Magic Circle Sign to 20 Buck Spin; Journey Blind Due Nov. 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Details were pretty minimal last month when Boston doomers Magic Circle posted two tracks from their forthcoming second record, Journey Blind, on YouTube in much the same spirit as how they released their first single in 2012. If you click that link, you’ll see that “Lightning Cage” and “Grand Deceivers” have both been taken down, so if you caught them while they were out, kudos on having a leg up. At the time, I wasn’t sure if Journey Blind would be released through Armageddon Shop, which put out the band’s 2013 self-titled debut (review here), but today we get the answer with the announcement that 20 Buck Spin will release the album — perfect for the increasing darkness of late Fall — on Nov. 20.

The artwork seems to have been pulled as well, but it’ll be back soon enough. I’ve been curious as to what Magic Circle might due to follow-up the first outing, if they’ll work in the same kind of bleak atmosphere, expand on it or turn to something else, so if the details below are a step in the direction of finding that out — and they are — then even better.

Dig in:

Magic Circle (Photo by Dakota Gordon)

MAGIC CIRCLE: Boston Quintet Joins 20 Buck Spin Cult For Release Of Triumphant Journey Blind Sophomore LP

20 Buck Spin will round out its roster for 2015 with the release of Journey Blind, the triumphant sophomore LP from Boston-based quintet MAGIC CIRCLE. This year has already been the most productive and expansive year for the label, but Journey Blind will fit into your parents’ unwavering classic rock collection the same as it could be the hottest thing on your younger cousin’s latest playlist.

Who said anything about running out of ideas? The stubborn ones were born to linger, to nose out newer, more subtle permutations with the help from a few ragged fucks willing to practice them. The MAGIC CIRCLE mutts roll in heavy metal whatness, striking a balance with the pituitary culture it begat, and the tunes it jacked out. Suburban drag races. Basement bum wine scrum. Every collective thought burnt into a dirty tape dub of Mob Rules. Sabbath, especially in its later incarnations, hulks ephemerally among all openings, rests, and codas. When Chris Corry and Dan Ducas’ guitars aren’t jelly-legging around Iommi, they’re rekindling “Neon Knights,” brandishing “Die Young” credo. Meanwhile, Q clubs the kit like a drunken Cozy Powell. Brendan Radigan stakes big, black flag in vocal territory long occupied by Saint Vitus, Saxon, Armored Saint, and Trouble. Bassist Justin DeTore alternates creepy crawl and thunder word belch, laying yoke over each tune and driving them prejudicially underground.

But motherfuck simply “sounding” like these bands. MAGIC CIRCLE celebrates them, and in doing so honors the form they have found. It’s HEAVY METAL. Hit hard. Write riffs that clack along like rustbucket tanks into perpetuity. “Play” bass in ways that make you at once inseparable from every punch the drummer lands, and also ghosts every riff — working beneath, between, behind the rhythm. Sing that fucking story as every ancient did their Homer. It means something. It stands for something. Bring that to the tape.

And so MAGIC CIRCLE does. Tunes are rude, vicious. Some lumber ominously along, bare-fisting the downbeat through riffs raised from basements held in the odors of stale beer, mold, and want. Others stuff the song’s shape with directional changes — tipping a cap to Trouble and Saint Vitus via Sabbath. All the dots are easily connected. There’s no sport there. But, in lieu of refinement, we get an honest reckoning: MAGIC CIRCLE is a band (quickly) becoming. Through the web of influence and itchy, artistic compulsion they’ve found savage and ultimately promising ways of reanimating long since taxidermied forms.

Following their self-titled debut which was well-received in metal and hardcore circles, MAGIC CIRCLE returns with forty-five minutes of dominant, pure heavy metal on Journey Blind, a record which sees the outfit doing what they do, but doing it even better. Self-produced and recorded by the band at guitarist CC’s The Pain Cave, the record surges with the viscosity a team of top-tier producers would be proud to back.

The cover art for Journey Blind is an unused piece dating to 1979 by legendary artist Joe Petagno (Motorhead, Mammoth Grinder, Autopsy) which has been properly fitted to this modern ripper which could have been captured three decades ago yet booms with a refreshed spirit to guide today’s misguided youth back to their unbeknownst roots. Devotees to the scriptures immotalized by 1980s Black Sabbath, 1980s Trouble, Pagan Altar, Saint Vitus and the like should not pass this one by.

20 Buck Spin will make MAGIC CIRCLE’s Journey Blind a reality on November 20th in CD and digital formats, with the vinyl to follow in mid-December or whenever the pressing plants can get their shit together.

Having successfully toured with metal lifers Satan (the band, not the deity) in 2014 and more, MAGIC CIRCLE will be raging the stage surrounding the release of Journey Blind, so stand by for handcrafted flyers announcing stages to soon be smoldered to be tacked up on grimy bathroom walls in your local venue in the months ahead.

Journey Blind Track Listing:
1. Journey Blind
2. The Damned Man
3. A Ballad For The Vultures
4. Lightning Cage
5. Ghosts Of The Southern Front
6. Grand Deceivers
7. Antediluvian

Audio samples of Journey Blind, review copies of the album and more are in store. Get ready to rock steady.

Magic Circle, Live at the Whiskey a Go Go, Oct. 24, 2014

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Shatner Book Studio Time for Nazareth Cover and New Material

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Boston trio Shatner have booked studio time at Amps vs. Ohms to track their cover of Nazareth‘s “Whiskey Drinking Woman.” The three-piece, which features members of We’re all Gonna Die — guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey and bassist Jesse Sherman — and Cocked ‘n’ Loaded — drummer Rob Davol — are just over a month removed from the release of their debut EP. Called simply EP, that five-track outing was also recorded in Cambridge, MA, at Amps vs. Ohms, and in addition to the Nazareth tune, which will be included in Underdogma Records‘ upcoming tribute, Go Down Fighting, the band will reportedly be putting down a few new originals as well.

That Shatner would be taking part in the Underdogma tribute to Nazareth makes sense, as We’re all Gonna Die released their three full-lengths through the label between 2004 and 2008. While that band played a could reunion shows last year, Davol‘s band, Cocked ‘n’ Loaded called it quits last Fall after building a considerable reputation locally. How or if that momentum will carry over into Shatner remains to be seen. They have shows booked for later next month and November in New Hampshire and Allston, but more interesting is that they’re talking about hitting the road in 2016. I’ll look forward to seeing how that pans out and just how much touring they’re looking to do.

For now, here’s their update:

shatner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Shatner Update

Hey Everyone…Here’s a Shatner Update!

We recently released our first EP online:

We are heading back into Amps VS. Ohms at the end of this month to record our cover of “Whiskey Drinking Woman” by Nazareth for the upcoming Underdogma Nazareth tribute release.

We will also be recording couple of new originals as well. We have a few local/regional shows coming up (10/29 – Shaskeen in NH, 11/1 O’Brien’s) , but plan on doing some roadwork in 2016, so stay tuned!

Jim Healey – Guitar and Vocals
Jesse Sherman – Bass and Backing Vocals
Rob Davol – Drums

Shatner, EP (2015)

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Cortez Finish Work on New Album The Depths Below

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

cortez (Photo by Bruce Bettis)

Good news from the camp of Allston, Massachusetts, heavy rockers Cortez. The five-piece outfit have finished work on their impending sophomore full-length, and unveiled the title as The Depths Below. They began the recording process last December with the esteemed Benny Grotto at the helm at Q Division Studios in Somerville, MA, and have gradually chipped away at the tracks — names like “Farewell to Kings” and “Orison” have been leaked — since then at both Q Division and the seemingly-compatriot Moontower Recording Studio, taking time here and there for gigs at the now-defunct TT the Bear’s Place — I’ll buy it; sign me up — and at the Grub, Sweat and Beers fest with ShatnerHessianSetGozuBlackwolfgoatConclave and a host of other local heavy luminaries.

No public word on the release plan for The Depths Below — which is to say, if Cortez know when or how it’s coming out, they haven’t posted about it — but when it arrives, it will be the follow-up to 2012’s self-titled debut (review here) and their 2014 split single with Borracho (semi-review here) and their first full-length outing since they added Alasdair Swan on second guitar alongside the established four-piece of six-stringer Scott O’Dowd, vocalist Matt Harrington, bassist Jay Furlo and drummer Jeremy Hemond. Naturally one expects that shift in dynamic will show itself in the material, but we may yet be a while off from finding out exactly how. A 2016 seems fair to expect, but one never knows. Could show up earlier if the art and pressing plans are done.

More info when I see or hear it, but for now, their announcement of the record’s completion was quick and victorious:

cortez matt singing

Our new album is finished and has been mastered. We have settled on the title “The Depths Below”. It didn’t take quite as long to finish as GnR’s Chinese Democracy, and unlike that album, we’re confident that it’ll have been worth the wait.

Cortez, Studio Snippet 2015

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Kind Premiere “German for Lucy”; Announce Release of Debut LP Rocket Science

Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kind (Photo by Nicole Tammaro)

I’m going to do my absolute very best to keep this brief, because there’s much more to say about Kind and their upcoming Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science, but there’s also a lot of time in which to say it. It’s out on December, and in addition to being the first track premiere from the new band, the first studio-recorded, non-demo audio to be made public, it’s also the first announcement of the album itself. So there’s time, is what I’m saying, and as much as I’d like to dive into the record headfirst, preorders aren’t even up yet.

Still, if one might have be reminded to cool one’s jets, it’s well justified. I recall hearing late in 2013 that guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, etc.) was jamming kind rocket sciencewith Elder drummer Matt Couto, and that wound up as the root of Kind. Tom Corino from Rozamov plays bass, and Craig Riggs of Roadsaw rounds out on vocals, and many of the songs on Rocket Science — dig that Alexander von Wieding cover art — are born out of those same jams. They’ve come a long way, having been developed over a series of local shows fit between the four-piece’s otherwise busy schedules (review here, here and here), but listening to “German for Lucy,” that raw vitality holds up.

If you know the members’ other groups, that still doesn’t really prepare you for what Kind bring to the table. “German for Lucy” opens the record, and immediately the listener is immersed in a heavy psychedelic vibe. Riggs‘ vocals are as much a part of the atmosphere as Shepard‘s effects-drenched guitar, pushed deep in the mix and set for maximum spaciousness. This really is just the beginning of what there is to say about this one, but if you want to get stoked, the stream works even better than my nerding out.

More to come. For now, stream and announcement follow. Enjoy:

KIND; A new doom project from Black Pyramid, Elder, Roadsaw and Rozamov

Formed in 2013 by Matt Couto (Elder), Darryl Shepard (Black Pyramid, The Scimitar) and Tom Corino (Rozamov) – after the trio spent time jamming together in-between day-to-day commitments – the doom supergroup KIND quickly cemented their formation with the addition of Roadsaw vocalist Craig Riggs.

Out of the mind-bending riffs and extended jam sessions, whole songs began to take shape through winter 2014 rehearsals down in Couto’s freezing cold basement, where the newly formed quartet began laying down ideas for their soon to be released debut, Rocket Science, which officially lands this December on Ripple Music.

Shows were soon booked to share the tunes with the curious. Further riffs materialized, new songs banged into shape, and yet more shows booked, so keen were the band to test their mettle and mixture of heavy metal, psych, Krautrock and straight-up classic rock and roll. With four songs recorded at Mad Oak Studios serving as the band’s demo, in the spring of 2015, KIND entered New Alliance Studios with engineer Alec Rodriguez to record their first full-length, Rocket Science.

Kind on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music

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Magic Circle Post Two Songs off Journey Blind LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

If it seems strange that a band like Magic Circle might just post two new tracks on YouTube, make a post about it on their website and leave it at that, minimal promotion, let-those-who-find-it-find-it kind of thing, you’re probably not that familiar with the band. No worries. That’s how the Boston five-piece got their start. The songs from their first single, “Scream Evil” and “Lighting Her Fire” made their primary impact through YouTube link spreading — essentially word-of-mouth, but with more clicking and less actual language — and a lack of cloying social media promotion has been a hallmark of their approach since. Some news leaks out through their label, Armageddon Shop, but basically if you want to know what’s going on, if you’re going to find out, you’re going to do so from someone else or by regularly checking their website.

Fair enough. Doing so yesterday or today brings two new songs — “Lightning Cage” and “Grand Deceivers” — as well as the Joe Petagno artwork from their forthcoming sophomore album, Journey Blind, which is the follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). I had caught “Lightning Cage” earlier this year when I saw them in Providence, but “Grand Deceivers” is all new, and both only make me look forward to hearing more. Which, of course is the whole idea.

When the album might be out, if it’s coming through Armageddon Shop and any other details have yet to be revealed, if they’re going to be revealed at all, but we’ve got the music, and if you cut to the heart of it, that’s what matters.

Have at you:


Two New Songs

In anticipation of our new LP, we’d like to share two brand new tracks. Details on the release will soon follow.

Lightning Cage & Grand Deceivers – from the forthcoming “Journey Blind” lp.
Recorded winter/spring 2015 by the band; mastered by Carl Saff.
Art by Joe Petagno – used w/ permission.

Magic Circle, “Lightning Cage”

Magic Circle, “Grand Deceivers”

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Rozamov Enter Studio for Debut LP; Announce Oct. Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


After two EPs in 2012 and 2013 and a split earlier this year with Deathkings that also marked their debut on Midnite Collective (review here), Boston extreme sludge/thrash trio Rozamov have entered the studio to begin recording their debut LP. If it feels like it’s been a long time coming, that’s only because the three-piece have had their shit on lockdown on stage for a while now, having moved from a four-piece to a trio following 2013’s Of Gods and Flesh and subsequently nailed a visceral attack both scathing and weighted, moving fast while sounding slow at the same time. Also sometimes moving slow. They do that too.

One can only wonder what the context of a full-length album will allow the veterans of this year’s Psycho CA fest to bring to their sound atmospherically, but as they’ve just started on it, seems likely it’ll be 2016 before we find out. In the meantime, they’ve got dates booked this fall with Destroy Judas and Trapped within Burning Machinery, as the following update affirms:

rozamov tour poster

ROZAMOV Begins Work on Debut LP, Touring With Destroy Judas

Boston, MA doom trio Rozamov have begun tracking new material at New Alliance Audio in Cambridge, MA. Once again working with Jon Taft (Morne, Horrible Earth), Rozamov have set their sights on their first LP following the release of their split 7″ with Deathkings available now via Midnite Collective. The album, yet untitled, will boast lengthy tracks containing the heaviest material the band have created to date.

Additionally, the band will embark on a short tour with Destroy Judas and Trapped Within Burning Machinery this October.
Rozamov live appearances:

8/19 – Allston, MA at Great Scott+
10/1 – Richmond, VA at TBD*
10/2 – Philadelphia, PA at Kung Fu Necktie*
10/3 – Brooklyn, NY at Acheron*
10/4 – Baltimore, MD at TBD*
10/5 – Pittsburgh, PA at Mr. Roboto Project*
10/6 – Chicago, IL at Fizz*
+ w/ Ringworm, White Widows Pact
* w/ Destroy Judas, Trapped Within Burning Machinery

The recording session follows up spring live activity that included appearances at Psycho California and Converse Rubber Tracks Live where the band performed with such notable acts as Slayer, Doomriders, Sleep, Earth and Pallbearer amongst others.

Rozamov, Live at Psycho CA, May 2015

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.


14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.


13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.


12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.


11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.


10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.


9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.


8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.


7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.


6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.


5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.


4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.


3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.


2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.


1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also MonolordValkyrie, Lamp of the UniverseGarden of WormWo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from BloodcowAll Them WitchesClutchGraveyardZunSacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), SnailUncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Minsk, King Bison, Les Lekin, The Vintage Caravan, Jim Healey, Anu, Iron & Stone, Gorgantherron, Elephant Riders, Lend Me Your Underbelly

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

And so we cruise into day three. Not sure how you’re holding up, but I feel like I’m hanging in pretty well. We pass the halfway point today, which is significant, but of course there are still plenty of records to come. I’m not sure I have a favorite day — I tried to spread stuff around as best I could when I was planning the whole thing — but there are definitely a couple highlights today as well. No doubt the standouts will stand out as we make our way through.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Minsk, The Crash and the Draw

minsk the crash and the draw

Six years after the release of their third album, With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), the 75-minute breadth of The Crash and the Draw (on Relapse) marks a welcome resurgence for Illinois post-metallers Minsk. Only keyboardist/vocalist Timothy Mead and guitarist/vocalist Christopher Bennett (also of Lark’s Tongue) remain from what was a four-piece and is now five with Aaron Austin on guitar/vocals, Zachary Livingston on bass/vocals and Kevin Rendleman on drums, but Minsk’s cascading heft is well intact as they show immediately on 12-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “To the Initiate.” True enough one is bound to be initiated after it, but it hardly scratches the surface of the atmospheric sludge Minsk continue to develop over the course of the four-parter “Onward Procession,” the glorious later melodies of “The Way is Through,” or the tribal tension in the percussion-led “To You there is No End.” They cap with the 10-minute “When the Walls Fell” and find themselves standing after all else has crashed down. A sprawling and triumphant return.

Minsk on Thee Facebooks

Minsk at Relapse Records

King Bison, King Bison

king bison king bison

Not to be confused with New York’s King Buffalo, Michigan’s Bison Machine or any number of other large mammals in the well-populated fur-covered contingent of American heavy rockers, King Bison make their self-titled debut via Snake Charmer Coalition, comprising seven riffy bruisers owing a deep debt to Clutch and, in that, reminding a bit of their Pennsylvanian countrymen in Kingsnake. Songs like “One for the Money” and “March of the Sasquatch” signal a watch for stoner-roller grooves to come in “Queen of the South” and “Pariah,” the dudeliness of the proceedings practically oozing from the speakers in the gruff vocals of guitarist/vocalist Chris Wojcik, who’s joined in the trio by bassist Dean Herber and drummer Scott Carey. The penchant for booze and blues, ladies and US auto manufacturing holds firm in “Night Ride” and the slower “I’m Gone,” and while one might expect a closer called “Space Boogie” to flesh out a bit, King Bison instead reinforce the foundation they’ve laid all along of Southern-style heft, remaining light on pretense and heavy on riffs.

King Bison on Thee Facebooks

Snake Charmer Coalition

Les Lekin, All Black Rainbow Moon

les lekin all black rainbow moon

Originally issued digitally late last year, Salzburg, Austria, instrumental trio Les Lekin are set to give their debut long-player, All Black Rainbow Moon, a second look with a 180g vinyl pressing in Fall 2015. Comprised of six tracks, the record is a spacious 49 minutes, and the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Stefan W. and drummer Kerstin W. enact a fluid heavy psych groove, somewhat less dense in its fuzz than the post-Colour Haze sphere and following plotted courses throughout, whether it’s in the Arenna-esque “Solum,” which unfolds after the album’s wash of an intro, the efficient exploration of “Useless,” which seems to pack a 12-minute jam into a six-minute song, or the still-open-sounding bluesy stretchout of “Loom,” the longest inclusion here at 13:16. Familiar in aesthetic perhaps, the songs are nonetheless complex enough to represent the band’s beginnings well, the closer “Release” coming to a heavier apex that could perhaps foreshadow future expansions of the chiaroscuro elements at which the title of this debut is hinting.

Les Lekin on Thee Facebooks

Les Lekin on Bandcamp

The Vintage Caravan, Arrival


After releasing their 2012 debut, Voyage, on Nuclear Blast last year, young Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan return in 2015 with their sophomore full-length, Arrival – the second record seeming by title to be an answer to the first. Maybe that’s the intention musically, but the 10 tracks/55 minutes comprising Arrival do well to stand on their own, with the impressive lead work of guitarist/vocalist Óskar Logi never too far from the fore on songs like the standout “Babylon” or “Sandwalker,” though backed capably by the rhythm section of bassist Alexander Örn (also backup vocals) and drummer Stefán Ari Stefánsson. While unquestionably a more mature outing than their debut and more accomplished in its chemistry and songwriting, Arrival still gives a sense of the progression to come, and it’s easy to worry that by the time the listener gets to the powerful closing trio of “Innerverse,” “Carousel” and “Winter Queen,” the dizzying play throughout will have dulled the senses past the point of full appreciation. Room to tighten? Perhaps, but still a strong second outing for a band loaded with potential.

The Vintage Caravan on Thee Facebooks

The Vintage Caravan at Nuclear Blast

Jim Healey, This is What the End Looked Like

jim healey this is what the end looked like

Guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey is known more for the aggressive edge he’s brought over the years to bands like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai and most recently Shatner, but his solo material brings a different look. Joined in this “solo” endeavor by guitarist/vocalist/organist Joe McMahon, cellist/backing vocalist Dana Fisher, drummer Kyle Rasmussen and accordionist/backing vocalist Bridget Nault, Healey’s songwriting is nonetheless front and center across the nine tracks of This is What the End Looked Like, memorable cuts like “A Whole Lot of Nothing,” the more subdued “Radio” (written by Eddy Llerena) and closer “World War Eight” fleshing out arrangements that could work and/or have worked just as well on solo acoustic guitar for Healey in live performances. Worth noting that for all the vocal and instrumental embellishments on the studio incarnations, the songs lose none of the heartfelt feel at their core, Healey’s voice remaining a lonely presence despite obviously keeping good company.

Jim Healey on Thee Facebooks

Jim Healey on Bandcamp

Anu, Nighthymns

ANU Nighthymns

Nighthymns marks a return for ANU and the band’s sole inhabitant Chad “Drathrul” Davis (Hour of 13/Night Magic, Tasha-Yar, The Sabbathian, and so many others) after a four-year absence following the release of 2011’s III EP. Offsetting blasting, ripping black metal on cuts like “Enter the Chasm” and “The Eternal Frost” with the ambient drones of “Risen within the Mist of Obscurity,” the longer “Winterfall” and the title-track, Nighthymns nonetheless gnashes its teeth in a dense blackened murk, screams far back in “Enter the Chasm” beneath programmed-sounding thud and full-on guitar squibblies. A project Davis has had going in one form or another since releasing a first demo in 1999, and likely before that, ANU’s slicing extremity and atmospherics rest well alongside each other, but neither is accessibility a remote concern. If you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t. Nighthymns is way more concerned with separating wheat from chaff than it is with making friends, and that plays much to its ultimate success.

Anu on Thee Facebooks

Wohrt Records

Iron and Stone, Old Man’s Doom

iron and stone old man's doom

Comprised of gruff-shouting vocalist Henning L., guitarists Christopher P. and Stephan M., bassist Matthias B. and drummer Torsten H., German riff idolizers Iron and Stone debuted in 2013 with an EP titled Maelstrom and Old Man’s Doom is a follow-up short release. Pressed to DIY cassettes, the three-tracker preaches loud and clear to the nod-ready converted in “Place in Hell” and “Into the Unknown,” big riffs lumbering out stone vibes, intertwining rhythms and leads in the latter as Henning works his shouting into a corresponding notation. “Into the Unknown” ends large and Sabbathy, but speedier closer “Bliss of Diversion” is a high point unto itself for the consistency of the tonal morass that the uptick in pace brings out of the guitar and bass, resulting in a kind of noisy, dense-in-the-low-end punk that suits Iron and Stone well despite operating in defiance of the EP’s title. New material reportedly in the works as well.

Iron and Stone on Thee Facebooks

Iron and Stone on Bandcamp

Gorgantherron, Second Sun

gorgantherron second sun

Their first album, Second Sun follows a 2012 self-titled EP from Indiana trio Gorgantherron, but is in a different league entirely. A well-set mix balance establishes itself on the opening title-track and develops throughout “Superliminial” and “Bookbinder” as they get rolling, and Gorgantherron – guitarist/vocalist Clint Logan, bassist/vocalist Toby Richardson and drummer Chris Flint – continue to foster grooving largesse over the nine tracks/47 minutes, veering skillfully between boogie and doom on “Pre-Warp Civilization” before airing out an atmospheric take on “Seventh Planet,” the rough-edged vocals prevalent in quieter surroundings. Richardson’s fuzz on “The Stone” ensures the song lives up to its name, and the soft guitar noodling that opens “Paranoia” brings a surprising touch of Colour Haze influence out of the blue before a count-in from Flint puts the band’s roll back on its appointed track. Closing duo “Entropy” and “Defy” offer some shuffle and chug, respectively, but by then the trio have already made the album’s primary impression in their heavy riffs, burl and more than capable execution.

Gorgantherron on Thee Facebooks

Gorgantherron on Bandcamp

Elephant Riders, Challenger

elephant riders challenger

The two cuts of Spanish trio Elephant RidersChallenger EP take Kyuss-style desert riffing and reset the context to something altogether less jammy. Tight and presented with a near-metallic crispness in their production, both “Challenger” – rerecorded from an earlier EP – and its more rolling B-side “Lone Wolf” push the line between heavy and hard rock, but riffs remain central to their purposes. Having released their debut full-length, Supernova, in 2014, they’re still getting settled into their sound, but a blend of heavy rock, grunge and metal impulses pervades these two songs, and when “Lone Wolf” shifts into a couple measures of start-stop fuzz riffing in its second half, they show off just a reminder nod for where they got their name. Two catchy tracks that maybe aren’t reinventing the stoner rock game, they nonetheless provide a quick sample of Elephant Rider’s songwriting development in progress and plant the seeds of future hooks to come.

Elephant Riders on Thee Facebooks

Elephant Riders on Bandcamp

Lend Me Your Underbelly, Hover

lend me your underbelly hover

When placed next to each other, the five one-word titles on Lend Me Your Underbelly’s Hover – either the project’s third or fourth full-length, depending on what you count – result in the phrase “Everything” “Was” “Deep” “Dark” “Green.” Whether or not that is of special significance to Netherlands-based multi-instrumentalist/sampler Christian Berends, I don’t know. The whole idea across these tracks seems to be experimentation and improvisation, so if the titles were grabbed from somewhere at random or carrying a rich emotional connection, either is just as likely. Not knowing turns out to be half the fun of Hover itself – not knowing that, not knowing what Berends is going to do around the next turn as each track builds, not knowing where all this noise is leading as the swirls and riffs of “Green” close out. Layers careen, appear and disappear throughout, but the wide open structures and creative sensibility remain consistent and tie Hover together as an intricate work of exploratory psychedelia.

Lend Me Your Underbelly on Thee Facebooks

Lend Me Your Underbelly on Bandcamp


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