Swallow the Sun Post “Lumina Aurea” Video; EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, while Finland’s Swallow the Sun have always ranged far and wide throughout their career — their last album, 2015’s Songs from the North I, II and III (review here), was a purposefully-overwhelming triple album comprised of acoustic, extreme and a-little-bit-of-both installments — their new EP, Lumina Aurea, which arrives through Century Media just ahead of the full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is still a departure. Its vocals arrive in Latin-language spoken word plus some backing black metal-style screams and a chorus — Marco I. Benevento of The Foreshadowing provides the spoken parts — and the song itself is a 13-minute stretch of atmospheric intensity that’s different from anything the Jyväskylä outfit have done in the past. Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik guests on bukkelhorn, adding particularly Scandinavian flair, and the whole affair sounds way more Roadburn than Wacken, if you know what I mean.

It’s a fascinating turn for Swallow the Sun to make as they stand on the cusp of 20 years as a band. If I could sing and scream like Mikko Kotamäki, I’m not sure I’d ever let anyone else singswallow the sun lumina aurea on a record, ever, even background vocals, but he relinquishes the forward position to Benevento and recedes into the mix in best service to “Lumina Aurea” itself, and the ambience that unfolds is every bit as cinematic as the accompanying video shows it to be. I’ve heard the upcoming LP, and as always, it has its sense of atmosphere, but if you’re wondering why Swallow the Sun would release it on its own concurrent to the album, all you really have to do for an answer is listen to the two side-by-side. “Lumina Aurea” is distinct enough to earn its place as an EP separate from the album, and the album’s tracks flow well without 13-minutes of Viking ambience tacked onto the end of them (or the beginning!) because there’d really be no place else to put it. As much defiance of expectation as Swallow the Sun have done over their time, they’ve always kept to a consistency of mood in their releases — generally dark — and Lumina Aurea holds to that as well, but is clearly doing so on its own terms.

The EP is comprised of the full and instrumental versions of the track and is out now. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is due Jan. 25. The video for “Lumina Aurea” was directed by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, and you can see the full credits as well as other info from the PR wire under the clip below.

Please enjoy:

Swallow the Sun, “Lumina Aurea” official video

SWALLOW THE SUN – Lumina Aurea (OFFICIAL VIDEO). Taken from the EP “Lumina Aurea”, out December 21st, 2018. Order now: https://swallowthesun.lnk.to/LuminaAureaID

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun have released their epic standalone 14 minute track called “Lumina Aurea”. The song features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Forshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento and marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music they have ever released. Watch the music video for “Lumina Aurea”, which was created by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, HERE.

“‘Lumina Aurea’ is a song I would never want to write in my life,” Juha Raivio states about the track. “It is an open, bleeding black wound from the last two and half years of my life. But I had to write it out. I could not back down from it. The way I wrote and recorded ‘Lumina Aurea’ was so rough emotionally and physically that I think I will never talk about it public. I know this road will go on forever as a part of me, but I have also made a peace with it-that I will never have peace with it. And that the life and the journey here must still go on for a while for those of us remaining. I knew that if I would go any deeper on that road with the album as I did with ‘Lumina Aurea,’ the path would not end well. So, I quickly realized that instead I will write an album that will manifest loud and clear that after all, ‘Love is always stronger than death.’ I wanted to find that angle for ‘When A Shadow Is Forced into the Light’. This album is like a weapon for myself. A burning light, a burning torch. Victorious and proud.”

Directed and produced by Aapo Lahtela & Vesa Ranta.

Swallow the Sun:
Mikko Kotamäki: vox
Matti Honkonen: bass
Juuso Raatikainen: drums
Juho Räihä: gtr
Juha Raivio: gtr/keys/jouhikko
Jaani Peuhu: keys

Music & Lyrics: Juha Raivio
Mixed by: Linus Corneliusson / Fascination Street Studios Mastered by: Tony Lindgren / Fascination Street Studios Screams and Growls recorded at Black Chandelier, Helsinki Guitars and bass recorded at SoundSpiral Audio by Juho Räihä

Latin translation by Claudia Greco

Guest Musicians:
Bukkehorn by Einar Selvik
Latin spoken parts by: Marco I. Benevento
Latin choir by: Marco I. Benevento & The Foreshadowing

“Mors fortior quam vita est, amor fortior quam mors est”

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

More dates to be announced soon!

Swallow the Sun website

Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Swallow the Sun on Twitter

Century Media website

Century Media on Thee Facebooks

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YOB, Voivod and Amenra Announce Spring 2019 Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob alyssa herman photo

Here’s a nifty thought to make your day a little brighter: YOB touring with Voivod on a co-headlining run with support from Amenra. Just to put a check on it, it’s the outfit who defined and continue to reinvent cosmic doom, the band who innovated nerdism in heavy metal and proved that thrash could be progressive, and Europe’s leading purveyor of post-metal. This is not a minor tour. It’s not even the kind of tour you talk about later. It’s the kind of tour that, if you know, you were there, and that’s it. Some experiences don’t need words. “You were at that show?” “Yeah.” And so on.

YOB of course go in support of earlier-2018’s Our Raw Heart (review here), which if the results thus far of the Year-End Poll (add your list!) are anything to go by, yes, you already knew that. Voivod and Amenra have releases too, but really, even if none of them had put out a record in five years, wouldn’t this still be an astounding bill? Yes, yes it would.

Dates are presented by Nanotear and are as follows:

yob voivod amenra tour

Spring 2019: Yob + Voivod + Amenra

03.26 Minneapolis MN Fine Line
03.27 Chicago IL Thalhia Hall
03.28 Columbus OH Ace of Cups
03.29 Cleveland OH Grog Shop
03.30 Toronto ON Phoenix
03.31 Buffalo NY Town Ballroom
04.02 Portland ME Geno’s
04.03 Boston MA Royale
04.04 Brooklyn NY Warsaw
04.05 Philadelphia PA Union Transfer
04.06 Richmond VA Broadberry
04.07 Raleigh NC Kings
04.09 Knoxville TN Concourse (Co-presented with American Icon)
04.10 Atlanta GA Masquerade / Hell
04.11 New Orleans LA One Eyed Jack’s
04.12 Houston TX Warehouse Studios
04.13 Austin TX Barracuda
04.14 Dallas TX Gas Monkey
04.16 Denver CO Marquis Theater*
04.18 Mesa AZ Club Red+
04.19 San Diego CA Brick by Brick w/ Monolord+
+ = YOB only
* = no Voivod

YOB is:
Mike Scheidt – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Rieseberg – Bass
Travis Foster – Drums

www.yobislove.com
www.facebook.com/quantumyob
www.twitter.com/quantumyob
www.instagram/com/quantumyob
www.relapse.com
www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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Hexvessel Release All Tree Feb. 15; “Old Tree” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hexvessel

How many clever-as-hell reviewers do you think are going to talk about how forest folkers Hexvessel are getting ‘back to their roots’ (nudge nudge) on their new album? All of them? All of them twice? If it’s anything less than an 80 percent number, I’ll be disappointed in the modern press.

Hexvessel‘s nonetheless brilliant 2016 outing, When We are Death (review here), was indeed a departure for the band into go-anywhere-do-anything-even-pop songcraft that showcased a host of influences, some less derived from the natural world than others. They still danced like mad pagans, though, and it seems that All Tree will bring back some of the nature worship of the collective’s earlier work. Preorders are up for the album now for those in Europe, and they’ve posted a video for “Old Tree” that you can see at the bottom of this post. It’s serene and sad and gorgeous, and if you’d expect less, you have some homework to do.

From the social medias:

hexvessel all tree

The first single and video “Old Tree” from our new album is out now!

From the ghostly notes of the dead tree branch, played with a violin bow by Antti Haapapuro, to Andrew McIvor’s haunting guitars, violin by Daniel Pioro and found forest sounds, our new song “Old Tree” sings of personal loss with a pagan heartbeat.

Mat McNerney says: “I wrote this song at a time of what should have been deep sadness, but as a way of finding solace in nature. We tend to think of life from such a short term perspective. Nature takes millions of years to develop some of the intricate life support systems we depend on to survive. I found my answers in the trees and what they tell me. As Hesse said, when we listen to trees, we learn the ‘ancient law of life’. This song ‘Old Tree’ is very much like the first song I ever wrote as HEXVESSEL and goes to the core of what our music is about. To quote Lord Byron, ‘I love not Man the less, but Nature more’.”

With visuals beautifully captured in the old growth rainforests of Vancouver Island by British Columbian filmmaker Mark Wyatt, our video is a reverential paean to the intrinsic and eternal divinity of nature.

https://Hexvessel.lnk.to/AllTreeID for digital and European preorders. This track is also available on Spotify etc. from today.

“We are happy to announce that our fourth album “All Tree” will be released on CD, LP and digitally on February 15th, 2019 worldwide. The album will be made available via our own label Secret Trees, in exclusive partnership with Century Media Records.

“All Tree is not just about going back to the heart of Hexvessel, with a slight return to our forest folk roots, it’s about drawing fresh inspiration from my own heritage too. The English pastoral folk influences are infused with Celtic mythology from my Anglo-Irish blood, with Finnish nature as our backdrop.

“From the Canterbury folk scene and early prog bands that soundtracked my youth in England, to the ghost stories I was told as a child on my uncles farm in Ireland, this album is a spiritual journey where the old myths are doorways to enlightenment. The dawn light across boggy fields, the wind blowing through the keyhole, the branches dragging their breath inwards as the seasons ignite a magic sense of mystery about the wilderness. That’s what we tried to bring out into the songs on this album. By bowing old dead tree branches with violin bows, by summoning the sounds of the fire and the birds in the field outside, we gave the music a life which, like the liminal spirits of Samhain drifts in and out of this world. That’s what folk means. It’s the countryside singing out from within me. It’s their story we sing. And no matter where I go or where I end up staying, it’s that folk countryside which is the seed from which I sprang. All Tree.” – Mat McNerney

Cover art photography by Bastian Kalous (who created the cover for No Holier Temple).

https://www.facebook.com/hexvessel
https://twitter.com/Hexvessel
http://instagram.com/hexvesselband
https://hexvessel.bandcamp.com/
https://www.hexvessel.com/
www.centurymedia.com

Hexvessel, “Old Tree” official video

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Swallow the Sun Set Jan. 25 Release for When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

Finnish death-doomers Swallow the Sun will release a new 14-minute single next month featuring guest appearances from Einar Selvik of Wardruna and The Foreshadowing‘s Marco I. Benevento, so presumably I’ll be posting about them again shortly, but the news that their next full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is due out Jan. 25 is particularly welcome. Their last album was early 2016’s multifaceted triple-disc Songs from the North (review here), for which they toured in the States alongside Amorphis — best lineup, why didn’t I go? Oh right, I suck — and while the PR wire promises more of the standard heft-laden downerism, the fact that the album’s title, again, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is essentially the opposite of the band’s moniker in terms of the image evoked, says to me maybe some subtle shifts are in store around that central consistency.

I’ll look forward to finding out, either way. Here’s news from the PR wire:

swallow the sun covers

SWALLOW THE SUN ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM WHEN A SHADOW IS FORCED INTO THE LIGHT

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun announces the release of their new album When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, which is scheduled for release on January 25th, 2019 via Century Media Records.

The band will be releasing their standalone 14 minute epic single track “Lumina Aurea” on December 21st. The track will be available both digitally and as 12″ EP vinyl version.

Fueled by personal loss (the album title has its origins in Trees of Eternity’s “Broken Mirror”) and powered by the will to continue, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light showcases the group’s ability to maintain its signature sound while expanding upon horizons and diving deeper into the crevasse of doom-death metal. Even though the single and the album are conceptually connected, they are musically completely different. While “Lumina Aurea”, which features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Foreshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento, marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music the band has ever released, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light follows a more positive approach and continues in the vein of previous albums – first-rate death-doom in the typical style of Swallow The Sun.

Swallow The Sun have announced their first shows of 2019. See below for all upcoming tour dates. More dates to be announced soon.

When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light tracklisting:
1. When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light
2. The Crimson Crown
3. Firelights
4. Upon The Water
5. Stone Wings
6. Clouds On Your Side
7. Here On The Black Earth
8. Never Left

“Lumina Aurea” tracklisting:
1. Lumina Aurea
2. Lumina Aurea (instrumental version)

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

http://www.swallowthesun.net
https://www.facebook.com/swallowthesun
https://twitter.com/swallowthesunfi
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Swallow the Sun, “Rooms and Shadows” official video

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Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Heilung, Amarok, T.G. Olson, Sun Dial, Lucid Grave, Domadora, Klandestin, Poor Little Things, Motorowl

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

You know what’s disheartening? When someone goes ‘thanks dudes.’ You know, I share a review or something, the band reposts and goes ‘thanks to the crew at The Obelisk blah blah.’ What fucking crew? If I had a crew, I’d put up 10 reviews every single day of the year. “Crew.” Shit. I am the crew. In the description of this site, the very first thing it says is “One-man operation.” It’s a fucking solo-project. That’s the whole point of it. It’s like me looking at your bass and going, “Sweet guitar, thanks for the solos brah.” I’m happy people want to share links and this and that, but really? It’s been nine years. Give me a break.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Nobody gives a shit. Now I remember. Thanks for reading.

And while we’re here, please remember the numbers for these posts don’t mean anything. This isn’t a countdown. Or a countup. It’s just me keeping track of how much shit I’m reviewing. The answer is “a lot.”

Grump grump grump.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Lucifer, Lucifer II

lucifer lucifer ii

Recorded as the trio of vocalist Johanna Sardonis (ex-The Oath), guitarist Robin Tidebrink (Saturn) and guitarist/drummer Nicke Andersson (Death Breath, ex-Entombed, ex-The Hellacopters), Lucifer’s second album, Lucifer II (on Rise Above), follows three years after its numerical predecessor, Lucifer I (review here), and marks its personnel changes with a remarkable consistency of mission. Like Mercyful Fate gone disco, the formerly-Berlin/London-now-Stockholm group bring stage-ready atmospheres to songs like “Phoenix” and the riff-led “Before the Sun,” while unleashing a largesse of hooks in “Dreamer” and the boogie-pushing “Eyes in the Sky.” “Dancing with Mr. D” brings nod to a Rolling Stones cover, and “Before the Sun” reaffirms a heavy ‘70s root in their sound. I can’t help but wonder if the doomier “Faux Pharaoh” is a sequel to “Purple Pyramid,” but either way, its thicker, darker tonality is welcome ahead of the bonus track Scorpions cover “Evening Wind,” which again demonstrates the ease with which Lucifer make established sounds their own. That’s pretty much the message of the whole album. Lucifer are a big band. Lucifer II makes the case for their being a household name.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records webstore

 

Heilung, Lifa

heilung lifa

Lifa is the audio taken from the live video that brought Denmark’s Heilung to prominence. Captured at Castlefest in The Netherlands in last year, the impression the expansive Viking folk group made was all the more powerful with elaborate costuming, bone percussive instruments, antlers, animal-skin drums, and so on. Their debut studio album, Ofnir, came out in 2015 and like LIFA has been issued by Season of Mist, but the attention to detail and A/V experience only adds to the hypnotic tension and experimentalist edge in the material. Does it work with just the audio? Yes. The 12-minute “In Maijan” and somehow-black-metal “Krigsgaldr” maintain their trance-out-of-history aspect, and the 75-minute set blends multi-tiered melodies and goblin-voiced declarations for an impression unlike even that which Wardruna bring to bear. Whether it’s the drones of “Fylgija Futhorck” or the chants and thuds of “Hakkerskaldyr,” LIFA is striking from front to back and a cohesive, visionary work that should be heard as well as seen. But definitely seen.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Amarok, Devoured

amarok devoured

Eight years after their founding, an EP and several splits, Chico, California, atmosludge extremists Amarok make their full-length debut with Devoured on Translation Loss. If it’s been a while in the making, it’s easy enough to understand why. The album is rife with brutalist and grueling sensibilities. Comprised of just four tracks, it runs upwards of 70 minutes and brings a visceral churn to each cut, not forgetting the importance of atmosphere along the way, but definitely focused on the aural bludgeoning they’re dealing out. Tempos, duh, are excruciating, and between the screams and growls of bassist Brandon Squyres (also Cold Blue Mountain) and guitarist Kenny Ruggles – the band completed by guitarist Nathan Collins and drummer Colby ByrneAmarok make their bid for Buried at Sea levels of heft and rumble their way across a desolate landscape of their own making. Eight years to conjure this kind of punishment? Yeah, that seems about right. See you in 2026.

Amarok on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

T.G. Olson, Ode to Lieutenant Henry

tg olson ode to lieutenant henry

Here’s a curious case: T.G. Olson, founding guitarist and vocalist of Across Tundras, is a prolific experimental singer-songwriter. His material ranges from psychedelic country to fuller-toned weirdo Americana and well beyond. He’s wildly prolific, and everything goes up on Bandcamp for a name-your-price download, mostly unannounced. It’s not there, then it is. Olson’s latest singe, Ode to Lieutenant Henry, was there, and now it’s gone. With the march of its title-track and a complementary cover of Townes van Zandt’s “Silver Ships of Andilar,” I can’t help but be curious as to where the tracks went and if they’ll be back, perhaps in some other form or as part of a different release. Both are plugged-in and coated in fuzzy tones, with Olson’s echoing vocals providing a human presence in the wide soundscape of his own making. The original is shorter than the cover, but both songs boast a signature sense of ramble that, frankly, is worth being out there. Hopefully they’re reposted at some point, either on their own as they initially were or otherwise.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Science Fiction

sun dial sci fi

If space is the place, Sun Dial feel right at home in it. The long-running UK psychedelic adventurers collect two decades’ worth of soundtrack material on Science Fiction, their new release for Sulatron Records. Made with interwoven keyboard lines and a propensity to periodically boogie on “Mind Machine,” “Airlock,” “Infra Red,” etc., the experimentalist aspect of Science Fiction is all the more remarkable considering the album is compiled from different sources. One supposes the overarching cosmos is probably what brings it together, but with the samples and synth of “Saturn Return” and the lower end space-bass of pre-bonus-track closer “Starwatchers” – that bonus track, by the way, is a 15-minute version of opener “Hangar 13” – and though the vast majority of the Science Fiction relies on synth and keys to make its impression, it’s still only fair to call the proceedings natural, as the root of each one seems to be exploration. It’s okay to experiment. Nobody’s getting hurt.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Sun Dial at Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lucid Grave, Demo 2018

lucid grave demo 2018

There are three songs on Lucid Grave’s first outing, the aptly-titled Demo 2018, and the first of them is also the longest (immediate points), “Star.” It presents a curious and hard to place interpretation of psychedelic sludge rock. It is raw as a demo worthy of its name should be, and finds vocalist Malene Pedersen (also Lewd Flesh) echoing out to near-indecipherable reaches atop the feedback-addled riffing. Quite an introduction, to say the least. The subsequent “Desert Boys” is more subdued at the start but gets furious at the end, vocals spanning channels in an apparent call and response atop increasingly intense instrumental thrust. And as for “Ride the Hyena?” If I didn’t know better – and rest assured, I don’t – I’d call it doom. I’m not sure what the hell the København five-piece are shooting for in terms of style, but I damn sure want to hear what they come up with next so I can find out. Consider me enticed. And accordingly, one can’t really accuse Demo 2018 of anything other than doing precisely what it’s supposed to do.

Lucid Grave on Thee Facebooks

Lucid Grace on Bandcamp

 

Domadora, Lacuna

domadora lacuna

Comprised of four-tracks of heavy psychedelic vibes led by the scorch-prone guitar of Belwil, Domadora’s third album, Lacuna, follows behind 2016’s The Violent Mystical Sukuma (discussed here) and taps quickly into a post-Earthless league of instrumentalism on opener “Lacuna Jam.” That should be taken as a compliment, especially as regards the bass and drums of Gui Omm and Karim Bouazza, respectively, who hold down uptempo grooves there and roll along with the more structured 14-minute cut “Genghis Khan” that follows. Each of the album’s two sides is comprised of a shorter track and a longer one, and there’s plenty of reach throughout, but more than expanse, even side B’s “Vacuum Density” and “Tierra Last Homage” are more about the chemistry between the band members – Angel Hidalgo Paterna rounds out on organ – than about crafting a landscape. Fortunately for anyone who’d take it on, the Parisian unit have plenty to offer when it comes to that chemistry.

Domadora on Thee Facebooks

Domadora on Bandcamp

 

Klandestin, Green Acid of Last Century

klandestin green acid of last century

That’s a big “fuck yes, thank you very much” for the debut album from Indonesian stoner metallers Klandestin. Green Acid of the Last Century arrives courtesy of Hellas Records and is THC-heavy enough that if they wanted to, they could probably add “Bong” to the band’s name and it would be well earned. Eight tracks, prime riffs, watery vocals, dense fuzz, stomp, plod, lumber, shuffle – it’s all right there in homegrown dosage, and for the converted, Green Acid of the Last Century is nothing short of a worship ceremony, for the band itself as well as for anyone taking it on. With the march of “Doomsday,” the unmitigated rollout of “Black Smoke,” and the swirling green aurora of “The Green Aurora,” Klandestin wear their holding-back-a-cough riffage as a badge of honor, and couldn’t be any less pretentious about it if they tried. From the hooded weedian on the cover art to the Sleepy nod of closer “Last Century,” Green Acid of Last Century telegraphs its intent front-to-back, and is all the more right on for it.

Klandestin on Thee Facebooks

Hellas Records on Bandcamp

 

Poor Little Things, Poor Little Things

poor little things poor little things

You get what you pay for with “Rock’n’Roller,” which leads off the self-titled debut EP from Bern, Switzerland-based Poor Little Things. Around the core duo of vocalist Tina Jackson and multi-instrumentalist Dave “Talon” Jackson (also of Australia’s Rollerball) on guitar, bass, synth and percussion is Talon’s The Marlboro Men bandmate Fernando Marlboro on drums, and together the band presents five tracks of remember-when-rock-rocked-style groove. Fueled by ‘70s accessibility and a mentality that seems to be saying it’s okay to play big rooms, like arenas, cuts like “Drive” seem prime for audience participation, and “Break Another Heart” gives a highlight performance from Tina while “About Love” showcases a more laid back take. They close with the 6:37 “Street Cheetah,” which struts appropriately, and end with a percussive finish on a fadeout repeating the title line. As a showcase of their style and songwriting chops, Poor Little Things shows significant promise, sure, but it’s also pretty much already got everything it needs for a full-length album.

Poor Little Things on Thee Facebooks

Poor Little Things on Bandcamp

 

Motorowl, Atlas

motorowl atlas

Every now and then you put on a record and it’s way better than you expect. Hello, Motorowl’s Atlas. The German troupe’s second for Century Media, it takes the classic stylizations of their 2016 debut, Om Generator, and pushes them outward into a vast sea of organ-laced progressive heavy, soaring in vocal melodies and still modern despite drawing from an array of decades past. The chug in “The Man Who Rules the World” would be metal for most bands, but on Atlas, it becomes part of a broader milieu, and sits easily next to the expansive title-track, as given to post-rocking airiness in the guitar as to synth-laden prog. That mixture of influences and aesthetics would be enough to give the five-piece an identity of their own, but Atlas is further characterized by Motorowl’s ambitious songwriting and benefits greatly from the melodic arrangements and the clear intention toward creative development at work here. Those who take on its seven-track/45-minute journey will find it dynamic, spacious and heavy in kind.

Motorowl on Thee Facebooks

Motorowl at Century Media website

 

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Truckfighters Announce “Long, Long” Indefinite Hiatus

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

Bummer news out of Sweden in that Örebro-based fuzz forerunners Truckfighters have decided at least for now. The band, helmed by the core founding duo of Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm and Niklas “Dango” Källgren, have spent the last decade-plus touring Europe and beyond, acting as a pioneering act proving that indeed there’s an appetite in the North American market for European heavy rock. Their latest album, V (review here), was the first in a licensing alliance between their own Fuzzorama Records imprint and Century Media. It may well be their last.

Hard to say what the ultimate impact of Truckfighters‘ work will have been — Cedermalm and Källgren working with a succession of drummers including Oscar “Pezo” Johansson, who was featured in the 2012 band-doc Fuzzomentary (review here) and would go on to do a stint in Witchcraft  — because, frankly, it’s still shaking out. Truckfighers made their debut in 2005 with Gravity X (discussed here), and between that and their ultra-well-earned reputation for on-stage calisthenics as captured on the 2016 live album Live in London (review here), delivering flawless sets while headbanging, jumping up and down — Dango could get some air — and generally physically engaging with their audience and their music itself, their influence continues to spread not only throughout Sweden, but greater Europe and the US as well. A new generation of fuzz rockers might have come along one way the other, but there’s no question its shape would be much different without Truckfighters spending the better art of the last decade on the road so actively kicking ass.

Truckfighters‘s studio work also became increasingly progressive over their five albums, Gravity X and it 2007 follow-up, Phi, signaling just the beginning of a sonic expansion that would continue steadily through 2oo9’s excellent Mania (review here), 2014’s Universe (review here), and of course V itself, which earned the band some controversy surrounding their video for “Calm Before the Storm” (posted here). That notwithstanding, V had a generally melancholic vibe in some of its tracks that left one wondering how the band would meld that with their high-energy stage presentation. As I was fortunate enough to find out for myself late in 2016 on seeing the band play in Oslo, they simply did it and it worked. I guess having more than 10 years under your belt lets you do that kind of thing and pretty much anything else you want when you’re actually just a really good band.

They pushed their sound pretty far with V, but it’s still a bummer to lose Truckfighters even for what they’re calling a “long, long” indefinite hiatus. Never say never in rock and roll — one doesn’t even have to leave Örebro to find Graveyard as an example of a band-breakup that simply didn’t stick — but if they are done, they went out on their own terms having delivered top quality performances both in the studio and on stage, and achieved worldwide notoriety and influence as a result. Frankly, that’s more than most get, when it comes right down to it. Still, they’ll be missed.

All the best to Cedermalm and Källgren going forward. Here’s their announcement from the social medias:

truckfighters

Sad news for some, but totally necessary. Truckfighters is on a long, long hiatus. Might come back stronger than ever (that’s the only way) or not at all! We’ve been releasing many albums that we’re very proud of and the key is that we’ve always played because of the pure fun out of it. That’s the only thing that counts and in the end made us do what we did so good for so many years… We’re not that kind of band continuing doing something just because we make money out of it ;)

A big THANK YOU to all the amazing fans and people we’ve meet over the years, some more amazing that others but you all deserve a big hug.

Fuzz n’ out!

http://www.truckfighters.com
https://www.facebook.com/truckfighters
https://twitter.com/truckfighters
https://www.youtube.com/user/TruckfightersTV
http://www.centurymedia.com/

Truckfighters, Live in London

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

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 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Radio Moscow, New Beginnings: Burn the Ground, Torch the Cosmos

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

radio-moscow-new-beginnings

If you don’t already know Radio Moscow are one of the best and most vital bands currently boogieing their way around the planet, you’ve probably never seen them live. It’s cool — sometimes it’s hard to get out and there will hopefully be many more opportunities for you to do so, but the truth of the matter is that when it comes to on-stage energy, presence and delivery of classic heavy rock, frenetically cast into a one-of-a-kind bluesy shuffle, there’s no one who does it better than the San Diego-based three-piece of founding guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also PsicomagiaBirth). They’ve had a tumultuous history to bring them to where they are, casting a wide influence second perhaps only to Earthless over the West Coast heavy boom of recent years, but as Griggs debuted the lineup with Meier and Marrone on 2014’s Magical Dirt (review here), it was clearly the start of a new era for Radio Moscow as a whole.

Their fifth album overall and first following a label change from Alive Records to Century Media — significant as the former had issued everything they’d done up to this point, from their 2007 self-titled debut through 2016’s Live! in California 2LP — New Beginnings continues their forward push into max-impact rock and blues with 10 new tracks and just under 40 minutes of genuine, bona fide scorch the likes of which, again, most other bands simply would not be able to conjure. Griggs‘ history of helming Radio Moscow recordings goes back to the early demos that were released in 2012 as 3 & 3 Quarters, and he once more steps into the producer role on New Beginnings, seemingly with a mission to bring an added sense of color to cuts like the instrumental “Woodrose Morning” or the later harmonica-and-tom-thudding swirl-and-stomper “Last to Know,” which highlights the blend of Echoplex-laden heavy psych and earthy blues on display throughout, operating, as ever, in top form.

A fast hi-hat count-in from Marrone sets the pace for the charge of opening semi-title-track “New Beginning,” which at just over four minutes is actually one of the longer cuts on the album that mostly shares its name. The sense of setting a vibe is quick as Meier‘s always-classy basslines and Griggs‘ furious guitar work unleash their barrage atop Marrone‘s jazzy snare rolls and impossible-sounding tom hits, some tambourine backing the first verse lines as guttural lines are meted out with the band’s trademark blue-eyed soul. It’s constant motion, and that’s no less a hallmark of Radio Moscow‘s approach than the hook that follows, the madcap pacing, reverb-soaked vocals or the head-spinning result of all these elements combined. Radio Moscow being Radio Moscow, in other words. “New Beginning” jams into the swirling start-stop boogie of “Deceiver,” which once again finds Griggs‘ voice drenched in effects atop his Hendrix-style guitar, but pulls back on the tempo to give more of a cyclical feel to its verse lines, punctuated by Marrone‘s drumming.

In its last minute, “Deceiver” builds from its comfortable fluidity into an all-out surge of groove, cutting to silence ahead of the relatively serene, atmospheric start of “Woodrose Morning,” the lysergic feel of which is hinted at in the title, and the effect of which is hypnotic enough that almost before one realizes it, the wash has given way to the subsequent “Driftin’,” which with its flourish of harmonica and bluesy shove reorients the listener back on solid ground despite a guitar solo that seems to maintain some of the echo from “Woodrose Morning” between its verses, a quick turn efficiently done in under three minutes to give way to the key-inclusive presumed side A finale, “No One Knows Where They’ve Been,” which rounds out the formidable momentum built up across New Beginnings thus far with a fervent shuffle, peppered-in string-tearing leads and a swaggering hook that anchors the first half while the second pushes outward into a jam, sounding like it’s about to fly off the rails which of course it never actually does. As if to remind that they’re songwriters after all, they move back into the chorus and cap “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” with fading Echoplex noise.

radio moscow

If this first half of New Beginnings is about building up that momentum, that forward push, with the trippy excursion of “Woodrose Morning” tucked neatly in the middle as the centerpiece of the initial five cuts, then side B would seem to be where Radio Moscow take that momentum and move it into even more expansive terrain. “Last to Know” leads off the back end of the tracklisting with toms at the outset, as swirl of guitar effects and harmonica, and briskly moves into its verse progression, with Griggs holding out the ends of his lines with the reverb that has by now become familiar. Like “Pacing” still to come, “Last to Know” offers one of New Beginnings‘ primo hooks, but in the molten guitar effects, added percussion and holding-it-all-together bass of the jam in its second half, it seems to border up to Afrobeat before its fadeout and so signals the wider berth of some of what follows nonetheless.

One might think of the instrumental “New Skin” as a relatively straightforward answer to “Woodrose Morning,” but the song ultimately proves Radio Moscow don’t necessarily need to go full-wash to draw the listener into a trance — the rhythm section leads the way and one can only delight in following the route toward “Pacing,” which follows the verse/chorus pattern of “Last to Know,” but pulls back from the jammy sensibility of the side B launcher — at least a bit — its bridge shorter and moving back to the hook after giving Griggs proper space to unleash yet another blinding solo. This also sets up the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces,” which serves as one of the most distinct departures New Beginnings makes as it digs into more laid back, airy blues. Gradually, tension builds in bass and drums behind Griggs‘ guitar and vocals, and before its 3:21 are up, the song explodes in about its last 40 seconds, but by then the mood is set, and a few final quiet notes underscore the point before giving ground to closer “Dreams,” also the longest inclusion at 5:57.

Have I mentioned “scorch” yet? Yes? Well, “Dreams” has plenty, just in case Radio Moscow haven’t burnt their own music to enough of a crisp yet. The tempo starts out smooth enough, but before long, the power trio put emphasis on the power and charge through verses into a tense build from which the guitar takes flight propelled by the bass and drums moving past the halfway point, disintegrating into Echoplex effects and finding itself in a wash of swelling volume — might be e-bow? — but feeling off-the-cuff and organically jammed out all the same. This psychedelic triumph spins in circles as the band hits five minutes and resolves itself in a peeling-the-paint-off-the-walls-distortion apex that does not so much cross a finish line as obliterate it. Righteously.

Clearly, the set is over. Radio Moscow have gone as far out as they’re going to go and after turning back multiple times along the way throughout “Deceiver” or “No One Knows Where They’ve Been,” they’ve finally decided to stay all the way gone. As a fan of the band, I can’t say I blame them. I don’t ultimately know if New Beginnings will go down as the record that fully captures the vigor of what they bring to their live show, but its emphasis on the chemistry between GriggsMeier and Marrone is unmistakable, and the songs that comprise it make a compelling argument for Radio Moscow‘s work in the studio being no less essential to their impact than what they do onstage. In either context, they are not to be missed.

Radio Moscow, “Pacing” official video

Radio Moscow website

Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks

Radio Moscow on Instagram

Century Media website

Century Media on Thee Facebooks

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