The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

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 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Spaceslug Set Oct. 26 Release for Eye the Tide on Oak Island Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spaceslug

Polish trio Spaceslug took down a few genre barriers earlier this year when they issued their third album, Eye the Tide (review here), bringing in harsh vocals and extreme metal impulses to set against their warm-toned psychedelic wash. The album made these disparate influences not only coherent, but essential to each other, and ultimate brought Spaceslug‘s sound to its most thrilling realization to-date. It was also very, very, very heavy, and that never hurts either, but it was about more than just the weight of its riffs or the largesse in production value.

Oak Island Records has picked up the album — someone was bound to — for an LP release, and it’s set to come out Oct. 26, as the PR wire informs:

spaceslug eye the tide

SPACESLUG – EYE THE TIDE – OUT OCTOBER 26th

Poland’s mighty Spaceslug return with their third full-length studio album, “Eye The Tide”.

Fans of Spaceslug will not be disappointed, as the trio push forward into new territory, with perhaps their most aggressive and heavy record to date.

Each new song is expansive in both it’s sound and it’s progression. A conscious effort has been made here to lay all cards on the table and show exactly just how far this band can go in terms of song-craft and musicianship. It is a well thought out and beautifully delivered album that flows, capturing the listener and transporting them away from the noise of everyday life.

Eye The Tide will be released via Oak Island Records on the 26th of October and is available on heavyweight vinyl & CD.

VINYL FACTZ
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited & coloured vinyl
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

TRACKS
1. Obsolith
2. Spaced By One
3. Eternal Monuments
4. Words Like Stones
5. Vialys Part I
6. Vialys Part II
7. I, The Tide

Spaceslug are:
Bartosz Janik – Guitars/Voc
Jan Rutka – Bass/Voc
Kamil Zió?kowski – Drums/Voc

https://www.facebook.com/spaceslugband/
https://www.instagram.com/spaceslug_pl/
https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/music
https://www.facebook.com/BSFD-records-247816545273558/
https://bsfdrecords.blogspot.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/oakislandrecords/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=1072&lang=eng

Spaceslug, “Obsolith” official video

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Review & Track Premiere: Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spaceslug eye the tide

[Click play above to stream ‘Vialys Pt. I & II’ from Spaceslug’s Eye the Tide. Album is out July 20 on BSFD Records.]

Comprised of drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziólkowski, bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka and guitarist/backing vocalist Bartosz Janik, Poland’s Spaceslug have worked quickly to become a significant presence in the European heavy underground. Their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) and its 2017 follow-up, Time Travel Dilemma (review here), were both among their respective years’ best releases, and they even found room last year to squeeze in an EP release in the form of Mountains and Reminiscence (review here) before embarking on their third full-length and the final installment in a stated trilogy, which arrives as the six-song/54-minute Eye the Tide on BSFD Records. Their advantage has always been a decisive grip on their aesthetic — from the first album on, they’ve had a definite idea what Spaceslug should sound like in terms of tone, rhythm and melody, and after earning comparisons to Sungrazer early for their heavy psychedelic drift and blend of thick guitar and bass with floating vocal melodicism, they’ve worked over their releases to make that sound even more their own. It has never been more so than it is on Eye the Tide.

The big difference this time around? An uptick in the level of aggression. Opener “Obsolith” still casts post-rocking lead guitar lines out into the ether, but in its nod under the chorus, there’s just something more pointed about their approach, and that manifests even further in the post-midpoint bassy chug of second cut “Spaced by One” before the mostly-chill, mostly-patient “Eternal Monuments,” but is most prevalent as side B begins with the slamming “Words Like Stones” and the first harsher vocals arrive. Screams. They run at first alongside the laid back, clean-sung vocals that have become one of the hallmarks of Spaceslug‘s style, but at 3:35 into the track’s total 8:28, there’s a sudden pivot and the guitar goes full-on black metal and those screams come more to the forefront. Likewise, the drums take a more intense pulse, and as they move toward the halfway mark, seemingly all of a sudden, Spaceslug have cast an extreme vision of charred heavy psychedelia. They turn to a long instrumental stretch soon enough, but the context has shifted, and when the vocals return after the seven-minute mark, it’s both the throat-rippers and the clean singing, but the screams are definitely in the top position, whereas even just at the beginning of the song, they were in the background.

That back-to-front movement itself is important in understanding the poise and class with which Spaceslug carry out their ideas, and especially that with which they introduce a jarring new element to their audience. After a stretch of threatening-in-context squibbly guitars in the penultimate “Vialys Pt. I & II,” the screams come again on Eye the Tide closer “I, the Tide” as background and preface to the mountainous chug that will snow-cap the album’s 11:16 longest cut. But the second time is more a part of a summary of what the album as a whole has accomplished, and it’s really that first assault that’s more striking.

spaceslug

To-date, Spaceslug have been a pretty easy-going listen. Maybe not heavy-hippies, but not by any means abrasive. “Words Like Stones” changes that, and adds an undeniably metallic flair to the proceedings. It makes one want to go back to Time Travel Dilemma and Lemanis? Has that influence always been there, lurking beneath the surface of their ultra-molten psychedelic flow? Maybe it has. More likely than not, but it’s still a surprise when the screams hit if only because it brings that new aspect of Spaceslug‘s sound so far forward amid the still-relatively-peaceful surroundings.

Is it enough to turn listeners off? Probably not, unless they’re completely averse to any screamed vocals at any time, in which case that’s more about a policy position than this actual album’s use of an element in Spaceslug‘s sound. In the full scope of Eye the Tide as a whole, it works well to jar the experience after the band has dropped subtle instrumental hints of what’s coming on “Obsolith,” “Spaced by One” and “Eternal Monuments,” the latter a nine-minute patient unfolding that turns from its extended intro serenity to a cyclical riff that’s positively crushed in its tone and an apex that, until its side B mirror in the closer, is the most satisfying on the record. In the spirit of heavy rock tradition, they save the experimentation for the album’s second half, but when the time comes, they deliver with boldness and confidence alike, just as they always have, and the screams serve to enhance and broaden “Words Like Stones” rather than detract from it. Ultimately, they make Spaceslug a richer, less predictable band, and that’s never a bad thing. The anti-scream crowd will either have to come around or not. Spaceslug could just be getting started on their most important stylistic work yet, and as they haven’t yet, I wouldn’t expect them to let anything get in the way of their steamroller of a sound.

And it’s important to remember that as striking as those moments are, that’s just it. They’re moments. Parts of the whole impression Eye the Tide makes, and whether it’s the calm initial stretch or the later linear build in “Vialys Pt. I & II” or the push of Ziólkowski‘s drums behind the unfolding second half of “Obsolith” or the consuming motion of the finale in “I, the Tide” which manages to be as hypnotic as it is pummeling as it moves through its midsection to the instrumental second half and the megastomper riffing that caps the album as a whole, there’s much more to Spaceslug‘s third outing than “the part where the dude screams.” That becomes a piece of the larger picture, and the band do well to integrate it into their overall sphere. Will there be more? Is it indicative of some shift toward a more extreme direction? Is this to be their longer-standing contribution to psychedelia? Hell if I know. It works here, and that’s enough for right now. If nothing else Spaceslug have earned a certain element of trust via the quality of their songwriting and aesthetic execution over their now-complete trilogy, and if they can pull off such a sharp turn as they do on this third-of-three, it seems all the more worth continuing to follow them and see where they go next.

Spaceslug, “Obsolith” official video

Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

Spaceslug on Instagram

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records at Kozmik Artifactz

BSFD Records on Thee Facebooks

BSFD Records website

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Spaceslug Post “Obsolith” Video; Eye the Tide out July 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spaceslug

Polish tonal-serenity bearers Spaceslug seem to work pretty quickly. Last year they had the Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and their second LP, Time Travel Dilemma (review here), both out, and it was only in 2016 that their debut, Lemanis (review here), landed to such wide acclaim. A quick turnaround to their third long-player isn’t necessarily unexpected considering the thus-far track record, but in a year that’s already featured so much killer music, adding another one to the list certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going to hurt anything.

Spaceslug have a new video up now for “Obsolith” that you can see at the bottom of this post, and preorders for the album are coming soon. Here’s info from the PR wire:

spaceslug eye the tide

Prolific psychedelic metallers SPACESLUG return with new album | Premiere new video for ‘Obsolith’

Eye the Tide by Spaceslug is released worldwide on 20th July on BSFD Records

Pre-orders will be available soon at https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/music

Formed in Wroc?aw, Poland in 2015 by guitarist Bartosz Janik and drummer Kamil Zió?kowski, Spaceslug was born a singularity; a rare and unusual discovery found deep amidst a cosmic multiverse of doom, stoner metal and progressive rock.

Completing their line-up shortly after that initial bang with the arrival of Jan Rutka on bass, the trio soon began their journey through space and time; writing, recording and releasing their debut album Lemanis in 2016 on BSFD Records/Oak Island Records to wide acclaim.

With the album enthusiastically received on terra firma, Spaceslug’s quite frankly supermassive sound served as a flawless introduction. A sound where moments of dark desolation sidled up neatly alongside light and hope, riffs and soar-away vocals, it opened a sonic gateway into the hard rock underground and pathed the way for their devastatingly brilliant follow-up, Time Travel Dilemma. Released just one year after their debut, the album kept the cosmic cannon firing on all cylinders and like their Mountains & Reminiscence EP (released later that same year) their ticket was deservedly stamped and valid beyond the stratosphere.

This July will see the official worldwide release of Eye the Tide, Spaceslug’s third full-length album and the closing entry in their personal trilogy:

“It took us just four months to create our first album, Lemanis, and we wanted it to be more than just a project. We wanted it to be a journey into another dimension,” explains guitarist Bartosz Janik. “With Eye the Tide, we want this third part of the cosmic journey to explore the deepest and darkest parts of that universe. The album itself is more progressive and post-rock than anything we’ve done before as we always want to turn that next corner when it comes to making music.”

Later this year, Spaceslug will also contribute their dark reimagining of Pink Floyd’s ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ to THE WALL [Redux], Magnetic Eye Records’ end-to-end homage to the iconic Pink Floyd album, featuring heavy music luminaries including The Melvins, Pallbearer, Mark Lanegan, Scott Reeder and Ruby the Hatchet.

Eye the Tide by Spaceslug is released worldwide on 20th July via BSFD Records. Pre-orders will be available soon at https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/music

TRACK LISTING:
1. Obsolith
2. Spaced By One
3. Eternal Monuments
4. Words Like Stones
5. Vialys Part I & II
6. I, The Tide

SPACESLUG:
Bartosz Janik – Guitar, Vocal
Jan Rutka – Bass, Vocal
Kamil Zió?kowski – Drums, Vocal

https://www.facebook.com/spaceslugband/
https://www.instagram.com/spaceslug_pl/
https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/music
https://www.facebook.com/BSFD-records-247816545273558/
https://bsfdrecords.blogspot.co.uk/

Spaceslug, “Obsolith” official video

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Spaceslug, Mountains and Reminiscence: Drift and Consciousness

Posted in Reviews on November 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

spaceslug mountains and reminiscence

Sometimes a band puts out an EP and there’s an agenda behind it. They’re going on tour, or trying to make money for a subsequent recording, and a short release is something new and decent to put on a merch table or an webstore and draw people in. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a desire to keep momentum going after a successful full-length, and sometimes there are just extra tracks laying around a band wants to get out to the public.

I’m not sure which scenario it is in the end driving the release of Mountains and Reminiscence by Polish tonal adventurers Spaceslug, but frankly, I’ll take it any way it comes. The new five-songer from the Wroclaw three-piece of drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziólkowski, bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka and guitarist/backing vocalist Bartosz Janik arrives via BSFD Records and Oak Island Records, checks in at just over 27 minutes, and immediately makes itself comfortable in a deep-running mix of warm fuzz rendered spacious through echoing vocals and (mostly) languid grooves.

In method, it’s not so far removed from what Spaceslug accomplished on their second full-length, Time Travel Dilemma (review here), but nor should it be since three of its component pieces — “I am the Gravity,” “Elephemeral” and the 2001: A Space Odyssey-sampling “Space Sabbath” — were tracked during the same session this past January. Opener “Bemused and Gone” and closer “Opposite the Sun” are newer, recorded in July, and they effectively sandwich the middle tracks with two very different vibes that nonetheless remain consistent in their sound and headphone-worthy heavy psychedelic purposes.

With “Bemused and Gone,” it’s drift. Drift all the way. With an anchor of subtle tension in the running guitar line, Spaceslug ignite Mountains and Reminiscence on a particularly dreamy and hypnotic note. This is something they’ve been able to do well since their debut, Lemanis (review here), surfaced last year and distinguished itself among 2016’s best, but like much of their approach, it’s a take that solidified even further (as much as anything here isn’t molten) on Time Travel Dilemma and clearly something with which Spaceslug are signaling their intent to keep pursuing.

All the better, then, that “Opposite the Sun” should complement at the end. Fading-in drums from Ziólkowski are met with Rutka‘s rumbling low end, and Janik‘s fuzz-drenched guitar arrives as the final element before the band launches into a crashing verse that runs at a near-gallop. It’s not the most riotous song in the world — hell, it’s not even the most riotous song on Mountains and Reminiscence, which is “I am the Gravity” — but it is a stark contrast to “Bemused and Gone” and serves to emphasize the range that is emerging and has already emerged in Spaceslug‘s sound, which, while able to give the impression of being a trance-inducing monolith of amp-pushed heat, offers an underlying nuance that continues to demonstrate progressive potential.

spaceslug

As to what the group will do with that range ultimately, it’s difficult to say, but it meshes well with their loyalty to oozing riffs and vocals, and whether they’re playing fast or slow at any given point, their sense of command is obviously increasing. As a result, they’re all the more able to conjure atmospheric spaciousness and largess of tone without contradicting the openness of the one with the other’s risk of claustrophobia.

Between “Bemused and Gone” and “Opposite the Sun,” Mountains and Reminiscence tells a kind of mini-story of disintegration. To explain, they shift from the shortest inclusion in the 4:30 post-grunge banger “I am the Gravity” through the post-Sungrazer bounce and hook of centerpiece “Elephemeral” to the longest in the slow-rolling, darker-vibed, aptly-titled “Space Sabbath” (6:26), and in so doing push from one song into the next toward more ethereal ground. Guitar alone starts “I am the Gravity” and guitar alone ends “Space Sabbath” — but it does so respectively with the most straightforward riff of the EP and with barely-there minimalist warble retained in drift even after the accompanying bass has faded.

From one end to the other of those two moments, a linear transition is taking place that, while Mountains and Reminiscence is a short release, nonetheless makes for a quick album-style flow that seems distinct from the opener and closer surrounding and on its own wavelength in terms of how the songs relate to each other. The effect that has is to make Mountains and Reminiscence almost like two different offerings mashed together in a particle accelerator — a two-song single and a three-song EP drawn from two sessions and combined into one, which I suppose it is — but given Spaceslug‘s overarching consistency of sound, it seems only reasonable to expect Mountains and Reminiscence to set up a considerable fluidity over its span, and of course it does precisely that.

Spaceslug have worked quickly to get two full-lengths and this EP out, and one has no reason to believe they’ll look to slow the momentum they’ve been able to build thus far going into 2018, but more than the impressive rate at which they churn out digipaks, tapes, LP platters and t-shirts is the sonic growth to which they’ve clearly committed themselves. Of all the temporal threads they’ve established thus far into what one hopes will be a long career, that’s the most resonant, and that’s what would seem to be pushing them toward the forefront of the vibrant heavy underground in Poland and, of course, realms beyond.

Spaceslug, Mountains and Reminiscence (2017)

Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records at Kozmik Artifactz

BSFD Records on Thee Facebooks

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Spaceslug Release New EP Mountains and Reminiscence

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

spaceslug-photo-Benjamin-Desr

Sometimes life brings surprises, and sometimes those surprises are awesome. To wit, a new EP called Mountains and Reminiscence from primo Polish fuzzrollers Spaceslug brings five previously-unheard tracks, two of which are brand new — that’s opener “Bemused and Gone” and closer “Opposite the Sun” — in digipak CD form delivered by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records, distributed through Kozmik Artifactz, to follow-up on earlier-2017’s righteous sophomore full-length, Time Travel Dilemma (review here). The other three cuts — “I am the Gravity,” centerpiece “Elephemeral” and the 2001: A Space Odyssey-sample-inclusive “Space Sabbath” — were recorded in the sessions for that album, so there’s a nice tie-in between where the three-piece have been and where they might be headed. As to that — you guessed it — space.

I’d be amazed, and frankly a little disappointed, if as we move into the Spring 2018 festival season Spaceslug‘s name doesn’t pop up across multiple bills. Looking at you Roadburn, the Desertfests and Freak Valley. Somebody if not multiple somebodies is going to have to step up and get these guys the exposure that at this point they’ve more than well earned with the quality of their studio output.

You can hear Mountains and Reminiscence in its entirety below if you want to understand what I’m talking about. I think you’ll only be able to agree the issue is urgent and needs to be addressed thoroughly:

spaceslug-mountains-and-reminiscence

Spaceslug – Mountains & Reminiscence

So here it is.

It is a very special release for us – 3 tracks were recorded during Time Travel Dilemma sessions and two are completely new.

This Ep connects both old and new. A little spin-off in our universe of infinite.

So behold the Mountains and feel the Reminiscence.

Listen loud and share with friends!

https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/album/mountains-reminiscence

6 panel, pressed Digipack CD
BSFD Records/Oak Island Records
Number: CD024/OIR018

Tracklisting:
1. Bemused And Gone 05:06
2. I Am The Gravity 04:30
3. Elephemeral 05:23
4. Space Sabbath 06:26
5. Opposite The Sun 05:54

Track 2-4 recorded at MAQ Studio/Satanic Audio during TTD sessions by Haldor Grunberg & Jakub Radomski (12-15.01.2017)
Track 1 & 5 recorded at UNIQ Studio by Marek Dziedzic (29.07.2017)
Mixed & Mastered by Haldor Grunberg (Satanic Audio)

Cover Art & Layout by Maciej Kamuda

Spaceslug is:
Bartosz Janik – guitars/backing vocals
Jan Rutka – bass/vocals
Kamil Zió?kowski – drums/main vocals

Guest vocals in “Elephemeral” by Jakub Radomski

https://www.facebook.com/spaceslugband/
https://spaceslug.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/oakislandrecords/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=1072&lang=eng
https://www.facebook.com/BSFD-records-247816545273558/

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Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma: Tonal Paradox (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

spaceslug-time-travel-dilemma

[Click play above to stream the premiere of the title-track of Spaceslug’s Time Travel Dilemma, featuring Sander Haagmans. Album is out Feb. 17.]

When Wroclaw trio Spaceslug made their debut last year, they immediately distinguished themselves via a sense of space created through big riffs presented with even bigger tones, vocal laze and a heavy psychedelic undertone of jamming that made the whole affair more fluid. That album was Lemanis (review here), and it sold completely through its cassette (on Southcave Records), CD (on BSFD Records) and vinyl (on Oak Island Records) pressings. Not surprisingly, as the Polish group follow-up such a successful first outing, their new album, Time Travel Dilemma, does not attempt to fix what wasn’t broken in their sound. Those who caught onto the depth and vibe of Lemanis will find the six tracks of Time Travel Dilemma work from a similarly potent brew — the key differences are of affirmation and progression.

Yes, both records meld drifting melodies and massive tones together to affect a thickened sonic liquefaction, but Time Travel Dilemma, frankly, learns from its predecessor and moves the band — guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik, bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka and drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziólkowski — forward in a style that’s quickly becoming their own. In other words: Progression. The affirmation comes in letting their audience know that their first offering was no fluke, but rather the beginning steps on a path that the languid heft of “Parahorizon” on Time Travel Dilemma finds them walking further along. The vocals are more confident. The songs are more distinct, and the flow between them over the total 44 minutes more resonant. It is simply a more realized interpretation of Spaceslug‘s sound.

As it should be. From opener “Osiris” to the closing title-track’s guest spot from Sander Haagmans, formerly bassist/vocalist of Sungrazer and currently of the grungier The Whims of the Great MagnetTime Travel Dilemma brings forth immersion via its spaciousness as much as its nod. The Haagmans appearance at the end as “Time Travel Dilemma” moves easily into its second-half jam couldn’t be more appropriate, since Sungrazer seem to be a chief influence for Spaceslug here and were last time as well. Those roots can be heard in the swinging rocker “The Great Pylon Collider” as much as “Parahorizon” or the finale as the album shifts back and forth between consecutively shorter tracks and longer ones, cleverly creating momentum as it goes. Perhaps it’s easier just to view it by the numbers:

1. Osiris (6:56)
2. Living the Eternal Now (8:40)
3. The Great Pylon Collider (5:42)
4. Parahorizon (10:48)
5. What Falls is Fallen (1:57)
6. Time Travel Dilemma (10:07)

Although the closer isn’t actually the longest inclusion, the openness of the ground it covers gives a sense of expansion anyhow, and with “Osiris” at the outset, “The Great Pylon Collider” and — perhaps most crucially — the penultimate interlude “What Falls is Fallen” creating a bridge between “Parahorizon” and its sprawl, “Time Travel Dilemma” serves as the end-point to which all the gorgeous, grooving motion seems to be heading all along. That’s not to take anything away from the impression left by earlier cuts. “Osiris” is pivotal in setting the stage for what follows and a standout on its own — Rutka‘s bass work there and across the entirety of Time Travel Dilemma should be a blueprint for other groups to learn from — and the apparent ease with which Spaceslug move from subtler hypnosis to more driving crescendos on “Living the Eternal Now” — which in its second half also samples Alan Watts, whose voice appeared as well on YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend — not only makes that track a highlight, but along with the vocal melodies it underscores the growth the band has willfully undertaken in such a short time.

And while that growth, which can also be heard in the push of “The Great Pylon Collider” and in crossing the 23-minute span of “Parahorizon,” the ambient “What Falls is Fallen” and “Time Travel Dilemma” itself, is a key element, anyone among the converted who might be catching onto Spaceslug for the first time shouldn’t have any trouble getting on board with where they’re coming from, the warm and natural vibe of their sound (recorded and mixed at Satanic Audio) or the lack of pretense in their presentation. The latter especially is enough to make one wonder just what exactly the “dilemma” is that Spaceslug are having in their fourth-dimensional excursion — everything seems to be rolling along so smoothly — but if there’s a narrative at work in the tracks, it would seem to be resolved by the time the finale disintegrates, leaving behind only a sense of balance in the cosmos; satisfying in the reality it’s already created and seeming to align toward future expansion.

While Time Travel Dilemma comes as a quick turnaround from Lemanis, released almost exactly one year later, the development it shows reinforces the potential Spaceslug seemed to have on their debut while also moving forward within it. As they hopefully continue to grow their sound, one wouldn’t be surprised to find them following varied inclinations — here more patience in their jamming, there more structured songcraft — but part of what makes Time Travel Dilemma so effective is its apparent unwillingness to be settled in a single direction or the other. One hopes that adventurous impulse persists as well, since it will only further the richness of approach Spaceslug unfurl here. There are aspects of Time Travel Dilemma that most certainly play to genre, but even these do so with a palpable intention toward leaving an individualized mark rather than simply repeating what’s come before. To call that admirable would be an understatement.

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