Thera Roya, Unraveling: That Feeling of Falling Inward

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

thera roya unraveling

Unraveling is the second EP from Brooklyn post-sludgers Thera Roya, following a 2013 self-titled, a split with respected NJ black metallers Hercyn (review here) and a smattering of singles going back to when they were called The Badeda Ladies and played as a duo, circa 2012/2013. Tour veterans with Maryland’s Foehammer and others and regular denizens of The Meatlocker in scenic Montclair, New Jersey, and the formidable group of bands that haunt that space — DutchgutsSet and SettingThe Sun the Moon the Stars and so on — the three-piece also recorded the three-song Unvraveling there and push the line between an EP and an LP at 28 minutes but in the end benefit from the concise intensity that a shorter offering brings.

Working under the basic concept of portraying a panic attack, drummer Ryan Smith (also Mountain God) varies between lyrics and indecipherable syllabic screams, and he, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio (also Sunrot) and bassist Jonathan Cohn bring about a suitable tumult to fit that ideal, though as stormy as it is at its most raging, Unraveling is never far from its sense of atmosphere, and as the vinyl-ready structure moves between the first two seven-minute tracks “Anomie” and “Body Breaker” and into the 13-minute closing title-cut, the scope likewise broadens. Looking at it on the level of its concept, I’m not sure I’d say Thera Roya have made sense of the panic attack, but they’ve at very least begun to process what has just given way within the body. It feels significant enough to mention that after all the explosiveness and abrasion contained in these tracks, Unraveling ends quietly.

The EP arrives as a customized presentation of the cover art — almost like a greeting card from the recesses of your psyche. Inside one finds a note in challenging handwriting, various symbols and words jumbled together and a download code, the band tapping into DIY ethics without necessarily having to pay to press a CD or tape. As noted, the structure of Unraveling is suited to vinyl and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wound up that way sooner or later, but a digital release works for setting up a linear, front-to-back flow in a way that vinyl wouldn’t allow, however enjoyable it might be to see Miriam Carothers‘ cover art at such a scale. That flow winds up a major argument in favor of considering Unraveling as a full-length, but the stated intent is otherwise, and at under a half-hour, it’s still easy to read the release as offering a sample of where Thera Roya are at in their progression.

THERA ROYA - Unraveling - tour thera 2015

For an answer, they present the punch-you-in-the-face feedback that launches “Anomie,” a thick, grueling riff emerging in slow grind soon topped by screams, deceptively intricate building, and a pervasive rollout offset by post-hardcore-style turns — Isis at their angriest — but by the time it gets down to its final minute, the mood is more desperate than infuriated. “Body Breaker” picks up from there with a tense underlying fuzz that Smith soon joins on drums, its opening more dedicated to instilling unease than smashing away, though of course they get there as well. Around the halfway point, “Body Breaker” shifts into bigger post-metallic riffing, setting up a transition into a quiet, isolated-sounding ambient stretch that carries through the last two-minutes-plus of the song, Cohn‘s bass and Eustaquio‘s guitar taking a forward position as a softer nod takes hold, but it’s not until “Unraveling” itself that they really revive the push.

Their finishing move, “Unraveling” is a monster. It starts out full-boar, finds a middle-ground and even introduces some cleaner singing — a first on the release — before turning to slower plod. All within its first two minutes. Aside from demonstrating Thera Roya‘s ability to work in longer forms, something which I’d be very surprised if they didn’t try again at some point, it’s the richest of the three inclusions and the most atmospherically complex, setting rhythms against each other and moving into an ambient stretch that sets up a linear build to serve as the apex of the EP but not its actual ending, which after. A series of crashes at 6:30 are topped with shouts from Smith as the band move into a highlight, densely-weighted low-end groove, the bass and guitar distinguishable only in the level of force they elicit.

It’s from this foundation that the peak of “Unraveling” is launched in somewhat abbreviated flourish of melody in the guitar, Eustaquio finding room in all that onslaught for subdued, post-rock noodling. The vocals don’t dare — yet — but for this outing, the threat is enough, and before “Unraveling” falls apart at the close, Thera Roya underscore the potential for growth in their sound. Already, they’ve ranged farther than they probably knew they would when they started writing this material, but it still sounds like just the beginning of what they could accomplish stylistically, figuring out how to play off the loud/quiet trades, the dynamics between bass and guitar, where and how and what vocals can add to the atmosphere as another instrument in conveying intent. Unraveling does not suffer from a lack of ambition, but neither is that all it has to offer, and it proves an immersive listen that shows its real strength in putting the listener in the mindset where the band wants them to be. It is disturbing and engaging in kind.

Thera Roya, Unraveling (2015)

Thera Roya on Thee Facebooks

Thera Roya on Bandcamp

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Lineup Announced for Cosmic Sonic Rendezvous; Saviours, Witch, The Skull and More to Play

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

Respected purveyor Tee Pee Records will host what they’ve dubbed the Cosmic Sonic Rendezvous on Sept. 5 and 6 at The Wick in Brooklyn. The two-day fest is headlined by Witch and Saviours, and will feature a pair of sets from The Bevis Frond as well as Tee Pee label-denizens CarouselMirror Queen and The Skull, as well as Brooklyn natives The Golden Grass and Boston’s Worshipper. Pretty badass to get The Bevis Frond over at all, so yeah, two sets makes sense, and it’s not like Witch play out every day, so mark it down as a win for brand extension and rock and roll in general.

This one doesn’t really need me to sell it. The PR wire brings details:

tee pee cosmic sonic rendezvous


September 5th & 6th at The Wick in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Day 1: doors 6pm, show at 7pm. featuring SAVIOURS, THE SKULL, MIRROR QUEEN, THE BEVIS FROND

Day 2: doors 6pm, show at 7pm. featuring WITCH, CAROUSEL, THE BEVIS FROND, THE GOLDEN GRASS, WORSHIPPER

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Cosmic Sonic Rendezvous! Tee Pee Records has always been proud to offer a lovingly loud collection of the finest rock bands to the world, and it seemed only natural to create a unique event and annually bring together many of our favorites to New York City.

While most of the bands on the Tee Pee roster have a definite guitar-based sensibility, there is quite a range therein that we and the bands are constantly exploring. Fans of underground rock know that they are witnessing a contemporary explosion of creative bands purveying in everything from joyous riff-rock to full-on psych; from the heaviest doom to neo-thrash; from bands who nod to the occult to a new wave of space-rock to bands who hearken to the blues; etc, etc.

We hope you enjoy these two fantastic nights of music, comprised of bands both rising and those that are stalwarts. Some have albums out on Tee Pee, while others we gleefully listen across what is not a great divide. We feel they all represent what is at least one part of the underground rock ethos: you do it because you simply have to, and you love it loud.

See you there!

260 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Saviours, “Final Live” at the DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA

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Blind Idiot God Sign with Paperclip Agency for European Booking

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

This makes sense. If I was Blind Idiot God, back together and having released my first new album in 23 years — that being Before Ever After (review here) on Indivisible Music — I’d probably go to Europe too. Plans are in the works, apparently, for the trio to do precisely that. They’ve signed with Netherlands-based Paperclip Agency for booking, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to have them show up on the Continent sometime in Spring 2016 — say around April, and say about an hour outside of Amsterdam by rail in a sleepy corner of a town taken over by weirdos for about a week annually — nothing’s yet been announced in such concrete terms and there’s some mention of them getting over before the end of the year as well.

Fair enough. The PR brings us the known knowns:

blind idiot god


New Album, Before Ever After, Co-Produced by Bill Laswell With Original Artwork By Seldon Hunt Out Now

Indivisible Music announces that Blind Idiot God has signed on with Dutch booking agency, Paperclip. Agency heads, Rob Berends and Hilde Spille, are working on festival and tour dates all over Europe for late 2015 through 2016.

The band has always received huge accolades from European press, most recently The Wire UK called the band’s new record “sound as physical force.” NME wrote “They’re post-everything in the best sense of the term.” Melody Maker stated “Blind Idiot God are worthy of cult status.”

Band co-founder Andy Hawkins explains, “Paperclip booked Blind Idiot God’s first tours in Europe starting in the ’80s while we were on SST. We still get positive feedback from people who came to those shows. The band’s focus on a powerful, particular sound has increased over the years so if feels good knowing we’ll be able to connect with those fans again. We anticipate high quality bookings with Paperclip handling us – which is great, since we’re itchin’ to get back to Europe and unleash!”

Paperclip Agency’s Rob Berends adds, “My aim is to bring the band back to Europe for a series of tours covering the entire continent, putting them in front of the largest possible audiences. European capitals, cult venues and a wide variety of festivals are the places the band should perform. We will help get them there.”

Blind Idiot God is Andy Hawkins on guitar; Tim Wyskida (Khanate, Jodis, Plotkin & Wyskida) on drums; Will Dahl on bass (though founding member Gabe Katz plays bass on the album). The band has shared the stage with artists like John Zorn (a collaborator who released their third album on Avant Records), Helmet, Black Flag, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Die Kreuzen, Don Caballero, Jesus Lizard, Napalm Death, HR, Eekamouse among many others.

Although Before Ever After is the band’s first release in over twenty years — live and on the recording, they continue their deep exploration of heavy, funk and dub sounds. Respected music publications including Noisey/Vice, Pitchfork, Talk House, New Noise, and many others have all featured the band, exploring their story and sound. Three songs from the new album are featured on the soundtrack of the VHI documentary film about Napster titled, Downloaded, starring Mike D, Henry Rollins, Noel Gallagher and directed by Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Lost Boys, Freaked). The band plays regularly in New York where they are based.

Blind Idiot God, “Antiquity”

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Reign of Zaius Release New Single “Power Hitter”

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

reign of zaius (Photo by Jason Lee)

Been a while since the last time we heard from Brooklyn heavy rockers Reign of Zaius. Long enough, as it happens, for them to revamp their lineup and re-embark on a long series of regional gigs. It’s been a few years since I last was able to see them on stage, but they’ve been a steady presence around New York City’s heavy underground, and they’ve just put out a new single called “Power Hitter,” which marks the first time I’m hearing them with vocalist Leon Chase, and it’s an immediately favorable impression with some punker edge that suits the band’s roots well.

They played Brooklyn last night at Bar Matchless as the first of a three-night weekender that continues this evening in Worcester, MA, and concludes tomorrow in New London, CT. Single announcement and show details follow:

reign of zaius worcester show

Reign of Zaius Releases “Power Hitter”

Brooklyn-based stoner rockers Reign of Zaius have announced the earthly debut of a brand new single: “Power Hitter”. The song is available as a free download at the band’s website:

“Power Hitter” was recorded by Reign of Zaius at their secret headquarters (a.k.a. “the practice space”) in Brooklyn. This is the band’s first recording since a series of massive lineup changes—first with the recruitment of singer Leon “Space” Chase in 2014 and then, more recently, the addition of guitarist Mike “Creepy Mo” O’Neil. The change in personnel brought a definite shift in sound—with “Power Hitter”, the band’s previous two-guitar bombardment has given way to the much grittier, stripped-down feel of Mo’s single Les Paul.
The new single arrives just in time for Reign of Zaius’ “Obesity in Three Cities” mini-tour of the Northeast, beginning Thursday, July 30th at Brooklyn’s own Bar Matchless, and ending all the way up in New London, Connecticut on August 1st. Complete show info is available here:

Reign of Zaius, “Power Hitter”

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Insect Ark Touring with Locrian Next Month

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

Doom experimentalists Insect Ark — now a duo after putting together their full-length debut, Portal/Well (review here), under the sole guidance of multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter — are getting ready to head out on the road next month alongside Chicago’s Locrian. The tour begins in Washington Aug. 14 and ends in Portland on Aug. 22 and runs down and back up the West Coast in the interim, the Brooklyn-based outfit having West Coast roots in both Schechter and Portland-based drummer Ashley Spungin.

As my brain has turned into goo, I’ll turn it over directly to the PR wire, which puts it thusly:

insect ark

ExperiMetal Doom outfit Insect Ark touring with Locrian

Insect Ark will celebrate the release of it debut full-length album, Portal/Well with a series of North American dates opening for Locrian. The new album is the result of one years’ work in composer/ multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter’s Brooklyn studio. Exploring themes of corruption of the natural world and facing oblivion, Portal/Well continues the wordless existential narratives already established on 2013’s Long Arms EP and 2012’s “Collapsar” 7″ single. Autumnsongs Records released Portal/Well, on CD in June 9, 2015.

Insect Ark began in late 2011, as the one-woman solo project of bassist and multi-instrumentalist Schechter. As an analog-electronic hybrid with a heavy focus on live performance, Insect Ark has been building a following in the experimental doom scene via consistent touring in the U.S. and abroad.

Dana Schechter, a California native, spent her teens in the San Francisco metal scene, where her love of heavy music gained its foothold. She moved to NYC in 1997; in 1999 she began working as a recording and touring bassist with Swans leader Michael Gira’s Angels of Light and she founded her own band, Bee and Flower, as well. In 2004 Bee and Flower relocated to Berlin, its new base for touring and recording.

By 2008 Schechter had finally found her way back to NYC. There, she formed Insect Ark as an effort to write and tour continuously without the complexities of a band and to reconnect with the darker, heavier, and more abstract sounds of her youth.

In 2015 Insect Ark gained a second member, drummer and electronics operator Ashley Spungin, who is known for her work with the Portland-based band Taurus. While Schechter appreciated the freedom of working alone, she ultimately decided that live drums would be a powerful addition to the project’s releases and shows. The new duo incarnation of Insect Ark began recording and touring in spring 2015.

Insect Ark Opening for Locrian
Fri 8/14 Bellingham, WA – The Shakedown
Sat 8/15 Seattle, WA – Highline
Sun 8/16 Boise, ID – Crazy Horse
Mon 8/17 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
Tue 8/18 Las Vegas, NV – Bunkhouse
Wed 8/19 Los Angeles, CA – Complex
Thur 8/20 San Francisco, CA – Elbo Room
Fri 8/21 Sacramento, CA – Starlight Lounge
Sat 8/22 Portland, OR – Panic Room

Insect Ark, “The Collector”

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The Golden Grass Announce Mini-Tour; Playing with Deep Purple in NY

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the golden grass

Kudos to Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass all around on the company they’re keeping throughout their upcoming eight-date mini-tour, hitting up shows with the likes of Joy, Blue Snaggletooth, Ruby the Hatchet and Attalla as they make their way out to the Midwest and back to the East Coast between July 15 and July 25. Unquestionably the biggest gig of all, however, is the last of the bunch, which finds the three-piece — now a year removed from their self-titled Svart Records debut (review here) — opening for none other than Deep Purple at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY.

The power of positive thinking? Even if you’re not a believer, The Golden Grass make a strong argument.

Tour announcement and appropriate linkery follows, as sent along the PR wire:

the golden grass tour poster


Brooklyn, NY based heavy rock group THE GOLDEN GRASS to embark on 8-date US mini-tour including shows with DEEP PURPLE, JOY and RUBY THE HATCHET.

Formed in 2013, this Brooklyn power trio quickly signed to Finland’s Svart Records, before even playing their first gig, and have since released 1 full length LP and 2 EPs. These boys are no strangers to the road either, as they’ve extensively toured the Northeast/Midwest US and embarked on 2 European Tours, earning them a devoted cult following, all in less than 2 years.

Their sound majestically encapsulates the timeless feel of 60’s/70’s influence. Taking a nod from legends like JAMES GANG, ALLMAN BROTHERS & GRAND FUNK, the soulful British psych/mod of THE MOVE, THE PRETTY THINGS & THE ACTION, and the heavy umph of BUDGIE, BLUE CHEER & BLACKFOOT to seal the deal, THE GOLDEN GRASS synthesize these influences into a seamless, memorable, and high-energy performance that screams from the past but is a welcome and much needed presence in the now! Hard rock lives! Keep on grassin’!

All dates:

Wed July 15 at Kung Fu Necktie Upstairs/Philadelphia/PA w/ S.T.O.P. (member ECSTATIC VISION) + TIN HORSES
Thur July 16 at Gooskis/Pittsburgh/PA w/ OUTSIDEINSIDE (members CAROUSEL) + ATTALLA
Fri July 17 at Nachbar/Louisville/KY w/MIMI VON SCHNITZL
Sat Jul 18 at Haven’s House/Cincinnati/OH w/ THE GROTESQUE BROOMS
Sun July 19 at Corktown Tavern/Detroit/MI w/ JOY + BLUE SNAGGLETOOTH + SLO
Mon July 20 at Carabar/Columbus/OH w/ JOY + MAMA + THE HIGH DEFINITIONS
Fri July 24 at The Acheron/Brooklyn/NY w/ RUBY THE HATCHET + JOY + IYEZ
Sat July 25 at The Capitol Theatre/Port Chester/NY w/ DEEP PURPLE


The Golden Grass, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, June 25, 2015

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

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

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

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

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

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

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

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


14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

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


13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

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


12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

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


11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

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

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


10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

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


9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

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


8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

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


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

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

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


6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

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


5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

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


4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

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


3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

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


2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

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

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


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

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

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

Honorable Mention:

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

More to Come:

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

So stay tuned.

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

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Clouds Taste Satanic Announce Your Doom Has Come for Sept. Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Brooklyn doomers Clouds Taste Satanic will release their second album, Your Doom Has Come, on Sept. 1. The record follows the band’s 2014 debut, To Sleep Beyond the Earth, which was formatted as a single piece, and is broken down into separate tracks, though the first three of them — as you can see in the tracklisting — are also meant to be taken as a whole.

The instrumental double-guitar four-piece has made the last installment of that three-parter, “Beast from the Sea” available to check out in a new video, and you can find that under the album announcement below, snagged off the PR wire:

clouds taste satanic your doom has come

CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC Instrumental Doom Quartet to Release Sophomore Full-Length Sept. 1st

Brooklyn-based instrumental doom quartet CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC will release their highly anticipated sophomore full-length on September 1st. Titled Your Doom Has Come, the six-track follow-up to 2014’s critically-heralded To Sleep Beyond The Earth full-length was engineered and mixed by Nadim Issa at Let Em’ In Studios in Brooklyn and mastered by Alan Douches (High On Fire, Mastodon) at West West Side Music.

Thematically, Your Doom Has Come traces its inspiration to the darkest corners of the Book of Revelation. Sonically, Your Doom Has Come finds the band at their fastest and most aggressive. While To Sleep Beyond The Earth took a more Dopesmoker approach (with one forty minute plus song spread over 2 sides of vinyl), Your Doom Has Come takes a more De Vermis Mysteriis approach, compressing its conceptual storytelling into six minute plus songs of riff-filled Armageddon. While all of Side A is joined together thematically to form the title song, the individual pieces work just as well on their own.

CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC formed in Brooklyn, New York in 2013 and have spent the past two years building a reputation as one of the finest underground doom bands playing today. They’ve patiently and deliberately developed a unique sound that melds riff dominated stoner rock with heavy doom. With their live show, they work to create a multi-media mood that offers a true experience and companion piece to their albums. CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC’s debut album, To Sleep Beyond The Earth was released in 2014.

Your Doom Has Come Track Listing:
Your Doom Has Come
I. Ten Kings
II. One Third of The Sun
III. Beast From The Sea
Out of The Abyss
Dark Army

Steven Scavuzzo – Guitar
David Weintraub – Guitar
Sean Bay – Bass
Christy Davis – Drums

Clouds Taste Satanic, “Beast from the Sea”

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