Borracho Announce Riffography out Dec. 8; Premiere “Border Crossing”

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

borracho

By way of a confession, I wrote the liner notes over the summer for the forthcoming Riffography compilation from D.C.-based heavy riffers Borracho. I’ll hope to post them here sooner or later — the writing process involved a great, hour-long conversation with the guys from the band that went all the way back to their start and wound up looking ahead to their plans beyond their most recent long-player, last year’s excellent Atacama (review here), and it was a real thrill to get their perspective on their growth and the core relationship they share as friends and players and how the two interact to make them who they’ve become musically over time. I was honored to be asked to be a part of the project.

Point is, that while I’ve known about Riffography for a while, I’m still really glad to see it’s coming out. The release — through Ripple, out Dec. 8 — follows a timeline narrative of studio outtakes, 7″ off-album tracks and things like that to add to and flesh out the story of Borracho‘s growth as told by their proper LPs, and though it’s different recordings from different times throughout their years together, you get a sense of what’s been at their root all along and, of course, how they’ve grown around that.

Of course, some of the material on Riffography has been out there already for public consumption, but today, I’m thrilled to host the premiere of the previously unreleased “Border Crossing,” which was originally recorded to be part of Borracho‘s portion in Ripple‘s The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One split release with Geezer but wound up not being included. Worth noting that H42 Records will also have a 7″ of “Border Crossing” out on Dec. 8, about which you can read more here.

You’ll find the song itself at the bottom of this post, after the following info on Riffography from the PR wire. Enjoy:

borracho riffography

BORRACHO: DC Heavyweights to Release New Album Next Month on Ripple Music

Riffography is released worldwide on 8th December 2017 on Ripple Music

Ripple Music is thrilled to announce the worldwide release of Riffography, a brand-new compendium which pulls together an entire decade’s worth of blood, sweat and rare riffs from one of Washington, DC’s heaviest rock bands, Borracho.

Ten years on from when the trio first got together (and six from the release of the band’s debut album Splitting Sky in 2011), the story of Borracho is one of change, graft, survival, and ultimately, a groove-laden style that has secured them a place at the centre of the US underground stoner rock scene. Drawing on influences that span decades, they combine soaring musicality with subterranean propulsion, encompassing the hard-driven classic rock/metal of Black Sabbath and Mountain, stoner jams of Clutch and Fu Manchu and epic progressive sensibilities of Mastodon and High on Fire.

With Riffography however, what we have in essence is a retrospective companion piece that enriches both their history and discography; with rare cuts from 2013’s follow-up, Oculus, via their inclusion on Ripple Music’s The Second Coming of Heavy series, right the way up to the release of their third album, last year’s brilliant Atacama.

While you can listen to just about any of band’s albums one into the next, those albums alone rarely tell the whole story. In between these key releases, Borracho dropped half-dozen or so limited-edition vinyl singles and split sevens, amassed an enviable collection of unreleased tracks and recorded alternate takes of their own material, with a mind to satisfy fans and collectors around the globe.

Riffography was mastered for digital release by Tony Reed at Heavy Head Recording Company in Port Orchard, WA, and is officially released worldwide on 8th December via Ripple Music. The previously unreleased track ‘Border Crossing’ was recorded and mixed by Frank Marchand in 2014 as part of the Second Coming of Heavy sessions.

Cover illustration by Andrea Nakasato, Lima, Peru – www.facebook.com/andreanakasatoarte

Tracklisting:
1. Rectify
2. Circulos Concentricos
3. Mob Gathering
4. Short Ride (When It’s Over)
5. Stockpile
6. Know the Score
7. Know My Name
8. King’s Disease
9. Fight the Prophets
10. Superego
11. Shark Tank
12. Border Crossing
13. Animal Magnetism

Borracho is:
Steve Fisher – Guitar, Vocals
Tim Martin – Bass
Mario Trubiano – Drums

http://borrachomusic.com
https://www.facebook.com/BorrachoDC/
https://borracho.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

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Borracho to Release Border Crossing 7″ Dec. 8

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

borracho

Look carefully into the PR wire info below and you’ll see that on Nov. 20, I’ll be hosting a premiere of the title cut from Borracho‘s new seven-incher, Border Crossing. Pretty nifty if you ask me. The D.C.-based trio have a well-established track record of delivering choice riffs and heavy grooves at no point, and you’d be silly to expect anything less from this new track, which comes accompanied by the Scorpions cover “Animal Magnetism” and will be out Dec. 8 through the esteemed imprints H42 Records and Ripple Music.

Yeah, it’s good news. I don’t know about you, but I’m taking it as an excuse to put on last year’s third full-length, Atacama (review here), and give that another visit just for the hell of it. Man, I dig this record. A lot. I thought Oculus (review here) did some really important work in establishing the group as a three-piece, but there’s so much character in Atacama‘s songs — it seems to really be the point when Borracho became the band they’ve wanted to be all along. I hope their next one pushes even further toward those ends, though I happen to know there’s some other stuff in the works before they get there.

For example, this:

borracho border crossing flyer

BORRACHO’S BORDER CROSSING NEW 7″-Vinyl COMING THIS DECEMBER

A SPECIAL LOW, HEAVY ANNOUNCEMENT

In Summer 2015 Mario came over to us with the idea releasing their both songs ‚Border Crossing‘ and ‚Animal Magnetism‘, a really astonishing Scorpions cover version, on a 7“-vinyl! Now 2 years later we teamed up with the magic Ripple Music and the project comes to an end, and we are happy to announce the baby is born early december 2017. Look Out the presale will start later this month!

Release Date: December 8th
Presale Start on: November 21th. 9 p.m German time
Exclusive Stream of ‘Crossing Border’ on The Obelisk: November 20th
The neon-yellow and the clear-blue and a special limited testpress edition (lim. 20) you can preorder from Nov. 21th (9 p.m German time) in our Shop. The clear-orange edition you can only get from Ripple Music.

Borracho is a three piece heavy rock band from Washington, DC. In the five years since releasing their 2011 debut Splitting Sky, they have become a staple of the Mid-Atlantic — and US — stoner rock scene. 2013’s follow up Oculus highlighted a band in metamorphosis, moving the band forward sonically with a leaner lineup, but continuing their emphasis on song construction and memorable melodies. With a substantial offering in Ripple Music’s 2015 inaugural Second Coming of Heavy, Chapter One, the band showed their continued commitment to the almighty riff, and plenty of variety in their approach, even within only 22 minutes of scathing rock. In 2016 they released their third LP Atacama with our friends in Kozmik Artifactz.

https://www.facebook.com/BorrachoDC/
https://twitter.com/borracho_DC
https://www.instagram.com/borrachomusic/
http://www.borrachomusic.com/
http://borracho.bandcamp.com/
http://www.h42records.com/
https://www.facebook.com/H42Records
https://twitter.com/H42Records

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audiObelisk Transmission 060

Posted in Podcasts on December 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 60

Click Here to Download

 

Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.

But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.

Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama

Second Hour:

1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below

Third Hour:

2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Fourth Hour:

3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts

Total running time: 4:07:32

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 060

 

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 30

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 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Borracho, Atacama: To Drift in Time (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

borracho-atacama

[Click play above to stream Borracho’s Atacama in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 2 on Kozmik Artifactz.]

When Washington D.C.’s Borracho released their second album, Oculus (review here), in 2013, it was also the first time they’d put together a record as a three-piece. After their 2011 debut, Splitting Sky (review here), guitarist Steve Fisher also took over vocal duties — they did a few shows as an instrumental act first — to fill the vacated role, and with the sophomore LP, he, drummer Mario Trubiano and bassist Tim Martin established themselves as hard-hitting riff-rollers not only capable of recreating the heft of Splitting Sky, but of moving forward with it in a progression that was still only at its starting point. In 2014 and 2015, a series of split releases alongside Boston’s Cortez (review here), Brooklyn’s Eggnogg (review here) and New York’s Geezer (review here) provided encouraging glimpses of where Borracho were headed with their signature “repetitive heavy grooves” — a sort of band slogan — but it’s with their third full-length and Kozmik Artifactz debut, Atacama, that the vision of what they can accomplish as a trio is realized.

Across eight songs and an at-times sprawling 51 minutes engineered and mixed by none other than Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (The Obsessed, many more), Borracho arrive at full thrust on “Gold from Sand,” go out with a whisper (actually the sound of dripping water) on “Last Song” and in between ignite a stylistic swath that Oculus and Splitting Sky and their various short releases could only have guessed at. Be it the sample-laden 10-minute jam “Overload,” which careens and swings and swells and recedes in a successful effort to convey a state of media/cultural/existential saturation or side B’s “Flower,” which brings in Erin Snedecor on guest cello to accompany gentle guitar in sandwiching a section of heavier riffing before rounding out with a memorial prayer, Atacama displays range and command that only prove more unflinching the further out they go.

They’ve also, in Marchand, found an understanding partner in production and mixing. On the faster stretches of “Gold from Sand” — the shortest cut on Atacama at 3:38 and an opener clearly geared toward establishing early momentum before the band digs into “Overload,” which follows immediately and is the longest at 10:44 — or third track “Lost in Time,” or the penultimate bombast of “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away,” which seems to settle into a nod just in time to, indeed, fade out, only after a near-frenetic lesson in how to use riffs as catharsis, Borracho never lose their sense of atmosphere.

Fisher‘s vocal style — to hear him on studio material is to imagine him on stage, his head craned up at an overhead microphone à la Lemmy, his voice clean but guttural in a post-Hetfield belted-out shout — is largely unipolar, but by pushing it back and coating it in echo and bringing it forward again on “Last Song,” just as by playing it front and center on “Gold from Sand,” it becomes no less a factor in Atacama‘s overarching ambience than Snedecor‘s cello on “Flower.” That’s key evidence of Borracho‘s growth even since Oculus, and a welcome expansion of their take since it makes them a richer band, but one doesn’t even need to go that far to hear the evolution in sound the band has clearly, admirably, undertaken in these tracks.

borracho

By the time the all-out fuzz thrust of “Lost in Time” is underway, Fisher‘s guitar scorching out a multi-layer lead over the East-Coast-does-FuManchu rush from Martin and Trubiano before the first verse, they’ve already toyed with structure — “Gold from Sand” is straightforward, where after its long intro, “Overload” has a couple verse/chorus switchoffs early before departing into a more extended jam after six minutes, daring to indulge some psychedelic six-string wash perhaps in an ethic picked up from their splitmates in Geezer — and they only continue to show stylistic and sonic depth as Atacama continues to play out. “Overload” dives back into vocal-topped nod in its final movement and swirls into the buildup start of “Lost in Time,” but even the change in tempo between “Lost in Time” and the subsequent instrumental “Descent,” pulled off via a stretch of feedback and amp noise at the end of the earlier track, is more fluid than it possibly could’ve been three years ago, and it’s still only one sliver of the total flow conjured throughout.

And that’s to say nothing of elements like the flourish bell sounds that come with “Descent”‘s slower roll, the samples in “Overload” and “Flower” — clearly a remembrance — the cello or the tripped-out vibe they hone in the 8:37 “Drifted away from the Sun,” which feeds immediately from “Descent” but might also be where the vinyl side B starts. No less than “Flower” or “Last Song,” though it’s outwardly heavier, “Drifted away from the Sun” presents a bolder, broader Borracho. They’ve never lacked for patience or a willingness to ride a riff, but it’s how they execute that across “Drifted away from the Sun,” with Fisher trading between spoken verses and shouted hooks en route from the initial languid feel toward later, throttled payoff that underscores the point once again, let alone the sudden turn to birdsong that signals the shift into “Flower.” It would be short-selling it to say the range suits them or that they wield it ably. Rather, Atacama — soaking wet despite being named for the driest of deserts — becomes the manifestation of the potential Borracho have shown for the last five years.

The back and forth in “Drifted away from the Sun,” “Flower,” “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” and “Last Song” — and indeed within those songs as well at times — brings vibrancy and dynamic to their sound, and they never lose control of it, whether they’re digging into the return-to-earth groove of “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” or tossing in Alice in ChainsSap-style percussion and acoustics on “Last Song.” There isn’t a moment on Atacama on which Borracho haven’t moved forward from where they were three years ago, and the sense of completion that comes with “Last Song” — their evident mindfulness of the album’s construction and execution — is as fitting an end as one could ask. It was fair to expect Borracho‘s third to land with an impact, especially after the formidable achievements of Oculus, but the varied form of that impact on Atacama is more than it would’ve been reasonable to see coming.

They may be beginning to move past the “repetitive heavy grooves” ethic, but in that, they’re also placing themselves in an entirely different league of bands, and while I’d feel even less comfortable predicting where they might go next, I know damn well that it’s worth looking forward to finding out. Their best yet, and one of 2016’s finest in heavy rock and roll.

Borracho on Thee Facebooks

Borracho on Twitter

Borracho on Bandcamp

Borracho website

Borracho at Kozmik Artifactz

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Maryland Doom Fest 2017: Set Times Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

So I guess we’re pretty much ready to roll on Maryland Doom Fest 2017, right? We’ve had the lineup announced, we’ve got the schedule now. Might be another couple weeks getting t-shirts together — and hoodies; should’ve gotten a hoodie this year, which admittedly is something that occurs to one way less at the end of June than in mid-November — but then I’d say we’re about good to go. No need to wait until next summer on it. Let’s do this thing.

Maybe that’s just me being excited at the prospect of that Friday night lineup, which seems particularly strong front to back — not to take away from any of the other days, but you know I dig me some Lo-Pan — but either way, if Maryland Doom Fest‘s now-three-year tenure has been marked by anything it’s a lack of bullshit. A fervent get-down-to-business-and-kick-as-doing-it mentality. It’s perhaps the most “Maryland doom” aspect to the whole event. Maryland Doom Fest 2017 is clearly no different. Here we are more than half a year from the event kicking off and I know what time I need to be there on Thursday to watch Spillage start the pre-party. This is information I’m glad to have.

If your calendar isn’t marked yet, you might want to get on that:

maryland-doom-fest-2017-poster

The Maryland Doom Fest 2017

June 23, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland 21701

ROSTER SLOT TIMES

**PRE FEST PARTY THURS JUNE 22
• Valkyrie 1150 – 1250
• Beastmaker 1055 – 1140
• Pilgrim 1000 – 1045
• Borracho 915 – 950
• Weed Is Weed 830 – 905
• Sweet Heat 745 – 820
• Spillage 700 -735

FRIDAY JUNE 23
• Captain Beyond 1240 – 150
• Lo-Pan 1140 – 1230
• Apostle of Solitude 1050 – 1130
• Earthride 1000 – 1040
• Beelzefuzz 910 – 950
• Wretch 820 – 900
• Demon Eye 735 –810
• Brimstone Coven 650 – 725
• Black Manta 605 – 640
• Sierra 515 – 555

SATURDAY JUNE 24
• The Skull 1245 – 150
• Bang! 1140 – 1235
• Wo Fat 1050 – 1130
• The Well 1000 – 1040
• The Watchers 910 – 950
• Hollow Leg 825 – 900
• Iron Man 740 – 815
• Dark Music Theory 655 – 730
• War Injun 610 – 645
• Thonian Horde 525 – 600
• Witches of God 440 – 515
• Black Tar Prophet 355 – 430
• Conclave 305 – 345

SUNDAY JUNE 25
• Headliner 1140 – 1245
• The Atomic Bitchwax 1045 -1130
• Serpents of Secrecy 955 – 1035
• Lightning Born 905 – 945
• Lifetime Shitlist 815 – 855
• Akris 730 – 805
• Burn Thee Insects 645 – 720
• Faith In Jane 600 – 635
• Cavern 515 – 550
• Old Blood 430 – 505
• Horehound 345 – 420

TICKET SALES START JAN 1st !!

https://www.facebook.com/The-maryland-DOOM-Fest-815331421863100/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1794418777500202/
http://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

Earthride, Live at Jason McCash Benefit, 2014

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Borracho to Release Atacama Dec. 2 on Kozmik Artifactz; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

borracho

Good news today out of the nation’s capitol in that burl-rocking trio Borracho will issue their third full-length, Atacama, on Dec. 2 as their label debut through respected German purveyor Kozmik Artifactz. One might recall the album’s recording took place this past Spring, when the title was also announced, and found the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Steve Fisher, bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano working alongside producer Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (The Obsessed, many more in the Chesapeake region), in following up their 2013 sophomore outing, Oculus (review here), and their split LP with Geezer (review here) that kicked off Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy series last year.

CD and DL will be out Dec. 2, with vinyl to follow early in 2017, and you can stream the encouraging opener “Gold from Sand” below. Atacama marks their second album as a three-piece, and especially after that Geezer split I’m intrigued to hear where they go with it. Stay tuned for more to come as we get closer to the release date. Here’s info fresh from the PR wire in the meantime:

borracho-atacama-700

BORRACHO releasing new album ‘ATACAMA’ December 2nd!

Kozmik Artifactz is very happy to announce that Washington/DC’s finest powertrio Borracho signed for their new full length Atacama. Borracho is a three piece heavy rock band from Washington, DC. In the five years since releasing their 2011 debut Splitting Sky, they have become a staple of the Mid-Atlantic — and US — stoner rock scene. 2013’s follow up Oculus highlighted a band in metamorphosis, moving the band forward sonically with a leaner lineup, but continuing their emphasis on song construction and memorable melodies.

Atacama is the driest place on earth. A vast wasteland, to pass through it inevitably affects the traveler in profound ways. As the body crosses miles of barren landscape, the mind looks inward, examining itself, unsure of what is there and unprepared for what it will find. With time and distance, the harsh conditions conspire with the traveler’s distracted subconscious to present a reality very different than it is. How this new reality is interpreted can be a dangerous and powerful journey. This is the soundtrack to that journey.

Releases December 2, 2016.

Atacama was produced, recorded and mixed by Frank “The Punisher” Marchand. Tracking completed at the House of Rock in Crofton, Maryland in February and March, 2016, and mixing at Waterford Digital, in Millersville, Maryland, in March and April 2016. Mastered by Mike Monseur at Bias Studios, Springfield, Virginia.

Cello on “Flower” performed by Erin Snedecor.

Borracho, Atacama tracklisting:
1. Gold From Sand
2. Overload
3. Lost In Time
4. Descent
5. Drifted Away From the Sun
6. Flower
7. Shot Down, Banged Up, Fade Away
8. Last Song

Catch Borracho live at:
Thursday, December 15 Slash Run Washington, DC w/ Freedom Hawk
Friday, December 16 1984 Wilmington, DE w/ Freedom Hawk, Kingsnake & Worth
Saturday, December 17 Brad Pearre/Dustin Davis Birthday Extravaganza Frederick, MD w/ Freedom Hawk, Clamfight, Toke & more TBA

https://www.facebook.com/pg/BorrachoDC/
http://twitter.com/borracho_DC
https://borracho.bandcamp.com/
http://www.borrachomusic.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/

Borracho, “Gold from Sand”

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Borracho Update on New Album; Announce Title Atacama

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

borracho

As we speak, or at very least as of this past weekend, Washington, D.C. trio Borracho were holed up in the studio with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand recording their yet-untitled third long-player for what I’ll presume is a summer/fall release, depending on who’s doing it, how long the rest of the recording process takes, etc. Either way, that there’s work being done on it at all is good news for those who dig heavy riffs, thick grooves, and who got into the classic dynamic they showed off on last year’s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter One split with Geezer (review here).

I’ll keep you posted as I hear more about the album being done and the inevitable release date. Borracho have a couple shows this weekend in D.C. and Baltimore and a Delaware gig next weekend, and you can find that info as well as their studio update below, hoisted from their latest newsletter:

*UPDATE:* After this post initially went up, Borracho announced the record is about to enter the mixing phase and “will be titled Atacama — named for the driest desert on Earth in Chile.”

borracho in studio

Spring show dates and studio update

It’s been a while, we’ve been away. But now we’re back, and here to stay. After a winter holed up writing for our next record, we’re finally hitting the stage for the first time in 2016. Please join us for a trio of shows this month in DC, MD and DE. We’re stoked to be rocking with some old friends, and some new ones too.

March 18 – Washington, DC &at; The Velvet Lounge w/ Floodlore & Electric Factory
March 19 – Baltimore, MD &at; Guido’s Speakeasy w/ The Rob Queen Band & King Dead
March 26 – Wilmington, DE &at; Oddity Bar w/ Kingsnake, Blackhand, Worth & Double Planet

Update from the studio

That’s right. We’ve taken decisive action on all that writing we did over the winter, and we’re damn near finished tracking for our forthcoming new LP. All new heavy grooves have been laid down at our main man Frank Marchand’s brand new House of Rock studio in Maryland, and we’ll be putting the final touches on it over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.

https://www.facebook.com/BorrachoDC/
https://twitter.com/borracho_DC
https://www.instagram.com/borrachomusic/
http://www.borrachomusic.com/
http://borracho.bandcamp.com/

Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter One (2015)

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