fuzz in February 2019, with the next proceedings for HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST!

Heavy Psych Sounds Records are proud to announce further events for their HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST series, which celebrated its last edition in November 2018 in Innsbruck, Austria. The Italian cult & fuzz rock label invited high class acts such as Brant Bjork, Giöbia, Mother’s Cake and Belzebong & many more, to turn the capitol of Tyrol into a psychedelic rock wonderland! Due to the massive success and participation of the heavy rock scene with fans from all over Europe who made the fest so special, Heavy Psych Sounds just announced to expand and will be running the highly acclaimed events in London (Underworld, in cooperation with DesertScene), Brussels (Magasin4) as well as in Deventer (Burgerweeshuis, in cooperation with SOZ concerts) between February 22nd – 24th 2019!

HPS FEST LONDON (UK) – February 22nd at The Black Heart
with Dead Witches (official album release), Black Rainbows, Giöbia, Deadsmoke
Official event // TICKETS

HPS FEST BRUSSELS (BE) – February 23rd at Magasin 4
with Black Rainbows Giöbia, The Sonic Dawn, Deadsmoke
Official event // TICKETS

HPS FEST DEVENTER (NL) – February 24th at Burgerweeshuis
with Black Rainbows, Giöbia, Deadsmoke, The Sonic Dawn, Komatsu, Kamchatka, Drive By Wire
Official event // TICKETS

The London date will also see the release show of DEAD WITCHES (feat. Electric Wizard’s co-founding member Mark Greening) to celebrate their sophomore album ‘The Final Exorcism! Expect heavy as hell shows from all bands, the finest and almighty riffs, and of course lots of cool merch at the Heavy Psych Sounds booth.

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

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Heavy Psych Sounds 2018: Brant Bjork, Black Rainbows, Belzebong & The Necromancers Set to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Four bands announced so far for Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 2018: Brant Bjork, Belzebong, Black Rainbows and The Necromancers. Brant Bjork recently announced the details for his upcoming album, Mankind Woman, which will be out via Heavy Psych Sounds on Sept. 14 (info here) and a stop at the festival was noted as part of his corresponding European tour. Belzebong and The Necromancers will be on the road together, so it makes sense they’d both be stopping through the fest, and, well, it wouldn’t be Heavy Psych Sounds without Italian ambassadors Black Rainbows taking the stage.

So yeah, all this makes sense. What I find most curious about this year’s Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, though, is that it’s not happening in Italy. This is the 15th one, and it’s presented by the label and Poison for Souls, which is also based in Italy, so I’m not sure how they wound up in Innsbruck, Austria. But whatever works. I’m sure by the time they’re done announcing bands it’ll be a lineup worth following anywhere, which, now that I look at it, it pretty much already is. Go figure.

Details follow as per the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest 2018 poster

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST confirms Brant Bjork, Belzebong, Black Rainbows, The Necromancers in Innsbruck ; pre-sale tickets available now!

Heavy Psych Sounds together with Poison For Souls are proud to announce the 15th edition of HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST, to take place in the Tyrol capital of Innsbruck in the Austrian mountains on November 15-16th.

This is a first for the Italy-based stoner & fuzz festival, which will settle in the colorful old city of Innsbruck in Austria. HPS FEST will take residence at PMK and Hafen venues for two days of the finest stoner, doom, psych rock, occult riffage! First acts announced are:

BRANT BJORK (USA)

BELZEBONG (PL)

BLACK RAINBOWS (IT)

THE NECROMANCERS (FR)

More to be announced soon…

Pre-sale tickets are available now for 36,60€ at this location.

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Brant Bjork, “Luvin'” official video

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black rainbows pandaemonium

[Click play above to stream Black Rainbows’ Pandaemonium in its entirety. Album is out April 6 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Largely through sheer force of will, Black Rainbows have become Italy’s foremost purveyors of heavy psychedelic rock. Pandaemonium is the sixth full-length from the Roman trio, and they’ve never sounded more driven or lysergic then they do in its nine-track/45-minute run. Led by guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori, the three-piece run a colorful gamut of high-energy, sopping wet groove, and whether they’re in the maximum-fuzz thrust of “Riding Fast ‘Til the End of Time,” dug into the more threatening lumber of “Grindstone” or languidly making their way through the cosmos on album finale “13th Step of the Pyramid,” they burn and melt classic influences into something of their own; whether it’s culled from Sabbath, Fu Manchu, Nebula, Monster Magnet or Hawkwind, it doesn’t matter. It’s Black Rainbows.

This has, admittedly, been the case on their last couple records. Pandaemonium, which is further marked out by the desert-space-grunge opener “Sunrise” and the megahook that follows in “High to Hell,” was preceded by 2016’s Stellar Prophecy (review here) and 2015’s Hawkdope (review here), and with them, it forms something of a trifecta of the band discovering and subsequently building on their distinct sonic persona. That’s not to slight their 2014 split with NaamWhite Hills and The Flying Eyes (review here), 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here), or 2012’s Supermothafuzzalicious!! (review here) — or, for that matter, 2010’s Carmina Diablo or 2007’s Twilight in the Desert; though the latter was derivative and that seemed to be the point — simply to say that as time has gone on, Black Rainbows have come more into their own sound-wise, and Pandaemonium represents the to-date apex of that process.

Tone, as ever, is essential to what they do, and Fiori‘s is dead-on righteous in “The Sacrifice” but as Fiori and bassist Giuseppe Guglielmino welcome new drummer Filippo Ragazzoni, they seem to lock into an especially potent trio form. The longest tracks on Pandaemonium are the highlights and show this best, “Grindstone” moving fluidly from its initial lumbering to a tripped out spacious midsection, minimalist and topped with samples but tense and building its wash toward a crescendo that (presumably) closes side A and offers one of the record’s most satisfying payoffs. With “Sunrise,” “High to Hell” and “The Sacrifice” before it, Black Rainbows shift deftly between catchy heavy rock songcraft and more expansive fare, eventually ceding the ground to the Wyndorfian strum of tracklisting centerpiece “Supernova and Asteroids,” which though it’s only a little over two minutes long, emphasizes just how important atmospherics have become as part of Black Rainbows‘ overarching methodology.

The wash of effects, near-constant swirl, and echo on Fiori‘s voice are, of course, appreciated, but it’s what Black Rainbows accomplish by varying their tempos, structures nnd overall scope that makes Pandaemonium succeed as it does. With vinyl in mind, it’s side A that shows this best with each song developing its own presence while feeding into the overarching groove of the record as a whole, and as it would in homage to the classic form, side B pushes the limits of the band’s aesthetic (not that “Grindstone” doesn’t in its own way). After “Supernova and Asteroids,” the ultra-fuzzed “Riding Fast ‘Til the End of Time” takes hold with full-throttle forward motion, turning on a dime into the bridge and the chorus from itis decamatry verse, an extended solo section marked out by organ in the second half only adding to the sense of build throughout, the feeling that Black Rainbows have become experts at this kind of sonic gamesmanship.

black rainbows

Where earlier cuts might’ve gone back to the hook to finish out, “Riding Fast ‘Til the End of Time” keeps going further out until it just kind of ends, leading to the six-and-a-half-minute “I Just Wanna Fire. Seemingly inspired lyrically by a trip to the desert, it plays up the more open, jammier side of Black Rainbows sound, and by the end of its run, the effects swirl and the depth created are not only evocative of the place, but hypnotic in their own right. There’s something of a return to earth with the stoner rock shuffle of “The Abyss,” but even this is given a due drenching in reverb, fuzz and echo. Still, rhythmically, in its janga-janga boogie, the song recalls post-Kyuss early aughts stonerism, and even finds Ragazzoni half-timing the drums to maximize the open feel in the second half. A steady line of organ — almost a drone, for its consistency — threads through the arrangement, making the shorter cut feel even fuller and hold to the sense of space brought to the proceedings by “I Just Wanna Fire” before.

A long solo section and slow ringout — that organ fading in the process — leads to the cry-in-the-vastness line of noise that starts “13th Step of the Pyramid.” There’s a sample that may or may not come from an old episode of In Search Of, and as Fiori‘s vocals enter shortly after the first minute, the immediate association is with Monster Magnet‘s Spine of God-era liquefaction. This is not a detriment, and as they have with influences all along — the best example perhaps being “The Abyss” just before — they take these elements and make them their own. A drawling, patient roll plays out and builds to a head just as they pass the halfway point into larger, more forward riffing, the nod infectious and the impression clear that, hey, this is it: no coming back this time. Fair enough. It’s been a trip and in the end of “13th Step of the Pyramid,” the listener finally finds out where it’s all been leading.

The answer, of course, is “huge jam.” Fiori seems to layer rhythm and lead guitars for an even more packed arrangement, but it’s even more about the vibe the whole band creates in the process. Choice groove, an emergent standout riff, a final build, and residual effects swirl on a fade when they’ve cycled through the last measure. It’s a patient but still energetic finale, and it’s one worthy of the record preceding all the more because of the underlying sense of consciousness and purposefulness behind it. I don’t doubt that Black Rainbows experiment in the studio. Frankly there are too many effects used in these songs for “happy accidents” to never occur. And I don’t doubt that they jam — you can hear the chemistry even in this new lineup. But there’s intention for all of it beyond simple indulgence, and as distant the ground is that Pandaemonium covers, the band is never unsure how they want to get there. One more reason that, six albums deep and more than a decade into their career, it’s time to consider Black Rainbows masters of the form. Their heavy psych wants for nothing in spirit or sound, and their songwriting has never sounded more assured of its reach. As well it should be.

Black Rainbows, “High to Hell” lyric video

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Black Rainbows Post “High to Hell” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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As to what it actually means to be high to hell, you’ll have to ask Italian trio Black Rainbows on that one and I’m sure they’d have a good answer for you. Maybe something like, “It’s when you’re really really high,” and if so, fair enough. The song “High to Hell” features second among the nine tracks on the Roma outfit’s sixth album, Padaemonium, which is out next week — because, hello, next week is April — on Heavy Psych Sounds, and offers some of its best fuzz and one of its most memorable hooks. And with lines about living like an astronaut and the end of time, it’s more than solid lyric video fodder. So here we are.

I’m going to have more about Pandaemonium next week — and by that I mean I’ll be streaming it in full with a corresponding album review, on Tuesday if all goes according to plan — so I don’t want to get too deep into what they’re going on any given track, but songs like “High to Hell,” “The Sacrifice,” “Riding Fast Til the End of Time” and so on provide anchors in their hooks that allow guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori the space to reach both out into space and deep into the dirt for earthy fuzz that propels them. Like much of their work over the last several years, it gracefully balances elements and creates something whole and individualized from them, rather than simply pitting one element against another. Hell, I’m reviewing the dam thing in spite of myself.

Alright, gonna stop there. Check back next week for more lavish praise heaped on Black Rainbows and that full stream. In the meantime, enjoy the “High to Hell” lyric video below, followed by more info from the PR wire info.

Dig in:

Black Rainbows, “High to Hell” lyric video

Italy’s stoner rock icons BLACK RAINBOWS unveil a fuzz-driven new track off their sixth album “Pandaemonium”, due out April 6th on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

“High To Hell” is the first excerpt off BLACK RAINBOWS’ new album “Pandaemonium”. The intro riff is a sledgehammer of fuzz and crunch striking the listener from the outset, while Gabriele Fiori’s sharp and hard-hitting vocals echo like a loop that won’t let go of your brain. Everything in this song is addictive. The Italian trio shows us how it’s done, with the fuzziest and fiercest stoner rock anthem you’ll hear this year!

“Pandaemonium” will be released on limited Silver vinyl, Orange Fluo Splatter Multicolor vinyl, as well as CD and digital.

BLACK RAINBOWS is
Gabriele Fiori – Guitar & Vocals
Giuseppe Guglielmino – Bass
Filippo Ragazzoni – Drums

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