The Obelisk Presents: 12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

Posted in Features, Visual Evidence on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The whole point of this list is that it’s not exhaustive. I feel like I say this every year, but it’s not meant to be the best covers of 2017. How would I even begin to judge that kind of thing? Appreciation for visual art is so subjective that, even in a niche within a niche within a niche like the cover pieces for heavy rock and/or doom and/or psych records, the sphere is simply too vast. I just want to have a good time looking at kickass album covers. That’s really it.

Of course, there’s always plenty of fare ready and waiting. I kept a running list all year of things that really stuck out to me, and there are some familiar names here along with some newcomers. My gripe with the proliferation of cartoon tits continues and grows even more fervent as the political climate in which this stuff happens — because even riffs don’t occur in a vacuum, sorry — becomes increasingly fraught, problematic and outright heinous, but there doesn’t seem to be any slowing that particular patriarchal train in this bizarre subculture. Dudes gotta be objectifying women and such to make up for the disaffection they feel from society at large. Weak. Grow up.

And again — I said this last year too — but I’m a fucking hypocrite because of the 14 artists listed in these 12 covers, there isn’t one woman included. Not one. I looked at my list and hung my fool head in self-disappointment. Fortunately, looking at awesome artwork is the kind of thing from which I derive emotional comfort. It’s been a real rollercoaster putting this one together, I guess.

Alright, enough delay. If you’ve got favorites that you don’t see here — and I’m sure you do because I do as well — please let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for not being a jerk.

Here goes:

Ordered alphabetically by artist

Alunah, Solennial

alunah-solennial-adrian-baxter

Cover by Adrian Baxter. Thee Facebooks.

Though it was Alunah‘s 2014 album, Awakening the Forest (review here), that found Michael Cowell introducing the framing style and color scheme used on their latest offering as well, Adrian Baxter‘s piece for the Birmingham outfit’s fourth LP and Svart Records label debut, Solennial (review here), is an utter standout. Themes of death and life and nature echo the organic feel always on display throughout Alunah‘s songwriting, and amid the highly detailed line drawing, the flashes of red evoke the richness of blood to comport with the skeletons and the vines twisted about like innards, subtly reminding of the band’s pagan and forest-canopy ethereality.

Brume, Rooster

brume-rooster-sean-beaudry

Cover by Shaun Beaudry. Artist gallery.

Shaun Beaudry does a lot of work in pen and ink and coffee stain, and like many of his pieces, the cover art for Rooster (review here), the Doom Stew/DHU Records debut album from San Francisco three-piece Brume, seems like it’s tailor-made to be a tattoo. More than that, what strikes me about it is the sense of narrative happening with the serpent-bird, the eggs, the coiling around what would seem to be an unfortunate scavenger and the dandelions and leaves surrounding. Each element looks like it’s giving messages, holding meaning, communicating ideas, and with such exquisite detail, the effect on the viewer is all the more immersive.

Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud-catcher-trails-of-kozmik-dust-adam-burke

Cover by Adam Burke. Artist website.

I imagine that, one way or another, every time I post a list like this it will feature a cover by Adam Burke. In 2017, in addition to the art for Cloud Catcher‘s Trails of Kozmic Dust (review here), the man behind Nightjar Illustration (and who did one of this site’s headers and the cover art for my book) also blasted out mention-worthy pieces topping records by Sólstafir and Spectral Haze, and his epic oil-on-canvas fantasy-art style always manages to stun. Look at the sense of scale in the Cloud Catcher cover, and the way that, as we see this cosmic battle happening, the stars seem to bleed through the two warriors, as though we’re looking at something happening across dimensions. And so we are. Beautiful.

Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

elder-reflections-of-a-floating-world-adrian-dexter

Cover by Adrian Dexter. Artist website.

A continued collaboration between Elder and Adrian Dexter yielded dividends once again with the artwork for Reflections of a Floating World (review here), released by Stickman Records and Armageddon Shop. Perhaps it’s not fair to include just the cover in this list since in my head I’m picturing the full LP’s swath of visuals, but even just in this single piece, Dexter gorgeously mirrors (get it? because “reflections?”) the band’s progressive stylizations with his own, evoking classic, stare-at-it-for-hours, poster-ready artwork and seeming to leave one wondering which end of the reflection is up and which is down in much the same way as the band’s dizzying complexity of songcraft.

The Riven, Blackbird

the-riven-blackbird-maarten-donders

Cover by Maarten Donders. Artist website.

In their video for “Killer on the Loose” (posted here), London-based heavy soul rockers The Riven play before a backdrop with the same Maarten Donders artwork on it as their debut EP, BlackbirdDonders is another repeat offender as far as appearances on this list go, and the many-time Roadburn poster collaborator’s detailed style, classic form and muted colors provide a feeling of warmth that seems almost like a goal The Riven are trying to achieve in their sound. From the moon, to the key, to the face being obliterated in smoke, the blackbird itself, the rune-laden ouroboros, the dead and hollow tree trunk, each element of the Blackbird cover holds a mystery of its own, and yet it all fits together perfectly as well, as though the art was a puzzle only Donders could piece together. I’d make a banner out of it, too.

Wight, Atlas

wight-atlas-rene-hofmann.jpg

Cover by René Hofmann. Band website.

Of the 12 covers featured on this list, René Hofmann‘s piece for Wight‘s 2017 H42 Records single, Atlas (review here), is the only one done by a member of the band itself. And I won’t lie: it’s the rainbow that sealed the deal for me. The fade from purple to yellow and sense of perspective in the rows of flowers at the bottom draw the eye toward the band’s logo, and with the mountains behind, that horizontal (angled diagonally) burst of color leads upward to the vertical color bars that seem to be holding up Planet Earth itself or are otherwise left in its path. That brazen use of color, especially with the darkness of the sky behind, was striking, hopeful and joyous in a year that seemed to need precisely as much of that as it could possibly get.

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost-orion-landau

Cover by Orion Landau. Artist Tumblr.

One has to wonder if, in his choice of red and purple hues, if Relapse Records in-house artist Orion Landau wasn’t specifically looking to reference Black Sabbath‘s Born Again in the artwork for Unearthly Trance‘s Stalking the Ghost (review here). Could we be looking at the devil-baby from that 1983 record all grown up in 2017? And could that reference itself be a clever manner of noting that it’s a reunion album for the band? That they’re, in essence, born again? Either way, the three hooded figures and the beast they’ve leashed are a haunting enough presence to fit with the LP’s title and the atmospherics of the group itself, while also being emblematic of the precision and detail Landau brings to the diverse range of work he does for Relapse artists across various realms of extremity and metal.

oceanwake-earthen-chris-luckhardt

Cover by Chris Luckhardt. Artist website.

The framing of the photo is a big part of the draw here, of course. The spiral of the abandoned rollercoaster. Oceanwake‘s Earthen (review here) seemed to set the goal of living up to its cover atmospherically and with the Kubrick-style framing of the abandoned rollercoaster that pulls the eye inward, almost like you’re looking down and not straight ahead, journeyman photographer Chris Luckhardt captured a murk that set a high standard indeed. The metaphor is laid on a little thick, to be sure — it isn’t subtle — but neither is the sound of Oceanwake, and the overarching greys and brooding vibe of the photo serve to genuinely affect the listening experience. Photo covers can be especially hard to pull off. This one does especially well to remain obscure even as its lines drag you in. Where does that coaster end up?

Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus-from-fields-of-fire-brad-moore

Cover by Brad Moore. Artist website.

Anyone with any level of appreciation for classic metal should by rights be an admirer of Brad Moore. The standard applies. Dude has a knack for capturing the kind of imagery you might’ve tried to emulate on the front of your high school notebook, but just ended up with an indecipherable mess of lines and half-formed monsters. Argus‘ 2017 album, From Fields of Fire (review here), with its bizarre hellscape, calls to mind doom, the NWOBHM and even some more extreme, death metal records, but the point rings true that what’s happening here is horns-up, balls-out, no-irony, no-fucking-around metal, and the most majestic Argus offering yet deserved no less. The detail of Moore‘s lines, the root influence of fantasy art, and in this case especially, the setting of theme through the use of red made this one especially arresting.

Spidergawd, IV

spidergawd-iv-emile-morel

Cover by Emile Morel. Artist website.

Easy pick. Sorry, but calling out Spidergawd art for being awesome is kind of low-hanging-fruit as far as critical assessment goes, as the fact is that’s been an essential element of what they’ve done all along across their four to-date full-lengths. The latest them, Spidergawd IV (review here), boasts the above piece by Emile Morel and inhabits the same pastel world as their past outings, but marks a turn for not having a human or semi-human figure as a part of the front cover. Instead we see an arachnid monster who may well represent the Norwegian band itself residing in a garden of fungi wonderfully rendered so that the colors almost obscure the danger lurking around. It’s very much to form, but does nothing to diminish its impact.

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

process-of-guilt-black-earth-Hugo-Santos-Pedro-Almeida

Cover by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida.

Granted, I said at the outset that this list wasn’t about rankings or picking favorites, and it’s not. I stand by that. However, no other album cover hit me as immediately hard as Process of Guilt‘s Black Earth (review here) with its photographed sculpture by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida. I don’t know who did what in terms of the division of labor in its making, but the horrific realism of the result has continued to haunt in the best way possible with its evocation of death, the spirit, the natural world and the contrast between light and dark. It seems so simple on the surface, but at the same time it’s so exacting in its position and its starkness that I can’t help but feel like it’s staring at me every time I see it, or more accurately, staring into me from someplace dark and other.

Rozamov, This Mortal Road

rozamov-this-mortal-road-andrew-weiss-matt-martinez

Cover by Andrew Weiss with layout by Matt Martinez. Artist website.

When I first saw the art for Rozamov‘s awaited Battleground Records debut long-player, This Mortal Road (review here), I was sure it had to be by Samantha Muljat. From the color wash in the sky to the otherworldly blend of photography and manipulation, to the geometric line-making overlaid, it just seemed to fit. Andrew Weiss, however, has done covers for Pelican, Spirit Adrift, and many others, and in concert with Matt Martinez‘s layout, his alien landscape is duly fraught and barren-looking while leaving the viewer to wonder if that’s a lone figure standing in the distance or just an oddly-shaped outcropping between the looming threat of the surrounding cavern walls. The message: there’s only one road ahead, only one way through it all.

A couple honorable mentions that I know I’ll add to as soon as this list goes live and I think of like 10 more records that looked awesome:

Lo-Pan, In Tensions
Godhunter, Codex Narco
Black Lung/Nap, Split 7″
Primitive Man, Caustic

So who did I miss? What were your favorite album covers of the year? Do you have a preferred style? Leave a comment with your picks and let’s get a conversation going. I know people feel strongly about this stuff, but please keep it civil so we can all have a good time.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Epicenter Fest 2017 Set for Sept. 16; High on Fire, Mos Generator, Big Business, Holy Grove & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

When Epicenter Fest 2017 says it’s carefully curated, I have no trouble believing it. The inaugural edition of the San Jose, California-based all-day event is set for Sept. 16 and would seem to have undertaken the mission of setting West Coast heavy to task in celebrating some of its own finest purveyors. High on Fire headline, as they should, and the lineup flows from there with groups varied in geography and style, from the brash catchiness of Big Business to the rolling grooves of Holy Grove, the straight-ahead classicism of Mos Generator, and upstart outfits BrumeKOOK and Mesmer, as if to underscore the point that the Pacific region’s growth is still very much in progress.

A standout name on the bill not included in the paragraph above is Future Usses, which features guitar manufacturer Sacha Dunable (also Intronaut) and is a new outfit making its live debut at the fest. Even without the Bill and Ted reference in the moniker, that’d be a band to keep an eye on. So do that. I’ll do the same.

Fest info follows, along with ticket links and whatnot. Looks awesome even from the entire other side of the country:

epicenter fest 2017

OSKAR BLUES PRESENTS: EPICENTER HEAVY MUSIC FESTIVAL-2017

Honoring the Past, Present, and Future of Bay Area Heavy Underground Music Featuring High on Fire, Big Business & 7 more great bands

Heavy San Jose is bringing a festival unlike anything San Jose has ever seen. High on Fire, who got their start in San Jose in a practice studio just a couple of blocks from The Ritz, will headline this nine-band monster show. Epicenter Heavy Music Festival was designed to shake the Bay Area to its foundations.

The carefully curated lineup of nine bands represent nine different genres of heavy music. In addition to High on Fire, heavy music stalwarts Big Business, will also grace the Ritz stage with more earth-shaking sound than should come from a two-piece. Mos Generator (Seattle), and Holy Grove (Portland), will descend from the northern wilds to bring furious wrath and heavy-metal vengeance. Future Usses (Los Angeles) is a new band fronted by Sacha Dunable (Intronaut/Dunable Guitars), and Epicenter will be the first live taste of their loopy psych-doom. The line-up also features three up-and-coming local bands: KOOK (Glory or Death Records) from right here in San Jose, Brume (DHU/Doom Stew Records) from San Francisco, and Mesmer (Wicked Lester Records) from Oakland. There’s at least one more band not yet announced (but already booked) and more surprises in the works.

This festival is all about shining a light on the unique musical history of San Jose and the greater Bay Area, bringing a one-of-a-kind event to heavy music lovers, and putting the spotlight an amazing venue in San Jose (The Ritz). The Bay Area birthed some of the most influential bands in heavy music, starting with Blue Cheer in the late 60s, continuing through the thrash era in the 80s with Metallica, Exodus and Testament, and the birth of stoner/doom in the 90s with Sleep, High on Fire and Neurosis. New amazing heavy underground bands are constantly forming in the Bay, and it’s Heavy San Jose’s mission to highlight them, as well as provide an artist-friendly environment for touring bands in the heavy underground.

The event will showcase as much great local flavor as possible, featuring local artists and businesses (Martin Roberson, owner of Lucky Stars Tattoo in San Jose created the show poster). Sponsorships, are still available (contact info above). We’re offering VIP and General Admission tickets, and we’re expecting a sellout (capacity at the Ritz is just over 500). VIP tickets (only 50 available) are on sale now, with GA tickets going on sale Friday July 14th at 10:00am pacific.

Bands Performing (see below for band bios):
High on Fire (San Jose/Oakland)
Big Business (Los Angeles)
Mos Generator (Seattle)
Holy Grove (Portland)
Future Usses (Los Angeles)
Brume (San Francisco)
KOOK (San Jose)
Mesmer (Oakland)

Event Details:
When: September 16, 2017 5:30 PM – 1:30 AM
Where: The Ritz – 400 South First Street, San Jose, CA
Cost: General availability tickets are $45 with VIP tickets priced at $75 (early access to the venue, access to a private VIP area, limited edition screen printed show poster, and other fun surprise perks).

Tickets: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1523269?utm_medium=bks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1971651789739169

www.heavysj.com
www.facebook.com/heavysjc

High on Fire, “Devilution” live at Roskilde 2017

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Brume, Rooster

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

brume rooster

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Reckon’ by Brume. Their debut album, Rooster, is out April 20 on DHU Records and Doom Stew Records ahead of a UK tour (info here) including a stop at Desertfest London 2017.]

A dense fog comes to rest over the 51 minutes of Brume‘s Rooster. By the end of the 10-minute opening track, it has settled in despite — or perhaps because of — the pervasive thrust the San Francisco trio have conjured, and it remains a factor for the six-track duration. Fortunately, the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Susie McMullin, guitarist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis chose the most capable of navigators, Billy Anderson (NeurosisMelvinsAcid KingSleep, need I go on?), to help guide them forward. Rooster, issued through Perkins-Lewis‘ own Doom Stew Records on CD, tape and download with vinyl forthcoming from DHU Records, winds up not so much getting lost in this fog as inhaling it, plugging in, and riffing out with marked force, thickness and presence.

Their 2015 debut EP, Donkey, was a showcase of promise, and Rooster is a longer one, but in stepping forward to give their building audience a first real chance to take in the scope of what Brume — who got together in 2014 — can and will be as a band, they do not flub the opportunity. With longer pieces “Grit and Pearls” (10:06) and “Tradewind” (11:48) as bookends at the outset and finish, the fervent plod of “Harold” (7:30), “Reckon” (9:13) and the rolling “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” (9:29) between, as well as the penultimate acoustic-based “Welter” (2:55) leading into the closer, Rooster realizes the potential of the prior EP and moves forward with it, successfully melding together influences into what Perkins-Lewis might call a “doom stew” of their own recipe.

For those new to the band, with the airy, soulful melodicism of McMullin‘s voice echoing spaciously over the molasses riffery, one might hear them at first as spiritual successors to the recently-defunct Uzala, but the turns of “Grit and Pearls” immediately widen this impression with rhythmic stops drawn from the post-YOB sphere of cosmic doom and Mike Scheidt‘s particular style of angularity. The key, though, is immersion. By the time “Grit and Pearls” has finished its 10-minute course, shifting from vast plod into quiet atmospherics and back through the faster ending that’s the source of the YOB comparison above, they’ve managed to hook the listener with a repetitive nodding groove. Their sense of pacing and willingness to vary tempos emerges as something of a theme throughout, but Rooster never becomes more monotonous than it wants to be. Monolithic, perhaps.

brume

“Harold” begins by teasing the lighter strum-and-pluck that “Welter” will later bring before crashing in at full weight and unfolding its first ethereal verse, slower and more doomed than “Grit and Pearls” before it — I keep hearing early Cathedral in McCathie‘s guitar progression, but I can’t place it exactly — and they settle into a consuming roll as they move past the halfway point, the last minute of the song being the real point of departure as the central rhythm gives way to feedback and ambient noise with Perkins-Lewis‘ drums behind, a grueling end that perfectly sets up the doom-gone-TwinPeaks-barroom-blues launch of “Reckon.” The third of Rooster‘s six cuts fascinates conceptually as McMullin plays off the country music trope of the cowgirl singing the tale of meeting a mysterious stranger, but instead of a sharp-eyed, all-chin guy on horseback, he’s got a beard and rides a beat-up motorcycle. Nonetheless, the vibe that results makes “Reckon” a standout, as does its more prevalent hook and open-feeling, drum-and-chanting midsection break that swells to an apex with a layered-over guitar lead that recalls “Grit and Pearls” in its intent without necessarily retreading what’s already been done.

It seems likely that “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” will mark the start of the vinyl’s side B after “Reckon” finishes the album’s longer-by-two-minutes side A, and that break between the two songs feels somewhat essential as a factor in the flow throughout Rooster as a whole. That is, the effect of Perkins-Lewis‘ drums returning to start “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” is best experienced with the breath-catching moment provided to the listener by flipping a record. Even the digital version of “Reckon” has a couple seconds of silence at the end, and that feels very much on purpose and very correct. When it gets going, with the rumble of McMullin‘s bass and feedback from McCathie‘s guitar soon enough joining the tom runs to draw the listener into the patient groove, “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” swirls out hypnotic, doomedelic nod, an early lead giving way to more insistent pulse before spacious vocal melody transitions into slower riffing, a quiet introduction of the back-half hook and build back to the crawling, crashing finish recitations, ending with the vocals as a standalone element. That subtle moment of minimalism makes an effective transition into “Welter”; the shortest cut and starkest contrast to its surroundings, sonically if not in overall mood.

Backed by acoustic strum, McMullin echoes the bluesier feel of “Reckon” in another context, surrounded by a flourish of keys for a neofolkish stretch one might relate to Windhand but that serves all the same to further widen the breadth of Rooster ahead of “Tradewind,” which comes to life slowly over likewise quiet strum and cymbal wash before the full heft arrives at around two and a half minutes in to commence a series of loud/quiet tradeoffs that once again find Brume working in a varied structural context even as they reinforce the brooding feel of the record as a whole and offer one last deceptively catchy chorus. The nature of their craft, with a focus on longer songs meting out grueling and at times otherworldly doom, doesn’t necessarily lend itself toward the expectation of hooks, but Brume have a few throughout Rooster, as “Tradewind” duly reminds, and that seems an avenue where the trio might continue to grow as they take the lessons of their debut forward into whatever might come next. Along with the cohesive ambience and fluidity of their presentation on the whole, this underlying foundation of songwriting gives them another tradition to make their own as they begin to do in these tracks.

Brume website

Brume on Bandcamp

Brume on Thee Facebooks

Brume BigCartel webstore

Doom Stew Records website

DHU Records webstore

Tags: , , , , , ,

Brume to Release Debut Album Rooster April 20; UK Tour with Gurt Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

brume

I’m not sure when else one might expect San Francisco’s Brume to release their Billy Anderson-produced debut album, Rooster, other than April 20, but the timing works on multiple levels as that’s just a scant two days before they head overseas for the first time. They’re set to tour the UK with sludgemongers Gurt as a precursor to appearing at Desertfest London 2017 at The Underworld in Camden Town, where they’ll share the stage with Celeste, Scissorfight, Inter Arma and Bongzilla.

A worthy occasion to say the least, and certainly as they go, waving a banner like the frickin’ awesome Sean Beaudry cover art for Rooster won’t hurt. In addition to the April 20 release, which will be CD, tape and download through Doom Stew Records, the plan is to have Rooster out on vinyl through DHU Records over the summer.

Stay tuned because I’ll have more on this one leading up to the release — think, the week before. For now, the PR wire has tour dates, album info and all that good stuff:

brume rooster

San Francisco, California Doom trio Brume announce their debut album ‘Rooster’ out on DHU Records/Doom Stew Records.

Brume’s heaving dose of hallucinogenic heaviness has been crafted since their EP ‘Donkey’ released on CD (When Planets Collide), LP (DHU Records) and Cassette (Transylvanian tapes) in 2015. Returning to Sharkbite studios in Oakland, CA to record their full length but this time working alongside legendary producer Billy Anderson to lay down six songs, 51 minutes of heavy.

Progressing from Donkey’s monolithic focus, Rooster sees Brume evolve to a more dynamic songwriting approach. The west coast debut is a more sonically diverse, crushingly heavy and beautifully conflicted album. To accompany the music, the cover art was created by Savannah illustrator Sean Beaudry, best known for his work with Kylesa.

Brume will bring its riff ritual to Europe for the first time in April with a joint UK tour with Gurt in the run up to there Desertfest London slot alongside the likes of Bongzilla and Inter Arma in The Underworld, Saturday 29th.

Rooster will be available on CD, cassette and digitally on April 20th from Brume drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis’s fledgling label, Doom Stew Records. The 2xLP will be available in a variety of limited edition variants via DHU in July.

Watch these spaces for preorders:
https://www.brumeband.com/
https://www.doomstew.com/
http://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Artist: Brume
Album: Rooster
Label: DHU Records/Doom Stew Records
Release date: April 20th (CD) July (LP) 2017

Tracklist:
1. Grit and Pearls
2. Harold
3. Reckon
4. Call the Serpent’s Bluff
5. Welter
6. Tradewind

Brume & Gurt UK tour dates:
22/04 The Firehouse Southampton UK
23/04 The Stag and Hounds Bristol UK
24/04 Finns Weymouth UK
25/04 Rebellion Manchester UK
26/04 The Phoenix Coventry UK
29/04 Desertfest London 2017 The Underworld London UK (Brume only)

Brume are:
Susie McMullin – Vocals/Bass
Jordan Perkins-Lewis – Drums
Jamie McCathie – Guitar

https://www.brumeband.com/
https://brumesf.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/brumeband/
http://brume.bigcartel.com/
https://www.doomstew.com/
http://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Brume, Donkey EP (2015)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Desertfest London 2017: Individual Day Schedules Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I have no problem admitting to feeling overwhelmed looking at the full lineup and individual day splits for Desertfest London 2017. I mean, seriously. Look at that poster. What a way to spend a weekend.

Likewise, I have few grand reflections to offer in light of that overwhelming feeling, except perhaps to take a step back and be massively impressed at how much this event has grown in just six incarnations. Along with Desertfest Berlin, the London edition has become an anchor not only for the UK heavy rock underground — which is well represented here as ever in Elephant TreeBlack SpidersStubbVodunPigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs PigsTerminal CheesecakeChubby Thunderous Bad Kush MastersMammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, and so on — but for bands from abroad as well. You’ll note the three headliners: two American, one Norwegian, and the next line down on the poster is two Swedish, one American. Desertfest London 2017’s reach feels wider than ever. Staring at the final lineup, it’s clear just how much of a big fucking deal this festival has become.

Wish I could be there to see it.

Here’s the announcement of the individual day lineups from their website:

desertfest london 2017

DESERTFEST 2017 DAY SPLITS AND DAY TICKETS ARE HERE!

Finally, the Desertfest 2017 day and stage splits are here, along with individual day tickets. It’s the point of the year where you can start planning the weekend, you can imagine the sets in your head and you can curse those god damned clashes.

Last things first, let’s get straight to that insane Sunday main-stage. To celebrate The Roundhouse joining the Desertfest family, we made their debut appearance something special. Not only will stoner doom icons Sleep be topping the bill, but the Roundhouse hosts a full bill of huge acts. Candlemass, with over three decades of underground acclaim to their name, bring the epic doom metal. USA’s Wolves in the Throne Room bring the atmospheric black metal. Traditional doom metal stalwarts Saint Vitus bring the classic riffs. And how about this for a ‘curtain jerker’? Bongzilla bring the raw weed metal for their second show of the weekend; more on the first later.

It’s not just about the Sunday though. Friday’s stage at the Electric Ballroom is headlined by returning heroes Slo Burn whose short run in the mid 90s furthered the then fledgling stoner rock scene. One band they surely had an impact on is Lowrider, who play Europe’s finest stoner rock alongside them. Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus celebrate their resonant album Seven Thunders Roar, and 1000Mods and Pontiak round up the main stage on the Friday.

The Electric Ballroom on Saturday will be swarming with Turbojugends as death-punk grandmasters Turbonegro turn Camden into party central. John Garcia sticks around for a solo show, sure to feature classics from his years of nonstop mastery in the stoner rock scene. Sheffield’s rock and roll five piece Black Spiders visit London for one last time on their farewell tour, with Satan’s Satyrs and Avon rounding up the main stage.

As ever though, it doesn’t stop at the main stages. Our regular partners have delivered three stages with diverse lineups. Human_Disease_Promo and When Planets Collide take over The Underworld on Saturday in a bill headlined by Bongzilla with a special set celebrating the band’s early work. The Quietus stage is led by synth wavers Zombi, and Nightshift Promotions bring an eclectic mix led by Hungary’s Apey & the Pea. To be honest, just stick a pin in the lineup poster and you’re guaranteed a good time.

For those who can’t make the full weekend, we have a limited number of individual day tickets. Priced at £40 for Friday tickets, £40 for Saturday tickets and £45 for Sunday tickets, links are below.

So there we have it. Our final lineup for Desertfest 2017. We hope you’re as excited as we are to get back to Camden this April and riff London to the ground.

DESERTFEST LONDON 2017 Final Lineup:
SLEEP
SLO BURN
TURBONEGRO
CANDLEMASS
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
SAINT VITUS
JOHN GARCIA BAND
BONGZILLA
LOWRIDER
SCISSORFIGHT
BLACK SPIDERS
SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT
THE PICTUREBOOKS
STONED JESUS
SATAN’S SATYRS
INTER ARMA
WEAR YOUR WOUNDS
1000MODS
STEAK
AVON
DEATH ALLEY
DEAD LORD
BOSS KELOID
PONTIAK
YURI GAGARIN
HARK
VODUN
CHRON GOBLIN
PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS
THE WELL
MAMMOTH STORM
CELESTE
STUBB
MONOLITHIAN
WUCAN
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
BRUME
APEY & THE PEA
ELEPHANT TREE
GRAVE LINES
IRON WITCH
EARTH SHIP
BACKWOODS PAYBACK
WIZARD FIGHT
BRULE
CLOSET DISCO QUEEN
GRAND MAMMOTH
CHUBBY THUNDEROUS BAD KUSH MASTERS
MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD
SAMAVAYO
WELCOME BACK DELTA
DEAD LETTUCE
MONSTERTONE
LEDFOOT
ZOMBI
TERMINAL CHEESECAKE
KHÜNNT
BASK
BRUXA MARIA

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/#tickets-section
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/desertfest-2017-tickets-27305267791
http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/

Dead Lettuce, Booze and Blues EP (2015)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brume Post “Help Me” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

brume

Initially offered digitally by the band last May, Brume‘s debut album, Donkey, is currently in the process of selling through its first and allegedly only DHU Records vinyl pressing. Little wonder why. Molasses thick tones set to nod-worthy roll, delivered with heft of groove that might bring to mind modern purveyors Monolord or some of the more ethereal worshipers at the altar of Electric Wizard. Brume — the San Francisco-based three-piece of bassist/vocalist Susie McMullan, guitarist Jamie McCathie (ex-Gurt) and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis — only had/have five tracks on the record, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t eat like a meal.

So like I said, little wonder that the platters are going. Call it an EP or an LP, you’re getting the same level of doom either way, Brume serving notice to the West Coast’s fertile underground that that rumbling they hear is indeed tectonic as a song like “Shadows” from Donkey gets underway. Feels kind of cheap to tag them with a Windhand comparison, but if that makes it easier to understand where they’re coming from, then fair enough, and in any case, that’s hardly an insult, what with Windhand kicking ass and all. I’m sure you’ve already heard the record and got your order in for the vinyl, so kudos on that — I’m always behind on everything — but if you’re square like me, you can dig into the band’s video for “Help Me” below and get caught up before they put out something else awesome. Like another album.

Dig it:

Brume, “Help Me” official video

Check it out! Brume music video for Help Me off the Donkey album!!

For those of you who missed out on the Brume – Donkey Pink/Blue Splatter cause they sold out at DHU and the Brume store has only a few left, Heavy Ripples in the US also!! Last chance to own this!

Comes on old school 140gr 12″ Hot Pink/Royal Blue Splatter Vinyl in a single jacket cover with original Donkey artwork

Susie – Vox/Bass Jamie – Guitar Jordan – Drums

Brume on Thee Facebooks

Brume BigCartel store

DHU Records store

Tags: , , , , ,