The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 23

Posted in Radio on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Got into some longer tracks this time around on The Obelisk Show, and that was very much on purpose. Last episode was the Kyuss special, and that was a lot of fun, but when I started this show I guess over a year ago now, I was thinking of it specifically as something a little bit against the grain of what Gimme Radio usually does, so yeah, I definitely consider playing like 15-minute tracks and in this case, a 23-minute track, as counter to the general consideration of where “radio” — even in its interwebular iteration — generally goes. At least I like to imagine it being that way.

So yes. A lot of new music around here, and some longer tracks from the likes of Taras BulbaJesus the Snake (get jazzy, y’all), Ireland’s Coroza and Swedes V and Goatess. Also the new single from Blackwater Holylight because it’s so good that I had to play it, new stuff from Here Lies ManYear of the CobraOgreLamassu and the Alunah track that was premiered here this week, basically just as a brag on my part. And for the classic track? Oh, it’s only “Catharsis” by YOB. If you can think of a better way to spend the aforementioned 23 minutes of your life than listening to that, I’d love to hear it.

I haven’t cut the voice tracks yet as I write this (I’ll do them this afternoon), so I don’t know how much of a dork I sound like, but I’m sure I’ll sound like plenty of a dork when I get there. But thanks for listening if you do in just a couple hours, and thanks for your ongoing support generally, because it’s what lets me do crazy stuff like a radio show on the station that has Dave Mustaine and the dude from Amon Amarth as DJs. These are wacky times.

Listen at: http://www.gimmeradio.com

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.13.19

 

Year of the Cobra Into the Fray Ash & Dust*
Jesus the Snake Karma Black Acid, Pink Rain*
BREAK
Here Lies Man Iron Rattles No Ground to Walk Upon*
Taras Bulba The Yo-Yo Man One*
Blackwater Holylight Death Realms Veils of Winter*
V Led into Exile Led into Exile*
Goatess What Lies Beneath Blood and Wine*
Lamassu I Die Into the Empty*
BREAK
YOB Catharsis Catharsis
Alunah Hunt Violet Hour*
Ogre The Future Thrice as Strong*
BREAK
Coroza The Plutonian Drug Chaliceburner*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Sept. 27. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Blackwater Holylight Post New Single “Death Realms”

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I have all kinds of crap that I should be listening to on any given day, but I just keep going back to this Blackwater Holylight record and its genre/anti-genre approach, the radness of which would be hard for me to overstate. Veils of Winter is out a month from tomorrow through RidingEasy, and the five-piece have just unveiled the second advance cut from the album in the form of “Death Realms,” so yes, I’m posting about it again, if only to have a legit excuse to put the album on again and listen to it front to back. I’ve already got their upcoming Brooklyn show with Monolord in the calendar, and it’s been a while since I looked forward so much to seeing a band for the first time.

As of right now, I have an album review slated for about two weeks from today, so I’ll reserve any further gushing for that, I guess, and just turn things over to the PR wire, which brings much background and of course the stream of the track itself, which is down there at the bottom. You gotta hear it.

Here goes:

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Portland, OR quintet Blackwater Holylight share the second single from their forthcoming sophomore album Veils of Winter (RidingEasy Records) today. Hear and share the pop-hook laced “Death Realms” via YouTube and Bandcamp.

The band previously dropped the immediately classic lead track “Motorcycle” via YouTube and all streaming platforms last month.

Blackwater Holylight hit the road later this month, supporting Thou for a handful of Southern dates, followed by the full US with former RidingEasy label mates Monolord in November. Please see complete dates below.

Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts. It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying and beautiful all at once.

As a heavy band, their songs aren’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come and go in waves that surface throughout the band’s meditative, entrancing songs. It’s a hypnotic sound, with orchestral structures that often build tension and intrigue before turning the song on its head — not by simply getting louder or heavier, nor by just layering elements. They expertly subvert the implied heaviness of a part, dissecting it and splaying the song’s guts out to seep across the sonic spectrum.

Now, having toured extensively following the band’s wildly-successful breakout self-titled debut in 2018, Blackwater Holylight has honed their sound and identity to a powerfully captivating beast. Their live set is all about the slow build, seeming to combine the melodic tension of early Sonic Youth crossed with the laconic fever-dream blues of the first Black Sabbath album and wiry experimentation of post-punk and krautrock.

The lineup on this album is Allison (Sunny) Faris (bass/vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths), with new guitarist Mikayla Mayhew and drummer Eliese Dorsay fleshing out their sound in exciting ways.

“The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” says Faris. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”

“One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn’t compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” She continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”

Veils of Winter opens with fuzzed-drenched, drop-tuned bass and baritone guitar leading a dirge riff on “Seeping Secrets.” Faris’ lilting and funereal vocals drop in, adding to the mournful atmosphere until a short turnaround progression hints at changes to come, as Faris and Hopkins harmonize eerily and the tune suddenly turns into a krautrock charge. “Motorcycle” kicks off deceptively with a heavy grunge riff building up for about 40-seconds before the song abruptly shifts gears into a synth-led post-punk harmony, sounding something like Lush meets Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. “Death Realms” is perhaps the poppiest track, based around soaring shoegaze guitars and interwoven light vocal harmonies. Soft piano notes, occasional woozy whammy bar dives and a driving tom-tom beat solidify its hooks. “Spiders” is a creepy-crawly guitar riff and counterpoint keys, while “Moonlit” explores prog-structures with a shredding guitar solo crescendo. The penultimate track, “Lullaby” is exactly that, a lulling, expansive tune exemplifying Blackwater Holylight’s genre smashing sound as it subtly moves across a vast sonic landscape atop a hypnotic 6/8 beat and repetitive 3-note motif. Throughout the album, their songs shirk traditional verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of fluid, serpentine compositions that move with commanding grace.

Veils of Winter will be available on LP, CD and download on October 11th, 2019 via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available at www.ridingeasyrecs.com.

BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT LIVE 2019:
09/22 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s #
09/23 Tallahassee, FL @ The Bark #
09/24 Tampa, FL @ The Blue Note #
09/26 Miami, FL @ Las Rosa’s #
09/27 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub #
09/28 Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic #
09/29 Pensacola, FL @ Chizuco #
10/10-13 Lake Perris, CA @ Desert Daze Festival
10/24 Portland, OR @ Star Theater – Album release show
11/05 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick *
11/06 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress *
11/07 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister *
11/09 Austin, TX @ Barracuda – Levitation Fest – RidingEasy Stage
11/10 Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom Room *
11/11 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks *
11/12 Atlanta, GA @ 529 *
11/13 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight *
11/14 Richmond, VA @ Camel *
11/15 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery *
11/16 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church *
11/17 New York, NY @ Saint Vitus *
11/20 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s *
11/21 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle Brewing *
11/22 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar *
11/23 Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck *
11/25 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater *
11/27 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom *
12/05 Seattle, WA @ Neumos ^
12/06 Eugene, OR @ WOW Hall ^
12/07 Portland, OR @ Bossanova Ballroom ^
# w/ Thou
* w/ Monolord
^ w/ Yob

https://www.facebook.com/blackwaterholylight/
instagram.com/blackwaterholylight
blackwaterholylight.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

Blackwater Holylight, “Death Realms”

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 21

Posted in Radio on August 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Last time around, I actually managed to post the playlist for The Obelisk Show before Gimme Radio aired it, and I thought that worked pretty well, letting people know what was going to be on and all that. As it stands, I haven’t even had the chance to record the voice breaks yet for this one, but it’ll get done before airtime. Again, lots of new stuff this episode and a lot of it drawn from recent coverage around here, as well as some stuff that will be upcoming, whether it’s V‘s new single or the 20-minute Comacozer track that ends out.

That song and the We Lost the Sea track before it make up the final 35 minutes of the show. I wanted a couple longer tracks this time out, so between those, VMonolordOblivion Reptilian and Hound the Wolves, I feel like we got there. There’s a couple rockers up front with Bison MachineBlackwater Holylight and Lightning Born, but from then on pretty much all bets are off. I never know how that kind of thing will be received by the Gimme listenership, but screw it, I haven’t been fired yet, so I’ll take that for what it tells me. Not much, I suppose.

Dug these songs though. The Lightning BornSleeping Giant and The Black Wizards cuts were standouts from their respective albums, and the new Goatess single was just premiered elsewhere, but I’ll be covering the album too, so wanted to give that a chance to shine here. And a little bit of Crowbar seemed appropriate as I’ve already seen them once this month and plan to do so again before the month is out. Some bands you just can’t get enough.

Thanks for checking it out if you get the chance.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 08.16.19

Bison Machine The Tower Seas of Titan*
Blackwater Holylight Motorcycle Veils of Winter*
Lightning Born Salvation Lightning Born*
BREAK
The Black Wizards Kaleidoscope Eyes Reflections*
Sleeping Giant Serpent Sleeping Giant*
Oblivion Reptilian Alien Shit Fried on Rock*
Hound the Wolves Godhead Split with Glasghote*
BREAK
Crowbar All I Had I Gave Crowbar (1993)
Monolord The Bastard Son No Comfort*
V Phantasmagoria Led into Exile*
Goatess Dunerider Blood and Wine*
BREAK
We Lost the Sea Towers Triumph & Disaster*
Comacozer Kykeneon Journey Mydriasis*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 30. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Blackwater Holylight Announce New Album Veils of Winter; Stream “Motorcycle”

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

blackwater holylight

Oh, I was very much hoping that earlier this year when it was announced that Portland, Oregon’s Blackwater Holylight were in the process of recording a follow-up to their 2018 self-titled debut (review here) and then announced their big Fall tour with Monolord, that meant the album would be released concurrently. As it happens, that’s exactly what’s up for what’s been dubbed Veils of Winter and will be released Oct. 11 through RidingEasy Records. If you’re not looking forward to it yet, I’m just going to assume the first record got by you — hey, shit happens; still time to catch up — but seriously, if you don’t take the couple minutes to dig into “Motorcycle” below, you’re missing out.

The organ line, the vocal melodies, the kind of eerie guitar — it’s such a dead-on psychedelic vibe that’s classic in its root but has its identity on lockdown. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record, and I can’t wait to see them live. Seriously. Sometimes I feel bogged down by the sheer amount of stuff coming out, and then I get word about something like this and I’m a dorky fanboy all over again.

Nerd along with me and the PR wire:

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Blackwater Holylight – Veils of Winter

Portland, OR quintet Blackwater Holylight announce their forthcoming sophomore album Veils of Winter (RidingEasy Records) today, sharing the lead single. Hear and share the immediately classic hooks of “Motorcycle” via Bandcamp and YouTube.

Blackwater Holylight hit the road hard this Fall, supporting former RidingEasy label mates Monolord throughout the US in November, as well as Thou in September, plus a handful of hometown shows. Please see complete dates below.

Blackwater Holylight, as the name suggests, is all about contrasts. It’s a fluid convergence of sound that’s heavy, psychedelic, melodic, terrifying and beautiful all at once.

As a heavy band, their songs aren’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come and go in waves that surface throughout the band’s meditative, entrancing songs. It’s a hypnotic sound, with orchestral structures that often build tension and intrigue before turning the song on its head — not by simply getting louder or heavier, nor by just layering elements. They expertly subvert the implied heaviness of a part, dissecting it and splaying the song’s guts out to seep across the sonic spectrum.

Now, having toured extensively following the band’s wildly-successful breakout self-titled debut in 2018, Blackwater Holylight has honed their sound and identity to a powerfully captivating beast. Their live set is all about the slow build, seeming to combine the melodic tension of early Sonic Youthcrossed with the laconic fever-dream blues of the first Black Sabbath album and wiry experimentation of post-punk and krautrock.

The lineup on this album is Allison (Sunny) Faris (bass/vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths), with new guitarist Mikayla Mayhew and drummer Eliese Dorsay fleshing out their sound in exciting ways.

“The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” says Faris. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”

“One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn’t compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” She continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”

Veils of Winter opens with fuzzed-drenched, drop-tuned bass and baritone guitar leading a dirge riff on “Seeping Secrets.” Faris’ lilting and funereal vocals drop in, adding to the mournful atmosphere until a short turnaround progression hints at changes to come, as Faris and Hopkins harmonize eerily and the tune suddenly turns into a krautrock charge. “Motorcycle” kicks off deceptively with a heavy grunge riff building up for about 40-seconds before the song abruptly shifts gears into a synth-led post-punk harmony, sounding something like Lush meets Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. “Death Realms” is perhaps the poppiest track, based around soaring shoegaze guitars and interwoven light vocal harmonies. Soft piano notes, occasional woozy whammy bar dives and a driving tom-tom beat solidify its hooks. “Spiders” is a creepy-crawly guitar riff and counterpoint keys, while “Moonlit” explores prog-structures with a shredding guitar solo crescendo. The penultimate track, “Lullaby” is exactly that, a lulling, expansive tune exemplifying Blackwater Holylight’s genre smashing sound as it subtly moves across a vast sonic landscape atop a hypnotic 6/8 beat and repetitive 3-note motif. Throughout the album, their songs shirk traditional verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of fluid, serpentine compositions that move with commanding grace.

Veils of Winter will be available on LP, CD and download on October 11th, 2019 via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available at www.ridingeasyrecs.com.

Artist: Blackwater Holylight
Album: Veils of Winter
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: October 11th, 2019
01. Seeping Secrets
02. Motorcycle
03. Spiders
04. The Protector
05. Daylight
06. Death Realms
07. Lullaby
08. Moonlit

BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT LIVE 2019:
08/09 Portland, OR @ Tonic Lounge – Planned Parenthood benefit
08/24 Portland, OR @ Star Theater w/ Kadavar, Danava
09/23 Tallahassee, FL @ The Bark #
09/24 Tampa, FL @ The Blue Note #
09/26 Miami, FL @ Las Rosa’s #
09/27 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub #
09/28 Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic #
09/29 Pensacola, FL @ Chizuco #
10/24 Portland, OR @ Star Theater – Album release show
11/05 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick *
11/06 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress *
11/07 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister *
11/09 Austin, TX @ Barracuda – Levitation Fest – RidingEasy Stage
11/10 Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom Room *
11/11 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks *
11/12 Atlanta, GA @ 529 *
11/13 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight *
11/14 Richmond, VA @ Camel *
11/15 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery *
11/16 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church *
11/17 New York, NY @ Saint Vitus *
11/20 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s *
11/21 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle Brewing *
11/22 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar *
11/23 Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck *
11/25 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater *
11/27 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom *
# w/ Thou
* w/ Monolord

https://www.facebook.com/blackwaterholylight/
instagram.com/blackwaterholylight
blackwaterholylight.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

Blackwater Holylight, “Motorcycle”

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BlackWater HolyLight Recording Second Album; European Tour Starts April 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

That’s a big yes to new BlackWater HolyLight. The Portland, Oregonian outfit issued their self-titled debut (review here) last year through RidingEasy Records, and it’s the kind of record where all you have to do is see the song titles to get the tracks stuck in your head. What might a second album hold? I honestly have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll be glad to find out.

The band have announced touring in Europe that will include stops at Desertfest London and Berlin as well as Esbjerg Fuzztival and in rooms like Gothenburg’s famed Truckstop Alaska and others. Before they go, they’ll be at Psycho Smokeout on — you guessed it — April 20 in Los Angeles. One would assume that by the time they head abroad the album would be done, but yeah, that’s an assumption, so make of it what you will.

In any case, it’s slated to be out this October, so I’ll hope to have more on it as we get closer.

Dates from the PR wire:

blackwater holylight

Blackwater Holylight in the studio recording new album, announce US & EU tour dates

Portland, OR quintet BlackWater HolyLight are in the studio all this month recording the followup to their breakout self-titled debut album. The album is scheduled for release in October via RidingEasy Records.

BlackWater HolyLight also announce Spring 2019 tour dates starting with a hometown tour kickoff show in Portland, OR on April 16th and a performance at the highly anticipated inaugural Psycho Smokeout Festival in Los Angeles on 4/20. Please see all dates below.

BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT LIVE:
04/16 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge w/ R.I.P.
04/20 Los Angeles, CA @ Psycho Smokeout Festival
04/26 Linz, AT @ Stadtwerkstatt
05/01 Bristol, UK @ The Lanes
05/02 Newcastle, UK @ Trillans
05/03 London, UK @ DesertFest
05/04 Liege, BE @ La Zone
05/05 Berlin, DE @ DesertFest
05/08 Malmo, SE @ Plan B
05/09 Stockholm, SE @ Undergangen
05/10 Gothenburg, SE W Truckstop Alaska
05/11 Esbjerg, DK @ Esbjerg Fuzzfestival
05/13 Oldenburg, DE @ MTS LP Store
05/14 Berlin, DE @ Zukunft
05/15 Vienna, AT @ Aerena Beisl
05/16 Olten, CH @ Coq’D’or
05/17 Innsbruck, AT @ PMK

https://www.facebook.com/blackwaterholylight/
instagram.com/blackwaterholylight
blackwaterholylight.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

BlackWater HolyLight, BlackWater HolyLight (2018)

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Desertfest Berlin 2019: Greenleaf, The Shrine, Blackwater Holylight, Worshipper, Mirror Queen, R.I.P., The Great Machine and Lucidvox Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest berlin 2019 banner

Yes. This. Cool update from Desertfest Berlin 2019, with Greenleaf and The Shrine and The Great Machine along for the ride with LucidvoxR.I.P., BlackWater HolyLightMirror Queen and Worshipper, and the pairings of the last four between RidingEasy Records and Tee Pee Records leads me to wonder if maybe Mirror Queen and Worshipper won’t hit the road together for a bit and if R.I.P. and BlackWater HolyLight won’t do likewise. For all I know, that’s already announced, but it’s speculation as far as my brain and limited, I’m-writing-in-the-car internet connection are concerned, but either way, they all bring something different Desertfest Berlin 2019, and pretty much anywhere Greenleaf goes is someplace you want to be. Man, I’d love to see that band again one of these… years.

Full announcement came down the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2019 poster

DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019 ADDS THE SHRINE + GREENLEAF + THE GREAT MACHINE + LUCIDVOX + MIRROR QUEEN + WORSHIPPER + R.I.P. + BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT!

Spring is almost around the corner, which also means DESERTFEST BERLIN is coming close and will be again opening its holy grounds for the annual and 8th festival edition in the heart of Berlin, the Arena, this May. While desert rock fans and riff lovers from all over the globe come together at the leading cult underground festival specialising in all aspects of the Stoner Rock, Doom, Heavy Psych and all its great subgenres soon, today DESERTFEST BERLIN announced the next batch of great names and high class acts to their already eclectic line-up!

If Black Flag, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath would have a baby, it would be definitely named THE SHRINE. Hailing straight out of the local rock scene at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles and delivering a breed of heavy, psychedelic, riff based Rock n’ Roll, THE SHRINE will make their long awaited return to DESERTFEST BERLIN this year, and are gonna light it up!

You eagerly asked for them, so you get them! As a most welcome guest and longtime member of the DESERTFEST family, we are thrilled to have GREENLEAF rocking out the Arena stage this year! The Swedish power rock unit will not only present their brand new album live on stage, but as always showcasing some of their finest riffs, haunting melodies to sing along, a unique groove and energetic stage presence the band is known and loved for. Welcome back at DESERTFEST BERLIN, guys!

Furthermore DESERTFEST is proud to confirm THE GREAT MACHINE will be coming all the way from Israel to Berlin! This trio creates a strong psychedelic, stoner rock experience with a heavy dose of the punk rock attitude, join THE GREAT MACHINE on their wild trip into the freedom of heaviest sounds, live at the ARENA Berlin 2019!

With the hints of folk and kraut-rock, LUCIDVOX from Moscow will join to represent full ladies power at this year’s DESERTFEST BERLIN! Sometimes psychedelic rock can extend beyond clichés of shaggy-haired ruffians; LUCIDVOX, the forerunner in a new and burgeoning Russian DIY rock scene, prove that more than well. While the brains behind this Moscowian four-piece, Alina, Nadezhda, Galla and Anna, have played outside of Russia just once, DESERTFEST BERLIN will be their very first show in Germany to date. Please give these killer ladies a very warm welcome!

Cult fuzz rock label Tee Pee Records (home of bands such as Witch, Sleep, High On Fire among many more ) are presenting us two more exciting and up&coming acts from their excellent artist roster: US-based MIRROR QUEEN and WORSHIPPER are currently rising from the psychedelic hard rock underground, both perfectly proving that the soul of melodic heavy music still burns brightly!

After several years of hammering the US west coast with their blunt scythe of street-doom, R.I.P. are about to embark on an extensive tour this Spring with a stop at DESERTFEST BERLIN! The band’s debut “In the Wind”, out on RidingEasy Records, closes the casket on the trends and exhumes the notion that doom isn’t always about how slow and de-tuned you can play, but about fear, death, leather and playing as heavy as possible.

Rounding up today’s announcement with another MUST-SEE tip from the underground, please welcome BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT to the 8th edition of DESERTFEST BERLIN! The Heavy Psych quintett from Portland, who released their critically acclaimed debut just last year on RidingEasy Records, are currently on their way to the top of the biggest hopes in psychedelic rock music, and we are more than psyched DESERTFEST BERLIN will be part of their journey.

DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019 takes place between May 3th – 5th 2019 at the riverside in the heart of Berlin, the ARENA. The festival will not only provide a new sound-and payment-system on the ground, but also more space PLUS a psychedelic wonderland chillout- and live zone on the ‘Hoppetosse’ boat!

Day- and Weekend passes are selling fast, make sure to grab yours at the following link:
www.desertfest-tickets.de

www.desertfest-tickets.de
www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.instagram.com/desertfest_berlin

BlackWater HolyLight, “Wave of Conscience” official video

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Desertfest London 2019 Adds 29 Bands to Complete Lineup; Madness Ensues

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

What am I even supposed to say here other than ‘yes please?’ As Desertfest London 2019 rounds out its lineup and once again demonstrates its willful growth year after year, I’ll tell you this: there are a lot of bands listed below, and a lot of good bands. And if you’re reading this and you’re in London or you’re fortunate enough that you’re going to be in London for this festival, I know you’re hip to where it’s at. I get that. But seriously, if you don’t know, there re a few really must-see bands here, and it’s not all Amenra headlining. That’s great, and I’m sure it’ll be super-intense and very cool and all that.

But I’m telling you: don’t sleep on seeing High Priestess, BlackWater HolyLight, Worshipper, Salem’s Bend, Skraeckoedlan and Great Electric Quest. Some of those names are kind of buried near the bottom of this announcement, but really, you’d only be doing yourself a favor if you caught them. Let’s put Zed in that category too, and when they’re done, tell them I said hi. You probably already know all this, but I just wanted to highlight the point, since there’s a lot here and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I get that too.

Kudos to the Desertscene team for focusing on what matters — the music — even amid pulling double-duty in putting together the first-ever Desertfest NYC, the lineup for which is still in progress. This fest looks amazing and I wish I could say I was going. Quite simply, it’s been too long.

Here’s the announcement:

desertfest london 2019 final announcement

Amenra to headline Saturday at DESERTFEST LONDON 2019 + day tickets and 28 more bands announced!

Showcasing the best of what the underground has to offer is at the core of DESERTFEST LONDON and this year’s line-up is the most eclectic, yet satisfying to date by ticking those “wish-list old school desert rock” boxes with Fu Manchu and Witch at The Roundhouse, whilst pushing the boundaries of heavy with the likes of HHY & The Macumbas and Grave Miasma. Year after year it’s about offering up a diverse bill that allows for discovery, whilst celebrating the musical foundations of the festival, and the final Saturday headliner and remaining 28 acts do just that.

DESERTFEST LONDON /// 3-5th May, 2019 in London
Weekend and day tickets on sale at this location

Desertfest are honoured to reveal that the incomparable AMENRA will celebrate their 20-year anniversary across the London weekend this May, bringing their uniquely atmospheric sound as headliners of Saturday’s mainstage and, for the first time in the UK, an even more intimate side of the band takes place at The Underworld on Sunday with solo performances from CHVE & SYNDROME. We would be proud to have Amenra headline Desertfest on any year, but to have them on the year they celebrate their 20th anniversary makes it all the more special for us and also the band themselves.

Desertfest are also pleased to announce a stage takeover from the mighty Riding Easy Records, the righteous west coast label will not only bring the sun (we hope) but a hefty dose of fuzzed out riffs from their roster. Headlined by rock’n’rollers ELECTRIC CITIZEN who refuse to be pigeonholed with a 70s proto-metal sound that chimes into psychedelic realms. Street-doom killers R.I.P will hit the UK for the first time and vocalist Fuzz is ready to bring it hard and loud. Completing the stage showcase are 80s punk heavy metal hybrids ZIG ZAGS, hazy Swedish doom newcomers ALASTOR and the low and slow psych goth-rock sounds of BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT.

If that wasn’t enough Desertfest also adds thunderous space-rock psychedelic masters MONKEY3 to upcoming proceedings, the unforgiving primitive metal sounds of THE SECRET and LA party starters THE SHRINE, who haven’t graced DF with their amped up stoner-skate vibes for well over 5 years.

We also welcome back our long-time partners Human Disease Promo/When Planets Collide for another takeover of The Underworld on Saturday. Topping the bill, the riff muscle of Savannah, Georgia is brought back to The Underworld by the mighty bruisers BLACK TUSK. Dropping in straight underneath we’re living the doom dream of olde with Chicago legends in THE SKULL. Glasgow gives us two offerings this year in the form of explosive riff n roll filth-party heads ACID CANNIBALS, and to lower the tone whilst severely twisting some melons we also welcome their fellow city dwellers HEADLESS KROSS. As ever we chose to open up with a cataclysmic attack, hence why we’ve invited Brighton’s bleak hardcore oblivionists KALLOUSED to set the day into fittingly venomous motion. Bring your ear plugs, it’s gonna be a floor shaker!

And finally, Desertfest round off with the brilliant SKRAECKOEDLAN, BLANKET, SALEMS BEND, SURYA, HIGH PRIESTESS, ZED, KUROKUMA, GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST, PSYCHLONA, VIDEO NASTIES, ONE FOR SORROW, WORSHIPPER, MOUNTAIN CALLER & 1968 all added to the monumental 2019 line-up.

DESERTFEST LONDON /// 3-5th May, 2019 in London
All tickets on sale at this location

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest

BlackWater HolyLight, BlackWater HolyLight (2018)

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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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