Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was close for a long time, but in the last week or so, one record pulled ahead to stake a definitive claim on the top spot. Even so, more than the 2013 poll, this was a fun one to watch, three albums duking it out, trading back and forth in the raw votes depending on who happened to submit a list at any given time. In the end, 355 people participated in this year’s poll, which is an average of over 11 per day — there was a significant push at the end — and up from 2013, which now that it’s 2015 will no doubt soon feel like ancient history.
To that end, Happy New Year and huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute a list to the poll. Even if it was one or two records, the simple fact that you felt it was worth your time to type out the names of bands and albums and take part in this thing is unbelievably gratifying to me. I do a lot of the talking around here, apart from comments and the forum, so to have your participation in this really means a lot to me. It’s nice knowing you give enough of a crap to take part.
You’ll find two lists below. The first, measured in points, is the weighted tally. A 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. After that comes the raw votes, a measure of what caught the most attention along the way.
After the jump, you’ll also find all the lists contributed to the poll — including my own, which seemed fair since I do a lot of reading on this site, mostly to experience shame at the typos and correct them hoping no one else noticed — presented in the order in which they were received. Thank you all again.
Top 20 of 2014 — Weighted Results
1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (560 points)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (404)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (367)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (334)
5. Conan, Blood Eagle (275)
6. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (254)
7. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (240)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (237)
9. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (235)
10. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (230)
11. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (225)
12. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (211)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (202)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (198)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (190)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (188)
17. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (161)
18. John Garcia, John Garcia (156)
19. Bongripper, Miserable (141)
20. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (127)
Honorable mention to:
Goat, Commune (126)
Swans, To be Kind (117)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (116)
Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes (105)
Floor, Oblation (104)
Mothership, II (104)
Stubb, Elephant Tree, Thou and plenty of others also did very well in the voting, but everything else I could find was less than 100 points. Again, it was close for a while between Wo Fat, Electric Wizard and YOB — and Pallbearer wasn’t so far behind them, either — but YOB pulled it out in the end and jumped way in front of everyone else. A lot of number-one votes for Clearing the Path to Ascend, which I can understand completely, since I happened to agree with the position.
On to the raw votes:
Top 20 of 2014 — Raw Votes
1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (138 votes)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (111)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (104)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (89)
5. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (78)
6. Conan, Blood Eagle (72)
7. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (71)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (66)
9. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (65)
10. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (64)
11. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (63)
12. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (60)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (58)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (55)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (52)
16. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (48)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (48)
17. John Garcia, John Garcia (47)
18. Bongripper, Miserable (41)
18. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (41)
19. Goat, Commune (37)
19. Mothership, II (37)
20. Swans, To be Kind (32)
And some honorable mentions:
Dwellers, Pagan Fruit (31)
Floor, Oblation (31)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (31)
Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty (30)
Thou, Heathen (30)
The Well, Samsara (30)
A couple ties here make the raw votes list a little more inclusive, and since it’s not like we’re giving out olympic medals, it didn’t seem fair to count out ties and sacrifice other numbers. The top 20 has 23 entries? Yeah, sounds about right. Again, not much mystery ultimately to who came out on top, but it was a more thrilling race than the final numbers might suggest. Cool to see some differences in placement emerge between the two lists as well, Greenleaf and Brant Bjork doing really well in the weighted results since they obviously inspire some strong support, and a couple of others working their way into the raw votes top 20. I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s been cool putting this together.
About not being a numbers guy: All the lists that came in appear after the jump below. If you find some glaring error in my math, or something seems like it really got enough votes to be included in one or the other, it’s possible I just missed it. I hope you’ll point it out in the comments so that if there is a mistake, I can get on correcting it as soon as possible. Your vigilance is sincerely appreciated.
And thank you again so much for being a part of this readers poll. It’s been a really great experience and I look forward to doing it again come Dec. 2015.
Please find everybody’s list after the jump, and have fun browsing:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Since I don’t do theme podcasts or anything, the thoroughly unofficial subtitle of this latest one is “SOME of the Best of 2014.” Truth be told, it’s four hours long and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, so definitely the emphasis should be on “some.” By no means is it meant to be comprehensive, or am I claiming that it’s all the best and the rest sucked or anything like that. But some of the best stuff is here, so, you know, I hope you enjoy.
My intent was to make it three hours long, and then I got there and it just didn’t feel done without another hour’s worth of extended psych jams. That’s an odd habit to have. Could be worse. For what it’s worth, I was thinking of this as a companion for some of the year-end coverage that’s already been posted and is still to come. Some of this was inspired by picks from the Readers Poll, the submissions for which are still open. If you haven’t added your list yet, I’d greatly appreciate it.
And once again, hope you dig it:
YOB, “Nothing to Win” from Clearing the Path to Ascend
Fu Manchu, “Radio Source Sagittarius” from Gigantoid
Radio Moscow, “Death of a Queen” from Magical Dirt
The Golden Grass, “Stuck on a Mountain” from The Golden Grass
Monster Magnet, “No Paradise for Me” from Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol
Pallbearer, “The Ghost I Used to Be” from Foundations of Burden
The Skull, “Sick of it All” from For Those Which are Asleep
Electric Wizard, “Time to Die” from Time to Die
Orange Goblin, “The Devil’s Whip” from Back from the Abyss
Moab, “No Soul” from Billow
Sleep, “The Clarity” from The Clarity 12”
Mars Red Sky, “Hovering Satellites” from Stranded in Arcadia
Floor, “Rocinante” from Oblation
Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” from Estron
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus
Apostle of Solitude, “Die Vicar Die” from Of Woe and Wounds
Pilgrim, “Away from Here” from II: Void Worship
Blood Farmers, “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from Headless Eyes
Lo-Pan, “Regulus” from Colossus
Elephant Tree, “Vlaakith” from Theia
The Well, “Mortal Bones” from Samsara
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Counting Time” from The Shining One
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower
Joy, “Driving Me Insane” from Under the Spell of Joy
Greenleaf, “Depth of the Sun” from Trails and Passes
Mothership, “Priestess of the Moon” from Mothership II
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe
Mos Generator, “Enter the Fire” from Electric Mountain Majesty
Mammatus, “Brain Drain” from Heady Mental
Øresund Space Collective, “Beardlandia” from Music for Pogonologists
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One
The Cosmic Dead, “Fukahyoocastulah” from Split with Mugstar
Montibus Communitas, “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” from The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Alunah, Awakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Prior to checking out for the holidays, Desertfest London 2015 has decided to give its public something to chew on over the next couple weeks. Six bands have joined the lineup for the UK festival. American acts Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band and Acid King, Italy’s Ufomammut, Iceland’s The Vintage Caravan, Sweden’s Galvano and Australia’s Don Fernando broaden an already international assemblage to be headlined by Sleep and Red Fang, and featuring Floor, My SleepingKarma, Black Pyramid, Lo-Panand an impressive host of others listed below.
A lot of festival news around here lately, I know — and more still to come. It’s the season for it. As we move into the New Year and these lineups start to really solidify, it seems like the culture for heavy rock fests just keeps growing. Certainly it’s Desertfest‘s biggest year yet.
Here’s their latest announcement:
Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, Acid King, The Vintage Caravan, Galvano and Don Fernando to play DESERTFEST LONDON in 2015
On the eve of Christmas holidays, the DESERTFEST LONDON promoters wanted to leave you with a sweet stoner rock taste, by adding a new batch of high-end outfits to the 2015 edition of the festival. Desert rock standard-bearer BRANT BJORK will take the stage this April along with Italy’s heaviest trio UFOMAMMUT, the legendary ACID KING, Iceland’s cosmos travellers THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, Swedish sludge mongers GALVANO and Australia’s DON FERNANDO.
Bands already confirmed are:
SLEEP RED FANG BRANT BJORK’S LOW DESERT PUNK ORANGE GOBLIN FLOOR MINSK UFOMAMMUT ACID KING KARMA TO BURN THE VINTAGE CARAVAN MY SLEEPING KARMA BLACK PYRAMID NOOTHGRUSH LO-PAN THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX BLACK COBRA DOPETHRONE DESERT STORM THE WOUNDED KINGS DON FERNANDO GALVANO AGRIMONIA AMULET WALK THROUGH FIRE
DESERTFEST LONDON 24-26th April 2015 in Camden Town Koko Electric Ballroom The Underworld The Black Heart
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Damn near impossible to argue with the Desertfest Berlin 2015 lineup at this point. We’ve hit the stage in band-adds where you just have to toss up your hands and be like, “Well, okay, whoever they bring in at this point, it’s gonna be good.” With Red Fang and Orange Goblin among the headliners, plus Acid King — who’ll have a new album out by then — and My Sleeping Karma and Black Pyramid and Lo-Pan and The Atomic Bitchwax and so many others, it’s basically a heavy rocker’s dreamteam of European and American acts coming together. What’s not to like, except maybe the cost of airfare and a hotel in Berlin?
The latest to join the bunch? None other than the godfather of desert groove himself, Brant Bjork. He’ll be taking his Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band on the road again in support of 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which is out now on Napalm.
Announcement follows, courtesy of Desertfest Berlin 2015:
We are thrilled to tell you that MR. Brant Bjork and his LOW DESERT PUNKS are confirmed to headline friday night at DesertFest Berlin 2015! The band had put on such mindblowing shows during their last tour, that there was no question: we really wanted them and we are sure that you do too!
So come on you “freaks of nature” join BRANT BJORK AND THE LOW DESERT PUNK BAND in Berlin and “Let the truth be known…”
Grab your HARD-TICKET + T-SHIRT while you still can onwww.desertfest.de/tickets! Only 100 left, and this offer lasts until December 18th only. You can also get a PRINT-AT-HOME TICKET on the same page if you prefere.
DESERTFEST BERLIN #4 – APRIL 23th, 24th, 25th 2015 ASTRA KULTURHAUS / F-HAIN/X-BERG BERLIN (GER)
Red Fang + Orange Goblin + Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band + Acid King + My Sleeping Karma + Black Pyramid + Karma To Burn + Brutus + Dopethrone + The Atomic Bitchwax + Lo-Pan + The Picturebooks + Dirty Fences + Mountain Witch + Mother Engine + many many more acts:)
Yeah, I know I’ve written about this record a lot over the years. Some albums you just keep going back to, and for me, Brant Bjork‘s 1999 solo debut, Jalamanta, is one of those. Released by Man’s Ruin Records, it was the first time the then-Fu Manchu drummer had stepped out to do something on his own, and the vibe he captured on these tracks continues to resonate, songs like “Automatic Fantastic,” “Defender of the Oleander,” “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians” and of course “Low Desert Punk” becoming staple examples of what desert rock has become, but the way Bjork builds off those sounds, the low-end funk of “Cobra Jab,” the primo rock of “Toot” (on which Mario Lalli makes a guest appearance), and so on, it makes the listening experience that much richer in taking the album on front-to-back. The Man’s Ruin bio for it called it, “12 tracks of ghetto vibe wonder,” which is fair enough, but it’s the individual mash of influences and Bjork‘s willingness to account for them all while making them his own that results in both the vibe and the wonder, ghetto or not.
Jalamanta has been reissued a couple times through Bjork‘s own Duna Records imprint since the dissolution of Man’s Ruin, and rightfully so. It remains a vital piece of his discography, and the one-man jams he sets up on songs like “Sun Brother” and “Let’s Get Chinese Eyes” go far in setting the course for what his songwriting produces to this day. When it originally came out, in Oct. 1999, Bjork was already several years removed from his tenure in Kyuss, though he’d also appeared alongside former Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme on Desert Sessions Vol. 5 and 6, also released by Man’s Ruin. FuManchu, whose ranks he’d joined prior to 1997’s The Action is Go,were just months away from putting out King of the Road, and in 2000, Bjork would unite with Alfredo Hernandez, who replaced him in Kyuss and had just finished playing with Queens of the Stone Age, and Unida‘s Dave Dinsmore in the short-lived trio Ché, whose only album, Sounds of Liberation, presaged some of what Bjork‘s songwriting would manifest with some of his backing bands, be it The Bros. on 2007’s Somera Sól or the currently-active Low Desert Punk Band, whose Black Power Flower (review here) was released this year on Napalm Records and in whose lineup Bjork has reunited with Dave Dinsmore.
For me, Jalamanta has always been a summer album, but I hope you’ll indulge the bit of climatic wishful thinking on my part, and please enjoy.
Quick week, or maybe I’m just still recovering from Thanksgiving last week/weekend. Either way, we’re starting to wind down the year, so in addition to the usual bout of reviews and such — I think I’m going to go see Kind in Allston next week, and I’ll be at at least one of the two YOB shows in Brooklyn next weekend, if not both — I’ll be starting wrapup coverage, lists and such. Putting up the Readers Poll on Monday was just the start, and huge thanks to everyone who’s submitted a list so far for that, but starting next week we’ll dig deeper into what will probably still just be a fraction of how much I’d actually like to do. I also need to get my own top albums of the year together, which I’ve been putting off though I think I have the top five in place and proper order.
I teased a year-end podcast as well, and I’ll have that coming soon too, though it would have to be 10 hours long to cover all the excellent stuff that came out this year — and I promise you I’m not going to do a 10-hour podcast. I’ll whittle it down as best as I can, and even if it’s not next week, it’ll be up sometime soon. Obviously before the New Year, and likely before Xmas as well.
This week, I not only flaked on posting the Alunah interview, because I suck, but reviewing the Wounded Giant/Goya split as well. I’ll attempt to correct, but the stacks of CDs people have sent in sitting on my desk is starting to weigh pretty heavy on my soul as we get down to the wire on 2014, so other stuff might have to take a backseat for a bit. I’d love to find some way to do a roundup and give some cursory glance at records, but I’m not sure what that looks like or how it would come together in a way that doesn’t destroy all of my available time. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to make function, and I’ve tried. I still try from time to time. Not enough hours in the day for all the rock and roll, and though I work against it, I continue to need at least a little sleep each night.
First World problems, I guess, and there’s been plenty lately to remind me of just how privileged an existence I lead, despite all my miserable-bastard mopery. I hope wherever you’re at, you can feel safe.
Be well, have a great weekend and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on November 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
To call Black Power Flower a Brant Bjork solo release would be a misnomer. Undoubtedly he’s the principal songwriter, as each of the album’s 10 tracks bear his penchant for smooth, laid back desert groove, funky turns and ’70s slang — to wit, “That’s a Fact, Jack,” “Hustler’s Blues,” “Buddha Time (Everything Fine)” — but the presence of the other players in the Low Desert Punk Band, of guitarist Bubba DuPree (ex-Void), bassist Dave Dinsmore (formerly of Bjork‘s Ché project) and knocks-it-right-out-of-the-park drummer Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson), and the energy infused into the recording itself gives the record a full band feel worthy of consideration as more than the work of one artist. Add to that the jammy sensibility in a cut like closer “Where You from Man” and it becomes clear there’s more than one player at the heart of the group, however much it may be Bjork calling the shots. The former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer’s last solo outing was 2010’s Gods and Goddesses (review here), and though he initially signed to Napalm Records late in that same year, it’s not until now that this follow-up outing is surfacing, Bjork having spent the last several years taking part in the semi-reunion of Kyuss in Kyuss Lives! and Vista Chino, whose 2013 debut, Peace (review here), was also released through the label. As vocalist John Garcia put that project on hiatus to focus on his own solo work, so too did Bjork pick back up with his own new band, though between recording at Thunder Underground and the winding guitar lines of “Soldier of Love,” there definitely feels like there’s continuity between Vista Chino‘s Peace and Black Power Floweras well.
Whatever end of the desert they might come from, the band’s punk roots come through solidly across the album, beginning with the upbeat shuffle of opener “Controllers Destroyed” and the following “We Don’t Serve Their Kind,” which commence a catchy side A on Black Power Flower that keeps momentum driving forward despite fluctuations in pace. The actual opening riff is slow enough to give a surprisingly doomed feel, but driven by Tornay‘s toms and Dinsmore‘s bass, the Low Desert Punk Band soon kick into gear and Bjork arrives for an initial couple lines of vocals sounding very much in command of the proceedings. His singing style, immediately recognizable, has been a major factor in all of his releases, solo or with past backing groups like The Operators or The Bros., and it is on Black Power Flower as well, a semi-spoken delivery finding melody in layers and sitting so well on top of fuzzed-out grooves in later cuts like “Ain’t No Runnin'” or the quiet first half of the penultimate “Hustler’s Blues,” which boasts one of the collection’s most memorable lyrics in the line, “How do you say no to the woman that makes you tea?” Before they get there, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band continue the initial push on “Stokely up Now,” the catchiest hook with a call and response chorus and a title likely namedropping ’60s Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael, though I haven’t seen a lyric sheet to be sure. It would fit with the name of the album itself, and though words are sparse, “Where You from Man” seems to be addressing issues of race as well in its way, echoing cop-impression voices asking, “Hey man, where you from?” etc. “Buddha Time (Everything Fine)” and “Soldier of Love” fit together well after the surge of “Stokely up Now,” both having some of that Vista Chino spirit at their core — Bjork was, of course, a major songwriting contributor to that band and may be again if they decide to do another LP — and the latter seems to set up a conversation about gender taken up on side B with “Hustler’s Blues” with the lyrics “See, these chicks have a way of running this beautiful universe,” followed by something about if you don’t believe it, hold the purse. Not exactly hard-hitting analysis, but it’s catchy.
Bass starts “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” to open Black Power Flower‘s second half, a somewhat moodier presence in the low-end fuzz and rougher shout from Bjork himself, but the tension built opens up just past the halfway point and the vocals smooth out to match, a satisfying nod emerging momentarily before shifting back into the verse, which closes out and gives way to the wah-soaked funk of “That’s a Fact, Jack,” one of the clearest two-guitar grooves on offer. A rolling riff is established after dual noodling, and the vocals skate easily over the wah, coming in layers for the initial chorus part, which does right to hold back on the title line until the second round through, making the song a standout less driving than “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” or “Controllers Destroyed” but still righteously fuzzed. “Hustler’s Blues” and the jammier “Where You from Man,” the latter also the longest inclusion at 8:13, make a departure of a closing duo, but aren’t out of place with the atmosphere of Black Power Flower overall, “Hustler’s Blues” taking off right around 2:45 for an instrumental second half topped by exploratory leads, heavy and immersive and “Where You from Man” feeling its way through its progression, the vocals seemingly added after the fact or maybe just tossed in off-the-cuff, a subtle nod around four minutes in to the central riff of Kyuss‘ “Green Machine” not lost in the mix but well placed to blend with its surroundings. They end with a noisy wash of a finish on perhaps their most full-band note, showing the chemistry at work in Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band as a unit of players who’ve known each other for years despite this being their first album together under this moniker. With all the flux surrounding Vista Chino and Bjork, Garcia and Nick Oliveri having released solo/semi-solo records in 2014, I wouldn’t dare to predict what might follow Black Power Flower or in what incarnation we might next year from Brant Bjork, but 10 records on from his solo debut in 1999’s Jalamanta, there’s little question he remains the godfather of desert groove and that no one else does it quite like him. He’s in good company here.
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower Preview
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I didn’t realize, but it’s been over a year now since I started putting together podcasts regularly again. Almost 14 months, actually. Goes quick. I’m still having a good time doing them though. It’s become kind of a late-night ritual for me, assembling the audio and putting the tracklisting together and uploading everything the night before it goes live. It’s heading toward one in the morning as I type this. Long since asleep, The Patient Mrs.calls it “JJ time.” Fair enough.
A few twists and turns in this one, so watch out. I was all getting on some rocking vibes with Brant Bjork and that He Whose Ox is Gored, but after The Golden Grass things took a pretty wild turn. You may not have heard Atomikylä yet, but it’s players from Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, so it gets pretty bleak pretty quick. From there, it’s just further into doom with Moss, Apostle of Solitude and The Sabbathian before Godflesh – as only they can — provide a slap back to reality. The second hour, as habit dictates, is a full-on freakout. That Olson/Shively/Barry track is members of Across Tundras and the album was just released, so if you get the chance to check it out, I’d say go for it. In the meantime, enjoy:
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower (2014)
He Whose Ox is Gored, “Buried Twice” from Rumors 7” (2014)
Weed is Weed, “Eat Cookies” from Blunt Force Trauma (2014)
The Golden Grass, “The Robin Song” from Realisations (2014)
Atomikylä, “Ihmiskallo” from Erkale (2014)
Moss, “Carmilla (Marcilla)” from Carmilla (2014)
Apostle of Solitude, “Luna” from Of Woe and Wounds (2014)
The Sabbathian, “Nightshade Eternal” from Ritual Rites (2014)
Godflesh, “Life Giver Life Taker” from A World Lit Only by Fire (2014)
Lords of Beacon House, “Cool Water Blues” from Lords of Beacon House (2014)
Geezer, “Tales of Murder and Unkindness” from Gage (2014)
Olson/Shively/Barry, “Jagged Cliffs” from Tierra del Fuego Blues (2014)
Dead Sea Apes, “Threads” from High Evolutionary (2014)
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, “Psychopomp” from Psychopomp (2014)
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cool that Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk are going to Europe to tour and playing Up in Smoke and Desertfest Belgium and so on, and it’s very cool that they’re going out starting next week on the West Coast with Bl’ast, C.O.C. and Lord Dying, but we already knew that stuff — even if I hadn’t seen a complete list of the Euro dates as yet — and what’s even better this time around is that the next Brant Bjork album has been slated for a Fall release through Napalm. I’d been trying not to get my hopes up too much.
And along comes the PR wire with reason to do precisely that. You may recall last week some live video of the new song “Requiem” went up. Below the news, you’ll find another quality clip of a track called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” from the recent Australian tour that’s worth checking out:
BRANT BJORK and The Low Desert Punk Band to Hit the Road With COC and B’last
Solo Album Set For Release This Fall on Napalm Records
BRANT BJORK and The Low Desert Punk Band will be hitting the road later this month alongside COC and B’LAST. The dates begin August 21st in Salt Lake Utah and are set to run through September 1st in Vancouver, BC. A European tour is scheduled for October. All dates can be found below.
It was recently announced that BRANT BJORK signed with Napalm Records and is currently working on a new album due out this fall. BB will be playing songs from the upcoming record and some “Low Desert Punk” classics.
BRANT BJORK commented on the tour:
“I am super stoked and honored to be part of this legendary line up with COC and B’last! Not only will we be rocking but it is always great to tour with friends.”
Known for his work as a founding member of Kyuss and more recently for his work with John Garcia in VISTA CHINO, BRANT BJORK has had quite an eventful career as a founder of record labels (El Camino and Duna Records) and world-renowned producer. In addition to founding the record labels, playing, touring and recording, BRANT also works as a producer and has worked with many amazing artists throughout the years including teaming up with LAB (featuring ex Bl’ast members), Fatso Jetson, Fu Manchu and re-uniting with Nick Oliveri in Mondo Generator.
More info regarding the new album coming this fall on Napalm Records will be revealed soon.
BRANT BJORK and The Low Desert Punk Band 8/21: Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue 8/22: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall 8/23: Albuquerque, NM @ Sister 8/24: Mesa, AZ @ Club Red 8/26: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick 8/27: Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy 8/28: San Francisco, CA @ DNA 8/29: Santa Cruz CA @ Catalyst
European Tour: 10/2: Vienna, Austria @ Arena 10/3: Milan, Italy @ Bloom 10/4: Pratteln, Switzerland @ Z7 (Up in Smoke Festival) 10/6: Stuttgart, Germany @ Universum 10/7: Paris, France @ Glazart 10/8: Amsterdam, Holland @ Melkweg 10/10: Cologne, Germany @ Underground 10/11: Berlin, Germany @ C-Club 10/12: Antwerp, Belgium @ Trix (Desertfest) 10/13: Hamburg, Germany @ Logo 10/15: Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen 10/16: Stockholm, Sweden @ Debaser Strand 10/17: Oslo, Norway @ John Dee 10/19: Leeds, United Kingdom @ Belgrave 10/20: Bristol, United Kingdom @ Exchange 10/21: Southampton, United Kingdom @ Joiners 10/22: London, United Kingdom @ Garage
Two weeks from today, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk set off on a West Coast US tour alongside Corrosion of Conformity, Bl’ast and Lord Dying. Earlier this summer, the four-piece outfit — Bjork himself on vocals/guitar, drummer Tony Tornay, guitarist Bubba DuPree and bassist Dave Dinsmore – took flight on an inaugural run through Australia and New Zealand that reportedly followed completion of a new album set to serve as Brant Bjork‘s long-awaited debut on Napalm Records. It’s also his first solo-ish offering since 2010’s Gods and Goddesses(review here) and the first record he’ll have out since reuniting with vocalist John Garcia in the Kyuss-offshoot Vista Chino, who released one of 2013’s best full-lengths in the form of Peace(review here), also on Napalm.
Those familiar with his 10-album solo stint between 1999’s classic Jalamantaand Gods and Goddessesalready know that Bjork (interviews here and here and Questionnaire here) is a purveyor of some of the finest sandy soul known to man. Instrumental to the coalescing of heavy rock in the ’90s as part of Kyuss and Fu Manchu, in the aughts, he dug into an inimitable style of groove that became as distinct as anything he did with either of those bands or any of his other numerous collaborations along the way — lest we forget Ché or his time with Nick Oliveri in Mondo Generator.
A four-year break between outings is the longest Bjork has had since he started putting out solo records (and yes, that counts the …and the Operators and the …and the Bros. iterations), but as is inevitable in the age of the digitally instantaneous, some new material has started to leak out from the Aussie gigs. Not much is out there that I’ve seen. A quality clip of a Star Wars-referencing track called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” is on Vimeo, and that’s worth a look since it’s pretty close-up and you can really see the band nailing it, but the vocals are low. This version of “Requiem” is kind of far back, but the sound is clear enough to give an idea of what they’re up to — you’ll note the low-end shaking the camera — and for fans of Brant Bjork, there’s an awful lot to like.
Dates for the aforementioned West Coast tour follow the video (recorded by YouTuber “Dav Ozz”), and the band will also head to Europe this fall for gigs at Up in Smoke and Desertfest Belgium, among others. Please enjoy:
Brant Bjork, “Requiem” Live in Geelong, Australia, May 30, 2014
Corrosion of Conformity, Bl’ast, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk, and Lord Dying tour dates: 8/20/2014 The Hop – Spokane, WA 8/21/2014 In The Venue – Salt Lake City, UT 8/22/2014 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO 8/23/2014 Sister – Albuquerque, NM 8/24/2014 Club Red – Mesa, AZ 8/26/2014 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA 8/27/2014 The Roxy – Los Angeles, CA 8/28/2014 DNA – San Francisco, CA 8/29/2014 Catalyst – Santa Cruz CA 8/30/2014 Dante’s – Portland, OR 8/31/2014 El Corazon – Seattle, WA 9/01/2014 The Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC
Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.
Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.
Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.
In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.
If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks in advance for reading:
1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)
Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)
These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.
3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)
Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.
4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)
The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)
You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.
6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)
I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.
7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)
When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)
The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)
“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.
10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)
Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.
11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)
Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.
12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)
UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)
Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.
14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)
Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)
Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.
16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)
A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)
Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)
Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)
Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.
20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)
I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)
Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)
One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.
23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)
Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)
For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
25. Snail, Feral (TBA)
Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)
After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)
It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
28. Torche, TBA (TBA)
Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)
I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)
Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.
Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)
Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2012’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
Other Notable Mentions
Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:
Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.
Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.
Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.
40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.
Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.
It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.
Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.
Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.
Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.
The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.
Nachtmystium — Century Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.
Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.
Pink Floyd – Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.
Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.
Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.
Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Joining the esteemed ranks of Greenleaf (who were also just announced so they’re not on the poster yet), Naam, Kadavar and the almighty Dozer, Brant Bjork has been added to the lineup for the second installment of the Up in Smoke indoor festival this October in Switzerland. The fest is presented by Sound of Liberation, and is set to take place Oct. 3 and 4 in Switzerland, which puts it the weekend before Desertfest in Belgium. The more the merrier. I can think of few things cooler than two fests on consecutive weekends.
Brant Bjork will play Up in Smoke with his new band, Low Desert Punk. Not sure if that’s the name they’re using — it’s billed as Brant Bjork presents “Low Desert Punk,” so if it’s that or Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk or Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punks, or some other variation, remains to be seen — but with Fatso Jetson‘s Tony Tornay on drums, Dave Dinsmore from Bl’ast on bass and Bubba Dupree (Void) on guitar alongside Bjork himself, they can call it whatever the hell they want and I won’t complain.
That same lineup heads to Australia this weekend for a run of dates that carries them into June. Info on that is on their Thee Facebooks, info on the Up in Smoke gig follows:
Up In Smoke Festival – October 3rd & 4th 2014
Hailing from Palm Desert where all the movement started, we are extremely pleased to welcome the desert rock icon BRANT BJORK, presenting LOW DESERT PUNK!
His influence within the stoner rock community dates back to his time as drummer for the legendary Kyuss, through his stint with fuzz-kings Fu Manchu. With his new outfit featuring Dave Dinsmore on bass (Che, Bl’ast), Bubba Dupree on guitar (Void, Hater) and Tony Tornay on drums (Fatso Jetson, Chuck Dukowski), BRANT BJORK will deliver a near-lethal dose of classic rock and heavy punk to UP IN SMOKE FESTIVAL on OCTOBER 4th 2014!
It grooves. It flows. It’s psychedelic. It’s tough. BRANT BJORK and his live band are guerrilla rock revolutionaries… taking back the rock and letting it roll. Don’t miss your chance at an audience with the legend this fall!
We are proud to present the second edition of our UP IN SMOKE INDOOR FEST!
As last year, it will set up in PRATTELN (Basel area) in one of the very best Swiss venue : Z7 KONZERTFABRIK! After the huge success of the festival last year, we took the decision to do a 2-day event in 2014 featuring around 20 bands on 2 stages with special light shows, after-show DJs, and art exhibition. On OCTOBER 3rd & 4th, Z7 will definitely be the place to be!
You’ll find below in this newsletter the first 7 bands already confirmed, including this afternoon’s announcement as special preview for you guys. Hope you’ll dig it!
TICKETS for UP IN SMOKE FEST #2 can be ordered onwww.z-7.chand soon via Ticketmaster. Check-out our Facebook page for constant updates.
I bought this album from the Duna Records website when it came out in 2004. I remember it because I had dug Brant Bjork and the Operatorsand Keep Your Cooland waited for Local Angelto come out, and when it did, and it showed up in its glossy digipak, I don’t think I completely got the vibe at first, but I knew I liked it, a lot, and it’s been a record I’ve gone back to periodically ever since. The digipak is still in pretty good shape too.
Brant Bjork would shortly go on to form Brant Bjork and the Bros. and release the double-album Saved by Magic, and his next solo outing was the acoustic Tres Diasin 2007, but until that came out with its sometimes-I-sit-in-a-field-with-a-guitar vibe, Local Angelwas the most peaceful, intimate vibe Brant Bjork had put on a full-length, and it was a record that showed that you could take a desert groove to places that most people probably wouldn’t think of as heavy and make it work. Or that Brant Bjork could do it, anyway. I haven’t heard too many others try and put the same kind of soul influence into what they were doing and make it work as well as the folk of “Beautiful Powers,” the classic rock of “The Feelin'” or the laid back psychedelic funk of “Hippie.” From “Chico” to “Spanish Tiles” and the covers of “Hey Joe” and The Ramones‘ “I Want You Around,” Local Angel was a spirit thateven Brant Bjork never really went back to. It stands alone in his catalog and outside of it.
Part of that is the simple method of double-tracking the vocals over acoustic guitar, the in-and-out of the drums, and particularly compared to later work like 2007’s Somera Sól and 2010’s Gods and Goddesses — his most recent solo outing — much more of an individual feel as opposed to a band presence. So cool. So smooth.
Hope you dig it.
Tonight The Patient Mrs. and I went down to New Bedford, about an hour away, to see William Shatner‘s one-man show. Ever since I finished watching the original Star Trek series, we’ve been on a pretty big kick, making our way through the first seven movies and starting in on The Next Generation and the animated series as well as some of Shatner‘s Trek-centric documentaries like The Captains. All that stuff is on Netflix so it’s pretty accessible, and there’s a lot of it. Shatner’s World, though, which is the name of the one-man show, was awesome. I laughed, I held back tears as he played a clip of an introduction he recorded for the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery, I laughed more when he talked about recording an album with Ben Folds. It was very, very cool, and though it’s a balmy 9 degrees out, well worth leaving the house. I may or may not review it on Monday. I paid for the tickets and got shot down for a photo pass, so I hardly feel obligated, but it might be fun anyway.
This week I reviewed five albums. Last Friday, I laid out the next five reviews I wanted to do — Weedpecker, Colour Haze, Conan, Mammatus and Papir, in that order — and this week I fucking did it. I can’t remember the last time I reviewed five albums in the same week. It’s been at least a year. It felt good, even if it didn’t leave me much time for anything else. Next week I want to try something different. I’ve got a little stack of stuff that’s been around for a while and I’d like to try putting together a roundup that’s somewhere between the Reviewsplosion-style 100-word stuff I’ve done a couple times and the 1,000-ish words (I’ve actually been trying to cut that down too) that a lot of records seem to get around here. Seems like an interesting challenge to try to say everything I want to say about an album in 300 words, still try to convey some of what I perceive of the spirit of the thing in that limited space. Trying to hone a more efficient approach, in other words. I’m still going to do larger-form reviews as well, but maybe once I week or once every couple weeks I squeeze in a roundup of stuff I might not otherwise have room for and at the same time force myself a little bit out of my run-on-sentence comfort zone. I’ll give it a shot this week and see how it goes, and look out for a Green Dragon tape review, a review of the live Leaf Hound record that Ripple put out, the new The Wounded Kings and other stuff as well.
Wherever you are tonight, I hope it’s more than 9 degrees and that you’re grooving out easy on the Brant Bjork and there’s no drama where you don’t want it and that all is cool. We’re coming to the end of January, so I’m thinking about the anniversary of this site, and it’s a big one. I don’t have anything really on tap to celebrate — as I see it, the way you celebrate working on something is by working on it — but we’ll mark the occasion this week anyway, though I think posts might be light on Friday otherwise. We’ll see how it goes.
Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberationwith the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999’s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.
Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013’s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork
How did you come to do what you do?
I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.
Describe your first musical memory.
When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.
How do you define success?
To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.
Posted in Features on September 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m going to go on a limb here and say that while it wasn’t their first choice and something that was brought about through a lawsuit from former bandmates, the name change that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was a good thing. My reasoning is simple. Kyuss is a set entity. It’s in stone. It’s done. It’s been done for over 15 years now. There’s a legacy born out of the California desert that’s influenced thousands upon thousands of bands, and without Kyuss, that just doesn’t happen. They were an integral part of setting forth a movement in heavy rock that continues to this day.
The difference is they were and Vista Chino are. Even if vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri, guitarist Bruno Fevery and drummer Brant Bjork — who toured and wrote songs together as KyussLives! – had been able to continue using that or just the straight-up Kyuss name, they’d be setting themselves up to fail, because even if original guitarist Josh Homme – who along with former bassist Scott Reeder brought the lawsuit that was settled with the moniker switch– had returned to the fold and they’d worked with the same lineup that resulted in 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun, it never would’ve been the same. It may have been conflict that birthed it, but with the Napalm Records release this week of Peace (review here) as the first Vista Chino studio album, Garcia, Bjork and Fevery (Oliveri having left after recording his bass parts) are moving forward in a way Kyuss wouldn’t have been able to do.
It’s a question of freedom, ultimately, and where any output under the Kyuss banner would’ve resulted in an endless stream of comparisons set to the impossible standard of a decade and a half of lionization, Vista Chino are free to progress, both on a career level and creatively. Peacefinds Bjork taking lead vocals on “Planets 1 & 2,” something that never happened in Kyuss (though certainly it’s happened plenty since), and works off a different, new instrumental chemistry and playing style from Fevery. The record isn’t about capturing something that used to exist and doesn’t anymore, and at its heart, that’s why it succeeds. I’m not sure Peacewould’ve worked as a Kyuss album, but for Vista Chino, it stands not only as an excellent debut but a potential-filled sign of things to come. It makes the listener look forward to what could be and not back to what was.
So while it may have been plenty ugly getting to this point and of course no one knows what days ahead might bring, Peace establishes Vista Chino as a band with both a past and a future. In the interview that follows here, Brant Bjork discusses some of those prospects, particularly as relates to bringing in bassist Mike Dean from C.O.C. to fill the position vacated by Oliveri and held for a brief stretch by Billy Cordell, and also creating music for the first time alongside Fevery, the legal tribulations that made Vista Chino who they are, his relationship to Vista Chino as opposed to Kyuss, when he knew that Kyuss Lives! would result in new material, the group’s plans after the US tour they’ll soon start and much more. As he spoke, I could hear a desert wind come through the line in the background.