Candlemass, The Door to Doom: Welcome Company

Posted in Reviews on February 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

candlemass the door to doom

It’s not that having Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath do a guest spot on guitar with Candlemass isn’t a big deal. And the solo he donates to “Astorolus (The Great Octopus)” is true to form in its multiple layers and ensuing doomly vibe. He’s Tony Iommi, and if his presence turns heads to The Door to Doom, which is Candlemass‘ 12th studio full-length and second for Napalm Records, then all the better. But as the Swedish epic doom progenitors return with their first LP since 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here) — though they’ve also had live outings out since and two EPs in last year’s House of Doom (discussed here) and 2016’s Death Thy Lover (review here) — the focus on that one guitar solo takes away from the real lead of the record when it comes to narrative, which is the return of vocalist Johan Längquist to the fold.

Since the band’s reunion from the abyss of hiatus 14 years ago with their self-titled eighth album, they’ve worked with three frontmen. On that outing was Messiah Marcolin, a frontman’s frontman, whose voice helped propel Candlemass to their legendary status in the late ’80s. He didn’t last. By the time the follow-up came around, it was Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus in the singer role, fronting the hurried-but-righteous King of the Grey Islands in 2007 and 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here), which was positioned at the time as the band’s last album.

It wasn’t. Lowe split circa 2012 and on Death Thy Lover it was journeyman vocalist Mats Levén — who’d been in the running for the job when Lowe came aboard in the first place — taking on the role. However — and that’s a big “however” — Candlemass in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, reunited with Längquist for a one-off show playing the LP in full at Roadburn in the Netherlands. The set was later released on vinyl through Svart as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus: Live at Roadburn 2011 (review here). I was there. It was a glorious show, with Lowe starting out on some newer stuff and then Längquist arriving to take over, and no disrespect to Lowe — whose voice is of Dio-esque caliber; not a compliment I hand out lightly — but Längquist was such a perfect fit with the rest of the band that the obvious question even as they were playing was, “Why the hell isn’t this guy in this band?”

Well, with The Door to Doom, he is. Steering Candlemass, as always, is Leif Edling. The band’s founding bassist and principle songwriter, he’s responsible over the course of more than 30 years for some of doom’s most resilient landmarks. He’s the reason they’ve survived so much tumult as regards frontmen, and his craft is on high display here, from opener “Splendor Demon Majesty” through the final lumber of “The Omega Circle.” And the story of The Door to Doom, even more than the 60 seconds dominated by Iommi, is the reunion between Längquist and Edling.

That’s not to take away from the contributions of guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman (rhythm) and Lars “Lasse” Johansson (lead) or drummer Jan Lindh — all of whom have been in the band at least three decades for as much as there’s been a band to be in — but the performance Längquist gives atop the grand riffing of “Under the Ocean” or the quiet and moody “Bridge of the Blind,” which provides a comedown moment coming out of the appropriately massive “Astorolus (The Great Octopus),” is nothing if not the standout it’s intended to be, and Edling‘s songwriting also seems to rise to the occasion, be that in the catchy side B launch “Death’s Wheel” or “Splendor Demon Majesty” at the outset or “House of Doom,” repurposed here (and re-recorded, obviously) from the EP of the same name to serve as the penultimate, organ-topped nodder ahead of “The Omega Circle,” which rounds out.

candlemass (photo Anders Palsson)

And not for nothing, but the solos Johansson adds to “House of Doom,” “Death’s Wheel” and the particularly Dehumanizer-esque “Black Trinity” go toe-to-toe with that on “Astorolus (The Great Octopus),” and I know there’s only one Tony Iommi, but there’s only one Candlemass as well, and they’re absolutely on fire in these tracks. The Door to Doom sounds revitalized and fully charged, and even as the cover art ties it directly to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus with its iconic impaled devil-skull design, the band seems only ready to move forward.

They’re not trying to recapture 1986 — and they don’t need to. They’re relishing their position as overlords of what doom has become in their wake. They take their time through the quiet intros to “Under the Ocean” or “The Omega Circle,” knowing their own strength in setting a mood for the epic riffing to come, and when that closer hits, it’s about not even about Edling or Längquist, but about the entire band. There’s a reason why the cliché is “firing on all cylinders,” and The Door to Doom gives a fervent example of what that sounds like. It has the poise and stately feel of Candlemass‘ experience and long-since-attained maturity of approach, but even as it taps into classic styles, dipping to acoustic in the midsection of “The Omega Circle” to mirror “Bridge of the Blind” at the end of side A in summary of the album as a whole, its overarching feel is refreshed and refreshing in kind. No question that when 2019 is done, The Door to Doom will stand among its finest doom albums.

The danger, of course, is that it’s Candlemass‘ last. That’s always the danger with Candlemass, and sometimes it happens. It’s worth nothing that the break between full-lengths between Psalms for the Dead and The Door to Doom, at seven years, is longer than when they “broke up” after 1999’s From the 13th Sun and didn’t put out another LP until Candlemass in 2005. Change has long been a factor for the band, but that’s all the more reason to enjoy the triumph that is The Door to Doom — because it might not last. It might be a one-off with Längquist, and it might be more than half a decade before they put out another record, if they do at all. Something about the idea of “coming full circle” and reuniting with their first singer seems very much in Edling‘s wheelhouse in bringing the band to close.

Listening to these songs, one only hopes that’s not how it plays out, and Candlemass continue to explore the doomed reaches with their original frontman, adding an essential and unexpected chapter to their story that they’ve given such a righteous beginning here. Recommended.

Candlemass, The Door to Doom (2019)

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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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Candlemass Set Feb. 22 Release for The Door to Doom; Tony Iommi Makes Guest Appearance

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

candlemass (photo Anders Palsson)

Have you ever been ridiculously happy on a personal level for someone you’ve never actually met? That’s how I feel for Candlemass bassist, founder and principle songwriter Leif Edling on the occasion of his band having Tony Iommi in for a guest spot on their new record. Candlemass — now past the 30-year mark — reunite with original vocalist Johan Langquist for The Door to Doom, which is out Feb. 22, and they’ve been worshiping Black Sabbath in one way or another pretty much the whole time, so yeah, it seems only fitting. Oh, and of course Iommi sits in on the song about the giant octopus. Because fucking a right he does.

A new record from Candlemass would’ve been a highlight of 2019 in doom anyway. But with Langquist fronting the band and Iommi adding guitar? Yeah, well, I mean, you know, uh, yeah.

From the PR wire:

candlemass the door to doom

CANDLEMASS – New Album The Door To Doom Out February 2019

CANDLEMASS have come full circle: their first singer Johan Langquist (who left the band after singing on the legendary 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus) has returned!

Now, the epic doom metal veterans announce their 12th full length album The Door to Doom! The album will be released February 22nd via Napalm Records

The Door To Doom unsurprisingly follows the plotline mastermind, songwriter and bass player Leif Edling established in the past years: epic world class doom metal that relies on slow mammoth riffing. With Johan Langquist`s highly dramatic vocal style and the love for details, the band made this album to the next “Epicus”. This masterpiece is rounded off by a beautiful guest appearance by none other than Black Sabbath`s Tony Iommi on ‘Astorolus – The Great Octopus.’

Tony Iommi on his appearance:
“Candlemass are a major force in Scandinavian heavy rock and have always acknowledged the influence we had on their music. They asked if I’d contribute to a track which sounded pretty good so I thought ‘why not’ “.
Leif Edling states:

“We feel very honoured that Tony Iommi said yes to play the solo on ASTOROLUS. The song was sent to the management and amazingly enough, the master agreed to let his mighty SG sing on the track! For me personally this is a dream come true. Tony Iommi has always been my hero and guiding light when it comes to heavy music, so to hear that he likes the song and also would like to play on it, gave me chills down the spine! I’m still in shock! But kudos to him to be so cool to even listen to it. Hats off! Tony Iommi is and will always be God!”

The Door to Doom Tracklisting:
1. Splendor Demon Majesty
2. Under The Ocean
3. Astorolus – the Great Octopus
4. Bridge Of The Blind
5. Death´s Wheel
6. Black Trinity
7. House Of Doom
8. The Omega Circle

Candlemass are:
Leif Edling: Bass
Mats “Mappe” Björkman: Guitars
Jan Lindh: Drums
Lars “Lasse” Johansson: Guitars
Johan Langquist: Vocals

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CANDLEMASS
https://www.instagram.com/CANDLEMASS_SWEDEN/
http://www.candlemass.se/
WWW.NAPALMRECORDS.COM

Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

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Candlemass Announce Return of Johan Längquist

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Epicus doomicus, indeed. How about a 32-year journey that’s led to original Candlemass vocalist Johan Längquist rejoining the band? Simply amazing. Längquist only sang on one album — the first, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus — but that’s been enough to cement a legacy that continues to resonate to this day. So does Längquist still have it? Yes he absolutely fucking does.

I know this because I was fortunate enough to see Candlemass perform a one-off set at Roadburn 2011 celebrating their 25th anniversary that included Längquist returning to perform their debut in its entirety. It was incredible. His voice, spot on. His stage presence, masterful. It was the Main Stage of the 013, which even before the redux on the venue was not at all a small room, and he absolutely killed it on that material. I can’t wait to hear what he brings to the next Candlemass album. If you don’t want to take my word for it on how incredible that show was, you can always try chasing down the vinyl (review here) they released afterward.

Candlemass has been fronted by vocalist Mats Levén since 2012 when he took over for Robert Lowe (also of Solitude Aeturnus), who had stepped into the band following their split with Messiah Marcolin in 2006. Lowe was still in the band when they released their last full-length, 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here), though Levén handled vocals on 2016’s  Death Thy Lover EP (review here) and this year’s game/EP House of Doom.

A new long-player has reportedly already been in the works with the songwriting of bassist Leif Edling as ever at the band’s core, and it looks like Längquist will step back into the role of vocalist for the recording as well.

The band announced it thusly:

candlemass

CANDLEMASS – THE RETURN TO DOOM!!

EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS SINGER JOHAN LANGQUIST IS BACK IN CANDLEMASS

Shocking news! EPICUS singer Johan Langquist is back after a 32 year hiatus replacing Mats Levén who’s been with the band since 2012. This is right in the middle of recording the new album. What happened?

“We wanted to find our way back to the roots of Candlemass, back to the soul and essence of the band. Johan Langquist is back and we hope this will give us some new energy and kickstart the heart of doom again. We don’t know if it will last 10 more years or even 5, but if it will give us just another year of having fun and playing the music that we love so much, it will be a blast! The circle is closed, Johan is back!”

More news will follow soon….

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CANDLEMASS
http://www.candlemass.se/
WWW.NAPALMRECORDS.COM

Candlemass, “Under the Oak” Live at Roadburn 2011

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Candlemass Post “House of Doom” Video; New EP out May 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

candlemass

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care if the new Candlemass is inspired by Parcheesi. It’s new Candlemass. That’s what matters. The Swedish legends of doom metal led by bassist Leif Edling present four new songs on their upcoming House of Doom EP, which takes its name from, yeah, a video game, and will be released by Napalm on May 25 ahead of a reported new full-length due this autumn. More new Candlemass? Mark it a win. Some things just make the universe a better place.

They’ve got a lyric video up for the House of Doom title-track that you can see at the bottom of this post, and yes, it kicks ass. Doom doesn’t get much more doom than Candlemass. They pretty much built this ‘House.’

From the PR wire:

candlemass house of doom

CANDLEMASS TO RELEASE NEW EP ‘HOUSE OF DOOM’ ON MAY 25th!

It only takes a few short bars of the title track “House Of Doom” to feel that familiar sensation again: yes, Leif Edling aka the undisputed king of minor key songwriting has returned. With him, he brings frenzied riffing, melancholy made sound and warm Hammond organ tapestries that form the pillars of every CANDLEMASS classic!

Mats Levén on the EP:

“We in Candlemass are proud to present 4 new songs to the world on the new EP ‘House of Doom’! The title track is inspired by the House of Doom game from Hyperfrost. We’re also very happy that our label Napalm Records are with us all the way – 2018 will be a big year for Candlemass!”

The Swedish pioneers of doom managed once again to distill the essence of epic doom metal – and at the same time they make waiting for the next long player (to be released in fall 2018) even harder…

Preorder ‘House Of Doom’ HERE!

Track Listing:
01. House of Doom
02. Flowers of Deception
03. Fortuneteller
04. Dolls On A Wall

Lineup:
Leif Edling: Bass
Mats “Mappe” Björkman: Guitars
Jan Lindh: Drums
Lars “Lasse” Johansson: Guitars
Mats Levén: Vocals

In addition to the regular EP there will be 10″ etched vinyl with an exclusive 9,5 minutes long version of the song ‘The House Of Doom’. This 10″ will be available to win from April 27th.

The vinyl cannot be bought, it can only be obtained by playing the game HOUSE OF DOOM.

To win the contest users need to sign up to a selected casino through the houseofdoom.com website.

Winners of the contest will be selected at random. Supply is limited so this will be a very rare and collectible item. You can win other exclusive merchandise by playing the game, including signed t-shirts and more.

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CANDLEMASS
WWW.HOUSEOFDOOM.COM
WWW.NAPALMRECORDS.COM

Candlemass, “House of Doom” lyric video

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Freak Valley 2018: Candlemass, Steak, Wolf People, Mountain Dust & No Man’s Valley Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

freak valley 2018 banner

Time marches on and the lineup for Freak Valley 2018 only grows more substantial. I won’t take anything away from Wolf People (whose Ruins album currently sits in my Amazon cart awaiting purchase) or Steak or No Man’s Valley or Mountain Dust here, who’ve all joined the ranks, but the highlight here has to be the addition to doom legends Candlemass to the Freak Valley 2018 melange. If you haven’t seen them in the last few years, the Swedish innovators are absolutely dead-on on stage, and though it’s coming up on six years since they released their last full-length, they still do nothing but kill when it comes to delivering a set.

I wrote the announcement for them and everyone else that you’ll find below, as posted by Freak Valley on the social medias:

freak valley 2018 candlemass

Freaks, assemble!

Gather ‘round – it’s time for the next round of adds to our already-sold-out, already-massive 2018 incarnation of FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL! It’s got legends with ancient dreams and upstarts with tales of red rains, but before we dive in, we’d like to personally thank each and every one of you for making Freak Valley 2018 a sell-out months in advance. It warms our freaky hearts to know you feel as passionately about this as we do, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to Freak Valley 2018 on May 30!

Alright, enough mushy stuff. Time to welcome Candlemass, Wolf People, Steak, Mountain Dust, and No Man’s Valley to the lineup!

CANDLEMASS

Since Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, nobody has doomed quite like the Swedish legends in Candlemass. Bassist Leif Edling has spent decades conjuring riffs that have become classics, and from that first album in 1986 through the new EP House of Doom coming in May, they’ve never failed to deliver Sabbath-worthy vibes and a groove all their own. There’s only one Candlemass and we couldn’t be more stoked to have them as part of Freak Valley 2018!

WOLF PEOPLE

In 2016, UK psychedelic four-piece Wolf People released their third album, Ruins, and told a tale of an earth without people. The buzz and the spaciousness through which the band created these unpopulated soundscapes were gorgeous, and still somehow tied to a folkish pulse. They’re not to be missed when they take the Freak Valley stage, and if you think you know the reaches of psychedelia, think again.

STEAK

As meaty as their name, these UK riff aficionados have been dominating Britain and beyond for years now, and their welcome to Freak Valley can only be called overdue. Their second album, No God to Save, came out on Ripple Music last year and absolutely blew us away with in following up 2014’s desert homage Slab City, as Steak came more into their own and their groove became even more lethal.

MOUNTAIN DUST

With cuts like “Evil Deeds” and “Tale of the Red Rain,” Montreal’s Mountain Dust proffered organ-laced blues across their 2016 debut, Nine Years, and blew away listeners and critics alike with the force and soul of their delivery. They’ve got a new record in the works for this year and will hit Freak Valley as part of their first-ever European tour, so don’t miss on these up and comers while you’ve got the chance to catch them now!

NO MAN’S VALLEY

Few first albums hit us as hard as the heavy blues of No Man’s Valley’s Time Travel upon its release in 2016. Like The Flying Eyes and All Them Witches before them, the interplay of keys and guitar and tales of witches gave a classic atmosphere to the Netherlands outfit’s work, and their memorable songwriting only made even more of an impression. We’re keeping our fingers crossed they show off some new material!

Freak Valley Festival 2018 // No Fillers – Just Killers

Line-up 2018:
OM, Russian Circles, Candlemass, Karma To Burn, My Sleeping Karma, MY BABY, Mars Red Sky, SUMAC, LUCIFER, Wolf People, Yuri Gagarin, Dýse, The Freeks, SACRI MONTI, Steak, Black Bombaim, Year of the Cobra, Purple Hill Witch, Ouzo Bazooka, Ruff Majik, Toke, Humulus, KALEIDOBOLT, Rage of Samedi, Nap, No Man’s Valley, Mountain Dust

More tba soon

Have a freaky time – your Rock Freaks

www.freakvalley.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley
https://www.facebook.com/events/738782742996668/
https://twitter.com/FreakValley

Candlemass, Live at Rock Hard Festival 2017

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Friday Full-Length: Candlemass, Ancient Dreams

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Candlemass, Ancient Dreams (1988)

As the history of doom metal has been written and rewritten over the years, it’s easy to see how Swedish epic-doom innovators Candlemass have been pushed to the side. This is due in part to trend pulling away from their often grandiose fare in favor of rawer cultism derived from garage rock and/or the original psychedelic era, and due in part to the band themselves, whose on-again-off-again reunion-making has been going on for more than a decade marked by sparse touring and releases that at this point are good enough and unheralded enough for one to legitimately consider them underrated. This, however, does nothing to take away from the landmark nature of the Swedes’ early works.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — or, better yet, don’t — but it’s the first three records. In the case of Candlemass, I’d even go first four, considering the landmark shift in lineup that took place between the first and second, as original vocalist Johan Längquist stepped out to make way for the arrival of Messiah Marcolin, who would become one of doom’s defining frontmen. Marcolin made his debut with Candlemass on Nightfall in 1987 and would go on to leave his mark on the genre across that album, 1988’s Ancient Dreams, and 1989’s Tales of Creation before departing the band, who continued on first with Thomas Vikström on 1992’s Chapter VI and then Björn Flodkvist on 1998’s Dactylis Glomerata and 1999’s From the 13th Sun before finally running out of steam and calling it quits for a few years.

Now, I will never, ever, ever take anything away from Längquist‘s contributions to Candlemass‘ first LP, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. One fantasizes a day when founding bassist and main songwriter Leif Edling orchestrates a reunion with Längquist for a studio release, and all the more after Längquist delivered such a striking performance a few years back captured on the Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 LP (review here), but the stage presence and all-in charisma of Marcolin isn’t to be understated. Amid Edling‘s classic, almost medieval post-Sabbathian riffing on songs like “Darkness in Paradise” and the “Mob Rules”-esque “Bells of Acheron,” Marcolin‘s command of Ancient Dreams on levels of technicality and chemistry is unflinching.

Even the chugging gallop of rhythm guitarist Mats “Mappe” Björkman and the shred of Lars “Lasse” Johansson on side B opener “Bearer of Pain” do nothing to hold Marcolin back. I’m not sure anything could. His voice pushes so easily into operatic vibrato that he not only deserves mention among the most powerful of metal singers — consider Ronnie James DioRobert Lowe, Hansi Kürsch, etc. — and after establishing himself on Nightfall with an inimitable performance on cuts like “At the Gallows End,” “Samarithan” and “Bewitched,” he’d continue to set a nigh on impossible standard across Ancient Dreams beginning with the speedy opener “Mirror Mirror” and continuing through the winding lumber of the title-track — speaking of underrated, drummer Jan Lindh‘s propensity for giving a crawling progression an underlying sense of motion is second to none among classic metal-style percussionists — all the way into the murk of closer “Epistle No. 81,” with lyrics written by 18th Century Swedish poet Carl Michael Bellman.

The bleak minor-key intro and the ensuing headbang-ready chug of “A Cry from the Crypt” seem to be a direct answer to “At the Gallows End” from the record preceding, but Marcolin takes the melody elsewhere, soaring in the dramatic verses as only he could, and whether it’s the brief subdued movement in the second half of “Darkness in Paradise” or the I-wield-this-storm wizardry atop the double-kick circa two minutes into “Bells of Acheron,” Ancient Dreams makes it plain just how special the dynamic in Candlemass was at this stage in their career. There was doom before them and there’s certainly been a lot of doom since, but the accomplishments of Candlemass between 1986 and 1990 are not to be understated when it comes either to the quality of Edling‘s songcraft or the performances of those with which he surrounded himself. These albums, while not necessarily timeless in their production, remain stunning these 30 years later.

Marcolin would of course rejoin Candlemass for their 2005 reunion that found them signing to Nuclear Blast and issuing their self-titled full-length, but was gone again by the time 2007’s King of the Grey Islands ultimately came together, with previously-mentioned Solitude Aeturnus singer Robert Lowe stepping in last-minute to fill the void as few could. Lowe would front Candlemass for that record and the two that followed, 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here) and 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here), as the band moved from Nuclear Blast to Napalm Records for the latter, and would himself leave, only to have his position taken by Mats Levén (ex-Therion, among many others), who appeared on last year’s four-song Death Thy Lover EP (review here), which one can only hope was a test-run ahead of a full-length to arrive at some later date. As it would be six years after their last full-length, 2018 would be as good a time as any so far as I’m concerned.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and of course, doom on.

Tonight, I make pesto. It will be part of the first meal I’ve had since last Saturday not made of protein powder, and it will happen in a multi-stage process. First, I make garlic paste.

This involves store-bought roasted garlic, potentially my own fresh-roasted garlic as well — peel the cloves, foil over a ramekin with olive oil, water, black pepper; in the oven at 350 for an hour or so — plus fresh garlic, garlic powder, and a bit of olive oil. It all goes in the food processor and doesn’t come out until it looks like smooth peanut butter from an alternate universe. Should have the texture of a spread, in other words. It is delicious and lethal.

Once that’s done and in the fridge — I have a special container ready to go because I used regular tupperware for it once and had to run it through the dishwasher like six times to get the garlic smell out — then the pesto process begins in earnest. I’ll cut basil from what remains of the summer’s plant which I brought in out of the cold and have been doing my best to keep alive with a grow light and regular watering, to some avail. I have a couple store-bought packs of basil for backup as well. Once trimmed and washed, that will go in the recently-scrapped-out food processor with olive oil, more garlic, fresh-roasted pine nuts and Brazil nuts, red pepper flakes, maybe a hot pickled ring pepper or two, some onion powder, a light flourish of romano and parmesan cheeses, a splash of egg whites for thickness, salt, and indeed some of that garlic paste I just made, and be combined pretty much until it looks right. It’ll be light green with darker flecks of basil and will taste like a multi-tiered gift from the gods.

Some will go in a bowl for tonight’s meal, the rest in the fridge for whenever and some more, hopefully, in the freezer for later use. Tonight’s will be combined with more garlic paste — I’m the only one having it, so #garlicworship will be in full effect — and put to use topping four pieces of cloud bread that The Patient Mrs. will bake for me. If you don’t know what cloud bread is, it’s basically an egg-based low carb bread substitute, made my separating whites and yolks, mixing in cream cheese and a few other ingredients, recombining the eggs and baking. There are a million recipes around for it. This is where the garlic paste will really come into play, as I will throw a far-beyond-copious amount into the batter, along with some red pepper flakes, before it goes into bake for about half an hour or so. I prefer it well done because that way it holds up better to the pesto that I’m about to slather all over it.

The recipe we use and the proportions will result in four pieces of cloud bread each about the size of half a burger roll, give or take, and I will eat them with pesto and maybe a couple extra cloves of roasted garlic if I’m feeling fancy/will let myself have it, and that will be dinner. I’m looking forward to it the way I’m looking forward to the next YOB record.

It feels well enough earned after this week. The Patient Mrs. and I had my father up from North Carolina where he lives to meet The Pecan this week. He and I did not speak for well over a decade, and though we’ve been in touch for years at this point and this visit was by no means the least pleasant interaction he and I have ever shared, let’s just say the relationship is a work in progress. Garlic-pesto cloud bread: achieved.

Hoping otherwise for a quiet weekend. Some of The Patient Mrs.’ family might come up, her mother or her sister and company, but that’s fine. They know the drill at this point: Quiet hours start at 7 — everyone out. The Pecan needs wind-down time and, frankly, so do we by that point. He turned six weeks old on Wednesday. Has gotten big already. I hear that keeps happening for a while. Should be interesting.

Next week begins list season around here. I figure to do the cover-art list first, since that’s always a fun one. Here’s everything in the notes so far for the week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: 2017 artwork list; new Windhand video.
Tue.: Telescope review.
Wed.: Pretty Lightning review.
Thu.: Comacozer review.
Fri.: Borracho review.

I might jumble some of that around if premieres come along, but you can pretty much expect the next few weeks to be quiet in that regard, since the bulk of the music industry has gone into hibernation until January by now. Fair enough. Gives me some time to catch up ahead of the next Quarterly Review — likely to happen the first week of next month — and get the rest of the lists situated. I’m still not sure what my pick for album of the year is.

Speaking of, thanks to the 130-plus of you who’ve contributed to the 2017 Year-End Poll so far. That is amazing and hugely appreciated. Please keep the lists coming. There are a few tight races and I’m interested to see how they might resolve by the end of the month.

Alright, this post has gone on long enough. With pesto daydreams, I wish you a wonderful and safe weekend, whatever you might be up to. All the best from me and mine to you and yours. We’ll see you back here Monday for that list and more good times.

Thanks for reading, and please don’t forget to dig into the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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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)

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