New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3 Adds Churchburn, Yatra, Summoner, Curse the Son, Irata, Red Mesa & HeWolf

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

new england stoner and doom fest 2019 banner

Alright everybody, back to real after the holiday. Maybe you scammed a four-day weekend out of Thanksgiving. If so, good work. If not, you’ll get ’em next time. One way or the other, today’s the day reality sets back in. Sucks, right? Usually that’s how it goes.

But if you’re looking for a bit of post-turkey escapism, mark your calendar for New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3 in Jewett City, Connecticut. Being held next May 15-17 at Altone’s Music Hall, the annual gathering has already made its first lineup announcement with resurgent doom mystics Orodruin leading a pack that also included Kingsnake, Clamfight, Worshipper and others, and to that significant heft, it now adds Churchburn — who are bound to be just about the heaviest band on any bill they play anytime they play anywhere — Baltimore’s Yatra, whose second LP will most likely be out by then, Boston progressive heavyweights Summoner, Connecticut’s own Curse the Son, hopefully also with a new record out, Irata from North Carolina, HeWolf from Virginia, and Red Mesa from way out in New Mexico.

Interesting to see the festival increasing its reach. How far it will go in the end of course remains to be seen as there are more than 40 acts promised and nowhere near that yet unveiled. So, as I say around here from time to time (and by that I mean pretty much daily), more to come.

For now, the following:

New England stoner and doom fest 2020 poster

New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3 – Second Lineup Annoucement

The New England Stoner and Doom Fest 3 (NESDF3) is taking place at Altone’s Music Hall in Jewett City, CT on the weekend of May 15-17 of 2020. The first roster announcement made a short time ago included Orodruin, Worshipper, Wolftooth, Lotek Cruiser, Red Stone Chapel, Bone Church, Shadow Witch (Blacklight Encore), Kingsnake, and Clamfight. Already looking like it’s going to be a great time, we add the announcement of the following bands (With many to come) 40+ total over 3 days.

Weekend passes go on sale Jan 3, 2020 www.Newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com

All band, vendor, and sponsor submissions and inquiries: Newenglandstoneranddoomfest@gmail.com

Churchburn (RI)

Churchburn is the musical collaboration between two of the undergrounds masters of misery. Dave Suzuki, best known for his mesmerizing guitar work and brutal drumming in Vital Remains and Ray McCaffrey, who carved out sonic drum patterns for Sin Of Angels and Grief. The two have set out to share with the world their love of the riff. Not only the heaviest but also the most haunting. Each song is crafted with the most sinister of intent. Churchburn want the listener to feel a true sense of dread as each song progresses.

Yatra (MD)

YATRA’s eclectic sound includes elements of doom and heavy metal mixed with explorations into sonic territories that provide a unique sound.

HeWolf (VA)

Grunge! Ear polluting power-trio, former members of Iron Reagan, Darkest Hour, Alabama Thunderpussy, HRM, Crackhead, the Medusa.

Irata (VA)

Irata is loud, heavy rock from Greensboro, NC on Small Stone Records and they deliver every time live!!

Curse the Son (CT)

Emerging from the untimely demise of stoner rockers Sufferghost, Curse the Son is a plodding distorted sonic wall of Sabbathian riffage. A power trio in the truest sense…..screaming amps…tons of fuzz…fat bass..thick riffin…lots of smokin! Get high, tune low & play slow.

Red Mesa (NM)

Out of New Mexico on Desert Records, Red Mesa will have you cruising through the desert full throttle.

Summoner (MA)

Summoner, the band formerly known as Riff Cannon. Same dudes, same music, different name. Summoner are a heavy rock band from Boston, MA. They sling riffs so you don’t have to……

Already announced:
Orodruin
Worshipper
Wolftooth
RED STONE CHAPEL (Germany)
Lotek Cruiser (Canada)
Shadow Witch (Blacklight Encore)
Kingsnake
Clamfight
Bone Church

http://www.Newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest/
https://www.facebook.com/events/467948910731582/

Churchurn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery (2018)

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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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Churchburn Post Video for “The Misery Hymns”; Album Release Show Set for Friday

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

churchburn

Churchburn make an awful lot of sense in a world utterly rife with daily horrors and panic. The deathly Providence, Rhode Island, sludge extremists are rearing back to unleash their second LP, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery (review here), via Armageddon Shop this weekend at a show at their hometown venue Dusk alongside DropdeadConclave and High Command, and to further herald the record’s arrival, they’ve teamed with Chariot of Black Moth to release a new video for the semi-titled-track “The Misery Hymns.” Appropriately enough, its imagery is dark, full of stark and dense grays and sudden flashing lights, and it seems to begin by dragging the viewer through a black hole. If it sounds severe, it is.

The album, which follows 2014’s The Awaiting Coffins (review here), toys throughout with the balance between death metal and sludge riffing, delighting in the wretchedness it conjures while it obliterates that genre line. In songs like “Lines of Red” and “The Misery Hymns,” it is unbridled in its heft, but there’s a pervasive sense of atmosphere as well, and Churchburn never seem to lose sight of that underlying purpose, as brutal as they might and do get. The result is a record the weight of which stems from more than just its tones. The sound of it is menacing in the moment and haunting after, and its sense of punishment is likewise multi-tiered.

It goes without saying the release show will be completely ridiculous. An absolute onslaught and one that, should you be in the area, you’ll want to hit up even if you don’t know you want to hit it up.

The video follows here. Please enjoy:

Churchburn, “The Misery Hymns” official video

Huge Thanks to Jakub of Chariot Of Black Moth for making this video for us… for the song, “Misery Hymns”. New album out July, Friday the 13th, on Armageddon Shop Label…”None Shall Live…The Hymns of Misery”

Churchburn live:
07.14 Dusk Providence RI – Record Release Show w/ Dropdead, High Command & Conclave
10.05 Geno’s Portland ME – Into the Aether II Festival

Churchburn on Thee Facebooks

Churchburn on Bandcamp

Armageddon Shop website

Armageddon Shop label webstore

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Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery: Vita ex Mortis

Posted in Reviews on June 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

churchburn none shall live the hymns of misery

It’s a different Churchburn on the second album than it was on the first. The core duo of guitarist/vocalist Dave Suzuki (formerly of Vital Remains) and drummer Ray McCaffrey (formerly of Sin of Angels and Grief) are joined by guitarist Timmy St. Amour (ex-Howl) and bassist/vocalist Derek Moniz (ex-HeadRot), as well as guests Andy Grant adding noise/ambience and ex-member Mike Cordoso contributing backing vocals, for None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery, and as the follow-up to 2014’s The Awaiting Coffins (review here), the new outing immediately has a high standard to live up to in brutality and atmosphere alike. That challenge is met with a gleefully extreme seven-track/45-minute run that takes the basic model of the first album, which bridged together the often disparate styles of death metal and sludge, and makes the sound even more cohesive and individualized as the band’s own.

From the opening minute-long feedback introduction in “Vexare” through the chugs, shouts, nods and viciousness that follows until the acoustic notes that precede the ultra-slowdown roll of closer “Kaustos,” Churchburn conjure a vision of lumbering madness that, despite its bite and general abrasiveness, succeeds in its mission to cull together the multiple styles by which it’s influenced into a single impression. That is, where The Awaiting Coffins set death metal and sludge against each other on a collection drawn from the band’s original demo and two more recent recordings, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery feels more like a complete album, but one that unquestionably benefits from the experience of its predecessor. It brings its tectonic deathsludge together with a smashing weight worthy of inclusion in conversations alongside acts like Primitive Man, but also uses that as a foundation to branch out in different directions, showing some YOB influence on centerpiece “Authorized to Cleanse” — sonically if not in philosophy — and still finding room stomach-turning tension in the rhythm of the penultimate “Relieved by Burning Lead.”

What’s important to understand — and one can hear it in the eight-plus-minute second cut “Lines of Red,” on which Suzuki‘s blown-out vocals call to mind the heyday of Maryland’s Swarm of the Lotus, as well as the brazen lead guitar melodies and deft rhythmic turns of “Before the Inferno” — is that none of this has happened by mistake. There’s consciousness at work behind these songs, and while I’m not sure I’d call the material progressive, it has progressed from where Churchburn were four and five years ago. A solidified full lineup is likely to have something to do with that, but even in the sense of menace that marks the sample at the start of “Relieved by Burning Lead” or the build into the churning highlight and semi-title-track, “The Misery Hymns,” it is a willful execution of creative intent at work, not happenstance of throwing together riffs and seeing what happens. And with Suzuki and McCaffrey both still present as the driving force behind the group, Churchburn seem just to have begun a new stage of their overarching growth. The interplay of rhythm and lead layers on “Authorized to Cleanse,” which gives way to a blastbeat-laden attack that’s both one of the most poised and most outwardly searing on the record, speaks to the capacities of the new lineup, but at the same time, it’s clear that the moves Churchburn are making are the result of lessons learned from the debut.

churchburn

While almost a first offering unto itself for being the premiere with this lineup, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery is very much a second full-length, and one that only pushes further along the encouraging lines of its predecessor. To wit, the shifting pace of “Before the Inferno,” which moves fluidly from sharp-edged twists through sections of faster chugging into more drawn out and doomed atmospheric roll, marks the kind of execution that, however much experience the players might have in previous bands, would be incredibly rare on a debut. McCaffrey‘s double-kick, Suzuki‘s distorted screams at the apex and the thud that finishes all delve deeper into the consuming aspects of the album as a whole listening experience, and while there are no shortage of headbang-worthy — let’s say, in your kitchen, 5AM, through laptop speakers headbanging, or, you know, at a show — moments of raw punishment, Churchburn have as much to say in ambience as they do in onslaught.

But here too the story is one of cohesion, and like the haunting grin of the horned figure on the Nestor Avalos cover art, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery casts much of its violence in subtlety. Even beneath the lurch of “Vexare” at the outset, one can hear in the low end of bass and guitar a push that seems to move downward and downward, not just following the march of the drums into the rest of the album that follows, but gradually leading the listener out of the light and into the manifestations of darkness to come. And at the end, the nylon-string guitar introducing “Kaustus” would seem to offer a moment of hope or respite, but the lumber that ensues and the panicking screams at the end provide one last look at the terrors already witnessed; a final reminder of the power Churchburn seem to find in the murk of their own creation.

Though it sounds insane, it’s methodical, so maybe psychopathic is a better term for what’s happening throughout these tracks, but in any case, by realizing this merciless intent, the band leaves no question as to the success of the album. It has been made with the intention to damn the spirit as well as the eardrums, and while there are stretches for which there will never seem to be enough volume — again, “Lines of Red” — None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery is more than just aural sadism. It is crafted dark art and a work of precise concept that leaves more in its wake than simple bruises. If it is foreshadow, it portends utter devastation should Churchburn be able to continue along its line of progress, and if it is an ultimate expression, its triumph is writ large in every destructive second of its passing.

Churchburn on Thee Facebooks

Churchburn on Bandcamp

Armageddon Shop website

Armageddon Shop label webstore

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Churchburn Announce None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery out July 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

churchburn

It’s been a minute, but if you recall Churchburn‘s 2014 debut album, The Awaiting Coffins (review here), then chances are you remember it devouring the line between death metal and doom, the shredding leads and vicious chug of Dave Suzuki, also of a friendly little outfit called Vital Remains. And by friendly I mean visceral. In any case, though it wasn’t without its atmospheric/ambient stretches, it was a record worthy of opening with a song called “Embers of Human Ash.” Put it that way.

Four years later, there’s a new Churchburn coming from a new, expanded lineup of the band, Suzuki and fellow founder Ray McCaffrey joined by former Howl guitarist Timmy St. Amour and bassist Derek Moniz, who’s been in many, many bands. Due out July 18 via the much-respected Armageddon Shop, the record is called None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery, and I have little doubt that once again the band will live up to their slaughter-filled expectations.

The PR wire sent info. Preorders start June 1:

churchburn none shall live the hymns of misery

CHURCHBURN – None Shall Live… The Hymns Of Misery LP/CD/CASSETTE/Digital
Armageddon Shop AS-013
Release date: July 13, 2018
Preorders up: June 1, 2018

It’s been 4 years since “The Awaiting Coffins” was released. Churchburn is proud to finally unveil the new album: “None Shall Live…The Hymns of Misery”. To be released once again via the Armageddon Shop store label.

Recorded, engineered and mixed at Machines With Magnets by Seth Manchester: machineswithmagnets.com

Mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright for maximum hearing damage: audiosiege.com

We’re proud to feature the artwork by the dark mind of Nestor Avalos. He went above and beyond our highest expectations to create this sick piece of art for us: nestoravalosofficial.com

For added discomfort within the music, we had two special guests: Andy Grant of The Vomit Arsonist for his black ambience. Our metal brother, former member Mike Cardoso on backing vocals. Churchburn have also brought on two new members, both of whom have already made their own marks in previous R.I. bands: Timmy St. Amour (Howl) on guitar and Derek Moniz (Headrot, Wreak, Black Acid Prophecy…too many to mention) on bass. Their input and musicianship really show on the new songs and recording.

All photos for the new album shot by Mike St Onge.

Thank you to those who helped in funding some of the studio cost by buying merch and your continued support of Churchburn. We hope you dig this album as much as we do.

Churchburn 2018

BAND: Churchburn
ALBUM TITLE: None Shall Live… The Hymns Of Misery

TRACKLIST FOR CD/DIGITAL:
1. Vexare
2. Lines Of Red
3. Misery Hymns
4. Authorized to Cleanse
5. Before The Inferno
6. Relieved By Burning Lead
7. Kaustos

TRACKLIST FOR VINYL/CASSETTE:
Side A 21:24
1. Vexare 4:45
2. Lines Of Red 8:41
3. Misery Hymns 7:58

Side B 25:45
4. Authorized to Cleanse 6:02
5. Before The Inferno 7:00
6. Relieved By Burning Lead 5:49
7. Kaustos 4:54

Churchburn live:
May 28 Geno’s Rock Club Portland, ME
Jun 07 Northside Festival Brooklyn, NY
Jun 08 Brighton Music Hall Allston, MA
Jun 09 Upstate Music Hall Clifton Park, NY

Churchburn is the musical collaboration between two of the undergrounds masters of misery. Dave Suzuki, best known for his mesmerizing guitar work and brutal drumming in Vital Remains and Ray McCaffrey, who carved out sonic drum patterns for Sin Of Angels and Grief. The two have set out to share with the world their love of the riff. Not only the heaviest but also the most haunting. Each song is crafted with the most sinister of intent. Churchburn want the listener to feel a true sense of dread as each song progresses. Revamped 2017 Line up includes Timmy St. Amour (guitar) ex-Howl, and Derek Moniz (bass) ex-Headrot and many others.

https://www.facebook.com/CHURCHBURNDOOM/
https://churchburn.bandcamp.com/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/4XVE0BFa4oxWDyYdEdUFOH
http://armageddonshop.com/
https://armageddonlabel.bigcartel.com/

Churchburn, The Awaiting Coffins (2014)

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Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2017 Completes Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Stop me if I’ve said this before, but Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2017 has be as close to an absolute no-brainer as I’ve ever seen in terms of attendance. I mean, so you’re gonna go out to the woods and listen to a bunch of meticulously curated doom and folk and black metal and psych for a weekend, camp out and top the whole thing off with a Panopticon set under starlight? Jesus. How much more could you really ask of a live event than that?

Cheers to Mary Spiro on a job incredibly done with this lineup. I don’t even know what else to say about it other than it’s pretty unreal and there’s nothing else like it happening that I know of in the US or maybe even anywhere else. Seriously. Who’s pulling bands from both coasts and Europe across genres like this for an outdoor event the vibe of which you can already feel just from the press release? Who’s got Castle on the same bill with West Virginian folk black metal?

It’s not all my bag, but I tip my hat:

SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST 2017 poster

Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2017 – Official Lineup Announcement

SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST, the Mid-Atlantic’s only open-air camping heavy metal gathering, is pleased to announce the complete lineup for the 2017 festival, which runs from Thursday, September 14th through Sunday, September 17th at White Hall, Maryland’s Camp Hidden Valley. For the third year, the festival will host 39 of the undergrounds leading bands, representing all genres and subgenres of heavy metal.

Over three days, the four stages of SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST will come to life inside the woodsy landscape of Camp Hidden Valley. “Every year has been special, but I am just particularly stoked about what we have curated”, says Mary Spiro, organizer of Shadow Woods Productions LLC. “I am extremely honored to present the lineup this year because I think it reflects the best of the underground metal scene as well as some of the personal favorites of the festival organizers. Several of these bands, I have been trying to host at the fest since the first year and I am happy to finally have them play.”

Beginning on Thursday night, the Pavilion stage will light up and set the tone to the weekend with all-acoustic and intimate performances with Texas dark-folk maudit AMIGO THE DEVIL, Portland’s dark-folk soloist AERIAL RUIN and West Virginia’s Appalachian folk duo, NECHOCHWEN. Friday includes exclusive performances by Oregon’s haunting black metal band UADA and Georgia’s tortured blackened death quartet WITHERED.

On Saturday, as darkness falls over the Woodland Stage, atmospheric blackened folk giants PANTOPICON will play an exclusive, 70-minute set under the backdrop of the stars. Brooklyn black metal titans WOE, Rhode Island sludgy-doom foursome CHURCHBURN, mysterious blackened grind band DEAD IN THE MANGER (one of two east coast shows), and San Francisco extreme death quintet VASTUM (one of two east coast shows), will all deliver exclusive performances to SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST.

SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST is proud to be sponsored this year by Moxie Bookkeeping and Tridroid Records and to receive promotional support from Grime Studios, Leftover Pizza Productions, and Perfect World Productions.

SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST 2017
Complete Lineup (in alpha order):
Aerial Ruin – Portland, OR (Ritual folk)
All Hell – Asheville, NC (Crusty black metal)
Amigo the Devil – Spicewood, TX (Dark folk) **
Bearstorm – Richmond, VA (Blackened southern death-prog)
Black Table – NY/NJ (Progressive black metal)
Castle – San Francisco, CA (Heavy doom metal)
Churchburn – Pawtucket, RI (Blackened sludge) **
Cut the Architect’s Hand – Richmond, VA (Death metal)
Dark Water Transit – Baltimore, MD (Instrumental heavy rock)
Dead in the Manger – coast to coast – (Blackened grind) **
Dee Calhoun – Frederick, MD (Acoustic; vocalist of Iron Man)
Earthling – Richmond, VA (Thrash metal)
Elagabalus – Baltimore, MD (Experimental metal 2-piece)
Erlkonig – Baltimore, MD (Blackened death metal)
Fiakra – Freehold, NJ (LARPower metal)
Foehammer – Annandale, VA (Sludge)
Green Elder/Paul Ravenwood – Johnson City, TN – (Nature folk)
Heavy Temple – Philadelphia, PA (Psychedelic-doomed rock)
Hexis – Copenhagen, Denmark (Hardcore/black metal)
Human Bodies – Boston, MA (Crusty blackened hardcore)
Immaculate Deception – Baltimore, MD (Death metal)
Infera Bruo – Boston, MA (Black metal)
Kyoty – Dover, NH – (Instrumental post metal)
Mome – Portland, ME (Power psych rock)
Nechochwen “unplugged” – Wheeling, WV (Appalachian acoustic folk metal) **
Night Raids – Philadelphia, PA (Thrash/grind)
Panopticon – KY/MN (Black folk metal) **
Percussor – PA/DE (Old school death metal)
Seasick Gladiator – Washington, DC (Experimental doom prog)
Sloth Herder – PA/VA/MD (Sludge grind)
Take to the Woods/Jo Cosgrove – Baltimore, MD (Dark folk)
The Owls Are Not What They Seem – York, PA (Ritual noise)
Toke – Cape Fear, NC (Stoner doom)
Uada – Portland, OR (Black metal) **
Vastum – San Francisco, CA (Death metal) **
Withered -Atlanta, GA (Black/death metal) **
Woe – Brooklyn, NY (Black metal) **
Worthless- NY/NJ (Black metal) **
ZUD – Portland, ME (Black and blues metal)
** EXCLUSIVE PERFORMANCES

SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST DETAILS
Location:
Camp Hidden Valley
White Hall, Maryland

Ticket Link: http://shadowwoodsmetalfest2017.bpt.me
Price: $175 Full weekend package (Thursday evening-Sunday morning) including all musical events and camping
Cabins: $20 bed (shared cabin)

Shadow Woods Metal Fest is 21+
Food & beverage vendors: Various food, beverage, and alcohol vendors will be on site with both vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore selections. No outside alcohol is permitted.
Marketplace vendors: Multiple record labels, distros, and artisans will be located in the Hall. For more information on becoming a vendor, contact shadow.woods.llc@gmail.com

PROMOTIONAL ARTWORK: Brian Sheehan
PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: Mary Spiro

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http://www.shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/
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Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2017 promo video

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Quarterly Review: Motherslug, Worshipper, Ape Machine, Churchburn, OMSQ, Unhold, The Heave-Ho, Crypt, Oceanwake, Lunar Electric

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

When I finished yesterday’s reviews, I felt suitably beat, but as ever, there was a bit of catharsis to it too. Today’s pile takes us all the way to the other end of the world and back again to my (relative) back yard, and then loops around one more time for good measure with a few stops in between. While I’m coherent enough to form sentences, you’ll pardon me if I get right to it.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Motherslug, Motherslug

motherslug motherslug

If the name Motherslug or the cover art look familiar, it’s because the Melbourne double-guitar five-piece initially released their self-titled EP late in 2012 (review here). This NoSlip Records release, however, takes the tracks from that, couples them with cuts from Motherslug’s subsequent outing, a 2014 two-tracker called Three Kings in Darkness, and remasters both for vinyl as one 39-minute full-length. There’s a bit of progression evident in the newer cuts, “Trippin’ on Evil” and “Three Kings in Darkness,” but the LP smartly arranges them so that each ends its respective side, led into by two songs from the self-titled, so the impression is more that Motherslug are expanding their riffy, Southern-style sludge rock sound – which is still true, it just initially happened over two releases – rather than they’re mixing and matching different recordings. By the time you get to either, however, Motherslug will have already bowled over you with rolling, thick sludge riffs that could just as easily have come from Maryland or Virginia as Australia.

Motherslug on Thee Facebooks

NoSlip Records

Worshipper, Black Corridor/High Above the Clouds

worshipper black corridor high above the clouds

Allston(e) newcomers Worshipper make an accomplished-sounding debut with Black Corridor/High above the Clouds, two self-released tracks that mark their first release as a band. The two-guitar four-piece balance classic metal riffs and doom tendencies with soaring-style clean vocals and fast-moving grooves, as much Candlemass as High on Fire. “Black Corridor” wows with its solo but more with its hook, guitarist John Brookhouse and bassist Bob Maloney sharing vocals while Alejandro Necochea adds guitar and Dave Jarvis draws it all together on drums, and “High above the Clouds” adds some choice early-Dio “Egypt”-ology to the mix. It’s a sense of grandeur that’s neither overblown nor mishandled by the winding track, which coupled with its predecessor demonstrates Worshipper’s firm grip on a style melding heavy rock and metal into a take of their own, and a progression beginning that seems to have a definite idea of where it wants to end up. One can’t help but look forward to finding out.

Worshipper on Thee Facebooks

Worshipper on Bandcamp

Ape Machine, Live at Freak Valley

ape machine live at freak valley

Hard to think of a band from Portland, Oregon, these days as being underrated, but Ape Machine fit the bill all the same. The four-piece of vocalist Caleb Heinze, guitarist Ian Watts, bassist Brian True and drummer Damon de la Paz played Germany’s Freak Valley festival as part of a 2013 European tour in support of the then-recently-released Mangled by the Machine (review here), their third album and Ripple Music debut, and accordingly, most of what shows up on the 48-minute Live at Freak Valley comes from that record, later album cuts like the swaying “Strange are the People” and stomp-slide-fueled “Ruling with Intent” leading to a run through Mangled by the Machine’s first five tracks, in order, to close the set. With a cover of Deep Purple’s “Black Night” (something they also did on their second record) in tow with others from their first two records, Live at Freak Valley makes a solid intro to a group more people should know.

Ape Machine on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Churchburn, The Awaiting Coffins

churchburn the awaiting coffins

A compilation that draws from Churchburn’s 2013 self-titled and two tracks recorded late in 2013/early in 2014 – opener “Embers of Human Ash” and the subsequent “V” – The Awaiting Coffins revels in its extremity of doom and no-light-shall-pass atmospherics. The duo of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Suzuki (ex-Vital Remains, among others) and Ray McCaffrey (ex-Sin of Angels) issue the CD/LP via Armageddon Shop, and while there are plenty of droning moments, acoustic interludes and stretches of depressive noise, the Rhode Island outfit is primarily brutal. Suzuki, joined on vocals for the first two cuts by guitarist Kevin Curley and bassist Mike Cardoso, leads a pummeling charge in “V” that’s more death than death-doom, but far be it from me to quibble. For “Come Forth the Swarm,” the Sin of Angels cover “Crown of Fallen Kings” and “Kneel upon Charred Remnants,” it’s just McCaffrey and Suzuki, and the dynamic is different and the recording rawer, but the bleak territory being explored has a similar root. Add on an unlisted cover of Celtic Frost’s “Return to the Eve,” and The Awaiting Coffins is even more of a sure thing.

Churchburn on Thee Facebooks

Armageddon Shop

OMSQ, Thrust/Parry

omsq thrust parry

Instrumental save for some samples, spoken proclamations and field recordings, Thrust/Parry was released by Belgian outfit OMSQ in limited numbers via Navalorama Records on CD to mark the occasion of a late-2014 UK tour, and it showcases an outfit of rare sonic adventurousness. Progressive, heavy structures unfold across three overarching movements in the 68-minute whole of the album, which at any moment makes shifts between dense riffs and crashing drums and exploratory washes of noise sound not only smooth but fitting, culminations like “North Sea” and 16-minute closer “4:48” as much about finishing a story as providing a sonic payoff, each cut serving not only the movement of which it’s component, but also the overarching flow of the record as whole. Stylistically wide open an unhindered by genre constraints, Thrust/Parry is a challenging listen that satisfies in proportion to how much one is willing to shift along with its changes in mood and style. Evocative throughout, it proves more than worth the effort.

OMSQ on Thee Facebooks

Navalorama Records

Unhold, Towering

unhold towering

Swiss five-piece Unhold trace their lineage back to an early-‘90s demo, but Towering (on Czar of Crickets) is their fourth album since their 2001 full-length debut, Walking Blackwards, and their first offering in seven years since Gold Cut in 2008. Something of an unexpected return from the Bern troupe, then, but not unwelcome, their Neurosis-influenced post-hardcore/post-metal finding renewed expression in the moody unfolding of “I Belong” or the tense bellow of the later, keyboard-infused “Hydra,” moments of triumph in ambient/crushing tradeoffs of “Voice Within” as guitarists Thomas Tschuor and Philipp Thöni step back and pianist Miriam Wolf takes lead vocals for a movement almost Alcest-like in its melodic course. Drummer Daniel Fischer and bassist Leo Matkovic are less a foundation than part of Towering’s nodding, modern-proggy whole, and it probably works better that way in smoothing out the various turns in extended pieces like the title-track or “Dawn,” which provides the apex of the album with the calmer “Ascending” and “Death Dying” as an epilogue.

Unhold on Thee Facebooks

Czar of Crickets

The Heave-Ho, Dead Reckoning

the heave-ho dead reckoning

Three words: Rock and roll. With Boston four-piece The Heave-Ho, it’s less about subgenre and more about paying homage to a classic ideal of straightforward expression. Dead Reckoning, the debut full-length from the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Pete Valle (ex-Quintaine Americana), bassist Keith “Barry” Schleicher (ex-Infernal Overdrive), drummer Dylan Wilson and lead guitarist Lawrence O’Toole, is eight songs (plus a closing radio edit, presumably for WEMF) of unpretentious rendition, steady in its delivery of grown-up-punker hooks and barroom rock such that, when Valle calls for “guitar!” prior to the solo in “Buffalo,” it’s entirely without irony or cynicism. Would be hard for “Thirsty Jesus” not to be a highlight on its title alone, but the lyrics also hold up. With a clean production style, centerpiece moment of clarity in “Afraid to Die,” and particularly riotous finish in “The Line,” Dead Reckoning has little use for stylistic nuance and a confident delivery across the board. Drunk as it is, it does not stumble.

The Heave-Ho on Thee Facebooks

The Heave-Ho at CDBaby

Crypt, Kvlt MMXIV

crypt kvlt mmxiv

Though Adelaide three-guitar six-piece Crypt title their debut release Kvlt MMXIV, it’s actually a Jan. 2015 release, a half-hour’s worth of stoner chicanery pressed up in a recycled-material digipak with a fold-out liner poster – the lyrics, yes, are written in a rune font – and the disc held in place by a piece of cork. The presentation of the songs themselves is no less off the wall, the lumbering “Green Butter” taking hold from the crust-raw opener “Siberian Exile” with unhinged low-end, drum stomp and some deceptively subtle airy guitar, and the weirdo blues howl of the following “These Last Days” only broadens the scope. Seems fair to say “expect the unexpected” since so much effort has been put into throwing off the frame of reference, but as the fuzz of “Idle Minds” and ambience into righteous groove of closer “Dead River” show, Crypt have more working in their favor than variety for its own sake, namely a fire in their delivery that burns away any slim chance this material had of sounding stale.

Crypt on Thee Facebooks

Crypt on Bandcamp

Oceanwake, Sunless

oceanwake sunless

Ferocious death-doom meets with melodic atmospheres on Oceanwake’s second album, Sunless – a title that’s not quite a full summary of what the Finnish five-piece have on offer throughout the four tracks/44 minutes. Opener “The Lay of an Oncoming Storm,” also the longest cut at 15:35 (immediate points), shifts back and forth between lumbering brutality and sparse guitar atmospherics, and while one waits for the inevitable clean vocals that would put Oceanwake in league with countrymen Swallow the Sun, they don’t come yet. Instead, the track explodes into crashes and screams. Ten-minute closer “Ephemeral” holds the most satisfying build, but between the two, “Parhelion” (9:09) and “Avanturine” (8:03) manage to remind of the particular melancholic beauty of death-doom – including some of those melodic vocals – and how resonant its contrast of light and dark can be when held together by an emotional core as resonant as that of Oceanwake. Sunless is gorgeous and devastating, and not necessarily alternating between the two.

Oceanwake on Thee Facebooks

ViciSolum Productions on Bandcamp

Lunar Electric, Lunar Electric

lunar-electric-lunar-electric

While one struggles not to be skeptical of any release in this day and age that opens with a “Radio Edit,” I won’t discount the quality of songwriting L.A.-based Lunar Electric display throughout their self-titled EP. Now a duo driven by guitarist/vocalist Dre DiMura, the band is highly-stylized but brims with a classic heavy rock swagger in “Bread and Circuses” (the aforementioned radio edit) and the subsequent “Moonlight,” a steady swing emerging in layers of heavy riffing and DiMura’s own croon, pushed ahead by the straightforward drumming of Kaleen Reading and the low-end heft of bassist Geena Spigarelli. They make a solid trio across “Moonlight” and “Sleepwaker,” which follows with its chugging break foreshadowing closer “Crossfire Child” (video premiere here) while building a tension of its own, though it seems unlikely that whatever Lunar Electric do next will have the same lineup because of geographic spread. Too bad. While young, and somewhat brooding, Lunar Electric nonetheless offer up a work of marked potential in their EP’s quick 17-minute span.

Dre DiMura’s website

Dre DiMura on Instagram

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